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PMP PMBOK Common Tools and Techniques 

 October 31, 2021

By  Dave Litten

PMP PMBOK Common Tools and Techniques

The Project Management Institute’s PMBOK methodology is built around a set of five process groups and 10 knowledge areas. Within each process group, there are many processes, each with its own set of inputs, outputs, and tools.

These processes have inputs, tools, and techniques, that are combined to execute a specific activity on a project and create a specific output. Every process has inputs, which are needed to start the process.

Tools and techniques are things that help you to execute a process. Output is what you get out of the process.

For your PMP exam, these are often referred to as ITTO, which is an acronym standing for input, tools and techniques, and output.

There are however a set of common tools that are used many times throughout those process groups.
In this article, I will be explaining to you the set of eight common tools that you will need to know in your PMP exam.

First, here is a graphic showing how the five process groups and their 49 processes plus 10 knowledge areas interact with the PMBOK knowledge areas:

Pmp Pmbok Common Tools And Techniques

Expert judgement

Expert judgement is one of the most common tools in the planning process. Expert judgement includes hiring an expert or subject matter expert (SME), to help you plan a process or conduct a process.

Experts can be people with specialised knowledge or training in a particular process, industry, or technology.
For example, if you must develop a project charter, but you’re not sure how to do it, then hire an expert who can help you with the creation of the project charter.

Data gathering

Data gathering is a tool that is used to do exactly what the name says, gather data about a particular process that you’re working on. On certain processes, you will need to gather additional data before coming up with an output for that process.

For example, when developing a project charter, you might sit down with stakeholders and brainstorm what should and should not be included in the project. Brainstorming is part of data gathering. It is just the technique that is used to gather information in a particular process.

Here are some of the techniques that you might be utilizing when using this tool. These techniques will be used on most of the processes that involve this tool, but there are other techniques that can be used.

  • Brainstorming. Brainstorming is when you bring together a group of stakeholders to get ideas and analyse them. Brainstorming sessions are generally facilitated by the project manager
  • Interviews. Anytime you want to gather data from a particular group of stakeholders, one of the best methods is to just interview them. Ask them a series of questions and talk with them about their thoughts and views
  • Focus groups. A focus group is when you bring together subject matter experts to understand their perspectives and how they would go about solving problems
  • Checklist. A checklist is generally created by the organisation and then given to potential stakeholders on a project for them to identify items they may or may not want on a project, and any success criteria they may have for the project
  • Questionnaires and surveys. Questionnaires and surveys can be given to stakeholders to better understand what they may be looking for on a project and to better understand their needs

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Data analysis

Data analysis is used to analyze the data that has been gathered. During a process, a project manager and team collect different types of data and will then need to analyze that data in order to make decisions on the project.

For example, in the process of “control schedule”, you will gather data about the schedule, and then you will need to analyse the data to determine if the project is ahead or behind schedule.

Here are some of the techniques that you might be doing when using this tool. These techniques will be used on most of the processes that involve this tool, but there are other techniques that can be used.

  • Alternative analysis. Alternative analysis involves looking at different options or ways to accomplish something. For example, by looking at a change request and then determine a few different ways we can implement the change. An alternative analysis is the most popular option in the PMBOK Guide when it comes to doing data analysis
  • Root cause analysis (RCA). A root cause analysis is used to identify the main underlying reason for a particular event. For example, if there were defects in a deliverable, a project manager would use this technique to identify the main cause
  • Variance analysis. Variance analysis is used quite often to find the exact differences between different things. For example, a project manager will use variance analysis to identify if a project is on budget by looking at the variance between the planned budget and the actual costs
  • Trend analysis. Trend analysis involves looking at data over a period to see if a particular trend is forming. For example, throughout the execution of the project, a project manager will be looking to see if the project his consistently on budget or over budget period

Data representation

Data representation is used throughout the PMBOK Guide to illustrate different ways that data could be shown to stakeholders. Methods generally include the use of charts, matrices, and different types of diagrams.
Certain processes will have unique methods to represent their data.

Decision making

In many processes, you will gather a lot of data and then need to make a decision on what to do with that data.

Decision-making is a tool that is used to come to a decision that can best serve the project.

Here are some of the techniques that you might be executing when using this tool. These techniques will be used for most of the processes that have this tool, but there are other techniques that can be used:

  • Voting. Voting is used by a group to determine whether to proceed, change, or reject something. Voting can be, majority wins, unanimity, where everyone agrees, or plurality, where a majority is not obtained, but the most popular decision is chosen
  • Multi criteria decision analysis. This is when you make a table (matrix) that lists different types of criteria and then evaluate an idea based on those criteria. For example, a project manager would use different criteria when selecting a team member, such as their availability, experience, education, and costs – here, you can make a table listing these criteria and potential team members
  • Autocratic decision-making. This is when one person decides for the entire team.
  • Interpersonal and team skills. All project managers need to have good interpersonal and team skills in order to manage the different stakeholders that will be on the project. This is the most important tool in real life project management, and any project manager who does not have these skills is sure to have many problems on a project

Here are some of the techniques that you might be executing when using this tool. These techniques will be used on most of the processes that have this tool, but there are other techniques that can be used:

  • Active listening. Active listening is understanding, acknowledging, and clarifying what others are saying to you
  • Conflict management. Anytime you bring a team together, you are bound to have conflicts on that team. A project manager or need to resolve these conflicts in order to move forward
  • Facilitation. Facilitation is the art of managing a group. This can include bringing the group together, generating ideas, solving problems, and dissipating the team. This is generally the job of the project manager when it comes to the facilitation of a project team. This will be a key skill in real life project management, as you will have to facilitate groups of different stakeholders
  • Meeting management. Most projects will have many meetings involving different types of stakeholders. A project manager needs to be able to manage these meetings to ensure they are productive and meaningful to the project. Meeting management generally includes having an agenda, inviting the right stakeholders, setting a time limit, and following up with meeting minutes and action items.

Project Management Information System (PMIS)

The PMIS is an automated system that is used to help the project manager optimise the schedule or keep track of all the documents and the deliverables. It is usually a computer system that an organisation uses to manage its projects. It should include all the software and hardware tools that we need to manage the project from start to finish.

The PMIS includes the work authorization system and the configuration management system. The work authorization system is used to ensure work gets done in the right order and at the right time.

The purpose of the configuration management system is to ensure the product gets the right settings and configuration. The configuration management system includes the change management system which is used to ensure that changes to a project are documented, tracked, and authorised or denied.

Meetings

Meetings are used often in the 49 processes, and can be done face to face or virtually. Meetings frequently include all different types of stakeholders throughout the project, and here are some points to make meetings effective:

  • have an agenda and distribute it to all attendees before the meeting
  • meetings must be timed, including having set start and finish times for topics and the entire meeting
  • make sure that the meeting always stays on topic and does not go off topic
  • ensure that all attendees have input on the topics distribute detailed meeting minutes once the meeting is complete

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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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