With the release of ISO 21500 Standards for project management, many folks are confused about what exactly it is. Is it ISO 21500 Standards or is it a ISO 21500 Guidelines? In fact, what do these two definitions even mean?
ISO Standard vs. Guideline
One way to look at this is that a Standard is a specific set of rules, policies, processes, practices, definitions, etc., including measuring methods. Guidelines are simply recommendations, giving you more flexibility in how to implement. Standards are prescriptive and Guidelines are descriptive.
So, the ISO 21500 Standards, right now, are a set of guidelines. I say right now, because like other ISO Standards, Guidelines have turned into Standards over time. So, some confusion stems from the ISO 21500 Standard being called a Standard when in fact it is a Guideline. This is not uncommon as other ISO Standards include both Standards and Guidelines within them. An example is ISO 9001 Standards. which contain both within the Standard.
How Were The ISO 21500 Guidelines Created?
With over 32.6 million people working in project management in 11 major economies around the world, it is easy to see why ISO 21500 was researched and implemented. However this international global framework is based upon concepts, best practices and processes and doesn’t look at tools and methodologies. ISO 21500’s aim is to provide guidance in defining best practice in project management.
The PMI (Project Management Institute) and APM (Association of Project Management) are well-respected bodies in project management and both had a significant input in the formation of ISO 21500. So both of these bodies contributed their guidelines and best practices into the standard. Therefore some of their guidelines have now become an international standard.
So what’s the difference between the professional project management bodies (PMI and APM) and ISO 21500? After all both bodies had an input on developing the International Standard? The ISO 21500 provides a framework, which can be defined as a loose incomplete structure that allows room for other practices and tools to be included. But it provides much of the process required to achieve professional impact on the performance of projects.
The PMI and APM through their perspective accreditation schemes offer methodologies, a set of principles, tools and practices to achieve project and corporate goals. Both PMI and APM follow standard practices formulated within their own organizations and often promote them.
What do you choose as an organization? Do you follow ISO 21500 or one of the project management professional bodies? After all, both the PMI and APM have incorporated guidelines into standards? Let’s take a closer look at them.
International Organization for Standardization became widely known as ISO due to the abbreviation of their name. They are known worldwide and offer standards and guidelines that are reliable and of high quality.
- ISO 21500 can successfully work alongside ISO 9001 the Quality Management System, which aims to (through defined quality processes) consistently meet client requirements and improve their satisfaction, without unsettling the existing quality processes.
- As an international Standard it is familiar when working on global projects, across countries so that there is an international understanding of the principles, concepts and processes being used.
- It will offer continuity and familiarity within different project teams, so that if an employee joins an existing project team he/she will understand the common way of doing things.
- ISO certification conjures up an image that the business adheres to certain quality measures when developing and producing products and services. Therefore when you are bidding on new projects, this prestigious award can set you apart from your competitors.
Both the PMI and APM are well respected in Project Management circles with each one having thousands of members.
- Both organizations are worldwide having chapters around the globe. Global conferences are arranged annually where new emerging and best practices are discussed.
- Both organizations focus on the development of project/program manager, following the individual’s professional career as well as structured methodologies, concepts and processes.
- Their accreditation schemes will develop a beginner in project management to an expert in their field, through formal training.
- They bring together like-minded professionals from local chapter meetings. This is done on a regular basis where industry experts offer advice and guidance on best practices.
- The ISO 21500 took 5 years to implement, taking on board expert practices and comments from around the globe. However, both the PMI and APM are consistently reviewing new emerging trends and practices and incorporating them into successful practices.
The ISO is globally recognized and can bring prestige to a company. The ISO 21500 guidelines complement the PMI and APM with the same goal of achieving competency and consistency in project management for quality results. Because of this, organizations can more easily implement ISO 21500 with little disruption. A company adhering with ISO 21500 guidelines can gain a competitive edge when bidding on projects.
The professional bodies of project management offer a career path to their members as well as standards when executing projects. They offer guidelines on new emerging best practices, which evolve over time.
The ISO standards do not change unless significant research has been done over many years. An example of this is the Quality Management System, which was updated from ISO 9000 to ISO 9001.