Best practice, model, framework, method, (practice) guideline, standard: a proposal for consistent terminology

Terms and definitions

  • Practice is the way in which professionals practice their profession, with the aim of performing a specific task. Best practice is the description of the working method that is considered to be the best, based on the situation at that time. Such a description can be used by (future) professionals. The term “good practice” is also used, @often to denote the existence of multiple valid practices for a specific situation@.
  • A model is a representation in the form of a diagram, often in a simplified form, of an existing or future state or situation. The modeling technique determines how the situation is represented in a schematic way. Many modeling techniques that are applied are: process model, workflow model, life cycle model.
  • A method is a systematic approach to achieving a specific result or goal. It offers a coherent and (scientifically) consistent approach that leads to the desired goal/result. A method include at least a way of thinking and a way of working. In addition, a method may include complementary components, such as: management models, presentation models, supporting models (regulations, instructions, tips, examples, etc.), based on the modeling techniques described above. The meaning of the terms “practice” and “model” is much broader than the term “method”.
  • A framework is something that lies between a “model” and a “method”. A framework is, or contains, a (not fully detailed) structure or system for achieving a specific goal/result. Many frameworks include one or more models, based on the modeling techniques mentioned above, and are often based on (best) practices. Compared to a method, a framework gives users much more freedom in terms of (fully or partially) applying the framework and using the models or techniques it contains.
  • A body of knowledge (BOK or BoK) is the complete set of concepts, terms, and activities that together encompass a professional domain, as interpreted by the relevant professional group or professional organization. A body of knowledge is the widely accepted set of standard terminology (also: ontology) for a specific domain. In general, a BOK is more than just a glossary of terms. It is (among other things): a literature list for professionals, a library, a website or a collection of websites; a description of professional functions; or even a collection of data.
  • International standardization organizations, such as ANSI, IEEE, ISO, etc., make a distinction between a “guideline” and a “standard”.
  • ISO definition: A standard (also called a “norm”) is a document that provides a description of the requirements, specifications, guidelines, or properties that can be consistently applied to provide assurance that materials, products, processes, etc. meet the requirements.
  • Definition of guideline: recommended application in practice with some freedom or discretion in interpretation, implementation, or use. In ISO, a guideline is the first version of a document that is intended to become a standard. In most cases, the period between the publication of a guideline and the official status as a standard is five years.


  • The PMBOK Guide is set up as a Body of Knowledge and is also both a framework and an (ANSI) standard; PRINCE2 is a method and has been labeled as a “de facto standard” by the British government. Formally speaking, it is therefore not a standard.
  • Within the agile family, there are clear differences: Scrum and SAFe are frameworks; RUP and DSDM/Atern are methods.
  • The ISO guideline for project, program, and portfolio management (ISO21503:2017) may, in the near future, in an improved version, be given the status of “standard”.
  • The ICB and e-CF are competence frameworks.

Method versus methodology

In many publications, the term “methodology” is incorrectly applied, where the term “method” is meant. The correct definitions of the term “methodology” are:

  • The systematic, theoretical analysis of methods in a particular area, or the theoretical analysis of the set of methods and principles that belong to a knowledge area. It includes concepts such as, for example, a paradigm, theoretical model, phases, and quantitative or qualitative techniques.
  • The design process to carry out research into or development of a procedure; it is not itself an instrument to carry out those things.

Governance of models, frameworks, methods, and standards

A large number of models, frameworks, methods, and standards are managed by an ?executing? organization. These organizations deal with the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and are the central point for the activities and products that support the subject, aimed at the target audience(s). In some cases, a certification/examination program is offered.

These organizations often develop a new, improved version on a regular basis. These organizations’ websites indicate what the latest version is and explain the conditions for applying the model/method/framework. In most cases, the latest version is the valid version.