Lost in Translation? 5 PMBOK® Terms Explained for Project Users

Lost_in_translation_smallWhile PMI’s fifth edition of the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK)® Guide is a great source for understanding the theoretical concepts of project management, the 2013 edition of Microsoft Project implements those concepts in a practical manner. While the core concepts remain the same between the two sources, there are some differences in the terms and terminologies. In this article, I look at five PMBOK® terms and explain how they show up in Microsoft Project 2013.

Project vs. Project Summary Task

In the PMBOK® a “project” sits at the highest level of the structure created by a work breakdown structure (WBS). That happens in the “Create WBS” process area of the “Scope Management” knowledge area. A project can be further broken down into phases or sub-phases or deliverables.

In Microsoft Project, a project is known as a “project summary task.” It can be viewed by selecting the “Show Project Summary Task” option in the Show/Hide group of the Format tab.


After enabling the Project Summary Task, you’ll see the project in the Gantt Chart view. Note that it has the Task ID of value “0”.


Schedule Baseline vs. Baseline

The PMBOK® explains that a “schedule baseline” is created in the “Develop Schedule” process of the “Time Management” knowledge area. As the name suggests, baselining is done when enough planning for the schedule has been done and the manager of the project has been given the go-ahead by the relevant stakeholders and baseline has been approved by the sponsor. At this stage, the actual percentage of completion or the current status of the project isn’t entered.

The baseline concept in Microsoft Project adheres to the same rules. After performing a baseline, you won’t see a visible reflection of it in the Gantt Chart. Only when you start tracking a project (after assigning a finish or progress percentage) will the tasks that are completed be shown via a tick mark in the task indicator columns and the tasks which have progressed will have proportionately filled up Gantt bars in the graphical part of the view. To see the baseline data, just switch to the Tracking Gantt View.


Baselining in Microsoft Project can be done with the “Set Baseline” command under the “Schedule” group of the “Project” Tab.


The PMBOK® describes four kinds of dependencies or logical relationships: finish-to-start (FS), start-to-start (SS), start-to-finish (SF), and finish-to-finish (FF).

In Microsoft Project, dependencies are also referred to as “relationships,” and they follow the aforementioned types. The FS dependency is the default used by Project. For a particular task the relationship of it with the predecessor task can be viewed in the Task Driver pane or in the Task Information dialog. The chart below shows the various notations for each type of dependency.



Critical Path

The PMBOK® defines “critical path method” as a technique in the “Develop Schedule” process in the “Time Management” knowledge area. A project’s critical path is a sequence of activities that represents the longest path through the project and determines the shortest possible project duration. If any activity on the critical path is delayed, it will push the project’s finish date. Here, the primary objective of it is to determine the project’s finish date and to determine the extent to which an activity can be delayed without delaying the project. The tasks or activities on a critical path are called critical tasks and they have zero slack.

Microsoft Project uses the concept of critical path in the same way. Below is a screenshot of critical path in the Tracking Gantt view. The tasks or activities marked in red are part of the critical path. Any delay in these activities will result in the delay of the project’s finish date. In this case, the project has also been baselined for further tracking through the “Control Schedule” process area. The baselined information is marked with another bar in gray on top the default bars for the tasks.


Resource Levelling

The PMBOK® guide refers to “resource optimization techniques” in the “Develop Schedule” and “Control Schedule” process areas of the time management knowledge area. Resourcing leveling is one of those optimization techniques. This concept refers to the process of reallocating resources, which are over-allocated, i.e., a resource has been assigned to two or more tasks during the same time period. This may result in changes to scheduling, to the project’s critical path and a free and total float of the activities.

Microsoft Project uses the same concept of resource leveling and provides pragmatic options. Resource leveling can be done manually or automatically. The choices are to assign additional resources to a task, delay a task or delay a resource assignment. Various options for resource leveling are available under the “Properties” group of the “Resource” Tab in Project.


Manual or Auto resource levelling option can be set with the Levelling Option dialog box in Microsoft Project. The dialog box is shown below.


 Read the complete rundown, “PMBOK® 5th Edition and Microsoft Project 2013: A Practical Step by Step Approach,” on the author’s website.

Written by Satya Narayan Dash
Satya Narayan Dash is a management professional, coach, and author of multiple books. Under his guidance, over 2,000 professionals have successfully cracked PMP, ACP, RMP, and CAPM examinations – in fact, there are over 100 documented success stories written by these professionals. His course, PMP Live Lessons - Guaranteed Pass, has made many successful PMPs, and he’s recently launched RMP Live Lessons - Guaranteed Pass and ACP Live Lessons - Guaranteed Pass. His web presence is at https://managementyogi.com, and he can be contacted via email at managementyogi@gmail.com.  
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  1. Hello Satya

    Very good article.
    FYI: The diagram of FF and SS are backwards. No big deal though.

    Michael Wharton, Project MVP

  2. Thank you Michael. Glad that you liked. The diagram has been corrected.

  3. Thank you Kimberly.

  4. Hi Satya, Well presented and good job.

  5. Thanks Vijaya.

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