Tips and Tricks to pass PMP® Exam

Tips and Tricks to pass PMP® Exam

PMP® Exam is not a simple exam to crack. It requires focus, serious studies, understanding of project management concepts, persistence and consistent preparation to pass the exam. More than this, you need to understand PMI® philosophy. If you understand PMI point of view, get aligned with it and think from that perspective, the PMP® Exam become much simpler. Here are some tips and trick  that talk about PMI® point of view. These tips and tricks make your preparations easy and fast.

  1. Understand and practice concepts referred in PMBOK® Guide (May or may not be fully explained in PMBOK® Guide)
  2. Only real life experience is not sufficient. Moreover your real life experience may misguide you. Many times real life experience is not what PMBOK® Guide recommends. In such case your real life experience may make you to tick wrong answer.
  3. Your real life experience is indeed important. In fact we have observed more experience people understand project management concepts better and pass the exam qucker. However if your real life experience conflict with PMBOK® Guide, please keep it aside and tick the answer that PMBOK® Guide advises.
  4. Questions are situational and more than one answer appears correct. Your clear understanding of concepts will make you distinguish them and tick the right answer.
  5. Practice Sample questions as they will help you to understand what type of questions will appear in exam and how to attempt them
  6. You may need to memorize some stuff like input, output, tools and techniques (IOTT) & some formulas. However I discourage you to do so at first step. When you prepare, many of these things are logical and your preparation & practice will make you remember most of the stuff. If you are still struggling with some stuff, then only mug up things you are struggling with.
  7. Many times questions could be too wordy that may confuse you. Remember it is not necessary to use all the information provided in the question. Most of the times last statement of the whole paragraph could be critical. Give special focus on last statement and see if there is some important information lies in the question’s narrative.
  8. Some options may be true but not relevant in the context of that question. Give special attention to this. Sometime a universally true statement is given as one of the options. Like if you plan better, you will see less problems during execution. If you are not too sure about answer, you tempt to tick this as this is a true statement but it may not be the answer of the question. In fact universally true statements will not be correct answer in most of the cases.
  9. Answer the questions from PMI® perspective. If your earlier learning is different than PMBOK® Guide’s recommendations, forget your learning for the exam sake and always answer from PMI® perspective.

Above are general rules help you to tick the right answer or make an intelligent guess if you are not sure about a question. Now I will discuss pure PMI® philosophy. We call it PMIsm. PMIsm is the PMI® Philosophy that you can consider true when giving answers to the questions in PMP® Exam. Irrespective of what your experience is, you can consider these statements true.

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PMP Exam Best Practices

Best practices are not always in practices. Many times what we practices we consider best practices while it may not be. As I explained earlier, you need to give answers as suggested by PMBOK® Guide and not what you practice, in case you have a conflict. Here are some of such practices, you can consider true while answer question in PMP® Exam

  1. PMP® Exam is a test of PMI’s processes and philosophy
  2. Project Charter is a must to start a project.
  3. Project managers have all kinds of soft and hard skills
  4. Project Manager is authorized via charter and he has all authority to take any action in the interest of project
  5. The project manager takes an active approach to the job and do not wait until a risk materializes
  6. Lessons learned from previous projects and historical databases are available
  7. PMI® does not approve construction of extra feature (not in the scope). This is termed as gold plating.
  8. Roles and responsibilities matrix are defined on all project
  9. Working over time is the last resort, all options must be tried out before. This is important. In general practice, overtime is the first option to be tried out. Which is against the PMI philosophy. If you do not understand this, you probably mark all related question wrong.
  10. A performance criteria is determined in advance and EVM is employed to measure the performance.
  11. All changes go through Change Management and impact on scope, schedule, cost, quality and risk are informed to all stakeholders. The change management (Click here to learn complete process of change management) is quite important and we should understand its flow.
  12. Project Manager obtains formal acceptance of deliverables and project
  13. All stakeholders need to be identified
  14. Lesson learned are documented through out the project
  15. Project Manager evaluate effectiveness of corrective actions

This is not an exhaustive list but indicative of PMI® philosophy. I hope you will find these tips useful to accelerate your studies. If you have any question, you can leave it in the comments below, I will answer as soon as possible.

For more articles on PMP® Certification, please go to Free Resources -> PMP® Certification or go to  Blog

Using EVM with MS Project 2016

Using EVM with MS Project 2016

Using EVM Capability of Microsoft Project 2016

Earned Value Management (EVM) is one of the well-defined project tracking methods. PMI® (Project Management Institute) recommends this technique in its book – PMBOK® Guide (Project Management Body of Knowledge Guide).

MS Project 2016 Professional and it earlier versions like MS Project 2013 and MS Project 2010 fully support EVM. Microsoft Project has inbuilt fields for all EVM measurements.

Earned Value Management

In Earned Value Management we track the cost and schedule performance by measuring three parameters – Planned Value (PV), Earned Value (EV) and Actual Cost (AC). EVM converts all progress into cost and compare these values to measure progress.

EVM Terms:

EVM Terms Explanation
Planned Value (PV) Estimated value of the work planned to be spent as of today.
Earned Value (EV) Value of the work that is completed as of today (PV of completed work)
Actual Cost (AC) Total cost actually incurred as of today
Budget at Completion (BAC) Total planned value of the project
Estimate at Completion (EAC) Forecasted total project cost as of today
Estimate to Complete (ETC) Estimated cost of the remaining work
Variance at Completion (VAC) The variance of total project cost project as of today

 

EVM Terms EVM Formula Explanation
Schedule Variance SV = EV – PV Measure of schedule performance. –ve value indicate delay
Cost Variance CV = EV – AC Measure of cost performance. –ve value indicate cost overrun
Schedule Performance Index SPI = EV/PV Measure of progress achieved. Value less than 1 indicate delay
Cost Performance Index CPI = EV/AC Measure of value of the work completed. Value less than 1 indicate cost overrun
To Complete Performance Index TCPI = (BAC-EV) / (BAC-AC) Measure of cost performance to be achieved on remaining work to meet project objectives
Estimate to Complete ETC = EAC – AC Estimated cost of remaining work
Variance at Completion VAC = BAC – EAC Variance of total projected cost from budget
Estimate at Completion (EAC) AC + Bottom up ETC When original estimates are fundamentally flawed
 Estimate at Completion (EAC) BAC  / Cumulative CPI When observing no variance, will continue with same expenditure rate
 Estimate at Completion (EAC) AC + (BAC-EV) When variance observed as of now will not be observed in future. Will complete the project in remaining budget of remaining work.

Using EVM in MS Project

MS Project has all EVM term inbuilt and can be calculated at any point of time in the project life cycle. However to use Earned Value Management, we must remember few things…

 

Important things to remember for using EVM in MS Project 2016

  1. Project schedule

We should prepare a project schedule and get the stakeholder’s concurrence on the same before executing it. For better progress monitoring, project scheduled be as detailed as possible. More the detailing we do, our progress measurement and forecast will be more precise and accurate.

  1. Baseline

Once the project schedule is agreed up, we must baseline the schedule otherwise EVM parameters cannot be calculated. Establishing a performance baseline gives us a reference point to compare the project progress with respect to duration, efforts, cost and dates.

In case of multiple baselines, we should define the baseline against which we will measure the performance. Go to the File, choose Options, select Advance in left navigation panel and scroll down on the right panel until you see “Earned Value Options for this project”. Click on drop down for “Baseline for Earned Value calculations” and select the baseline you want to set for measuring progress.

  1. Resource and resource rates

We must list all the resources in resource sheet, provide their cost or bill rates and assign them to tasks. As the EVM is a cost based measurement techniques, assigning resources to each task and defining cost or billing rate for each resource is necessary. We will not be able to measure performance of any task using EVM if either we have not assigned resources to the task or resource rates are not defined for the resources assigned to that task.

  1. Updating accurate actual data

Obviously progress cannot be measured until actual progress data is updated. EVM tells us – are we delayed, on time or ahead of plan, are we over budget, on budget or under budget, at what rate we are progressing, how much more we need to spend to complete the project, forecasted cost at completion etc.? To measure these schedule and cost performance, it is important that actual data of accomplishment & cost is updated in MS Project in a timely manner. We should also update remaining duration or work for ongoing and future tasks if there is any change from the planned duration or work. Better the accuracy of actual data, better will be performance measurements.

EVM Measurements in Microsoft Project 2016

MS Project provide tables and reports to measure for EVM reporting. Following views, tables and reports can be used for EVM measurement and reporting

  1. Earned Value Table

Earned Value table can be found as follows. Go to View Tab, click on Tables drop down and select More Tables to open More Table dialogue box. Select Earned Value. It will show following EVM measurements – PV, EV, AC, SV, CV, BAC, EAC and VAC for tasks scheduled in the project.

  1. Earned Value Cost Indicator Table

Earned Value Cost Indicator table can be found as follows. Go to View Tab, click on Tables drop down and select More Tables to open More Table dialogue box. Select Earned Value Cost Indicator table. It will show following EVM measurements – PV, EV, CV, CPI, BAC, EAC, VAC and TCPI.

  1. Earned Value Schedule Indicator Table

Earned Value Cost Indicator table can be found as follows. Go to View Tab, click on Tables drop down and select More Tables to open More Table dialogue box. Select Earned Value Schedule Indicator table. It will show following EVM measurements – PV, EV, SV and SPI.

  1. Earned Value Report

Earned Value Report is a report that sketch earned value graph based on values of PV, EV and AC. It is a pictorial representation of progress from start of the project until date of measurement. It can be found as follows – Go to Report Tab, click on Cost drop down and select Earned Value Report. You can customize the report using Pivotal section of the report.

  1. Earned Value Report Over Time

Earned Value Over Time Report is same as Earned Value Report and sketches earned value graph based on values of PV, EV and AC. It is a visual report and can be found as follows – Go to Report Tab and click on Visual Reports. It will open a Visual Report dialogue box. Select Earned Value Over Time Report. It will open an Earn Value graph in Excel. You can customize the report using Pivotal section and Assignment Usage Sheet.

EVM Graph in MS Project

Earned Value Graph in MS Project Reports

I hope it will make it convenient for you to use EVM with Microsoft Project. Please share your view and experience in the comments section below. I look forward to read your views.

 

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PMI, PMBOK and PMP are registered mark of Project Management Institute Inc. 

How do you do your software estimation?

How do you do your software estimation?

Software estimation is a complex subject. Even today it is solely responsible for maximum numbers of project failures. Software estimation plays a critical role in project success. If software is not estimated properly, it poses several challenges to the team and convert the project into a struggle.

The main disadvantage for software development team is that most of the software estimation techniques directly estimate the efforts without estimating the size of the software. It is not only inaccurate but also make it difficult to re-estimate the efforts when a change occurs.

It is better to measure software size first before arriving on the efforts estimations. Take an example of wall painting. The painter first measures the surface area that is the size of the work and then applies productivity on it based on resources to be used and kind of paint to be applied to workout efforts and cost.

Click here to learn Function Point Analysis to estimate software

However in software, most of the techniques do not measure the size and directly estimate the efforts which varies a lot depending upon experience and perception of estimator and bring trouble for the project team later. You take WBS estimate or use case point estimate or latest in this line story point estimates for agile, all of them need experts to find how complex a module or story is to estimate the efforts.

Software size is estimated only in two ways – lines of code (LOC) and function points (FP). There is no structural method to estimate lines of code and therefore is error prone. Also since object oriented programming is introduced, LOC is no more right measure of software size and its complexity. It is only Function Point Analysis which actually estimate the software size based on its functionality and complexity. FPA technique first measures software size in functional points and then applies productivity based on resource and technology to be used to workout efforts and cost. This makes Function Point Analysis independent of technology and methodology to be used in software development. Function Points size will remain same while efforts differ based on the resources productivity on different technology to be used.

Because FPA does not depend upon technology or methodology, you can estimate size of any type of software – legacy to modern mobile applications, Cobol to java or dot net and waterfall to agile. Because it is driven by complexity of functionality to be delivered to user, it is independent of experts’ own experience and perception and therefore more accurate.

I always suggest to use FPA to estimate software project as it is the only scientific method available away from individual’s perceptions to estimate software size. Learn, use and let me know you experience using FPA.

Click here to learn Function Point Analysis to estimate software

PMP® Vs PRINCE2 – Comparative Study

PMP® Vs PRINCE2 – A comparative study – A guest blog

The Overview

PMP® Vs. PRINCE2

“Which certification I should go for; PRINCE2 or PMP®?”, “What is the difference between PRINCE2 and PMP®?”

The two most common questions I get from many of those professionals who aspire to make the career in Project Management. The answer is not an easy one as it depends on your background, the professional environment you are in, your aspirations and your preference over prescriptive (PRINCE2) over non prescriptive (PMP)®. Here, in this series, I will attempt to compare the two against the imperatives of Project Management and show where they align and where the differences are.

What is a Project?

PRINCE2 defines a project as “A temporary organization that is created for the purpose of delivering one or more business products according to an agreed upon Business Case”.

PMP® defines a project as “A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result “.

Based on these definitions, the attributes of a project could be listed as – it will bring some Change (even Cross functional change), to achieve particular Business Value, it is Temporary and Unique in nature and brings Uncertainty.

What is project management?

According to PRINCE2, Project Management is “The planning, delegating, monitoring and control of all aspects of the project and the motivation of those involved, to achieve the project objectives within the expected performance targets for time, cost, quality, scope, benefits and risks”.

According to PMP®, Project Management is “the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirement”.

Now lets us look at how the two models are structured –

PRINCE2 has 7 Principles, 7 Themes and 7 Processes while PMP® has 5 process groups and 10 knowledge areas.

Both the models acknowledge the processes could be categorized into two major categories as – Project Management Processes and Product Management Processes.

Product oriented processes are outside the scope of PMP® while PRINCE2 emphsises on Product driven approach for project management and supports the same through its Principle(Focus on Product), Themes (Qulaity, Planning and Change) and Processes (Managing Product Delivery).

Looking at the above structure you can notice multiple overlaps and differences as well. As we progress in this series, we will map the processes from both models and highlight the commonalities and differences. In the process we will understand how these two models are complementing each other.

As a Project Manager, it is important to understand these prominent models in industry and find a balance as per the project requirements to make the project a success.

 

Initiating Project

PRINCE2 Vs PMP

PMP® Vs. PRINCE2

In general, any project could be divided into 5 phases as Initiating, Planning, Executing, Track & Report and Close through the project life cycle. Let us take these as the base for comparing PRINCE2 and PMP® as we go ahead.

To begin with let us try and map the processes from both the models. As a rule of thumb, it will look like in the figure.
Initiating phase will set the answers to the questions like “What is the project?”, “What are the benefits?”, “What is the problem or change that project will address?”, “What are the options?”…

PRINCE2 and PMP® model formulates the specific processes to get these answers. Lets take a closer look.

PMP® has “initiating process group” which maps to the knowledge areas of “Project Integration Management” and “Project Stakeholder Management”. The key purpose of this process group is to align stakeholder’s expectations with project’s purpose. These processes help set the vision of the project.

PRINCE2 looks at the beginning of a project in a little different way. The processes are split into Starting Up a Project and Initiating a Project. The purpose of “Starting Up a Project” process is to ensure that the prerequisites to initiate the project are available. According to PRINCE2, the answer to the question “do we have viable and worthwhile project?” is required before project could be initiated (Initiating a Project Process trigger). Starting Up a Project process finds the answer to the same.

The reason / purpose / trigger to run the project is referred as “Project Mandate” in PRINCE2. This is provided by the sponsor organization which is referred as “corporate or programme management” (which could be considered as equivalent to “Steering Committee” in more general terms).

As against Project Mandate, in PMP®, this trigger for the project is called as “Project Charter”. Project Charter will have the information about the project, stakeholders and overall expected outcome.

The project can begin only when the Project Mandate / Project Charter is approved by the commissioning body.

In both the models, identification of customer, sponsors, supplier and other project stakeholders is key activity before the project work can commence.

In specific, PRINCE2 – Starting up a Project covers below activities –

  1. Create and approve project Mandate
  2. Appoint Executive, Project Manager and management team
  3. Prepare outline of business case
  4. Select project approach
  5. Prepare Project Brief
  6. Obtain the authorization to Initiate a Project

In specific PMP® – Initiating Process group covers activities –

  1. Initial scope definition
  2. Commitment on financial resources
  3. Assign Project Manager
  4. Create Project Charter
  5. Authorisation to the project manager to approve subsequent activities

Till this point, as evident from above, both the processes run on similar principles. Further PMP® kick starts Planning processes whereas PRINCE2 continues with Initiating a Project which has some overlap with Planning processes of PMP®. Let us take look at the same.

Planning process group is the largest one among the five process groups. It integrates with all the ten knowledge areas. Key activities covered are –

  1. Develop management plan
  2. Define scope
  3. Schedule the activities
  4. Allocate budgets
  5. Plan Quality, Communication, Risk, Resources, Procurement and Stakeholder management strategies

In PRINCE2, we see these are covered under the process of Initiating a Project. Once the Project brief and Initiating Stage Plan gets an authorization, Initiating a Project process kicks off. The key activities of Initiating a Project are –

  1. Create strategies for Risk, Quality, Configuration and Communication management
  2. Set up controls (these are the budgets if we refer to PMP® terminology)
  3. Create a detailed project plan
  4. Refine business case and assemble Project Initiation Document (this is the Bible of project .. J )

We must also look at one more process from PRINCE2 which kicks off at the end of Starting up a Project process. This process is “Directing a Project”. Refer the above Table 3, which will clarify the same. While we will look into Directing a Project in greater detail later in this series, let us understand the objectives of this process here. The objectives are to ensure that –

  1. There is authority / approval to initiate the project and deliver the products of project
  2. Project remains viable and worthwhile throughout the project life cycle
  3. Post project benefits are monitored and measured
  4. Corporate / programme management has an interface to connect to the project management
  5. Give ad hoc directions as and when required through the project life cycle

Planning

Lets take a deeper look into the Planning

In PRINCE2, “Plans” is one of the key themes. A Plan is a comprehensive document, covering key aspects of project (products, timescales, costs, quality and benefits) and describing how, when and by whom a specific target(s) is to be achieved. Planning is an act or process of making and maintaining a plan. Plans are the backbone of controlling a project. PRINCE2 recommends Project plan and Stage plan as mandatory while Team plan is optional. Stage plans are further classified into Initiation Stage Plan and Delivery Stage Plan. Corporate or programme plan is created at the organization level which commissions the project. Exception plans are created when necessary. Benefits Review Plan covers all the activities during and after project to measure the benefits realized. This could be part of corporate or programme plan.

PRINCE2 follows “product based planning” approach. The product-based planning technique is described as below –
Create Project Product Description (for project plan only; rest are for all levels of plans)-> Create Product Breakdown Structure -> Write Product Description -> Create Product flow diagram
To complete the plan further, below activities need to be followed once the product plan is ready –
– Define activities
– Identify dependencies
– Estimate
– Prepare schedule
– Assign resources
– Define control points and milestones
– Calculate costs
– Analyse risks
– Document the plan
As mentioned in the earlier part, Planning Process group is the largest group in PMBoK. Let us look at the mapping of the processes under Planning Process Group and the Knowledge Areas.

PRINCE2 Vs PMP - Planning

Each of the above processes are further detailed in – Inputs, Tools & Techniques and Output.

Hence to conclude, it could be noted that there is an overlap between the “Initiating a Project” from PRINCE2 and “Planning” from PMP®. Inside these similar activities of laying down the project foundations are executed which covers strategies / plans for key aspects of project like Communication, Risk, Quality, Resources, etc.

 

To be continued….

Watch out next week. Subscribe to our newsletter to get to know as soon as next part is published and much more knowledge on project management.

 

PMI, PMBOK and PMP are registered mark of Project Management Institute Inc. 

PMBOK® Guide 6th Edition – FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions about PMBOK® Guide 6th Edition

PMBOK(R) Guide 6th Edition

PMBOK® Guide 6th Edition

Recently PMI released PMBOK® 6th Edition. It is obvious that some questions start bubbling in the mind of PMP® Certification aspirant. Here is a FAQ about PMBOK® Guide 6th Edition:

When was PMBOK® Guide 6th Edition released?

PMI® released PMBOK® Guide 6th Edition on 6th Sep, 2017 along with translation in 11 language including Hindi.

How will it impact me?

If you are PMP® Certification aspirant then the question how it will impact me is natural. Though knowledge of project management does not changes but many aspects which were not considered earlier are considered now, some areas have received more focus, some areas are found not in practice so removed and many areas are presented differently.

If you are targeting PMP® Exam in 2017 i.e. before 31st Dec, 2017, you need not to bother about new 6th edition as it will be applicable only in 1st quarter of 2018.

If you are targeting PMP® Exam in 2018 or later, it is important for you to understand the changes in PMBOK® Guide 6th Edition.

What are key changes?

The key changes in PMBOK® Guide 6th Edition are as below…

  1. In PMBOK® Guide 6th Edition, number of processes will increase from 47 to 49. Names of some processes are changed. Some processes are added and one process is dropped.

Key changes – Name change

Key Changes in PMBOK® Guide 6th Edition

Key Changes in PMBOK® Guide 6th Edition

Key changes – Addition and deletion

Key Changes in PMBOK® Guide 6th Edition

Key Changes in PMBOK® Guide 6th Edition

Key changes – Movement

Estimate Activity Resources (Section 6.4)—Moved to Project Resource Management

2. Chapter 2 and 3 of PMBOK® Guide 5th Edition are merged into Chapter 2 in PMBOK® Guide 6th Edition

3. A chapter on Role of Project Manager is added as chapter 3 focusing on PMI Talent Tringle®.

4. Every chapter has four new section in 6th Edition

   4.1 Key concepts:

It summarizes the chapter’s main idea. It will make it easy to understand the chapter. People used to say that PMBOK® Guide is boring. I hope key concept section will make it interesting.

   4.2 Trends and Emerging Practices:

Normally PMBOK® Guide describes what is considered good practice on most projects most of the time. This subsection identifies the trends or emerging    practices that may not be practiced on most projects as of now.

   4.3 Tailoring Considerations:

It is important that the processes defined in PMBOK® Guide are tailored to meet the need of project, organization or stakeholders. This subsection   identifies areas the project managers can consider when tailoring processes for their project.

   4.4 Considerations for Agile/Adaptive Environments:

Some agile-specific tools and techniques have been introduced such as sprint and iteration planning. It identifies the area where the approach in agile/adaptive environment is different.

5. Appendix: Appendix X3, X4, X5 & X6 consolidate Agile/Adaptive environment, Kay Concepts, Tailoring Considerations and Tools and techniques for complete book. So to understand PMBOK® Guide 6th Edition, Appendix X3, X4, X5 and X6 could be important. One can read these appendixes and get a good degree of understanding of main theme and concepts of PMBOK® Guide 6th

When will the PMP® Exam change to PMBOK® Guide 6th Edition?

PMI® has announced that PMP® Exam will change to PMBOK® 6th Edition in the first quarter of 2018. No specific date is announced. It can be as early as 1st Jan, 2018 or can be as late as 31st March, 2018. As soon as, a date is announced, we will update this section. To be on safer side, consider that PMP® Exam will change in January, 2018 itself.

Should I study PMBOK® Guide 5th Edition or 6th Edition?

It all depends upon when you target to attempt PMP® Exam. If you are targeting to attempt PMP® Exam before it switches to PMBOK® Guide 6th edition (Consider 1st Jan, 2018 until PMI® announces a firm date), you should study PMBOK® Guide 5th Edition. If you are planning to attempt PMP® Exam after the switch, you should study PMBOK® Guide 6th Edition.

Where can I get PMBOK® Guide 6th Edition?

You can get PMBOK® Guide 6th Edition on book stores near to you or can buy from PMI® online store on PMI® website.

If you are a PMI® Member (or become PMI® Member), you can download a free copy of PMBOK® Guide 6th Edition in PDF format.

When can I get training on PMBOK® Guide 6th Edition?

It may take a while as currently most of the PMP® aspirants would be targeting Exam on PMBOK® Guide 5th Edition itself. It also depends upon individual training providers when they are ready to offer training on PMBOK® Guide 6th Edition. We and I believe most of the training providers will start offering PMP® Prep training only before PMP® Exam switches to 6th Edition.

I hope above information will be of your use. If any of your question is not addressed above, please ask you questions in the comments section below. I will reply promptly.

To learn more or buy a copy of PMBOK® Guide, please go to pmi.org – PMBOK® Guide – 6th Edition

 

 

PMI, PMBOK and PMP are registered mark of Project Management Institute Inc. 

Mapping MS Project 2016 to project management processes

Mapping MS Project 2016 to Project Management Processes

MS Project 2016 and Project Management Processes

Mapping MS Project 2016 to project management processes

Microsoft Project is the tool which is used throughout the project life cycle from initiation to closure. Let’s see how various features of MS Project 2016 are used at various stages of the projects and how project 2016 helps in adhering to project management processes. Above figure shows the relationship between project management process groups and Microsoft Project. The figure also gives an understanding how we have to use Microsoft Project at various stages of project life cycle.

Initiation:

We need to setup MS Project 2016 if we are using MS Project 1st time or we have not created a template from our earlier executed projects. At the start of a project we need to induct MS Project to our project environment vary similar to how we induct a new team member to our project. In the File -> Options, we should setup some basic options like date format, currency that will be used for project costing, office timing, duty ours on a typical day, number of working hours in a week, number of working days in a month, unit of measurement for duration and work etc. This way we customize MS Project to work in our environment.

Planning:

For a smooth execution, plan has to be of excellent quality. With respect to Microsoft Project, a lot of work is done at planning stage. We create a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) by breaking down product and project work into smaller pieces up to activity level, enters duration or efforts estimates for each activity, establish dependencies among activities, identify constraints and minimize them as much as possible. We also identify all types of resources (man, machines, material & money), make a list of resources with all the details such as their availability, unit of measure, their standard rates etc. After creating a list of resources, we assign them to activities based on who will do what and what all resources are required to accomplish the work. Once the plan is ready, we optimize the plan by adjusting estimates, discretionary dependencies and resource assignments. If the total duration of the schedule is more than expected then we crash or fast track the project to reduce its duration. Here feasibility is an important aspect to consider. We are preparing plan that our team will execute. If we crash or fast track the project beyond the feasible limits, our team will not be able to carry out the work as per plan and then such a plan will only be a paper work because it cannot be executed. We have to prepare a plan that is practical and executable. Even if it means going beyond imposed deadlines. We need to negotiate deadlines with stakeholders to keep the plan realistic and executable to deliver the outcome as promised.

Execution:

Execution is the stage where we have full team on board. While the whole team is working to produce deliverables, our main responsibility is to guide the team, remove the potential road blocks and from MS Project 2016 point of view, collect the work performance data to update the project schedule with actuals.

The actual data should be collected right from the team member who has performed the work. We should not only collect the data about progress so far but also the forecast. Suppose an activity is estimated to take 10 days. As of now 5 days of work is completed. It does not mean that the remaining work will be completed in next 5 days. It can be less or more depending up on experience of team members and progress made in last five days. Once we have collected actual data of the progress made so far and forecast, we update these actuals in MS Project.

Monitoring and Control

Now we have got actual data in the MS Project, we should generate reports. Microsoft Project specially MS Project 2013 and MS Project 2016 provide a very flexible way of generating reports. Based on requirements of our status meeting and various stakeholders, we should prepare various report templates. There are some readymade templates available which we can customize or we can take a completely blank canvas and add tables, graphs, text boxes, pictures, shapes etc. to prepare a template that satisfies stakeholders of our project.

Reports help us to understand if we are on time & budget or there is any variance? With these reports we can conduct our project status meetings and discuss with stakeholders to analyze and identify root causes. Based on root cause, we can decide on corrective and preventive measures. These corrective and preventive measures will be updated in project plan to carry out the work in execution as per updated plan.

Closure

MS Project 2016 helps us on two aspects of project closure. The first is lesson learned. Throughout the project we have collected actual data and updated MS Project. This is the time to look back. Using various views, tables and reports we can analyze what went well and what did not go well. Using MS Project we can compile a report and present lesson learned to stakeholders.

Second is archive the data. We have a very valuables data with us. If we archive the data in such a way that can be easily searched and used, we can use it if we get a project in future which is similar to this project.

 

Also refer

  1. Project Management Process Groups
  2. Project Management Knowledge Areas
  3. What’s new in Microsoft Project 2016

 

PMI, PMBOK and PMP are registered mark of Project Management Institute Inc. 

Project Management Competencies

Project Management Competencies

PMI Talent Triangle®

 

Project Management Competencies

Project Management Competencies Development Framework of PMI® defines three types of competencies for project managers. These competencies are represented by triangle called PMI Talent Triangle® as shown in the figure

The talent triangle focuses on three main project manager competencies

  1. Technical Project Management
  2. Leadership
  3. Strategic and Business Management

Technical project management defines processes and procedures. PMBOK® Guide mainly defines technical project management competencies.

However technical project management skills are not sufficient to lead a project to success. As I compared a project manager with necklace designer in an earlier post (Who is Project Manager?), project manager’s vision, creativity, art of collaborating with stakeholder and his/her understanding of business value of project are more important for project success.

  1. Technical Project Management

Knowledge Areas described in PMBOK® Guide fall into this project management competency. Competency in understanding and implementing processes defined in these knowledge areas is technical project management competency. Knowledge of using Microsoft Project to schedule, track and report projects is also a technical competency.

  1. Leadership

Leadership skill is the ability of project managers to motivate & guide the team and building relationship with stakeholder to support the project. It includes creating a vision, communication, problem solving, resolving conflicts, critical thinking, interpersonal skills, negotiation skills, guiding team, constructive criticism, art of appreciation, assertiveness etc.

  1. Strategic and Business Management

Strategic and business management skill is the ability of project manager to understand benefits of project outcome and relating them to the goals of organization and customer’s organization. It involves creating project strategy, defining goals and objectives, defining tangible and non-tangible business benefits of the project, cost benefits analysis, return on investment etc. Business management skills also includes connecting organization’s strategy with project objectives, identifying and communicating tangible and non tangible business benefits of project to stakeholders and relating project work with other functions of the organization.

These three project management competencies are essential for a project manager to succeed. In general organizations give more emphasis on technical competencies however leadership and strategic skills have more impact and play a major role in success.

 

Also refer

  1. What is Project Management?
  2. Who is Project Manager?

 

PMI, PMBOK and PMP are registered mark of Project Management Institute Inc. 

Who is Project Manager?

Who is Project Manager

Who is Project Manager

Who is project manager

Who is project manager? What is his role? What are his primary responsibilities? These are few questions we must answer before move into project manager’s role. In an earlier section “What is Project Management“, I compared a project with a necklace. Functions, team members, stakeholders and technical activities are pearls and project management processes are its thread. Now who is project manager? In this context, project manager is a necklace designer. This is where the art come into picture to give a nice shape to the science. Best pearls and thread are not enough for a necklace to look beautiful. It is the necklace designer’s vision, creativity, hard work and experience that make the necklace looks beautiful. Similarly it is the project manger’s vision, creativity, its decision making skills, its skills of forming cohesive team, its art of engaging stakeholder, its experience in integrating by placing every pearl at an strategic position make project to deliver wonderful results. This art cannot be taught completely in a classroom. Besides classroom we learn it by doing it under an experience artist i.e. an experience project management professional or a guide or a consultant.

Project manager’s primary responsibility is to integrate various aspects of project, technical activities, team and stakeholders. Project manager’s failure to integrate them lead to project failure. A bad project manager can lead a project to failure despite excellent technical resources on board due to his inability to integrate. On the other side, a good project manager can achieve excellent results with average technical resources.

A project manager should have minimum 3 types of competencies – Project Manager Technical Skills, Leadership skills and Strategic Business Management skills to pay his role effectively. We will discuss about these skills in next section.

Balancing the triple constraints triangle

Managing Triple Constraints Triangle using MS Project

Managing Triple Constraints Triangle using MS Project

Balancing the triple constraints triangle

For balancing triple constraints triangle, let’s look back to the Project Manager Knowledge Areas section above where we discussed various aspects of project management that a project manager has to deal with all the time. We saw scope, time, cost and resources were painted in green indicating that these four areas can be managed in Microsoft Project. These four areas are most important in project management because any problem in any other area impacts either scope, time, cost or resources. This makes triple constraints triangle as shown in the figure very important. A PMP® Aspirant should also understand this concepts in depth.

It is very important for a project manager to balance the triangle i.e. create a balance among scope, time and cost to deliver a quality product. Quality in the middle is an indication that it is not negotiable while scope, time and cost on sides indicate that we need to negotiate them to balance the triangle.

Various situations in a project arising time to time like a risk getting materialized, vendor delaying a deliverables or a change request may have impact on cost, time or scope. In such situations we need to analyze the impact and negotiate other sides to balance the triangle so that we can deliver the product or service as promised.

A scheduler such as Microsoft Project come very handy in keeping the triangle in shape. It is an excellent platform to analyze impact and negotiate other sides. In MS Project, we can define complete scope as Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), enter all our estimates for each WBS item, assign all our resources and manage dependencies among activities. This way we get control on the scope, timelines and cost.

We get the real benefit when we track the project. If we add some scope, it helps us to workout additional time & cost required. If any activity get delayed, it will show us the impact on all dependent tasks & on end date and give us a platform to take corrective actions in terms of adding resources (cost) or reducing scope to finish in time. If we have a constraint on cost side, it will help to us tuning time or scope to manage within budget. Basically it helps us to measure variance, identify cause of the variance, work out the right corrective actions and also track if corrective actions are really effective.

Suppose our customer sends a change request that adds an additional deliverable in the scope. Until we analyze the impact and balance it by adding more resources (cost) or adding some time or both, we may not be able to deliver a quality product. Microsoft project gives us a platform to add the additional work in the scope and see if we can manage it with existing resource by adding time or we need to add resources because adding time is not acceptable to the customer.

What are Program and Portfolio Management?

Program and Portfolio Management

Program and Portfolio Management as explained in PMBOK® Guide

Program and Portfolio Management

Program and portfolio both are group of projects however their objective of grouping is different. Program and portfolio management address the grouping of the projects in an organization for specific objectives. Let’s understand what program management and portfolio management are?

Program Management

A program is defined as a group of related projects managed in a coordinated way to obtain benefits and control not available from managing them individually. Programs may include elements of related work outside the scope of the discrete projects in the program. A project may or may not be part of a program but a program will always have projects.

For examples projects for a single client or projects using same technology can be grouped together to form a program and manage them more effectively.

Portfolio Management

A portfolio is defined as a group of related projects formed to achieve a strategic business objective. The projects or programs of the portfolio may not necessarily be interdependent or directly related.

An organizations looking to break into Telecom sector may group all the projects for telecom clients together in one portfolio. Multiple projects for specific client or specific technology may be grouped together as different programs under this portfolio. In a typical organization portfolios can be mapped to lines of business.

In general portfolio, program and projects are connected as displayed in the Figure.

Projects are normally authorized as a result of one or more of the following and linked with portfolio and program through organizational strategies and priorities.

  • Market Demand,
  • Strategic Opportunity,
  • Business Need,
  • Customer Request,
  • Technology Advancement,
  • Legal Requirements etc.

They are grouped together for synergy as it is more effective to manage them together than managing them individually and then they are grouped together to achieve organizational objectives.

 

 

PMI, PMBOK and PMP are registered mark of Project Management Institute Inc.