The Association for Project Management (APM)’s new Body of Knowledge published on 2 May 2019 is an exciting development. On one hand, it’s much more readable than previous Body of Knowledge’s. On the other, it’s no longer designed to dip into – it’s a “read start-to-finish” kind of document.
Purchase from: https://www.apm.org.uk/book-shop/apm-body-of-knowledge-7th-edition/ (permission APM)
Is this an improvement or not? I give my first impressions below, what do you think?
Project Management is about making a whole lot of things happen at the same time, whilst keeping control of all of them. It makes sense to take the reader through the process from start to finish, and that is the approach followed here. The chapters are: Setting up for success, Preparing for change, People and behaviours, and Planning and managing deployment. That’s a logical progression through the options, choices, preparation and activities required to run a successful project.
Some sections may seem irrelevant to the project manager tasked with delivering a specific aspect of the project; but that was never what the Body of Knowledge (or any Body of Knowledge) is aimed at. The project sponsor needs to understand how project management works, in order to sponsor correctly. A junior project manager probably wants to understand project management more broadly so as to contribute and lay the groundwork for more responsibility in their next deployment. An experienced project manager wants a quick catch-up with the state of project management in the second and third decades of the 21st century. That’s (every one of these people) who this document is aimed at.
Style and consistency
The book is very pleasant to open – it follows a STOP (Sequential Thematic Organisation of Publications) approach, with each subject introduced by a page of text, a half page illustration, and a half page more text.
Each chapter begins with who will benefit, and explains how the chapter is laid out. This means that it’s easy to follow, and easy to remember what you read. There are few examples or case studies, but the authors have listed Further Reading which includes both the relevant APM Specific Interest Group publications giving more detail in each topic, and where to find case studies. Further Reading is where it needs to be, section by section.
On the whole, it reads with the smooth professionalism of business books written by seasoned writers. The fact that it leaves you wanting to find out more is a good thing – if it didn’t build some sort of desire, you’d go away thinking that you know far more than you in fact do.
Level of Professionalism
The Body of Knowledge 7 makes the assumption that you may have no prior knowledge, but that you are quick to understand. If you already know all about Project Management, then you’ll appreciate the clear definitions and rapid progression into the meat and bones. If you have gaps in your knowledge (whether you have identified them or not), then it completes the jigsaw puzzle. Even if you are a complete beginner, the Body of Knowledge will give you the skeleton or foundation on which to build your knowledge further. This makes it a good book for Board Members and Students alike.
It explains about practical activities such as contracting and time management, which project managers always need to be aware of. The book feels like a friend, guiding rather than patronising, and even with many years of experience I didn’t begrudge the time taken to read through parts that I think I understand already.
No book is a substitute for training and experience, but this book certainly gets a new project manager a long way, and for the experienced project manager or board member, it rounds out their knowledge if they have always focused on one area more than others, and of course more in Table of Contents and Index.
As chair of the Benefits and Value specific interest group, I was specifically looking for mentions of “benefits”. There are 243 (excluding book titles and the mention of our specific interest group) in the body of the document which has 208 pages of text.
Benefits and value are woven throughout project management. The need for a project is defined by the need to achieve benefits, whether the benefit is to solve a problem or take advantage of an opportunity. Rightly (in my opinion), it only takes until the third sentence of page 1 to emphasise “beneficial organisational change”. This is in keeping with our thought leadership, that benefits management is key to problem definition which precedes project definition, and that benefits planning, discovery, and realisation and value optimisation carry on right the way through to benefits realisation management after the project has been handed over to users. As well as Benefits, Value gets 187 mentions and Benefits realisation (including the above 243) 42 mentions, and Data analysis gets one mention.
The Body of Knowledge weaves the other key principles through the whole of project management: change, risk, governance, professionalism, communication, and so on. That’s absolutely right. It puts the emphasis where it should be – that the project manager has a lot to keep track of and manage. The project manager needs to remain constantly aware of the business, and ensure that what will be handed over to users is fit for purpose.
All in all, I think APM can consider it a success. Any Body of Knowledge tries to be All things to All people, and that’s impossible. But people new to project management can get a foundation, a skeleton to hang their future learning on, in a matter of hours by reading the Body of Knowledge from front to back. Its style will appeal to senior management and board members who find themselves managing or sponsoring projects without formal training. For experienced project managers, it still has a lot to offer, as it brings the principles up to date in an easy-read format.
Hugo Minney declares an interest, is co-chair of APM’s Benefits and Value Specific Interest Group (SIG). Hugo was lead author on the Benefits Management section of BoK6 in 2012.