We don’t wear shoes, we use footwear!

(A short, almost pointless rant about PMBOK vs. Sure Step nonsense)

Once, while preparing an important RFP response, a partner told me they don’t use Sure Step because they use PMI methodology. This made my toenails curl up—when people tell me they are using PMI methodology, they in fact tell me they are using no methodology at all. It’s simple:

  1. There is no such thing as PMI methodology
  2. Anybody familiar with PMI should know that

Another time a partner told me they preferred PMBOK to Sure Step. Now, while this was a better argument, it was still very much wrong. As if they told me they don’t wear shoes, because they wear footwear.

What is PMBOK?

A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), published by Project Management Institute (PMI), is a set of guidelines and an internationally recognized de-facto standard for project management discipline. It is sometimes—totally incorrectly—referred to as the PMI methodology.

PMBOK is generic; as generic as it can get, in fact. You can construct ships, build skyscrapers, run a presidential campaign, or implement software applying PMBOK principles and guidelines. Which project methodology you are using while doing so? Well, whichever works best for you.

PMBOK itself is not a project methodology, it’s a set of guidelines. It explains what a project is, and what project management consist of; or to be totally precise—it explains the processes of project management. How exactly you conduct these processes? PMBOK doesn’t care much, as long as you have what PMBOK calls the Project Management Methodology. PMBOK defines the what part; it’s the project management methodology that should define the how.

What is a Project Management Methodology?

A project management methodology is a definition of processes, their individual functions and mutual relations and dependencies, that together facilitate repeatable and predictable execution of all project related tasks.

As per PMBOK, project management methodology belongs to tools and techniques of all processes in Project Integration Management knowledge area, and as such defines the cornerstone of effective project management throughout all process groups: initiation, planning, execution, monitoring and control, and closing. You wouldn’t be wrong if you said that it’s the most important tool/technique of project integration management.

Since PMBOK is a generic set of principles, to consistently achieve project success it is extremely important to apply an effective project management methodology suitable to the field. Developing software is different from road construction or from fundraising campaign or from ERP implementation. To successfully manage a project in any of these fields you need an appropriate methodology, which handles the how part of the field specifics.

Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step methodology, among other things, defines a project management methodology appropriate for a very narrow and specific field: implementation of ERP and CRM business management solutions from Microsoft Dynamics product family. As such, Sure Step qualifies as a project management methodology which easily satisfies the PMBOK’s definition.

Sure Step vs. and PMBOK

Now that we are clear what all this project management gobbledygook is all about, let’s take a look at the more practical perspective: does Sure Step follow the PMBOK guidelines? Or the other way around: if you follow the PMBOK principles, can you manage your projects by Sure Step methodology?

In short: yes.

These two are compatible, and when it comes to project management Sure Step does not reinvent the wheel. If you take a look at the Project Management Library of Sure Step, you can notice that it consists of Disciplines and Processes, both of which largely come directly from PMBOK.

Processes of Sure Step in general correspond to PMBOK process groups, and they are called exactly the same way. The only difference (in nomenclature, that is) is that Sure Step groups initiation and planning process groups (two groups per PMBOK) into one process group. Processes within the process groups of Sure Step do not exactly correspond one-on-one to processes of PMBOK, and their sequence is definitely not the same, but they achieve exactly the same purpose and elaborate by and large on PMBOK processes.

Disciplines of Sure Step generally correspond to PMBOK knowledge areas, with few notable exceptions:

  • PMBOK’s two knowledge areas, time management and cost management, have been translated to one Sure Step discipline: time and cost management. Time management component defines less individual processes than PMBOK does, but covers for all the activities.
  • PMBOK’s human resource management has been expanded to include not only human resources, but also material resources. While specific processes of Sure Step resource management does include PMBOK’s processes, it also pays special attention to identifying and any equipment and material resources and releasing the project team members, the former being of crucial importance for successful completion of ERP/CRM implementation projects, and the latter ensuring the sustainable services/consultancy organization especially in multi-project environments.
  • PMBOK’s integration management knowledge area is completely absent from Sure Step, but I’d say it’s only nominally so. Since integration management knowledge area addresses those processes that are used to identify, define and coordinate project management activities, Sure Step as a whole serves as one big integration management discipline.
  • Two disciplines are introduced that are unknown to PMBOK: issue management and sales management. Issue management comprises components of several PMBOK’s process groups, and by PMBOK should exist as a part of Organizational Process Assets (OPA). Given the project success rate in IT industry, having issue management as specifically articulated discipline really makes sense. About sales management, it had to be specifically defined primarily because Sure Step is a methodology defined from the perspective of contracted organization (the consultancy), while PMBOK primarily observes the reality through the eyes of contracting organization (the customer). Therefore majority of PMBOK’s procurement management processes have been reversed and defined through their opposite side: the sales by consultant’s organization.

While current release of Sure Step surely doesn’t follow PMBOK one on one, and there are a lot of gaps, and a lot of differences between the two, Sure Step methodology observes the principles of PMBOK. If your organization has been applying PMBOK earlier, introducing Sure Step should not be too difficult and it certainly won’t break any of your existing principles: it will merely apply the
BOK’s generic knowledge to a very specific field.

On the other hand, if you are already using Sure Step, and have worries that you might not be compliant to PMBOK requirements some customers might sometimes put before consultancies, you can rest assured that Sure Step is a methodology that has PMBOK written in fat bold letters all over it, and it goes a step further: it elaborates and specifically defines not only what a project management process, task or activity should look like, but also how it should be conducted.

Walk your footwear

So in the end, if you are using Sure Step, you are indeed following PMBOK, and if you are following PMBOK, you can still fully continue to do so while applying Sure Step. Whether you walk in your shoes or in your footwear, you will be able to make big, sure steps towards project success.


Vjeko has been writing code for living since 1995, and he has shared his knowledge and experience in presentations, articles, blogs, and elsewhere since 2002. Hopelessly curious, passionate about technology, avid language learner no matter human or computer.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. PM Hut

    I think probably your friend meant that you’re using Waterfall. Of course there is no such thing as PMI methodology.

  2. Christina Belding

    As usual Vjeko, a riveting article, and one I agree with you completely on!

    Being a PMP, managing MS ERP engagements, and recently learning a little more about the ‘practical’ application of Sure Step, I would highly recommend Sure Step to any MS Partner looking to become more knowledgeable about PMBOK before trying to embark on a PMBOK only crusade within their organization. There is nothing worse than trying to use a methodology that others refer to as a ‘mythodology’ because they are unfamiliar with it.

    IMHO, Sure Step does a pretty good job of bringing in concepts of the methodology to a ‘real-world MS product implementation mindset’. As you so succinctly pointed out, PMBOK is meant to be the de facto standard guideline to ‘most, but not all’ projects. The value in Sure Step is it ties in these principles, builds on them, gives you the direction and documentation to support it, yet puts it all together so it make sense for the work we all do…for the products we work with… for the projects we work on. As adults, we learn by a process called ‘linking’-so when you put things together that subtly make those ‘links’ more understandable, it’s much easier to embrace new concepts.

    At the end of the day, anything that can help ensure project success by giving you a roadmap to apply, gets my stamp of approval (get it-little shoe joke there). 🙂 Thanks again for a thought-provoking post!

  3. Business Process Management

    Thanks for sharing all of this stuff.

  4. Vjekoslav Babic

    Business Process Management: thank you, but is this a ploy to get a nofollow relevant backlink to your site? Please tell me it is not, when you do, I’ll put the URL back to your comment, deal?

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