Thursday, May 25, 2023

PfMP Success Story: Ensuring Portfolios and Portfolio Management Achieve the Strategic Business Objectives

By John P S Oliver, PfMP, PgMP, PMP, RMP, ACP, PBA


It all started in January, 2018 when I first met Satya Sir. He was my coach for the PMP training session. The weekend sessions conducted by Satya Sir were not only a great learning experience, but also a great motivator to succeed. 

The spark that he ignited in me in January, 2018 not only led towards my achievement of PMP certification with his mentoring and guidance but also was instrumental in motivating me to take up continuous learning and development initiatives. 

Thus, after PMP, I enrolled for RMP and ACP certifications under his guidance and mentoring and was successful in achieving the certifications. 

You can read my experiences below.

RMP Success Story: Risk Management - Essential for Professional and Personal Success

ACP Success Story: Agile is Essential for Delivering Customer Value and ROI – Early and Continuously 

As a portfolio manager handling the Procure to Pay portfolio for my organization, I was interested in pursuing the PfMP certification thereby adding value to my role.

On PfMP Certification

Once I decided to pursue PfMP certification from PMI, I started looking out for a training provider to help me guide through the application and preparation for the certification exam. I selected the same training provider (PMCerty) with whom I had enrolled earlier for my PgMP certification. 

While it is not mandatory to be a PMP or PgMP to apply for PfMP, being a PMP and PgMP, did help in my preparation for PfMP as it provides the knowledge of how PMI application procedure works and how exams are structured

PfMP Certification Beginnings

I enrolled with the training provider (PMCerty) for their PfMP Certification Complete Solution Pack which included the following:

  • Application Preparation, Review and Submission Support.
  • Training Course based on Standard for Portfolio Management - 3rd edition (This is important as even though the latest standard for Portfolio Management is the 4th edition, the exam is still based on 3rd edition).
  • Two full length Question Banks.
  • Mentor support throughout the certification journey.

Once I enrolled with the training provider, my first step was to prepare the application for submission. The application evaluation has 2 stages as follows:

  • Stage 1 – Application verification for completeness including random audit review.
  • Stage 2 – Panel review of experience summary (Evaluation 1).

The prerequisites for the application are:

  • 96 months of professional business experience within the last 15 years.
  • 48 / 84 months of portfolio management experience based on your educational qualification.

Apart from satisfying the professional business experience, the candidate is also required to submit portfolio experience statements across the 5 domains of portfolio management.

I started preparing the application and portfolio experience summaries based on my experience across the 5 domains.  It took me 5 days to complete the application and portfolio experience summaries and my trainer provided me with valuable feedback based on which I submitted my application.

The application verification was completed by PMI and I was asked to pay the exam fee to proceed to the next step which was the panel review.

I paid the exam fee and my application was submitted for panel review. This time the panel review was quick and I got the approval to schedule my exam within a few days.

PfMP Exam Preparation

As soon as I submitted my application, I started my preparation for the exam. The approach I took was as follows:

  • I completed the online training one chapter at a time.
  • After completing the online training session for each chapter, I complimented it by reading the chapter from the 3rd edition of the standard for portfolio management
  • Once I completed Step 1 and Step 2 above, I took the chapter end questions from the question bank.
  • Finally, I took the two full length questions sets.

Own PfMP Study

The training content was based on the chapters as per the 3rd edition of the Standard for Portfolio Management and had 9 modules including the introduction, overview, process groups and ECO. 

Hence, I made sure I completed 1 chapter from the online training module followed by the reading of that chapter from the 3rd edition of the Standard for Portfolio management.

This took me 6 weeks to complete. Once I completed the above for all chapters, I took the first full length question set. My score was below 80%. 

I also found out that the questions were majorly based on ITTOs (Inputs, Tools & Techniques, and Outputs).

I started focusing on the ITTOs for each process and the training content had a separate module for practicing the ITTOs by way of selecting the ITTOs for a process or selecting all the processes for a specific ITTO. This helped me in familiarizing the ITTOs for all the processes.

PfMP Exam Experience

As soon as I completed the first full length question set, I scheduled the exam for the next month, giving me a months’ time to revise. I scheduled my exam with PearsonVue Centre in Chennai.

The PfMP exam does not have any breaks and hence I timed my practice exams to make sure I was able to answer the 170 questions within 4 hours. I completed the 170 questions in the exam without any issues. In fact, I had 15 minutes to review the 10+ questions that I had flagged for review.

Types of Questions Faced: PfMP Exam

Most of the questions were ITTO based. For example, the question would describe an activity being performed and would ask us to indicate either the inputs / outputs of that activity or the tools and techniques applicable for that activity.

The learnings of PMP and PgMP, especially the Charter, Benefits and Earned Value Management (EVM) helped me a lot to grasp the underlying concepts of portfolio management as the portfolio itself is a group of Projects, Programs and Operations to achieve the strategic objectives

Once I scheduled the exam, I visited the exam centre the previous day of the exam to confirm my appointment and also validate the ID credential required to take the exam. 

Suggestions for PfMP Aspirants


  • Confirm whether you fulfil the prerequisites to apply for this certification.
  • Identify a good training provider who can provide you with end to end support from application preparation to certification.
  • Prepare the portfolio experience statements based on your actual experience.
  • Utilize the correct edition of the standard for portfolio management based on the current ECO and Exam – the training provider would be able to guide you on this.
  • Prepare a plan to complete the study and take the exam within 2-3 Months ideally and not to exceed 6 months from the start date.
  • Especially focus on ITTOs so that you are able to identify the ITTOs for a specific process and vice versa.
  • Try as many questions as you can and understand the basis of the correct and incorrect options.


  • Do not rush to take the exam without thorough preparation.
  • Do not delay or leave a gap of more than a week once you start preparing for the exam.


The learnings from the PfMP certification would help me in managing portfolios of programs, projects and operations effectively to realize the strategies and objectives of the organization.

I would like to thank the Almighty for guiding me throughout this journey and Satya Sir for igniting the passion for continuous learning and development.

Brief Profile: 

John P S OliverPfMP, PgMP, PMP, RMP, ACP, PBA, Lead Business Execution Consultant - Risk Programs Team

I’ve 26 years of ITES experience in Retail, Telecom and BFSI verticals.

PMP Success Stories:

ACP Success Stories:

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Five More Must-Know Setting Tips for Primavera P6 Professional Project Management

In my earlier post, I informed you of five tips that can be used while working with Primavera P6 Professional PM or simply Primavera P6. In this post, I’ll share five more tips with you! For this article, I've used Primavera P6 Release 22.12.

[This Series - Part - 1]

These tips will help you operate with the software easily, efficiently and effectively. Now, let’s check on them one-by-one.

Tip – 6: No unnecessary ‘Welcome Dialog’ on Start-up. 

This is especially true if you are using an earlier version of Primavera P6 such as R15.x or R18.x, among others. You’d have noticed that when you open Primavera 6 a dialog box comes-up as shown below.  

You can disable it by clicking on “Do not show this window again” shown above or you can change the settings. 

To do so, go to Primavera menu > Edit > User Preferences… and select Applications on the left side of the User Preferences screen. In it, disable the option of “Show the Welcome dialog at startup.”

Tip – 7: Setting a New Currency into the list of Currencies. 

Remember Tip – 2 in the first part? Of course, after you add the currencies, you’ve to set the new currency. If you have not seen that tip, it’s a good time to check!

To apply the newly created Currency in the software, go to Primavera menu > Edit > User Preferences… and select Currency on the left side of the opened-up screen.  

Next, select INR Rupee from the … shown next to US Dollar, and select the INR from the list of currencies in the popped-up Select Currency dialog box.  

Do note that in my courses, classes and certification courses I predominantly used USD. However, if you want, you can change it.

Tip – 8: Changing the Start-up Window. 

This is related to Tip – 6. One can also change the start-up window when Primavera P6 gets launched. This is also especially true if you are using an earlier version of Primavera P6 such as R15.x, R18.x or R19.x.

To do so, go to Primavera menu > Edit > User Preferences… and select Applications on the left side of the User Preferences screen. In it, select the Applications Start-up Windows as Activities. 


Now, when you open Primavera P6 next, it’ll directly show the Activities window, not any other! 

Tip – 9: Correct Setting for Earned Value Calculation (ETC).

Earned value measurement (EVM) is an advanced topic in project/program management. The settings for it should be properly done in Primavera P6, specifically the Estimate to Complete (ETC) calculation, based on which EAC varies. 

To do so, go to Primavera menu > Admin > Admin Preferences… and select Earned Value on the left of Admin Preferences screen. Next, under “Technique for computing Estimate to Complete (ETC)”, choose the option of 

ETC = 1/CPI or 1/Cost Performance Index. 

The default calculation for ETC is: ETC = remaining cost for activity. But most of the time, it won’t give you the correct value. Select the PF as 1/CPI, which will give the most likely correct value!

Also, ensure that it’s correctly reflected in the Project’s Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), which is shown below. 

Tip – 10: Use Hint Help (Alt+F1) to Clarify Concepts.

A very good feature available in Primavera P6 is the availability of Hint Help functionality. You can use this functionality from Primavera menu > View > Hint Help or from the top Display Toolbar. You can also use the Alt + F1 shortcut keys. 

The Hint Help feature is available as highlighted in the top-right side of the above view. You can enable or disable it.  When you put your mouse cursor over Units of Measure, it explains what it is with message notification as shown in the bottom-left part of the above view. 

[This Series - Part - 1]

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Friday, May 12, 2023

Ten Myths and Facts – Contingency Reserve and Management Reserve


Management Reserve and Contingency Reserve are two widely used reserves in Project Management, Program Management. It can also be used in Portfolio Management and Agile Management, though the way there are used will be somewhat different. However, there are many misconceptions about these two reserves. In this article we will see what those myths are and check upon the facts. 

These explained in my courses such as:

The needed content is also available as part of the PMP 35 Contact Hours, RMP 30 Contact Hours, ACP 21 Contact Hours and CAPM 23 Contact Hours courses. 

Note: First go through the myths on your own and try to answer yourself. That way you will get a better value from this article.

Hope you are tried to do the exercise on your own first! I'll also suggest that you go through this article to learn more:

Contingency Reserve and Management Reserve

Now, let's see the myths and facts. 

Myth – 1: Addition of contingency reserve to activity cost estimates (or activity duration estimates) will create a rubber baseline. 

Fact: Contingency reserve can be at the activity level or work package level etc. If it’s at the activity level, then it need not be at the work package level. The reserves from lower level estimates will get rolled up to the work package level. Hence, there is no chance of having a rubber baseline. 

As you can see in the above block representation, the contingency reserve can be at the activity level, or work package level. Otherwise, you can have an overall contingency reserve at the project level.

Myth – 2: Contingency reserve is not applicable for the project schedule, it’s only for the budget.

Fact: It’s applicable for both project schedule and project budget. You can have contingency reserve calculation while determining the duration estimates of tasks or cost estimates of tasks. 

Refer to the previous diagram to see overall contingency reserve.

Myth – 3: Any reserve can be tracked with a reserve burndown chart.

Fact: Usually, contingency reserve is tracked at the project level, but management reserve is not. The reason is simple. Project Managers know and manage the contingency reserve as it’s part of the performance measurement baseline. 

So, the reserve burndown chart that one creates and manages at a project level is with respect to the contingency reserve, not for management reserve.

Myth – 4: If the reserve is unused, then it can be part of project profit! 

Fact: This is another big myth propounded. But you can’t take the unused reserve as part of the profit. It’s meaningless because you have added the reserve for unforeseen circumstances. 

  • Threats – if the reserve is unused then, it has to be removed or given back. 
  • Opportunities – if the reserve increases because you exploited the opportunity, then yes, for this you can consider it to be a profit.

Re-read the previous line! In risk management, both threats and opportunities are considered, but the way they are treated will be different. 

Myth – 5: Reserves have little to no role to play in S-curve interpretation. 

Fact: In fact, it’s the other way around. You should be worried when the reserve starts getting depleted while doing your S-curve analysis. The Budget at Completion (BAC) in earned value calculation should include the contingency reserve (CR).

Sometimes the estimate at completion (EAC) can go beyond the available contingency reserve and may eat-up the management reserve (MR).


As shown in the above S-curve, the trend for Actual Cost (AC) curve is upward and it may consume not only the contingency reserve, but also the management reserve for the project.

Myth – 6: Slack or float can be a replacement for contingency reserve.

Fact: Slack and reserve are two completely different concepts. Many confuse the two. 

Total slack is about how much time you can delay a task without delaying the project end date. Free slack, simply put, is how much you can delay a task without delaying any successor task. 

Reserve or allowance on the other hand protects you against the delay in the current activity, not next activity’s start date! 

Myth – 7: Contingency reserve and contingency response planning are one and the same thing. 

Fact: Contingency as we know is the reserve for known risks, but unknown amount of rework. It’s for risks which are accepted or known risks with active risk response strategies. 

Contingency planning, on the other hand, consists of two plans: Contingency Plan and Fallback Plan. Simply put, these two plans are Plan A and Plan B, respectively that we use in our day-to-day risk management. 

Myth – 8: Agile projects don’t have all these reserves available.

Fact: In Agile projects, too, you may require contingency and management reserves. Consider an Agile project with mandatory regulatory requirements and one of the needs to meet the budgetary regulations with earned value calculations. In such a case, you need to have the reserves. 

Myth – 9: Management Reserve is a budget category, and not applicable for Schedules.

Fact: This is another myth, which is widely circulated. While management reserve is usually a budget category, you can also have it for schedule. In fact, the definition of Management Reserve as per the PMI-PMBOK guide is this:

An amount of the project budget or project schedule held outside of the performance measurement baseline for management control purposes that is reserved for unforeseen work that is within the project scope.

Can you see that the management reserve can also be part of project schedule (not just budget)?

Myth – 10: Contingency Reserve and Contingency are one and the same thing.

Fact: Contingency is an event or occurrence that could affect something, e.g., a task, a work package or the execution of the project. Contingency reserve, on the other hand, is the time or money allocated for known-unknown risks. However, contingencies can be accounted for with reserves.

There are many other myths, which circulate on these two reserves. What are the other myths you think are not correct for contingency reserve and management reserve?

If you have any questions, suggestions or feedback, do share your comments in the comment section of this article.