Project Management Process Groups

According to the PMBOK, one way project management can be defined is as a series of five process groups. These aren’t phases. Instead, each group consists of specific activities. Some of these activities may be reiterated multiple times throughout the project (e.g., for each phase). In addition, the output from one process may become the input for the next process. This means there is often a definable flow in how the processes are connected, but several processes may also overlap and/or be repeated in the project timeline.


This is the first process group. Its purpose is to achieve authorization for a project and define its objectives. The general scope, duration, resources, and desired final output are described. The project management team may actually have only limited input at this point depending on the organizational structure. For example, the project may be initiated by another department when a need arises that requires a complex solution outside their ability to achieve through their normal mode of operation. This initiated project may then be assigned to a project manager for fulfillment. Outputs for this process include the project charter and a preliminary SOW.


This process involves determining how the newly initiated project will actually be carried out. This includes refining the information developed during initiation and reviewing the resources needed (including human resources). Planning also entails identifying risks that may affect the project and deciding how these will be handled. Quality and communication planning take place as part of this process group. Cost management and procurement strategies are addressed as well. A WBS including various deliverables and work packages is constructed and schedule activities are defined and sequenced.


The execution process group involves taking steps to act upon and complete the project work according to the procedures outlined during the planning stage. Any approved changes are implemented as part of this group. Coordination, communication, direction, and management skills are all essential to these processes. The project management team is acquired and developed and contact with vendors is initiated. Reports about project progress, quality, and challenges are a core component of the information distribution aspect of execution.

Monitoring & Controlling

These processes occur concurrently with all the other process groups. Observation, problem identification, and correction are the three basic purposes of monitoring and controlling. Any variances from the project’s initial objectives and the project plan may be cause for concern. This process ensures that only approved changes are made so the project doesn’t morph into something unrecognizable over time. A well developed system for collecting and analyzing data is required for appropriate monitoring and controlling. Quality control plays a significant role in this group of processes.


This process finalizes a project and closes it out. This activity often includes satisfying the terms of any outstanding contracts. The project manager must ensure that other processes (planning, execution, monitoring) are complete and the final deliverables are ready to be handed off to the end user or stakeholder group. Ideally, there should be no loose ends upon closure.

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