ISO 21500

ISO 21500 provides guidance for project management and can be used by any type of organization, including public, private or community organizations, and for any type of project, irrespective of complexity, size or duration. ISO 21500 provides high-level description of concepts and processes that are considered to form good practice in project management. Projects are placed in the context of programmes and project portfolios, however, ISO 21500 does not provide detailed guidance on the management of programmes and project portfolios. Topics pertaining to general management are addressed only within the context of project management. (Source:

ISO 21500 is a publication of the International Organization for Standardization, the world’s largest developer of voluntary International Standards, to provide good practice in project management, helping to make industry more efficient and effective. During the five years it took to complete, ISO 21500 was developed on the basis of inputs from hundreds of project management experts, standards development committees from more than thirty countries and project management associations like IPMA (International Project Management Association) and PMI (Project Management Institute). It was published in September 2012.

ISO 21500 is the first of a family of ISO standards for the portfolio, programme and project management landscape, currently under development. This will be based on an overall framework that defines project, programme and portfolio management (PPP), including the governance and terminology. Also it will define the interaction between PPP processes and the organization they serve, including the governance dimension and the links to ongoing operations. Projects may be organized within programme and project portfolios.

ISO 21500 is process-based: it describes work as being accomplished by processes. This approach is consistent with other management standards such as ISO/IEC 9001:2008 and the Software Engineering Institute’s CMMI. Processes overlap and interact throughout a project or its various phases. Processes are described in terms of purpose, description and primary inputs (documents, plans, designs, etc.), and outputs (documents, products, etc.). The guideline identifies 39 processes that fall into five basic process groups and ten subject groups that cover the typical managerial aspects for almost every project.

The five process groups are Initiating, Planning, Implementing, Controlling and Closing.
The ten subject groups are Integration, Stakeholder, Scope, Resource, Time, Cost, Risk, Quality, Procurement and Communication.

Each of the ten subject groups contains the processes that need to be accomplished within its discipline in order to achieve effective management of a project. Each of these processes also falls into one of the five basic process groups, creating a matrix structure such that every process can be related to one subject group and one process group.

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