2020 PMPECO: The People Domain

PMI® recently conducted several studies to learn about the current state of project management in several industries (discussed here) and determined that while PMs are generally focused on processes, they should also spend time focusing on the team members and other stakeholders on a project. As a result, the 2020 PMP Exam Content Outline® is more aligned with the 2015 PMI Talent Triangle® and shifting the focus of the PMP exam away from pure processes and onto people (42% of the exam), processes (50% of the exam) and the business environment (8% of the exam); focusing less on “pure Project Management” and more on “Strategic Project Leadership™.”


In the Pulse of the Profession 2020 report, PMI surveyed business leaders around the globe. They found that the largest percentage of organizational leaders – 35% – think organizational agility is key to future success. That includes creating a culture that is receptive to change, which 53% of executives said is a high priority in their companies. Project managers hold the pivotal role in this area. This human-first approach requires project teams to consider the point of view of every stakeholder involved in a process and then working with them to develop solutions.


The Pulse report showed that in today’s organizations, leadership is one of the most in demand skills required for Project Managers to be successful:

With so much change, executives are increasingly turning to project leaders to help them turn ideas into reality. And that often requires mixing tried-and-true skills with emerging ones. So, yes, project professionals must be up on automation and design thinking, but they won't get far without people skills. – Pulse of the Profession In-Depth Report 2020

The Proof is in the PMPECO®…

With PMs in organizations seemingly focused so much on schedules, budgets, and resource utilization, why has PMI determined it is necessary to focus 42% of the exam on people? It can be summed up by this quote from an article by Cindy Anderson of the IBM Institute of Business Value about what is now called The Project Economy:


The Project Economy is one in which people have all the skills and capabilities they need to turn ideas into reality – no matter what kind of project they’re working on. It is where organizations deliver value to stakeholders through successful completion of projects, delivery of products, and alignment to value streams. And all of these initiatives deliver financial and societal value. Enabling organizations. Empowering people. Strengthening society. These are promises that Project Management Institute is making to its three million global stakeholders and the rapidly growing ranks of project professionals everywhere.

The value of projects is delivered by… that’s right… The People. The People Domain of the new 2020 PMPECO outlines 14 separate tasks focused on the various stakeholders of the project from the team developing the results to the key stakeholders providing input about the business values to contracted human resources. The tasks cover several topics specific to the ‘people of the project.’

2015 PMPECO to 2020 PMPECO

A lot has changed between the two iterations (2015 and 2020) of the PMPECO, but what are the real differences in what PMs need to know to stay relevant and up to date to survive in the new “Project Economy?”


At first glance, there is not much to marvel at in the 2020 PMPECO. Task titles are simple things like “Manage Conflict,” “Build a Team,” “Manage Team,” “Empower Team Members and Stakeholders” (ooooh that’s new and shiny…), etc. However, the new PMPECO adds in ‘modifiers’ called Enablers to each task and reviewing these, you can see the subtle introduction of agile leadership concepts.


“Back in the olden days” of project management, PMs would work with analysts and other subject matter experts to define the scope and activities of the project, determine the resources needed, gather those resources, execute the activities, and keep a close eye on the schedule and budget. Sound familiar? The new PMPECO describes the role of the PM quite a bit differently as we see terms/tasks like “Promote team performance through the application of emotional intelligence.” While this was certainly a key responsibility for the PM in ‘ye olden days’ it was never specifically called out. The real difference can be seen in the Enablers of looking for personality indicators and ‘adjusting to the emotional needs of key project stakeholder.” Not gonna find that in the 6th Edition PMBOK anywhere…

As shown in the infographic below, there are 5 main differences between the two documents, but they show an emphasis in skills that are generally associated with agile project methodologies and leadership rather than traditional/predictive project methods:

  • Increased focus on servant leadership

  • Measuring the outcomes of training the team

  • Maintaining team and knowledge transfer

  • Assess behavior with personality indicators

  • Analyze personality indicators and adjust to emotional needs


The modern PM in today’s Project Economy needs to be ready to lead teams and engage with stakeholders with a higher level of emphasis on emotional intelligence than previous certification tests and project managers had to deal with in the past. Understanding the current landscape of organizations and the projects they run, it is important to remember that people are our most valuable resource and engaging appropriately with stakeholders allows us to increase the value delivered by our projects.

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