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APM Body of Knowledge 

 February 13, 2018

By  Dave Litten

The APM Body Of Knowledge – what is it?

A body of knowledge is a complete set of concepts, terms and activities that make up a professional domain. The project management body of knowledge is created by practitioners, academics and authors from all areas of the economy.

It has grown rapidly in scope over the last ten years, with new concepts increasing the breadth of the profession and new activities improving the practical application of those concepts.

Perhaps the most obvious increase in breadth is the development of programme management and portfolio management. Whilst it is convenient to pigeon-hole activity into one of the three dimensions of project, programme or portfolio, the reality is that these concepts are fluid and overlapping.

Experienced practitioners should be able to draw upon techniques from all three dimensions in order to manage each unique package of work. Nonetheless, the term ‘project management body of knowledge’ no longer does justice to the broader reaches of the profession.

It is partially because of this that the management of projects, programmes and portfolios is now commonly referred to as P3 Management.

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The APM – standard terminology

Enforcing a standard terminology is difficult and sometimes counter-productive when the contributors to the body of knowledge are so varied. This document uses de-facto standard terms wherever possible and provides alternatives where necessaryBecause this is the first document that endeavours to deal with project, programme and portfolio management as points on a continuum, some terminology has been adjusted to make that possible.

The increase in the conceptual breadth of the profession has inevitably been complemented by an increase in the depth of activity. The APM’s first body of knowledge, published in 1992, was a collection of techniques that made up the profession.

The vital role that these techniques play in all forms of modern commercial and non-commercial activity has led to an array of frameworks aimed at promoting and supporting successful application. The modern profession applies its component functions in the context of activities such as methodologies, competency frameworks, maturity models and qualifications.

The overarching objective of this document is not to describe the entire body of knowledge in detail but to provide a guide and common structure for these activities.

The APM OverviewIt sets out to achieve this in three ways.

Firstly, by identifying topics using functional analysis. This approach focuses on the fundamental activities involved in project, programme and portfolio management rather than specific techniques or organisational structures. This creates a stable set of topics that will be less affected by the evolution of good practice.

Secondly, by adopting a hierarchical structure. Different levels of the structure will suit different types of activity. For example, whilst qualifications will be based on the lowest level of the structure, a maturity model will be based on higher level categories and a methodology will be a combination.

Thirdly, by adopting a matrix structure where the functions form one axis and the dimensions of project, programme and portfolio form the other. This allows readers to consider all aspects of risk management on one dimension or all aspects of programme management on the other.

The body of knowledge is the first one designed specifically to be used in electronic form. The style and structure lend themselves to being viewed according to the varying requirements of individuals and organisations.

The body of knowledge has been divided into four sections:

Context. This deals with the way that project, programme and portfolio management fits within the broader organisation.

People. This addresses the interpersonal skills and the nature of the profession.

Delivery. This is the section that covers the tools and techniques that are traditionally most associated with project, programme and portfolio management professionals

Interfaces. These describe the general management areas that are of particular importance to the project, programme or portfolio manager.

The APM PMQ Masterclass

Dave Litten


David spent 25 years as a senior project manager for USA multinationals, and has deep experience in project management. He now develops a wide range of Project Management Masterclasses, under the Projex Academy brand name. In addition, David runs project management training seminars across the world, and is a prolific writer on the many topics of project management.

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