In the following abstract, author Kik Piney refers to "three overlapping models" used by the Project Management Institute (PMI®) in their Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) namely, Life Cycles, clustered Process Groups, and Knowledge Areas. He correctly observes (in our view) that: "Analysis of these models shows that, although life cycles are a stand-alone concept, the other two models should be presented in a hierarchical manner." For the record, we would be happier if he would refer to (project) Life Cycles by the more representative label: Project Life Spans, and provide a clearer definition accordingly.
Our recent research relating to our Wideman Comparative Glossary of Project Management Terms demonstrates that project management is now applied in a large number of industries as well as their related subsets. Most importantly, we see that while most industries may follow the project management process groups, each industry generally has, for practical control purposes, its own particular design of Project Life Span. Indeed, as Kik Piney observes, "life cycles are a stand-alone concept".
It is for this reason that we now advocate that Project Life Spans of different industries and their subsets should be treated as a new and separate area of project management study and reference.
I started to think about these points in 2010, when all of the PMI® standards used a process-based approach. Over the years, I exchanged a few mails with Max Wideman who provided useful comments and encouraged me to complete the analysis. On reading the Sixth Edition of the PMBOK® Guide, I have found that my ideas are still valid. So, I have done my best to follow his advice.
The Standard for Project Management and the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) present knowledge using three overlapping models, as follows: Project Life Cycles (PLCs), processes clustered into Process Groups (PGs), and Knowledge Areas (KAs). Analysis of these models shows that, although life cycles are a stand-alone concept, the other two models should be presented in a hierarchical manner. That is, with knowledge areas as the highest level, then subdivided with respect to the generic set of process groups, and these process groups containing the processes specific to the corresponding knowledge area. It should be noted that this structure is not how the concepts were first developed for the early editions of the PMBOK® Guide; however, the original structure was well intended but incorrect. This paper proposes a reworking of those initial ideas, to provide a consistent model that avoids the current and damaging confusion between process groups and life cycle phases.
1. Thus, for instance, any discussion of say Agile Software Product Development would be quite separate and distinct from say Civil Infrastructure Development.
2. PMI. The Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge Sixth Edition (PMBOK® Guide). Newtown Square, PA, 2017.