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Comparative analysis of international project management standards

Comparative analysis of international project management standards

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A project management standard is a document created by consensus and approved by a recognized body for everyday and reusable use. It contains rules, guidelines, or characteristics for actions or their results to achieve optimal order in a specific project context.

In particular, the PMI standards, developed through a process based on consensus, openness, due process, and balance, guide for achieving specific results in project, program, and portfolio management.

Two major organizations significantly impact project management worldwide: the Project Management Institute (PMI), headquartered in the United States, and the International Project Management Association (IPMA), headquartered in Switzerland.

The Project Management Institute (PMI) participates in several international project management standards committees to support these activities and to help align international standards with the project management approaches outlined in the PMI standards.

The most notable integrated structure that carries out inter-organizational activities in this direction is Project Committee 236 (ISO / PC236) of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), which develops the ISO 21500 standard - “Project Management Guide”. ISO published this document (DIS) as an International Standard in the fourth quarter of 2012.

ISO 21500 is based in part on contributions from PMI. An ISO committee of standards committees from over 35 countries continues to develop the materials while maintaining the original PMBoK Guide approach. This is seen as confirmation by the international community of the value and quality of PMI's contribution to developing a project management methodology.

Since 1987, various international standards or guidelines for project management have been developed by various organizations.

1. PMBoK by PMI

The PMBoK manual was first published as a PMI white paper in 1987; it was an attempt to document and standardize project management practices. The first edition appeared in 1996, the second in 2000, the third in 2004, the fourth in 2009, and the latest in 2013.

This PM standard consists of nine Knowledge Areas and five Process Groups. The nine areas of expertise are Integration, Scope, Cost, Time, Quality, Risk, Human Resources, Communication, and Purchasing. Process groups - initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling, and closing (PMI, 2008). Each PM process defined in these knowledge areas and process groups is described in terms of its inputs, tools and methods, and outputs.

Project integration management is a key area of expertise, including coordinating all management activities. Project integration management includes project authorization, plans (implementation plan, personnel management plan, quality management plan, risk management plan, communications plan, and procurement plan), project execution/monitoring/control/closure, and change management process.

2. Basic competence

The International Project Management Association (IPMA, ICB3) presents 46 core competencies that are grouped into contextual competencies (11 elements), technical competencies (20 elements), and behavioral competencies (15 elements) (IPMA, 2012).

Contextual competencies include project orientation, programs and portfolios, organizational strategy implementation, ongoing organization, business cases, systems, products, technology, finance, and legal aspects. Contextual competence clearly states the importance of the project in the larger picture of the organization. This competency area also includes behavioral competencies, which are the personal skills and qualities that a project manager must have to contribute to the success of a project. These behavioral competencies include leadership, participation, motivation, self-control, self-confidence, relaxation, openness, creativity, result orientation, efficiency, consultation, negotiation, conflict and crisis, reliability, value orientation, and ethics.

Technical competencies include elements based on knowledge or project management processes. Success should not be viewed as technical competence, as it results from competence. The ICB3 standard defines “competence as the totality of knowledge, personal attitudes, skills, and related experience required to be successful in a particular function.”

3. "Organizational project management" (OPM3)

The Project Management Institute (PMI) has developed the globally recognized Organizational Project Management (OPM3) standard that enables organizations to identify, evaluate, and improve PM capabilities, standardize processes, help reinforce successful project outcomes, and ultimately identify best practices and strengthen the link between strategic planning and execution. OPM3 focuses on organizational strategic performance and includes project, program, and portfolio management. This standard was updated in 2008 and again in 2013 and is recognized by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) as an American national standard.

4. ISO 9000

In 2012, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) recognized the importance of formalizing project management practices; they published the ISO 21500 standard in 2012. This guide is intended to guide project management and can be used by any organization. It defines 39 processes, grouped into 5 process groups and 10 subject groups. The five process groups can be used at any implementation stage, subproject, or entire project. Each process contains a goal, input, and output (result, result, document).

The latest international standard is ISO/IEC 29110, developed by Subcommittee 7 of the Joint Technical Committee 1 of the International Organization for Standardization and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). It is dedicated to the problems of project management in very small entities. It was first published in 2012.

The ISO 9000 family of standards is related to quality management and quality assurance:

  • ISO 9000 is intended to provide an understanding of the concepts and definitions in the 9000 family of standards.

  • ISO 9001 is related to the requirements of the quality management system and the certification process.

  • ISO 9004 provides a framework for continuous improvement and satisfaction for employees, owners, suppliers, partners, and society.

ISO 9000 standards are based on customer focus, leadership, people involvement, process and system management approaches, continual improvement, factual approach to decision-making, and mutually beneficial supplier relationships.

For the successful implementation of a quality management system, the ISO 9000 process approach includes responsibility for organization management, resource management, product implementation, and analysis and improvement.


Project Management in Controlled Environments (PRINCE) is a project management method. It covers the management, control, and organization of a project.

PRINCE2 ("Managing Successful Projects Based on PRINCE2" and "Managing Successful Projects Based on PRINCE2") reflects a project management system in a controlled environment. PRINCE2 is a PM method based on continuous business rationale and product-centric planning processes. This is the result of the accumulation of experience in the implementation of successful and not-quite-successful projects. It is a method that gives fundamental importance to the roles and responsibilities within the project and management in stages and with a tolerance for certain deviations in cost, time, quality, volume, risk, and benefits.

PRINCE2 has sections similar to the PMI knowledge areas and takes into account the technical competencies of the ICB3 standard, such as quality, plans, and risks. The organization section can be part of a broader area of expertise, such as human resources management or ICB3 contextual competence.

The project management methodology, also called MPMM (Project Management Methodology Manager), is based on the international project management standards PMBOK and PRINCE2 and contains all the necessary project management templates, forms, and checklists.

However, these Standards were developed for large organizations. According to reports and studies, it is clear that small businesses have difficulty using international RM standards. A methodological approach suitable for small organizations was needed to ensure the quality of a project or system implemented in a small organization.

6.ISO family

The International Organization for Standardization ISO has developed a guide called "Software Development - Life Cycle Profiles for Very Small Enterprises". This guide treats VSEs as entities with less than 25 employees. This guide is divided into five parts:

  1. Overview (ISO/IEC TR 29110–1),

  2. Structure and Taxonomy (ISO/IEC TR 29110–2),

  3. Assessment Guide (ISO/IEC TR 29110–3),

  4. Profile specification (ISO/IEC TR 29110–4) and

  5. Management and Design Guide (ISO/IEC TR 29110–5).

The first part of this guide aims to briefly introduce the guide and define the main concepts used in the Standard - processes, life cycle, and others. The purpose of the second part of this guide is to present standardized VSE software development profiles and definitions of standard terms.

The third part contains the definitions of the guiding principles. It contains the process assessment methodology and compliance requirements used to achieve the project's goal implemented in a small company.

The fourth part defines the specification for all Generic Profile Group (GPG) profiles.

The fifth part is devoted to implementation management and technical guidance for small businesses. This guide is suggested for use with some project and software management systems.

If we compare the indicated International Standards of the Republic of Moldova, the following should be noted:

PMBoK reflects the largest number of project management processes - 46. ISO 21500 describes 39 processes. ISO / IEC 29110 describes only one process management process.

The ISO 21500:2012 standard largely follows the principles outlined in the PMBoK. Process groups in ISO 21500:2012 are the same as in PMBoK; processes within a process group differ, but not significantly. Some processes in PMBoK are described in more detail. The two processes for performing qualitative and quantitative risk analysis in ISO 21500:2012 PMBoK are merged. In addition, ISO standards include an additional process of summarizing the experience of design activities. The advantage of ISO 21500:2012 is that it is much shorter than PMBOK and incorporates knowledge already documented in other ISO standards, such as risk management.

The target audiences for the Standards vary. PMBoK and ISO 21500 are designed to be used by any large company. ISO/IEC 29110 is aimed at small businesses and allows them to adapt the guide by adding some elements from their practice.

At nearly 600 pages, the PMBoK is the most detailed PM Standard; it provides each process's purpose, input, and output and introduces some of the PM tools and methods. ISO 21500 does not contain suggestions for the choice of tools and methods. ISO/IEC 29110 is the least detailed guide among the three standards.

Each PM standard has much in common in its core concepts and practices. However, each includes some PM issues not covered by the others. Choosing one of them as a benchmark for evaluating PM performance limits the ability to use the strengths of all of them.

Table - Comparative Characteristics of International Project Management Standards



ISO 21500

ISO /IEC 29110


39 processes

47 processes

2 processes

The target audience

Any company

Any company

Small businesses

Level of detail




Suggestions for tools and methods





Publication year




Update frequency




Process groups




Monitoring and control









Valuation and controlling


Subjectivity or field of activity

10 types of activity

10 subjects

7 subjects

Thus, the comparative analysis shows that PMBoK is suitable for large-scale projects at any time and at any level of project implementation.

ISO 21500 has almost the same PM processes as PMBoK, but it does not provide tools and methods for project management. Based on the purpose and nature of ISO/IEC 29110, it can be said that this standard is optimal for small companies implementing small projects that require a flexible approach.

Regardless of which standard is chosen for project implementation, project managers are essential in ensuring success. PM guides most frequently used are PMBoK, ISO 21500 and ISO/IEC 29110, PRINCE 2, and others developed to help project managers.

Based on a comparison of PMBoK, the most comprehensive PM guide containing suggestions for choosing PM tools and methods, as well as ISO21500 and ISO/IEC 29110, it should be noted that almost all of these documents have a similar structure to PMBoK, except for the description of tools and methods. P.M. PMBoK and ISO21500 are better suited for large companies and large projects.

Small enterprises are often guided by ISO / IEC 29110, which directly solves the problem of creating an international standard for managing protection in small organizations of up to 25 people. This guide aims to help small company managers implement organizational projects effectively and successfully.

One must first determine the best PM practices in the industry to evaluate PM performance on individual projects based on PM standards. Many standards and methods can be used as the basis for evaluating PM practices: "Body of knowledge on management" (PMBOK) IPMA Project Management Institute, International Project Management Association Core Competence (ICB), ISO 9000, PRINCE 2 by UK Public Trade Authority, Capability Maturity Model, Project and Program Management (P2M) of Japan Association technical development, C-PMBOK developed by the China Premiers Conference, etc.

Despite all that is known about project management best practices, they are often not used in the typical project design. Experience shows that poor PM practices remain common, especially for organizational projects. Factors contributing to unsuccessful PM practice are the following:

  1. design organizations do not have information on how their PM practices compare to best practices,

  2. design organizations are unsure of the value offered by the various PM practices formalized in the relevant standards.

Keeping project management knowledge up to date, the PMI Global Standards are the backbone of the project manager profession.