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ISO 21500 Project Management – The International Standard

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ISO 21500:2012 Guidance on Project Management. More than 5 years and over 30 countries has needed the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) to release the International Standard that will be the reference for Project Management (ISO 21500).

Let’s take a look at what is a Standard (from ISO): “A standard is a document that provides requirements, specifications, guidelines or characteristics that can be used consistently to ensure that materials, products, processes and services are fit for their purpose.”

ISO 21500 is based on PMBOK® framework. The project management processes groups covers the 5 stages of the project lifecycle: Initiating, Planning, Implementing, Controlling and Closing.

Probably in PMBOK there are two knowledge areas that are the most relevant: Integration Management (that consolidates all the knowledge areas and processes) and Communication Management (critical for good project governance).

In ISO 21500 the 9 Knowledge Areas of PMBOK® have evolved into 10 Subjects, adding Stakeholder subject for more focus on the human factor of project management (that has as origin the Communication Management knowledge area of PMBOK® We whole-heartedly agree with this view, because also in we have added Stakeholders as our first category. The Communication knowledge area makes sense when first we have identified all the Stakeholders.

Also it is so remarkable that the Integration Management knowledge area has added the process “4.3.8 Collect Lessons Learned”, that we have also included it as a category in our With regards to processes, ISO 21500 has 39 whereas PMBOK has 42. This is due to 4 processes which have been consolidated into a single process, and also the following minor changes:

  • 3 processes have been removed: “5.4 Verify Scope”, “9.1 Develop Human Resource Plan”, “12.1 Plan Risk Management”.
  • 4 processes have been added: “4.3.8 Collect Lessons Learned”, “4.3.17 Define Project Organization”, “4.3.19 Control Resources”, “4.3.40 Manage Communication”.

Finally in regards to types of Plans, in PMBOK® there is one Project Plan that consolidates all the specific plans, in ISO 21500 there are 3 different Plans: the Project Plan(about the project constraints, establishing the project baselines), the Project Management Plan (about the management processes) and the Subsidiary Plans (any other complementary plans).

It is curious because, as we have mentioned before in comparison to PMBOK®, there are two processes related to planning that have been removed: the HR Plan (that has evolved to Define Project Organization) and the process Plan Risk Management (going more practical directly to the identify risk process).

PMI commends ISO 21500 International Standard.

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