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ISO Project Management Standard: ISO 21500

Background

In recent years there has been a proliferation of sector specific standards worldwide which have had no overarching standard to set the generic principles and procedures of project management globally. In addition these standards have had no common vocabulary or processes that could be referenced by the global project management community resulting in different definitions and interpretations.

To address these problems the International Standards Organisation (ISO) has initiated work to create a new Standard entitled ISO 21500: Guide to Project Management. The Standard will provide a common platform which will become a reference point for all project management professionals and facilitate knowledge transfer and the harmonisation of principles, vocabulary and processes in existing and future Standards.

About ISO 21500

BSI British Standards hosted an inaugural meeting of the new project committee (PC), ISO/PC 236, project management, which was established to develop ISO 21500.

ISO 21500 builds on a number of existing standards. It is intended to be applicable to organizations of all sizes and sectors and will be designed for relative newcomers to project management, and as a reminder for more experienced practitioners. At present, delegations of experts selected by the national standards institutes of 35 countries are participating in the work as P (Participating) members, with another 9 countries participating as O (Observing) members. There is one recognized liaison participating in the ISO/PC 236 work; International Project Management Association (IPMA).

According to the resources, ISO 21500 is intended to be applicable to organizations of all sizes and sectors and will be designed for relative newcomers to project management, or as an aide-mémoire for more experienced practitioners. The standard is scheduled to be released in late 2010.

Benefits

A number of key benefits to the project management community will ensue from this Standard as it will:

  • Aid in the transfer of knowledge between projects and organisations resulting in improved project delivery.
  • Facilitate more efficient tendering processes particularly on large international projects through the use of consistent project management terminology.
  • Enable multi-national organisations to coordinate their project management processes and systems.
  • Facilitate the mobility of project management personnel and their ability to work on international projects.
  • Provide a framework which can be used as the basis for mapping of certification programs globally and therefore assist in their reciprocity.
  • Provide a framework for project management generic principles and processes that could be built upon for the advancement of the project management profession.

Implementation Plan

Over 50 experts selected by participating National Standards bodies from around the world have taken part in the inaugural meeting of ISO/PC 236. Significant progress was made at the meeting on mapping the terminology, processes and informative guidance that will constitute the new Standard.

Work has subsequently continued remotely within the working groups since the meeting. The first working drafts of the: table of contents, scope statement, glossary of terms and project processes have been prepared and circulated for comments to all working groups’ members and updated accordingly. This development will continue within the working groups until the various drafts and the final International Standard are ready for presentation to the ISO/PC236 Committee which will meet twice a year for discussion and voting purposes according to the following timeline:

  • Develop Working Draft – June 2008
  • Develop Committee Draft 1 – May 2009
  • Develop Committee Draft 2 – October 2009
  • Develop Draft International Standard – April 2010
  • Develop Final Draft International Standard – June 2010
  • Update and Launch International Standard – September 2010

Summary

ISO is a network of the national standards institutes of 159 countries, one member per country, with a Central Secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland, that coordinates the system. ISO is a non-governmental organization that forms a bridge between the public and private sectors. On one hand, many of its member institutes are part of the governmental structure of their countries, or are mandated by their government. On the other hand, other members have their roots uniquely in the private sector, having been set up by national partnerships of industry associations.

Therefore, ISO enables a consensus to be reached on solutions that meet both the requirements of business and the broader needs of society.

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