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

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Synergy Between MS Project and PMBOK Guide

I have been asked many times on the white paper that appeared for the Synergy between MS Project and PMBOK Guide, in 2009.

Some are unable to find it and have requested for an access. This is the ONLY paper of its kind that appeared ever in a typically theoretical driven publications and stands out as it emphasizes on practicality of PMBOK using the MS Project tool.

This white paper has been referred many times in many other management books and publications.


3.1.1. Project (PMBOK®) Vs Project Summary Task (MSP):

A “Project” is at the highest level when a WBS is created in the “Create WBS” Knowledge Area
Process (KAP) of “Scope Management” KA as per PMBOK® guide. A project can be further broken down into phases or deliverables and it is considered to be at Level-0 in the WBS.

Similarly in MSP, a Project is known as “Project Summary Task” and it can be viewed by selecting the “Show Project Summary Task” option in the View tab of Tools -> Options menu.

3.1.2 Work Package (PMBOK®) Vs Summary Task (MSP):
A “Work Package” is created in the “Create WBS” KAP of “Scope Management” KA. As per PMBOK®, a work package can be assigned to multiple people and can be broken down to “Activity” level. A “Work Package” in PMBOK® corresponds to “Summary Task” in MSP. A Summary Task can also be broken down to individual task levels.

Complete Link:

Complete Link To the White Paper is HERE (see link), for everyone to access. 

I'll update on the new version of it shortly - MS Project 2010 with PMBOK 5th Edition, which is expected to come this month. Stay tuned on this blog!

Important Note:

Please note that this is ONLY from Schedule Management (or Time Management as PMBOK calls it) perspective. If you are interested to know on how exploit MS Project with various PMBOK principles, please get in touch with me. MS Project covers many aspects of PMBOK - Time, Scope, Cost, Integration, Quality, Resource et al and also various advanced principles such as EVM, Resource Leveling, What If Analysis as well!

You may also like:
1. PMBOK 5th Edition with MS Project 2013 - A Practical Guide
2. PMBOK Guide 5th Edition and MS Project 2010 - A Practical Step-by-Step Approach

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Year End At Bangalore

The last management session, as luck would have it, happened in Bangalore! The team was small, but lively and asked innumerable questions. 

Everyone in the team came forward and participated in the practical areas and I can say that they learned. One feedback give was that the session was short and need to be elongated. I think it is a good idea, and will see what can be done.


Nothing beats a team who is ready to make its hands dirty and want to learn. And I'll also mention that this is the only team who came completely prepared with installed MS Project software before the session. Bravo!