In the world of project management there are several standards, or what are considered to be. The Project Management Institute (PMI) and the International Project Management Association (IPMA) have a lot of influence, but how do these visions compare to PRINCE2®?

PMI / PMBOK - General

The Project Management Institute (PMI) published "A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge" (PMBoK Guide) where they described a number of principles of project management. According to the PMI this document should be seen as "a basic reference and the world's de facto standard for the project management profession". The PMBOK also is used as the basic reference for certification of Project Management Professionals (PMP).

The PMBoK exists of two parts:

  • The Project Management Framework, containing:
    • The Project Management Context
    • The Project Management Processes
  • The Project Management Knowledge Areas

In the Framework the Context describes the major demands set to project management and what the prerequisites are. The PMBOK processes describe very high level the activities for the project manager.

The nine Knowledge Areas can be roughly compared to the Components of PRINCE2®, although PRINCE2® concentrates on a number of different areas than the PMBoK.


The IPMA is a European organisation that aims at project management and certification. They seek cooperation with the PMI. The certification has four level: A to D. A is the highest level (experienced project director) and D the lowest (theoretical knowledge). To be able to certify, the IPMA described a number of knowledge areas of which a few can be compared to the Components of PRINCE2®. A number of other areas is seen by PRINCE2® as irrelevant to the work of the project manager because in this view these areas are seen as (technical) specialist work. Strangely enough for the certification there seem to be no clear objective norms.

Comparing PMBoK and PRINCE2®

In the PMBoK (Project Management Body of Knowledge) the chapter "Context as part of the Framework" describes roughly what is demanded of project management and what the prerequisites are. Sadly there is hardly any attention for processes and the roles that can be identified within the organisation of a project. PRINCE2® puts a lot of emphasis on these subjects. In the PMBoK terms like "project manager" and "project leader" are used, but there is no clear definition of these terms. It seems that the PMBoK "project manager" can be compared to a combination of the PRINCE2® Executive and the PRINCE2® project manager, while the PMBoK "project leader" can be found somewhere between the PRINCE2® project manager and team manager.

It is noticeable that the PMBoK very quickly descends to the level of techniques, which is obviously very concrete en where PRINCE2® pays far less attention to. On the process-side of project management can not be found much detail. The PMBoK does not go further than some very high level descriptions. No wonder that a number of US companies that work according to PMBoK turn to PRINCE2® for processes.

The relationships between PRINCE2® and the PMBoK can be presented in the following way:

The Framework of the PMBoK can be seen as a collection of policies to which a method for project management should comply. In PRINCE2® terms the Framework can be seen as a Project Brief for the development of a method.

The Knowledge Areas of PMBoK overlap with the Components of PRINCE2®. Also in this part of the PMBoK several techniques are discussed. PRINCE2® pays far less attention to techniques.

Concluding: PMBoK is an overview of subjects that matter to project management. It follows the existing practice. PRINCE2® has a strong visions (Customer / Supplier), which the PMBoK lacks and also this document lacks a description of roles and the importance of these roles. The PMBoK gives a feeling of fragmentation. It describes several techniques but the usefulness or the aim of the technique is not described sufficiently.

PRINCE2® discusses best practice where PMBoK describes common practice. Several recent reports show that common practice fails (about 70% of projects)! On this website I talk about the reasons as I see them for failing projects.

PMBoK can not be seen as an integral method, where PRINCE2® certainly is one. So again it is no wonder that in the USA interest is rising for the PRINCE2® method, filling the methodical gap and the lack of processes that the PMBoK leaves.



This article was written in 2005. In 2009 PRINCE2 introduced Principles, mainly to fight the negative effects of PINO (PRINCE In Name Only). When the Principles were introduced, a representative of the writers-team admitted that this article was in fact the inspiration for those Principles.

About the author

Specialist in effective change.

Accredited MSP™ and PRINCE2® trainer.

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