Overview of the Initiating Process Group in PMBOK 5 – Updated October 2013

Similar to how a referee starts a match with the blow of his whistle, a project or a new phase of project needs some authorization to start it. The Initiating Process Group defined in the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK) Fifth Edition provides critical activities that need to be performed before you plan and execute the project.

The PMBOK5 categorizes project management processes into five groups. These categories are known Project Management Process Groups.

  • Initiating Process Group
  • Planning Process Group
  • Executing Process Group
  • Monitoring and Controlling Process Group
  • Closing Process Group

These process groups interact with each other during the project life-cycle. Let’ start by taking a look at the definition of the Initiating Process Group.

Definition of the Initiation Phase

“The Initiating Process Group consists of those processes performed to define a new project or a new phase of an existing project by obtaining authorization to start the project or phase.” – A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide) Fifth Edition

Now, let’s get into the process group and understand what this one sentence definition entails. In order to define a new project, two processes are necessary: developing a project charter and identifying stakeholders. As shown below:

Developing a Project Charter

A project charter contains an overview of the project, the approach the project will take and all signatures needed to approve the proejct. This document authorizes a project manager to utilize organizational resources for the sake of the project. In order to create it, you must interact with the the person who wishes the project completed, this is known as the Project Sponsor, Project Initiator, or Project Management Office (PMO). Basically the Project Initiator must have the authority to commit organizational resources and funding to the project.

To create the Project Charter, the following inputs are required: Project Statement of Work, Business Case, Agreements, Enterprise Environmental Factors, and Organizational Process Assets. The following figure shows some of the information that is typically found in a Project Charter.

Identify Stakeholders

Stakeholders are the people or entities that can inflence the success and outcome of the project. A Stakeholder Register is a document that provides information on the key stakeholders who will or can influence the project. The information can help a Project Manager understand which stakeholder is potentially a supporter of the project objectives and which stakeholder can derail the project. It also documents the key expectations of stakeholders.

To create the Stakeholder Register, the following inputs are required: Project Charter, Procurement Documents (Optional), Enterprise Environmental Factors, and Organizational Process Assets. The key tools and techniques used to identify stakeholders are stakeholder analysis, expert judgment, and meetings. During stakeholder analysis, you will use the Power/Interest, Power/Influence, and Influence/Impact grids and the Salience Model. The following figure shows some of the information that is typically found in a Stakeholder Register.

Key Points for the Initiation Phase

The Initiating process group has two processes: Develop Project Charter and Identify Stakeholders. After completing the processes in this group, a project manager has the authority to use organizational resources for project activities. The Project Charter and Stakeholder Register are used as inputs to processes in the other process groups, such as the Planning process group.


There is a slight difference between PMBOK version 4 and PMBOK version 5, which was release in mid 2013. The processes with the Initiating Process Group have not changed. However, the key difference is that in PMBOK5, the Project Communications Management knowledge area was split into Project Communications Management and Project Stakeholder Management. This change reflects the growing importance of Stakeholder Management in Project Management. The Identify Stakeholders process is now a part of the Project Stakeholder Management knowledge area.


  • A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, 5th Edition (C) 2013 PMI

This post is part of the series: Phases of Project Management

The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) defines the five phases of Project Management.
  1. Overview of the Initiating Process Group in the PMBOK 5
  2. Overview of the Project Planning Process Group
  3. Project Execution Process Group: Put Your Plan to Work
  4. The Monitoring & Controlling Process Group: A Definition
  5. Ending Your Project: the Closing Process Group