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ISO 21500 Semantic Comparison with PMI Approach

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The Question

After taking the course ISO 21500, the first observation I made is the existence of differences between the names used (the new ISO semantics) and those of the PMI framework.  I do not mean that it is systematic, but some titles are indicative of some changes made by ISO 25100, not for the purpose to minimize of the quality ISO aspect but in a two-way terminology, if we compare it with PMI frame. I will take the most significant changes of the terms and finally, I will try to perceive the impacts in the use of new terms.

Terminology Analysis

In ISO 21500, there are several changes in the names of phases, processes and project activities compared to PMBOK. The terms are very close to each other and do not contradict each other. However, changes to the headings are initiated to improve understanding. Many reductions in the content of the process and subject structure simplify the comprehension of the whole approach of the method. On the subject of the organization, ISO talks about strategy and PMI retains the influences of the organization and the life cycle of the project.

For example, process and displacement denominations reflect the comparative analysis. PMBOK stays with its 47 processes and ISO decreases to 39 processes. For each organization, the 5 process groups are maintained. But 2 of them change their names: Group 3 IMPLEMENTING (ISO) versus EXECUTING (PMI) and CONTROLLING versus MONITORING /CONTROLLING (PMI). The Knowledge areas are entitled Subject groups. ISO add HUMAN RESOURCES for just RESOURCES for PMI.

In the INTEGRATION Subject Process, ISO change with Project Management and PMI stays with Project Management Plan for the main Project Management Tool with the inclusive plans of all Subject Process. Also, PMI includes one or many activities for all Subject Processes but ISO moves the participation of Stakeholders as Subject process of the Planning Process. ISO realign processes or merge others. ISO does not use some or introduce others. These examples reflect a certain arrangement of concepts not just with PMI but with other organizations such as PRINCE and others.


Basically, ISO 21500 wants to quantitatively reduce the number of process groups and activities under the 5 processes. This will certainly harmonize the practices of all certification bodies. These organizations will be able to use the ISO 21500 recommendations to mark processes. A common vision is the goal of international standardization. There are similitudes and differences, but the two organizations come together on many levels. However, ISO 21500 gives priority to human resources and their control and adds a process to clearly define the organization of the project by securing the organizational aspects.

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