Thursday, October 24, 2013

PMI-PMP Exam Prep: When Your Class is Not So Sure

Each program that I anchored for PMI-PMP exam prep, is unique in certain aspect. There are many people with whom you interact, ranging from experience level of 5 years upto 20+ years and they do bring in good amount of professional experiences and their understanding in the realm of project management. While kicking off the program, I always realize, how profound their earnest need from the program is and what they really want from the course orchestration. 

Recently, at Bangalore, I was conducting a program on PMP and the nervousness aspect on the class in the beginning was visible.  Not one team member was sure that they can remember a huge material such as PMBOK in just 4 days. To be fair, in their shoes, I would think and feel the same way. Also, as couple of participants pointed out, in previous preparatory programs  related to other exams which they attended from other providers, the expectation was very low. The enormity of PMBOK, just added to their woes. 

So, what you do as the course anchor?

Here are a few things: 

1. Asked them to have a high expectation from myself and above all, from themselves. Having high expectations is a good thing. It improves performance.

2. Constantly reminded them that it is not just one person who is learning, but a group of individuals, who can collaborate and help each other. 

3. Asked them to come to the whiteboard or as the Japanese say do some "Genchi Genbutsu"! The more they came forward and participated, the more they learned and remembered. 

PMI-PMP Exam Prep, Classroom Session - Bangalore, India (Sept/October - 2013)

The result was there to see in the end. The team wrote down in a graphical table format - all 5 process groups, 10 knowledge areas and 47 process areas - without missing single one of them. They spoke on how they interact with each other along with the oft used ITTO, as illustrated in PMBOK 5th edition.

The relief shown at the end of the program was visible on their faces and the team which was initially nervous, broke new grounds in team participation, co-working dynamics and lively discussions. 

Is not that we all call the joy of learning and applying what you have learned? In the end, the team wins inspite of having grave doubts in the beginning. Nothing gives more satisfaction than that. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


It has been over four years since I wrote the myths and facts on PMI-PMP examination. It is one of the articles [No. 8], under my Publication section. Sometime before, found it is appropriate to put the myths and facts on PMI-ACP examination, which is mentioned here, along with my experience on PMI-ACP exam.

I see nowadays, the interest for PMI-CAPM is slowly picking up in India. It is not as pronounced as PMP or new kid on the block PMI-ACP, which is fast picking up. Nevertheless, there is substantial interest on it.

Below table gives a comparative view on PMI-PMP Vs PMI-CAPM. It is based on the latest information as on today. 

Note: I consider CAPM to be comparatively easier among three certifications offered by PMI [v.i.z]: PMP, ACP and CAPM. Also, I find PMP is the tougher one to crack between PMP and ACP. So aspirants for CAPM need to take it easy, but need to prepare sincerely to crack the exam. 

Monday, August 05, 2013

Practical PMP - PMBOK With MS Project, Does Make a Difference

Last month, I conducted a workshop for Practical PMP - PMBOK with MS Project. This time, it was for a determinedly result driven corporate team from Schenck Process Ltd. Schenck has multiple offices in India and they in fact, flew in participants from all across to participate in the workshop - from Calcutta, Delhi, Bangalore and of course the main office at Ranchi, a lively city in eastern India.

The expectations were very clear from Day 1. 

1. Understand the principles of modern Project Management 
2. Thoroughly understand the MS Project tool
3. Apply the MS Project tool with PMBOK principles, to achieve Management results
4. Have the Complete Plan ready (and also the needed reports/charts), reflecting on the day to day project management activities at their Schenck Process India!

It was different in the aspect that they also wanted to have the MS Project plan be ready for their Project Management Group, i.e., as Schenck develops to manage various projects from Ranchi. The team was used to follow SAP before for project management and they had no clue on how to used it with MS Project. SAP is a heavy software and needs a lot of intricacies to be maintained. And at the end of fourth day (Day 4) - hold your breath - the team did the above mentioned fourth item live: they created the complete plan needed in Schenck, with very little help from me. 

The team was a mixture of experience and varied - from very young professionals to professionals having years of experience. When we started, the team informed that they have some understanding on the management principles as someone earlier had taught them, but they have really forgotten.

I started with the Confuciusian principle, which echoes even today. 
"What I hear, I forget. What I see, I remember. What I do, I understand."
As they would be doing/applying PMBOK with MS Project, they would not only understand, but will not forget also. And, I was not disappointed. In fact, very young professionals, were able to create project plan and relate it to the management principles of PMBOK. 

In the end, as a matter of fact, one of the very young team members, created the entire project plan along with the help of the team present and also created multiple reports that will be used in the next project management group meeting. 

Practical PMP - PMBOK with MS Project (July, 2013)

Nothing gives more satisfaction than the team working on a learning of 4 days with deep passion, energy and believing they learned which they truly can apply in the real world with the help of a tool. And here,  the team completely learned MS Project from Level - 0, learned to move away from SAP, apply MS Project principles with PMBOK and finally created the plan, which will be used by them, real-time!

As noted in my earlier post, Practical PMP - Applying PMBOK principles with MS Project Tool, in today's world practical applicability of the principle is that really matters. Management can not be learned by reading only theories and principles, but also getting you hands dirty, failing along the way while applying the tool (it is really different when you try with MS Project), and again standing up to truly realize the value of PMBOK principles. 

And thanks to the Schenck India senior management team in facilitating the 4 day event. 

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

My Experience – PMI ACP Examination

[NEW: ACP Exam Prep Book Available - "I Want To Be An ACP" (Link)]

I would suggest that you read the Myths and Facts (Part 1, Part 2) for the PMI-ACP examination once, before proceeding on it.  

I used eXtreme Programming in mid last decade while based out of Northern America. It was 2006/2007 and I was the only person from a well known technology company. My role was that of a onsite customer to co-ordinate with the offshore team. Before applying for the exam in late 2012, I took a course on CSM (Certified Scrum Master) from Scrum Alliance to help me know more on Scrum methodology.

I have used many Agile specific tools and hence had a decent understanding on the framework, its various methodologies. However, I have had my apprehensions about the PMI examination! It is more from the difficulty point of view, having passed PMP in 2008. PMP requires a lot of effort and understanding and certainly a challenging exam. Even with thorough preparation, I was not sure if I would score “Proficient” in all the 5 process groups.

However, let me inform you very clearly. PMI-ACP is relatively much easier and it does not require the level of preparation needed for PMP.

21 Contact Hour Training:

The world today is much commercialized. Without naming any provider, I was keen on it as the trainer had written a book on passing PMI-ACP examination. I was a novice that time and later on realized the book no way matches on what is really needed in the exam! The trainer did not even know if the Project Charter is needed for an Agile project or not! The program I took, let me be brutally honest, only helped me getting the 21 contact hours and that is all. The trainer did not really inform much on the Agile. However, it is mandatory to take the contact hours of learning.

Exam Application Confirmation:

I was working on a product in Agile mode (tailored one), and hence immediately applied. Being a PMP, I did not need to fill up the 2000 hours of project management experience. The application was approved and I knew it is time to prepare now.

People ask what should be filled in the content on “Agile Experience”. Just mention what you did. In my case, we had iterations, releases, prioritized product backlog, an iteration backlog. We had wireframes to develop on the application, used personas.


I started preparing immediately after getting the 21 contact hours of training, but gave up, due to other workload. Again, after a few months, I started preparing earnestly. My timeline was 8 weeks.


PMI has some resources which are going to help for sure.
  • PMI-ACP Handbook: Link
  • Exam Content Outline: Link
  • Reference List of Books: Link
  • PMI-ACP Community: Link


As noted in the myths and facts, there are some 11 books, which I prioritized and read.

However, it must be noted that “I really wanted to know” – what people say on various aspects of Agile. Passing the exam was definitely one of the top criteria. But, equally important was knowing the concepts thoroughly and applying them in real world. Hence, my prioritization will be from that perspective.

Books That I Read:

  1. The Art of Agile Development by James Shore and Shane Warden (Must read)
    1. It has informed on various XP concepts thoroughly. It has also a lot of programming samples from Java. Coming from a deep development background (that too mostly in Java/J2EE!), it was on top of my list.
  2. Agile Estimation and Planning by Mike Cohn (Must read)
    1. Mike writes this book with great clarity on various Agile estimation techniques and planning.
  3. Agile Project Management with Scrum by Ken Schwaber (Must read)
    1. This books, as noted by Ken, is primarily for Scrum Masters. There are a lot of real world experiences outlined by Ken and it helps to know what to do when.
  4. Lean-Agile Software Development Achieving Enterprise Agility by: Alan Shalloway; Guy Beaver; James R. Trott (Must Read)
    1. This one covers not only Lean, but also soundly on Kanban and notes out the differences between Lean, Kanban and Scrum.
  5. Agile Retrospectives (Must Read)
    1. I took up this book as retrospective is one of the most neglected areas and some people informed that a lot of questions on retrospective. It was a treat to read the book – a very well written one.
    2. However, solely from the exam point of view, it will be a “Should Read”.
  6. Coaching Agile Teams by Lyssa Adkins (Must Read)
    1. I liked this book, as it changes your mindset on Agile Project Manager. The book is filled with wisdom of Lyssa and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
    2. However, solely from the exam point of view, it will be a “Should Read”
  7. The Software Project Manager's Bridge to Agility by Michele Sliger and Stacia Broderick (Must Read)
    1. This is another wonderful book, if you are coming from PMBOK/PMP background. I mostly glanced through the book as coming from a PMP background and also having Agile experience, all I needed to know what the book can offer from exam point of view.
    2. However, solely from the exam point of view, it will be a “Should Read”

Books That I Looked at, but not Thoroughly

  1. Agile Project Management by Jim Highsmith (Should Read)
    1. My primary focus was on the Agile framework which is defined by Jim so well – Envision, Speculate, Explore, Adapt, Close and some needed important Agile artefacts – Charter, Data Sheet, Project Scope Statement and so on
  2. Agile Software Development: The Co-operative Game by Alistair Cockburn
    1. This I took up to brush on the fundamentals of some additional concepts such as Crystal

Exam Prep Book:

I bought Andy Crowe’s book as it was available that time. The book is easy to read. However, after you have read the aforementioned books, it does not help much on the concepts.

Where the book helped was from the Questions points of view. There are 2 practice question set (100 each) at the end of the book and another 120 online. However, Exam questions are tougher than what is presented in the book. I am not really sure, if only reading this book is going to help you pass the exam.

I hear there is another book – “PMI-ACP Exam Prep” by Mike Griffith. I have no idea. I attempted some of the questions from his blog. But, they were only from one chapter.

My budget was limited and I decided to stop pursuing further on that.  

Practice Questions:

As noted, I took all the tests from Andy Crowe’s and consistently scored between 88% to 95% and was finishing them in less than 45 minutes. But it did not give me the required final confidence, though helped me to prep for the exam.

So, went back to the 1st book on XP and took his practice questions to try out my understanding. There are a lot of questions on Developing, Planning, Releasing, Collaborating, Thinking and tried to look up where my conceptual understanding lacks. It helped. I again revisited the concepts from the books (had made my personal notes) and that finally helped in the exam.

At the Exam:

I woke up late, though had scheduled early at 9:30 am – due to tiredness of my daily work schedule. Rushed to exam spot and the exam center personal was very co-operative. The Prometric center was at Richmond road,Bangalore and I had specifically selected this center after speaking to few others (where either they do not pick up the phone or have no clue or not really co-operative).

On the first question, I was bumped. It was from “Coaching Agile Teams” book (which I realized during my review). Taken back on the 1st question, took a deep breath and relaxed. I marked that question and moved on. For the 120 questions, it took me just around 1 hour. I spoke the Prometric centre person and went for a break of 4/5 minutes. After coming back, took the marked questions (around 18/20) and went through the process of elimination, correlation to select the final ones.

I was confident that I have answered at least 100 questions right. My target was 80%, which is 96 questions, was crossed. However, though confident, knowing PMI was slightly skeptical. I scored “Proficient” in both Tools and Techniques as well as Knowledge and Skills. The message from PMI looked heartening – “Congratulations, you have been certified as a PMI-ACP….your certification will be delivered to you in 6 weeks of time…”

Post The Exam:

I received the hard copy of my PMI-ACP certificate from PMI, around 3 weeks after passing the exam. PMI definitely works sincerely on it as the dispatch date from the USA was mentioned within 1 week after the exam. 

I hope this post helps. And good luck to you all, who are preparing for this exam. 

[NEW: ACP Exam Prep Book Available - "I Want To Be An ACP" (Link)]

You may also want to check:
1. 30 Free Questions on PMI-ACP Examination (Part - 1)
2. 30 Free Questions on PMI-ACP Examination (Part - 2)

Other Articles:
1. PMI-ACP Prep: Scrum Sprint I/O (Inputs and Outputs)
2. PMI-ACP Prep: Scrum and Kanban – Similarities and Differences
3. Changing PMI-ACP Exam in 2015: What is New and What Has Changed? (Part – 1)
4. Changing PMI-ACP Exam in 2015: What is New and What Has Changed? (Part – 2)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

30 Free Questions with Answers on PMI-ACP Examination (Part - 1)

The questions for PMI-ACP have changed. For the latest questions, refer the below link.

  [NEW PMI-ACP Questions and Answers on Latest PMI-ACP Exam (Link)]

[ This series - Part - 2 ]

The questions are based on my personal experience in the PMI-ACP examination. Though I tried a few questions from a few providers, did not find any one closer to the real PMI examination. The questions in the exam are rarely direct and always tests your understanding. 

In this series, there are 15 questions (close to the real examination). 

Question – 1: Velocity is used for Iteration as well as Release Planning. It is typically the sum of delivered user stories. Which of the following is not TRUE about velocity?

A)    Even if the work is fully complete other than few bugs, it will not counts towards velocity
B)    While measuring with velocity, there is no scope to correct estimation errors
C)    As velocity informs on all the "done" stories, in a way it tracks the customer satisfaction
D)    Velocity does not inform on the productivity of the team

Question – 2: Which one of the following is correct about Kanban?

A)    No estimation is required in Kanban
B)    In Kanban Team Leader plays the Role of Coach as in XP
C)    Team focuses on completing features as quickly as possible but is not constrained by a time-box
D)    All of the above
Question – 3: An user story is very useful for the project. Till what time, the user story cards are considered relevant in an Agile project?

A)    End of iteration
B)    End of release
C)    End of project
D)    When work related to the story is complete
. . .
. . .

The question set is available in the embedded PDF below. 

For all the questions and answers, subscribe to this blog and send a mail (from your GMail id) to


Saturday, June 15, 2013

Practical PMP - Applying PMBOK principles with MS Project Tool

Let me tune you into a real time situation. Many of you would have faced it in real life, while taking interviews. Even if you have never took an interview, still I believe you can correlate!

Situation: You are taking an interview for the position of an Android Developer with experience of 2 to 3 years range in your company. The management is clear - get the best possible candidate for the post. Finally you shortened it to three aspirants for the post. 

Aspirant - 1: Knows Android decently and is a certified Android professional, from a well known institute. 

Aspirant - 2: Knows Android very well as he has real world experience in Android development. But he does not hold any certification. 

Aspirant - 3: Knows Android well as has hands on experience and is also a certified Android developer from a well known institute. 
With all other things being equals, it is a no brainer on who will be your desired candidate among the above three? It is Aspirant Number 3. Is not it? 

If you consider only between Aspirant 1 and Aspirant 2, who will be considered a better candidate and will have more likelihood of succeeding? I believe it will be Aspirant Number 2. Some of you may disagree, but the majority of you will agree. And I am sure all of would agree that Practical understanding or experience rules over everything else. 

In one of my earlier posts - "What is There in A Certification", I wrote this:
Conventional education and certifications, per se, are not useful if you can not apply them in real life. I have read 48 papers in my 4 years of investment in Electronics and Communication Engineering. Though I remember some of them, they never had any practical value for me. And I doubt if it would have for anyone!
In the same post, I also informed how I remember the formula for impulse as I applied in real life - driving a bike or taking a catch in cricket match. 

Let us add on to it. In today's world, though certification is valued, there is no substitute for knowing the practical utility of a certification. Project Management Professional certification from PMI is perhaps the most well known and most respected program world wide. 

However, only PMP on its own does it help? How about knowing the practical applicability of PMBOK? How about knowing how critical path is actually analyzed in a schedule? Similarly there are many concepts which PMBOK/PMP gives you - like WBS, Various forms of Dependencies, Network Diagram, Compression Techniques (Fast Tracking/Crashing), Resource Leveling, Cost Baselinging, Schedule Baselining, Earned Value Management (EVM) et al from various knowledge areas such as Scope,Schedule,Cost, Human Resource. How about various reports that can be generated and communicated as noted in Communication Management Knowledge Area? Imagine them to be applied with a practical tool along with PMI-PMP preparation course. 

That is what makes Practical PMP. 

To put is simply, it is a combination of PMBOK and MS Project. This is one of the courses, I introduced in mid last decade to great success in India.  

Practical PMP Program - PMBOK with MS Project
And yes, let me also tell you that for the 1st time, the entire team remembered all the process areas, all the knowledge areas, all the process groups. They did not miss even one of them and also remembered many ITTO . Not only that, they learned how to use PMBOK with MS Project. 

Does it sound exciting to you? If yes, you may want to start from here. It has both PMBOK 4th and 5th along with MS Project 2007 or 2010.

Link 1: PMBOK Guide 5th Edition and MS Project 2010 - A Practical Step-by-Step Approach

Link 2: Synergy between PMBOK Guide 4th Edition and MS Project 2007 - A Schedule Management Perspective

And if interested to join me and know how to apply PMBOK principles with the help of tools, drop a mail.  

Friendly Warning: You will have to be more hands-on with PMBOK via MS Project than mostly listening to theories of PMBOK for days. So, if you decide to join, please come with a laptop or tablet to do the practicals with MS Project and to get your hands dirty!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Trinity Analogy in Software

This is an old post, re-plugged here!

A younger relative of mine who is in Software industry has a career inflection point – which path to choose for growth. I have had mine and had learned it in a hard way. Also, in-spite of all the turmoil in the current economic environment, I believe the tech industry is the future. As I have seen the industry for quite some time - here is my take.

Most of us can understand and relate with the Trinity Gods in Hindu mythology: Bramha, the creator; Bishnu, the sustainer, and Shiva, the destroyer. In any IT company you will have 3 minimum roles - as that of a Bramha or a Bishnu and a Shiva.

The role of an Architect is that of a Brahma. He thinks, creates new things and brings new ideas or products into life. He is the person who conceptualizes the idea, and designs the architecture for the system. But, also like Brahma, he is not the person who is most worshipped. In fact, in India, Bramha is the only God who does not have many temples made by his devotees (I guess only one is there at Pushkar, Rajasthan, India). He is not glamorous, does not get much credit for the creation and likes to keep a very low profile as well. But, he deeply loves what he creates and has a profound impact on the entire ecosystem with his creation. Similar is the role of an Architect. If you are a creative person, love new technical challenges, do not want to get into various soft political battles, and do not want to be in the front page for every achievement, then this role is for you.

The role of a Manager is that of Bishnu. Bishnu is the sustainer. The role of a manager is to manage what has been created already or which is going to be designed by someone else. He is savvy, smart, and political. He is also intelligent and many times have come through the rank where you are now. He changes color (or has various incarnations) as and when the system demands. Mostly he remains in a love-hate relationship with the people, knows how to get the credit (many times doing it himself, most of the times for getting the work done, and sometimes for nothing!). If you are that of a kind of a person who loves to work with people and wants to work done and possibly reach the pinnacle in your company, this role is for you. Also like Bishnu to remain worshipped for ever, you have to create that edge for yourself - through new learning, new methodologies, new practices.

The role of a customer is that of a Shiva. Shiva is the destroyer. He can be very furious and can make you extremely nervous when things go wrong or if he is unfairly treated. He can cause havoc in your world – your company. However, gets pleased very much if served well and rewards very well. A customer is very much like that. If he is served well, and if taken care of consistently, then the reward is manifold. Also, when things go wrong, it could prove disastrous for your company. Bottomline - he must be pleased at any cost. You can play this role and/or know how to serve to this role with direct customer facing jobs such as sales, marketing and specifically pre-sales proposals writings, negotiations, customer support and so on.   

Finally, it is up-to you on what role you choose for your growth.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

New Approach to PMI-PMP Classroom Course

For PMI-PMP session, this time, I significantly modified the approach to the classroom course. Every PMP aspirant is aware that PMBOK has vast course content. In PMBOK 4th edition, it is has 5 process groups (PG), 9 knowledge areas (KA), 42 process areas (PA) and hundreds of ITTO (Input, Tools and Techniques). In 4th Edition, 5 PG, 9 KA and 42 PA with hundreds of ITTO.

When you finally go for the PMP exam, you have to remember all the process groups, knowledge areas and process areas - in total 56 (4th Ed) or 62 (5th Ed) names. I believe it is a must - they must be on your finger tips. In addition to that you have remember major ITTO. Add to that the number of mathematical formula across - EVM, DTA, Critical Path, various Estimations etc. Now, that truly is a huge challenge. 

So, what was new in the approach? As they say in ancient China - "What I hear, I forget. What I see, I remember. What I do, I understand" (here) - how true! Interestingly every PG or KA or PA are detailed thought out in PMBOK and really linked. No process in PMBOK is floating independently  but they are linked to other processes in different knowledge area in various process groups. The key is to know how, where, when they interact and what is the significance. And the easiest way to remember is by doing that on the "White Board". So, added a number of hands on workshop, which accomplished the result!

There is an another approach with memory cards, which I think doubles the work - you remember the cards and then the processes. Rather, the approach here is a number of scientifically designed hands on workshop combined with frequent white board session with every participant coming on the board with you! 

PMP Classroom Program - Bangalore, India 

And above all, the team came up with flying colors. They missed only 1 process area  - out of 5 PG, 9 KA and 42 PA for PMBOK 4th Edtion. Team also came to know on the differences between 4th Edition and 5th Edition and also just missed 1 PA for 5th Edition. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Agile is About Adaptive Actions, Not Corrective Actions or Preventive Actions

Recently wrote a post saying that Agile is about Adaptive Actions, not Corrective Actions or Preventive Actions. It is published by the PMHut editorial team.

Some excerpts from the post: 
. . . Adaptive Life Cycle, as noted by PMBOK, is also known as Change Driven or Agile methods. In Adaptive methods respond to high levels of change and ongoing stakeholder involvement. Due to very short iteration length for Adaptive Methods and constantly being able to respond to the change, the actions taken becomes Adaptive Actions. Actions are no more Corrective Actions . . . 
Let me elaborate a bit more on it. PMBOK talks of Integration Management knowledge area. To have the correct perspective, Integration management is the umbrella knowledge area encompassing all other knowledge areas. The key process areas to be looks in are:

1. Develop Project Management Plan (Initiating Process Group/PG)
2. Direct and Management Project Execution or Work as in 5th Edition (Execution Process Group)
3. Monitor and Control Project Work (Monitoring and Controlling Process Group)
4. Perform Integrated Change Control  (Monitoring and Controlling Process Group)

As a project manager, along with planning, the areas which you would be looking for are Execution and Monitoring/Controlling. In Direct & Management Project Work/Execution, Monitor & Control Project Work and Perform Integrated Change Control various forms of Change Requests loom large and used frequently.

Change Request is a request to change which can come from any knowledge area -  Scope, Time, Cost, Quality, Risk, Procurement et al. In both 4th and 5th edition of PMBOK this is used and it encompasses Corrective Actions and Preventive Actions. If you are familiar with PMBOK, you would know that there are concepts of Approved Change Requests, Rejected Change Requests (now streamlined in 5th edition). However, with the introduction of Adaptive Life Cycle, the concept of Change Request has remained same! Hence the conclusion as:
. . . PMBOK has not explicitly mentioned Adaptive Action anywhere, but as it has introduced Agile concepts from 5th edition onward. It has also emphasized on Adaptive Life Cycle. Hence, Adaptive Action will be a right addition to PMBOK by PMI.
Complete post of the article is here.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Agile PMP: PMBOK Vs Agile - Comparison and Convergence (Part - 2)

Did you read Part - 1 of this series? Would suggest that you do.

Now, let us proceed on this part. PMBOK has set the defining standard for Project Management and will continue to do so. There is no second opinion about. In this post, we will the check, comparison and convergence between PMBOK and Agile, at the process group level.

Comparison: PMBOK Vs Agile

5 Process Groups (Source - PMBOK, PMI)

PMBOK comes with 5 process groups (PG) - Initiating, Planning, Executing Monitoring and Controlling and Closing. Briefly - Initiating and Closing happens once, whereas Planning, Executing are repeatedly looked upon by Monitoring and Controlling.

Agile also has a framework with its is defined items - let us say phases! What are they? Jim Highsmith, in his book (Agile Project Management - Creating Innovative Products) puts it lucidly. There are 5 phases - Envision, Speculate, Explore, Adapt and Close. To keep it simple - Envision and Close happens once. 

5 Phases - Agile Project Mgmt. Framework (Src - Jim Highsmith Book)
However, Speculate, Explore and Adapt happen repeatedly or in an iterative fashion, along with incremental delivery. This is known as Agile Project Management Framework or APM in short.

PMBOK has not only 5 process groups, it has 10 knowledge areas as well 47 process areas in its latest addition. PMI has added Stakeholder Management knowledge area in 5th edition. However, in Agile it is not detailed like that of PMBOK, rather they have kept it open to much process tailoring internally. 

Convergence: PMBOK And Agile

So, where do they converge?

In both Agile's APM and PMBOK PG, The fundamentals are inline with Demming's cycle - Plan,Do,Check and Act (or P-D-C-A) cycle. That binds both the concepts - 5 process groups for a project management plan (PMP) or 5 phases for APM. 
  • Plan - Planning in PMBOK; Envision in APM 
  • Do - Execution in PMBOK; Explore in APM 
  • Check & Act - Monitoring and Controlling in PMBOK; Adapt in APM
Execution, M&C and Closing happens repeatedly in PMBOK and in similar lines Speculate, Explore and Adapt happens frequently Initiating and Closing happens only once during the life cycle (considering one phase of a product life cycle). Similarly, Envision and Close happens once. . 

However, it must be noted that the process group in PMBOK and phases in APM are not direct matches. There is a lot of subtlety involved!

Also, there are questions on how you progress in groups, knowledge areas, process areas in PMBOK and corresponding in respective phases in APM - like say building user stories, preparing your plan, checking on progress and so on? It will be beyond the scope of this post. It needs in depth explanation and understanding - happens in my workshops and speaking engagements. 

In conclusion, as noted before PMBOK is very detailed where as Agile keeps it quite light. Nevertheless, someone who understands PMBOK transition to Agile is not that really difficult!

Next, we will cover on User Stories. Stay tuned.

This Series: Part -1

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Financial Year End at Bangalore

Bangalore beacons again! On eve of end of last Financial Year, 2012-2013 - in India , the cycle starts from 1st April of current year to 31st March of next year. 

Team was lively, participated well and asked a number of questions - perhaps the highest ever. It was over 100 or so during the session and during "caves and commons" discussions! Many were not related to the current session, rather their day to day practical problems. Bravo!  

Of course some like the practical hands on as well as practical questions. Individuals came forward and contributed to learning.

Have backdated this post as it happened on last week of March, 2013.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

New White Paper: PMBOK Guide 5th Edition and MS Project 2010 - A Practical Step-by-Step Approach

Latest - PMBOK 5th Edition with MS Project 2013 ]

First thing, first. Thanks to PM World Journal and its editorial team for acknowledging, encouraging and publishing the paper. Without whom I would not have wrote the paper in the 1st place. This paper was first written in early 2009, with then edition of PMBOK with MS Project 2007. 

Over the years, the white paper was popular and gained acceptance in the real world management and academia circle. Since 2009, a lot of water gone under the bridge! PMBOK has come up with 5th Edition and MS Project is still number-1 in terms of acceptance in project management, albeit with the new MS Project 2010 tool.

Decided to write on the newer version of it and with an exhaustive analytic approach, with complete practical description on actually how to use MS Project while following up PMBOK 5th Edition! As, mentioned in the white paper:

The major comparisons between PMBOK and MSP are outlined with primary focus on the Time Management. There are various major constraints defined in PMBOK guide, [v.i.z.] scope, quality, budget, schedule, resources and risk. It must be noted that the traditional triple constraints defined in earlier PMBOK Guide has been done away with since the 4th Edition.To have a complete understanding, certain Input, Tools and Techniques and Outputs (ITTO) of other Knowledge Areas (KA), such as Scope Management KA, Human Resource Management KA and Integration Management KA from PMBOK guide, have been used. In some places of the document, PMP and PMBOK Guide have been used interchangeably. 

The white paper completes elaborates in all majors inputs, tools and techniques and outputs of Time Management with certain others from other knowledge areas. 

While applying the MS Project 2010 on various PMBOK's ITTO, it becomes a real pleasure! As and when you learn to apply the practices, I felt truly how both the PMBOK and MS Project has been designed to help out on many things. But, nothing is perfect? Eh! Still, a number of things can be done with it and it is truly a marvel.

Below is one such excerpt for Resource Optimization Techniques, one of the ITTO mentioned in "Develop Schedule" and "Control Schedule" process area. 

4.2.6 Resource Optimization Techniques - Resource Leveling (PMBOK/MSP)“Resource Optimization Techniques” is one of the Tools and Technique defined in “Develop Schedule” and “Control Schedule” PA of Time Management KA as defined in PMBOK guide. One of the Resource Optimization Techniques is the “Resource Leveling”. In order to level the resource, first the critical path of the project is analyzed, the ability of the organization’s to supply resources is determined and over allocated or under allocated resources are properly assigned. In MSP, the concept of resource leveling is same and it can be done manually or automatically. Additional resources can be assigned to task, a task can be delayed or a resource assignment can be delayed. Various Resource Leveling options are available under “Properties” group of “Resource” Tab in MSP...
Below the link for the complete white paper - filled with practical hands on approach on PMBOK 5th Edition and MS Project 2010.

Link: PMBOK Guide 5th Edition and MS Project 2010: A Practical Step-by-Step Approach

Web PDF Copy: Full PDF Link For the Paper

You may also like:
1. PMBOK 5th Edition with MS Project 2013 - A Practical Guide
2. Synergy Between MS Project 2007 and PMBOK Guide 4th Edition

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Agile - A Philosophy or A Framework?

I come across this question a number of times. In year 2001, 17 minds come up together with these 4 core values. 
  • Individuals and Interactions Over Process and Tools
  • Working Software Over Comprehensive Documentation
  • Customer Collaboration Over Contract Negotiation
  • Responding to Change Over Following A Plan

It must be noted that they did not out rightly reject the values for the items in the right, but they gave more emphasis and value to the items on left. These values are immutable and can not be altered. 

In addition to that they come up with 12 core principles:
1. Early and continuous delivery of valuable software as the highest priority
2. Welcoming changing requirements, even late in the development
3. Frequent delivery of software with a 2 weeks to a 8 weeks cycle, with emphasis on shorter cycle
4. Daily interaction of business folks and software developers
5. Projects with motivated individuals and trusting them, giving them freedom
6. Face-to-face conversation as the best form of communication.
7. Working Software as the measurement of progress
8. Sustained development at a constant pace
9. Regular attention to technical excellence and good design
10. Simplicity - maximizing art of work not done
11. Self Organizing teams deliver the best
12. Retrospection and adjustments at regular intervals

Along with that, we have seen a plethora of methods and practices such as Scrum, XP, Kanban, DSDM, Lean and so on. 

Some of them are called Lightweight approaches or frameworks or methods. And some as Full/Heavyweight Approaches.

Now, if you take Scrum, it comes with many practices or principles internally. So also XP. 

If you are coming from a development background, you will immediately realize what a framework means. A Struts or Springs of Log4J framework, does not ask you rigidly follow a practice. They are quite open ended, you can configure the XML files the way to want to, change the main servlet class and so on. 

In similar fashion, Scrum or XP are not prescriptive at all. They have certain practices or principles - like Pair Programming is an XP principle. 

Okay. But then when people say Agile is a Framework, Scrum/XP/Lean are also framework -  what actually does it mean? Well, again, if you come from a development background, let us say you developed a UI using the Spring framework (which is again on top of MVC). Now some other team wants to use it, but will modify according to its need. Here your code/design/architecture becomes a framework for them to work on.

But, when you learn on it in the beginning, it creates a certain confusion - framework, with framework, within another framework?! To have a better understanding: I say - "Agile is a Philosophy". It is a way of thinking about software development. It is a way of your daily software development life or life cycle - by applying those 4 core values and 12 principles. Scrum, XP etc. can be considered to frameworks under the Philosophy called "Agile"

To make it more personal - let us consider Hinduism. In Hinduism, we consider Buddha as one of the 10 Avatars or incarnations, in the Dashavatara (in Sanskrit). But, Buddhism starts from Buddha and develops with more set of values. If you ask another person, he or she will say Buddhism again can be used by many with other additional principles. In fact, there are various sects in Buddhism as well. So, Hinduism becomes a philosophy in that respect. Similarly, I think it will be applicable to many other religions that we follow in the world. 

Friday, January 04, 2013

PMP Certification and Maintenance: A Truly Cost Effective Way

I posted an article at PMHut on how cheap actually PMP certification and its maintenance can be. Thanks to PMHut for publishing it. The inspiration for this article came from HERE, a post by Pam Stanton, of Project Whisper. 

Cost, of course, is not the entire point of her article, but do form a major argument. With all due respect to Pam, I would like to politely point that PMP certification and maintenance is not at all expensive. 

Some excerpts from my article:

With all these options for PDU, I really do not believe in anyway that accumulating 60 PDU in a 3 year cycle is very difficult, without a hole in your pocket.
Now, if you do not want to read or watch educational video or write an article or author a white paper or even minimally do a community service, you should seriously relook on the management job you are in. Added to that you are considering a job in a manager role in a high knowledge intensive 21st century! You might be in a wrong job in the 1st place!
As I found out PMP certification and its maintenance do not cost more than $2700 and that also considering a 40 year old career as well I am being generous with the amount here. For India, the price is somewhat low, as compared many countries and truth be told, I spent around $900 dollar! The amount I have mentioned includes the exam cost, 35 PDU cost for which I took a training, a PMI Chapter membership to form a study group and also the book by late Rita Mulchay. And I am still maintaining my certificate on, on my 5th year, without spending a dime!

I have seen MBA courses on Project Management from various global institutes and the material is almost same as that PMBOK Guide. But the price is too high. Added to that the recognition from PMI is unmatched. I firmly believe PMP certification is still worth taking and pursuing and cost is not a factor at all ! 

For complete post on this, please check here on PMHUT - LINK

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Agile PMP: PMBOK Vs Agile - Comparison and Convergence (Part - 1)

The copy for 5th Edition of PMBOK has been made available last month to all PMI members. Thank you PMI. Copy for public distribution is expected be available in this month.

In this post, we will see how PMBOK guide, one of the most referred one worldwide in management practices, talks of Agile. I have been following PMBOK closely since its 3rd Edition on which I was certified. In 5th Edition, there has been significant changes as compared to 4th Edition. But, till 5th Edition, PMBOK, never mentioned the Agile word explicitly in its guide.

Before, we go into the Agile and PMBOK, let us take a look at how many times, PMBOK has mentioned of Agile. 

Number of times Agile word mentioned in PMBOK 3rd Edition - 0
Number of times Agile word mentioned in PMBOK 4th Edition - 0
Number of times Agile word mentioned in PMBOK 5th Edition - Around 5 to 7 times!


Now, does it mean that PMBOK suddenly woke up to Agile standards? No! For long, PMBOK has talked of Iterative approach with incremental delivery. PMBOK also talked of rolling wave planning, i.e., plan will be cleared as and when the project progresses. Complete Plan may not be clear in the beginning. 

However, for the 1st time Agile word has been mentioned in PMBOK guide, with the growing adoption of Agile and understanding that how volatile many project may become - especially in the software world, where requirements keep on changing all the time!

Comparison: PMBOK Vs Agile

True to its continuous saying, PMBOK says in its 5th Edtion that it is a Guide and NOT a methodology - like Agile, PRINCE2, Waterfall. So, if you want to take on comparison, PMBOK has been explicit - Its principles also can be applied to Agile and some of its heavy or light forms, but in no may it is saying you follow one in particular.  

Convergence: PMBOK And Agile

The 5th edition of PMBOK talks of 3 types of life cycles in a project. 

1. Predictive Life Cycle - Can be completely planned beforehand
2. Iterative and Incremental (I & I) Life Cycle - Was there also in earlier PMBOK guides, but has been more clearly defined. 
3. Adaptive Life Cycle - Here Agile is mentioned explicitly. 


But then how come it is different from Iterative and Increment development cycles. Good question! In Adaptive cycle, as compared to I & I cycle, the churn is high, the predictability is low and speed of execution is faster. Agile manifesto talks of 2 to 4 weeks of cycle and delivery at the end of each iteration. Please note that delivery does not mean it is to be shipped, but it is potentially shippable. The later part also falls into one of the 12 principles of Agile. 

Also, in PMBOK in certain sections Agile has been mentioned and how the plans to be treated in Agile mode is mentioned. 

But, having said that, does it mean that PMBOK has completely explained on how exactly Agile will be followed? I do not think so. There are many areas with confusions - such as WBS, Activities, Contracting methods, Estimation approaches, Baselining concepts (and hence EVM), Dependencies et al - which needs far better understanding for someone who follows Agile principles! We will check on in on later posts. 

This Series: Part - 2