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Episode 249: Software Extension to the PMBOK Guide Fifth Edition (Free)

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Episode 249: Software Extension to the PMBOK Guide Fifth Edition (Free)This interview with Jesse Fewell was recorded at the PMI Global Congress 2013 North America in New Orleans.

In this follow-up interview with Jesse Fewel ( we talk about two recent publications that he worked on. One is "big" and he was a co-author and the other is "small" and he is both author and publisher.

We begin with the "big" one, which is the Software Extension to the PMBOK® Guide Fifth Edition. This PMI reference work brings together the project management approaches from the PMBOK Guide with adaptive approaches such as agile that are more commonly used in software development. We look at how it was developed and what it means for those managing software development projects. Remember, we're not talking about project management software, but about making software, so IT-led and software development projects.

Then we move on to the "small" book that Jesse wrote and self-published called "Can You Hear Me Now?". This mini-book fits into the palm of your hand and is a fast read. It walks you through tips and benefits for working with people outside your office. The book is the synthesis of researching today’s trends, together with personal stories from his colleagues and his own experiences of working abroad.

Episode Transcript

Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

Podcast Introduction

Cornelius Fichtner: I am still here with Jesse Fewell and we haven't moved folks. We haven't moved. We're sitting in the same spot here. But Jesse and I decided that the 3 topics that we have and want to talk to you about, we wanted to break them up into 2 interviews. So first, we talked about big Agile and now we're moving on to the software extension to the PMBOK® Guide and also to 'Can You Hear Me Now?'. You'll hear more about that in the second part of this interview here.

Podcast Interview

Cornelius Fichtner: So Jesse, welcome back!

Jesse Fewell: Thank you for continuing to sit here and chat. We're having a good time so we might as well keep it going.

Cornelius Fichtner: Thank you! Alright! So the software extension to the PMBOK® Guide, what was your role on this?

Jesse Fewell: I was part of the core team that was headed by Dr. Dick Fairly from the IEEE Computer Society and then the Vice Chair from the PMI, my colleague, Dennis Stevens.

Cornelius Fichtner: Alright!

Jesse Fewell: They ran the team. It was a joint effort between the PMI and the IEEE Computer Society and I was part of that core team.

Cornelius Fichtner: When did it come out?

Jesse Fewell: About a month ago, in September of 2014. It's been out for a month. You can buy it on Amazon and the PMI Market Place, member, PMI members in good standing can download a free copy from the website.

Cornelius Fichtner: I'll get my free copy then. Question: When I hear PMBOK® Guide and software extension, I'm thinking: "Okay. Is this another academic text that when I read it, I feel, okay, this is now so dry, I have to read it 3 or 4 times to understand it."

Jesse Fewell: I'm going to say, a…

Cornelius Fichtner: A little bit?

Jesse Fewell: Maybe, yeah. It is absolutely, it is a standard.

Cornelius Fichtner: It is a standard. It is not intended as an entertaining book.

Jesse Fewell: No! It's not the Harry Potter of project management if you will. It's pretty academic especially when you think about the brain power that was brought to bear on the problem at hand. So yeah, it's a process book for process people.

Cornelius Fichtner: Okay. What does it teach me?

Jesse Fewell: Well the problem that I somewhat alluded to is that the PMBOK® Guide is often misinterpreted depending on the context of project managers working. PMI has already launched specific extensions that are industry specific. PMI has already launched industry-specific extensions to the PMBOK® Guide.

For example, the government extension is a set of practices and recommendations about how to implement a scope management in a government environment. Construction is another one of the extensions that offers specific advice on how to implement risk management in a construction environment. There has been a number of people in the software and information technology community who believe strongly that the common interpretation of the PMBOK® Guide in the software field is problematic at times.

There is a great quote by Fred Brooks in his classic The Mythical Man Month where he said something along the lines of: "In many respects, project management in a software context is very similar to project management and in the other context but in many respect, it is not." So that was the mission about why we put itt together and yeah, that was the mission why we put it together.

Cornelius Fichtner: How thick is it?

Jesse Fewell: It's a couple of hundred pages. It will definitely take some time to read through. We opened it up for public comment to the entire project management community with almost 2000 comments of recommendations.

Cornelius Fichtner: Not surprising, yeah!

Jesse Fewell: But what we noticed is that the volume of comments started to get thinner and thinner and thinner, the deeper and deeper into the book.

Cornelius Fichtner: So page 190 had the fewest comments?

Jesse Fewell: Yes, yes. So it's a pretty dense read. But the key of it is that there's just a lot of good recommendations in the material.

Cornelius Fichtner: Tell me a little bit about those recommendations. What will they recommend?

Jesse Fewell: Well the key pattern that you'll see is the elaboration of the continuum of project life cycles that's defined in the fifth edition of the PMBOK® Guide. Whereby this notion that you either a plan-driven and Waterfall or you're adaptive and Agile is put on its head.

In the fifth edition of the PMBOK® Guide there was defined a continuum, a spectrum, a very sliding scale between two extremes and the choice of life cycle that you're going to bring to a project is very much context-driven. Each of the 10 knowledge areas, scope management, time management, risk management, stakeholder management offer concrete examples of how to implement those knowledge areas within a given context of either being very plan-driven or being very adaptive or somewhere in the middle.

Cornelius Fichtner: Okay. So it's an extension to the PMBOK® Guide, it's project management focused. So should project managers read this or should technical software developers read this? Who is it for?

Jesse Fewell: It really is for people who are intended to help with the coordination of projects. Software engineers who are interested in process might get some value out of it. Senior executives who has some interest in how to operationalize some standard project competencies would be interested in it. But it is very much for project leaders and process leaders who are looking to as I said operationalize some best practices.

Cornelius Fichtner: And how much does Agile play into the book? Because the PMBOK® Guide mentions Agile a couple of times because it doesn’t go into detail.

Jesse Fewell: Yes. What the committee has started discussing based on the comments from the community is that Agile is such an overloaded word that it was best to attack it from a different angle. The different angle was to say that there are different aspects of agility and we're going to talk about some of those aspects in different chapters of the book. We'll talk about maybe adaptive approach to scope management or an adaptive approach to risk management. But we intentionally stop short of defining what Agile is.

Many of us believe that the Agile movement already has a formal definition at That is the official definition of what the Agile movement is about. But if you want to start talking about specific practices and techniques that are available to project managers, well those are usually based upon what you have to do in the moment. What job am I doing? Am I defining a scope for a project? Am I defining a schedule? Well then I'm going to go to that chapter and I'm going to look at techniques about how to do that for that specific situation.

There was one area that defines that the Agile movement is focused on the notion of collaboration teams. What are some of the attributes of collaboration teams that are fully dedicated across functional or collocated, they are multi-skilled. So what we said was that there's a commonality of these patterns within those projects that are said to implement Agile methods. But again, stopping short of formal definition.

Cornelius Fichtner: Okay. Is there anything in the software extension that you personally found surprising?

Above are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete PDF transcript is available to Premium subscribers only.

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Cornelius Fichtner
Cornelius Fichtner
Cornelius Fichtner, PMP, CSM, is the host and the author at The Project Management Podcast. He has welcomed hundreds of guests and project management experts to the podcast and has helped over 60,0000 students prepare for their PMP® Exam. He has authored dozens of articles on and PM World 360. He speaks at conferences around the world about project management, agile methodology, PMOs, and Project Business. Follow him on Twitter and connect with him on LinkedIn.

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