Project Management Process Groups: A Quick Guide


Projects are complicated. There are a thousand things that constantly impact the project and require you to reallocate resources to stay on track.

To keep to your schedule and manage costs, you need to gather and process project data throughout the five PMBOK project management groups.

What Are the 5 PMBOK Project Management Process Groups?

To begin, let’s look at the five project management process groups defined in the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK), published by the Project Management Institute (PMI), the leading industry trade group.

Project managers use the five project management phases to structure projects and lead them from beginning to end. Each of these phases serves a specific purpose, and project managers must control them to ensure that the project stays on track. Project management software helps project managers stay on top of each of these process groups.

The project management process groups are the following.

Initiating Phase

The PMBOK defines the project initiation phase as “the process of formally recognizing that a new project exists or that an existing project should continue into its next phase.”

In this phase, project managers discuss the business value of the project, as well as if the project is feasible. You also explore the impact on stakeholders. If the project is considered viable and valuable, it is pursued. If it’s not, it’s abandoned.

During this phase, you must also create a business case that answers those questions. The business case includes the estimated costs and benefits of the project. There is also a feasibility study to see if the project makes sense to the organization and its stakeholders. That’s followed by a project charter, which answers the who, what and where of the project.

There’s more, of course, such as:

  • Stakeholder analysis
  • Selecting the team
  • Defining roles and responsibilities
  • Selecting the project office
  • Choosing the right tools, equipment and communication infrastructure

Once the project has been signed and is ready to move forward, there is a kickoff meeting. Use a kickoff meeting to get everyone on the project team on the same page so the project can start off right.

Planning Phase

Once the project initiation is complete and the project has the green light to go ahead, the project planning phase can begin. The planning process is when stakeholders and the project team learn how to achieve the final deliverable of the project or service.

At this point, you document the project plan, as well as define the project deliverables and requirements. You create a project schedule, designed to manage time, cost, quality, changes, risk and any project-related issues.

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Project Plan Template

Use this free Project Plan Template for Word to manage your projects better.

You also take this opportunity to plan resources, such as teams, external suppliers, materials and equipment. You also define roles, responsibilities and where team members sit in the project structure.

There is also the creation of a stakeholder register. This is a crucial document that lists all the key stakeholders and project sponsors in a project. It is part of stakeholder management, and can include how and when you update project stakeholders on the progress of the project.

The project manager is responsible for leading the project planning phase and making accurate estimates on time, budget and resources. It’s at this phase in the project that you plan the scope, use a work breakdown structure (WBS) to organize tasks, make procurement plans and define communication channels and frequency.

Executing Phase

At this point, you’re ready to build the product or service that you’ve planned for. This phase, therefore, tends to be the longest of the project. It’s where you devote most of your energy and resources as you keep the project on track against various project constraints.

The execution phase is deeply connected to the next phase of the project, monitoring and controlling. The project manager is tasked with tracking performance and progress to ensure the actual effort is aligned with the planned effort.

When executing a project management plan, it helps to have project management software to organize your work. ProjectManager has robust task lists that do more than just collect tasks. The task list view (one of five different project views that let hybrid teams work how they want) can set priority, attach files, add descriptions, be assigned to team members and track status. Try ProjectManager for free today.

List view in ProjectManager
Planning, executing or monitoring process groups, ProjectManager’s task list keeps you informed.—Learn More!

Monitoring and Controlling Phase

While executing the project plan, the project manager monitors and controls performance to keep the work going as scheduled and within budget. Project managers continuously measure metrics to make sure they meet their milestones.

Some of the key tasks associated with the project monitoring and controlling phase are:

  • Scope verification and change control
  • Schedule control
  • Cost control
  • Quality control
  • Performance reporting
  • Risk control
  • Contract administration

Closing Phase

Handing off the final deliverable on time, within budget and within the quality expectations of your stakeholders is important, but it’s not the end of the project. You still need to tie up some loose ends. All activities conclude at this point and the project is closed, which means you need to sign off on documents and fulfill contracts.

A post-mortem of the project is recommended. During a post-mortem, the project manager and team go over what worked and what didn’t to learn how they can improve processes in the next project. They do this by listing best practices and the lessons they’ve learned.

Then, you can release your team and celebrate the success of the project. The last part might not seem crucial, but it is! Keeping team morale high by validating their hard work will positively impact future projects.

Project Management Plan Template

The project management plan is a document that describes all the different activities that will take place during the execution, monitoring and closing phases of a project. It’s the most important project management document you can create as a project manager, which is why we’ve created a free project plan template for Word to help you get started.

project plan template

Difference Between PMBOK Project Management Process Groups and Knowledge Areas

We’ve detailed the five process groups in project management, all of which are subject to the controlling process in project management. To manage those project management process groups, you need to utilize the knowledge areas of project management.

The Ten Project Management Knowledge Areas

There are 10 project management knowledge areas. They are:

  • Project integration management
  • Project scope management
  • Project time management
  • Project cost management
  • Project quality management
  • Project resource management
  • Project communications management
  • Project risk management
  • Project procurement management
  • Project stakeholder management

Project management knowledge areas are not the same as the project management process groups. The major difference is that the process groups outline what a project manager needs to do, while the knowledge areas are what a project manager needs to know.

More specifically, the knowledge areas are used throughout the project management process groups. The knowledge areas are made up of processes. They have inputs, tools, techniques and outputs. They are project management functions that help deliver successful projects.

When Do You Use Project Management Knowledge Areas?

The knowledge areas work within all of the project management process groups. The process groups are where you break up and categorize a project. It’s the sequence of the project from start to finish. You can use the knowledge areas throughout each stage of the process.

A good way to understand the difference is that knowledge areas categorize processes, while project management process groups are stages or phases of the project. The knowledge areas don’t have a logical relationship, but the project management process groups lead from one to the next.

Both project management process groups and knowledge areas work better together when they’re powered by project management software. Project management software will help you control the process groups and lead you to a successful project.

How ProjectManager Helps With PMBOK Process Groups

ProjectManager is cloud-based software that gives project managers more insightful data to make better decisions while equipping hybrid teams with multiple project views to get work done how they would prefer. There are features that help throughout each process phase. From unlimited file storage for a central hub of documentation when initiating to reviewing what worked and didn’t during close.

Get Started on the Right Foot in the Planning Process Group

Planning is one of the more complex process groups. You need a tool that can organize your tasks, link dependencies and set milestones. ProjectManager’s Gantt chart project view does that and more. You can filter for the critical path instead of having to make time-consuming calculations. Then, set a baseline and track planned versus actual effort.

A screenshot of a gantt chart in ProjectManager

Nail Your Execution Phase with Different Project Views

ProjectManager has multiple project views. Managers can use the Gantt or Sheet view, while teams can manage their own workload on kanban boards, task lists and calendars. This connects hybrid teams, no matter where they are. The kanban board visualizes workflow during the execution phase, letting team members manage their backlog and plan sprints. Meanwhile, managers get the transparency needed to accurately allocate resources and keep teams working at capacity.

ProjectManager's kanban board

Track Progress in the Monitoring and Controlling Process Group

During the monitoring and controlling process group, real-time data comes in handy. Data gives managers a window into the progress and performance of the project. ProjectManager’s live dashboards calculate metrics such as project variance, costs and more for an instant status report without having to take time to configure the tool, as with other tools.

ProjectManager’s dashboard view, which shows six key metrics on a project

ProjectManager is an award-winning software with features to organize, monitor and report on your project. One-click reporting features filter detailed data and can be easily shared with stakeholders, and resource management software makes sure everyone has what they need when they need it to complete their work. Try ProjectManager today for free!