Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Year End Post: Approach to All PMP Preparation Programs Now Changed

Mid last year, I changed the coaching approach to PMP preparation. It is outlined here

Looking back, it has been a big success. There has not been a single instance in any workshop (many since the last one where I changed the approach), where the team could not remember all the 5 process groups, all the 10 knowledge areas and all the 47 process areas. 

Also, it has been a remarkable revelation what a team can collectively accomplish. In fact, in all the programs, the team members are themselves surprised that it is possible to remember them all - 62 in total.

Still, some issues were playing out in my mind when I coach the PMP aspirants. There are quite a few, but top of them are:
  1. How a person without any formal knowledge of Project Management can grasp the PM fundamentals easily?
  2. How to understand and remember the ITTOs? 
  3. How quickly one can become a Certified PMP?

1. Making a Layperson understand PMBOK:

There are many materials and/or books in the market to prepare for PMP Exam. But my emphasis has always on Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) Guide. I always say to the aspirants that in case of any conflict among your reference materials or books, PMBOK Guide is the final one. It must be your final reference source.

However, PMBOK Guide, as written, is in a Specification Format, which does not make an exciting read. Also, the coverage area of PMBOK is immense. For a first time learner on project management - even for an experienced project manager - the area of coverage is overwhelming. Very few read PMBOK end to end and those who do, are lost in the immense depth provided by PMBOK.

The new approach completely simplifies the process of learning PMBOK. When any participant asks what s/he should read before coming to the program - I say:"Do not read any material or book. No beforehand knowledge is needed. You need not read anything at all.Many of them are taken back with this statement - but I ask them to come with a completely free mind. 

So, if you want to learn PMP, you need not know anything at all about PMBOK - absolutely nothing at all.

2. Remembering Inputs, Tools and Techniques, and Outputs (ITTOs):

How many ITTOs are there in PMBOK Guide? Well, there are some 600+ ITTOs.  Below is a list across all the knowledge areas (Link - View Directly)

Now, that is quite a long list. Can you remember all of them? No! In fact, not needed.

The PMP exam rarely asks a direct ITTO question. It does not test your memorizing ability of ITTOs. Rather, it does test - what you as a project manager would do in a specific situation and which specific Tool and Technique you can apply? You need to know why these are taken as Inputs and why some of them are outputs? You need to now - how a Tool or Technique is helping to get a particular output?

However, you have to remember some of the key ones like various baselines, various estimation techniques, various quality tools so on. Also some of the processes are not very easy to remember - like "Direct and Manage Project Work" or "Perform Quantitative Risk Analysis" or "Perform Integrated Change Control".  Why they are named so? How to remember them?

In both the above aspects, the approach has been significantly changed.

3. Being a Certified PMP:

One can say "He (or she) has gone through 35 PDU Program for PMP" or can say "A Certified PMP". Which one sounds good? You know. It is like saying - "Have prepared for the Engineering Entrance Exam" Vs "An Engineer". You know which one sounds appropriate. Is not it?

Your success will be measured being a Certified PMP. That is the bottom-line. I have not come across a single candidate who went for the exam with the preparation that I asked him/her to do and have failed in the exam. It has NEVER happened. With the new approach, I believe the time to get certified becomes shorter.


Considering all above three,  I have applied the changed approach in last few sessions - for "PMP Prep" and "Practical PMP with MS Project". It also will be applicable for "Agile PMP - PMBOK and AgileBOK" where PMBOK is taught as in "Practical PMP" and candidates are prepared for the PMP Exam. 

The good news is - the new approach is working quite well. Hence decided to write this post. If you want to know PMBOK in a very simple way; to understand its intricacies, the needed ITTOs, the flow of ITTOs across the 47 processes, and want to get quickly certified on PMP - welcome to a new way of learning.

To All My Readers - Wish You a Very Happy New Year 2015.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

PMP Success Story - Exam is Predominantly a Test of Your Psychology and Conceptual Understanding, Less of Your Memorizing Ability

Jawahar Duthuluru one of the youngest I have seen who has cracked the PMP Exam. He believes sufficient confidence building by conceptual understanding of PMBOK and only one reference book should help you to crack the Exam. More importantly, he says - the Exam is a test of one's psychology and less of one's memorizing ability. I agree with both.  

He is from one of the batches this year, where I know many have cracked the PMP Exam. His experience, however, is unique - before the exam, during the course of exam. 

He shares his preparation, approach along with certain myth busters and tips. 

Go on. Read his unique experience.


Hi All,

It is a great privilege to share my experience of PMP Journey. I wish my learnings will help aspirants in their journey to crack the exam.

Experience on 35 Hours PDU Program:

I have registered for training in April,2014. I feel that I was very lucky to have Satya Dash as trainer. The training was beyond my expectations. With Satya you don't just learn the concepts of Project Management, but you get all around experience and wisdom of being associated with a PM Guru. 

He doesn't dump knowledge on you from some text book, instead he educates you with his own perspectives and version of PM wisdom. 

I see Satya as not just a trainer for the exam, but a platform builder of Project Management career. 

Own Preparation: 

I have to prepare for nearly around 300 hours to reach confidence level to take up PMP exam. 

I started preparing sincerely 45 days before the exam and I found that it isn’t sufficient and then I have extended my exam date by 30 days to prepare and gain the confidence to handle PMP exam. Finally cracked it! "Not an easy journey"! 

PMP exam will emphasize PMBOK knowledge and Application. But overall PMP journey was a test to my commitment and wisdom. 

I have mentioned my preparation plan at a very high level in the last section – what I learnt from my PMP Journey.

PMP Exam Experience:

I cleared my PMP on October 30th. A proud moment in my career! 

Though I am well prepared with subject, I didn't practice enough with mock tests. I recommend anyone to practice at least 4-5. 

I just had a practice of 2 mock tests, which nearly put me very much under threat of losing despite sincere preparation. It took me nearly 20 minutes to completely focus my attention towards examination.

4 hours may not be sufficient (relative to each person) for you even though you are prepared well with the subject. You should be really be prepared with mind-set of having attention for 4 hours. I have attempted around 180-190 questions and ran out of time.

Suggestions and Learning for Aspirants:

Please go through standard assumptions/myths we have about PMP exam and what is true with that:

What I thought / we think about PMP preparation /Myths:
  • Need to go thorough 3 books at least. 
  • 4 Hours of exam time is more than sufficient if you prepare well.
  • 2 Mock tests are enough to prepare for real exam experience.
  • You need to remember a lot of stuff.
  • You need 4-5 months of preparation.
  • Real life Project Management experience doesn't help much. We can crack the exam by just studying.
What I really learnt after my PMP Journey:
  • One good book (Even Headfirst PMP) along with PMBOK (reference) is sufficient, but only if you prepare from cover-to cover (I mean 100%). I read every page of Headfirst, along with Index, Glossary and cover. Nothing else.
  • You should have your own notes. Which you can narrate like a story. [If you refer someone’s notes, you can’t stitch those concepts together]
  • 4 hours may not be sufficient for you even though you are prepared well with the subject.
  • It’s all about time management.
  • After you completed preparation with the book, and if you have 10 more days to go, Don’t try another book /Tutorial /videos. Instead do mock tests.
  • PMP is a test of your Psychology (70%) +Memory (30%).Remember concepts in sequential /systematic manner based on sequence, importance and situation where that concept is applied in real time.
  • Remember PMBOK page 61, EVM formulas. It really builds your confidence while handling difficult questions. [You can think in many ways if you remember those, else you would give-up]
  • Don’t drag your preparation. You may lose motivation. At max 90-100 days.
  • Real time Project management experience helps very well, if you can associate it with your study.

Good Luck! All the Best!!
-- Jawahar Duthuluru, Sr. Product Specialist, Jivox Software


Brief Profile: Jawahar Duthuluru is an information technology professional and works with Jivox Software India Pvt Ltd, Bangalore, India as a Senior Product Specialist. His online PMP profile is available at PMI Online Credential Registry.

I am thankful to Jawahar for sharing his exam experience in his quest for PMP, which I believe will enrich and guide others in their respective journeys for the PMI-PMP Exam.

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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Step by Step Guide - How to Install, Setup and Configure Oracle Primavera P6 Professional R8.3 on Windows 7/8

[Latest - Step by Step Guide - Install, Setup and Configure Oracle Primavera P6 Professional R22.12 on Windows 10/11 - Link]

Content Summary: During a recent program on Oracle Primavera P6, few participants found it difficult to install, setup and configure P6 Professional edition. They faced either some scripting issues or certain permission issues. Later on came to know, many face those issues. In this post, I'll elaborate a complete step by step installation, set up and post set-up configuration for Primavera P6 Professional Release 8.3 in Windows 7. 

Primavera P6, the EPPM tool from Oracle, is widely used in certain sectors, such as construction, aerospace, manufacturing - in Project and Portfolio Management. However, people come up with issues during installation. In fact, it is not at all difficult to install and configure, if you understand what are the needed components for the installation. More importantly, if the components are already available (installed), then the installer will skip them. 

There are 5 major components for installation:
  1. .NET framework (comes bundled with 4.0)
  2. Java Runtime Environment (JRE) 7.0 or later (comes bundled with 7.0)
  3. DHTML component
  4. Oracle Database XE Edition, and of course, 
  5. Primavera P6 Professional 8.3.x software (Client side)
If you have Java, .NET, DHTML and Oracle XE installed, you just need to install the 5th component. However, Primavera P6 software media pack comes bundled with all the above components. So irrespective of installation of those components, the installer application will check their availability and based on that, the installer apps will do the necessary operations.  

However, there few issues found while executing certain scripts post installation. This is during the DB Connection creation for the user, which ultimately boils down to permission issue. The error that you may get is shown below:

To fix the issue, you have to simply set the permission and execute the script. The script in question is: "manual_script_before_install.sql". It is detailed in the below installation document shared via GDrive. The document covers in detail explanation of all the steps involved to set up Primavera P6 Professional R8.3.x (8.3.2 is used here) in Windows 7 along with issues that you might face.  The steps will remain same for Windows 8.

For complete step-by-step instructions, subscribe to this blog (on top right corner of this blog) and send a mail, from your gmail id to

The document is available for viewing in PDF format - Link.

Post installation, I always suggest participants to perform some basic configuration for the usage of Primavera P6, like:
  1. Setting up your Industry type from Admin Preferences.
  2. Getting the option to choose last project, all projects, global data etc when Primavera P6 starts up, which will be from User Preferences.
  3. Setting the currency option
  4. Setting the Time Units
  5. Setting up Dates 
There are also certain other post set-up configuration needed, however, for this post I'll limit to these few.

Note: A course covering Project Management Professional (PMP) certification with Oracle Primavera P6 (and its certification) is available. This has been used by professionals worldwide. For details, check:

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[Latest - Step by Step Guide - Install, Setup and Configure Oracle Primavera P6 Professional R22.12 on Windows 10/11 - Link]

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

How to Create an Agile BurnUp Chart with MS Project 2013? (Part - 2)

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

In the previous post, we created an Agile BurnUp Report with MS Project 2013 directly without switching to any other apps.

Let us analyze the graph a bit more. 
  • As it is baselined, the “Baseline Cumulative Work” line is shown. However, it is below Cumulative Actual Work. Hence more work has been done than actually baselined.
  • The “Cumulative Work” is above the “Cumulative Actual Work”, which understandable as we have work to do, i.e., the pending work. 
The above interpretation can be seen by adding another filed called "Cumulative Actual Work" to the Task Usage details. It is shown as below. I have switched to Resource Usage view here, as it will be easier to understand.

As you can see, the actual work field has values as we had entered in the previous post. The cumulative work by end of 1st week is 49h, whereas the cumulative actual work is 45.5h. And the baseline cumulative work is, of course, 40h.

Now, let us do a few formatting for the Labels for 3 the series of "Cumulative Work", "Cumulative Actual Work"  and "Baseline Cumulative Work" and it will look as:

To perform above the customization for deeper interpretation of data, add the labels for all the lines as shown below. It is for "Cumulative Work" line. You can change the color coding from Blue to any other color as well.

After you add the Data labels, you can format the Data Labels and place them, customize them the way you want. Also from the field list, you can choose to add additional fields.

The best part in all of these - you do not need to go Excel for your reports.

Baseline is a good addition as actual work for a task might be more than initially planned (or can be less) during the Sprint and Baseline information shows - how much we have actually varied from the initially planned one. 

-- Few Key Notes --

Question - Can I variants of this chart in Bar format? 

Yes you can. Just change the Chart Type as shown earlier. Like it can be as shown below. 

Question – Can I copy the report to another apps, say PowerPoint, directly? 

Yes, you can. Use the Copy Report functionality as shown.

Question – Can I create a PDF copy? 

Yes, you can. Just use the Export PDF functionality and it will work. 

Some say, it is not possible to create PDF for reports. Wrong! It is possible and it works perfectly. Set your print setting properly - orientation,  size and margin.

In conclusion, few may agree with you that MS Project will help you can create Agile Reports. I think it is unfair. In fact, a number of interesting fields are added like - Baseline Cumulative Work, Remaining Cumulative Work, Remaining Cumulative Actual Work, and so on - with which you can create a number of Agile specific reports.

How to Create an Agile BurnUp Chart with MS Project 2013? (Part - 1)

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

With MS Project 2013 one can create a number of Graphical Reports directly – one of the new features introduced. This helps you NOT to move to another apps – say Excel or Visio, but still be able to create most of the reports. In my view, it is a good strategic move by Microsoft.  

By default, MS Project comes with an inbuilt Burndown Report. But how about Burnup report? Can someone create it? Yes and quite easily. Two points to note here:
  • I am focusing on Iteration Burnup Chart in this post. In Iterations (or Sprints as it is called in Scrum), for a burnup chart, we will have Days in the X-axis and Hours in the Y-axis.
  • My belief as a PMI-ACP/Agile Practitioner is that for Sprint planning estimation is done in hours whereas for Release Planning, estimation is with Story Points. 
Alright. Let us proceed. I have two tasks– to make it quite simple and easy to understand. Each tasks starts on Monday, here Nov 10 and Nov 17, respectively and finishes by Friday. Both are executed by a work resource,i.e., Resource 1.

Select Report tab – View reports – New Report – Chart. Give a name “Agile Burnup Report”. You will have a new report as shown.

Go to Field List (on the right side), select the Category is a “Time”. If field list is not shown, then simply select the graph and select “Show Field List”.

In the “Edit” check box, as shown in the Field List, have the following respective scale set for Units, Date Format and Count. This is to increase the visibility area of the chart and check a day by day Burnup for the iteration/sprint. It is shown as below.

Now, from the Field List, “Select Fields” un-select all “Actual Work”, “Remaining Work”, and “Work”.  It will turn to a Blank Chart now. Again from the Field List, “Select Fields”, select “Cumulative Actual Work” and “Cumulative Work” under Work field. Under Work – Baseline, select “Baseline Cumulative Work”. 

Select the Chart. Go to Chart Tools – Design – Type – Change Chart Type and change the type to Line – Line. A line chart will be displayed now. The chart will be as shown below:

Let us interpret the data:
  • Cumulative Work is finally 80 hours (for two tasks with week long work each) by end of Nov 21, which is correct.
  • No actual work has been entered. So the Cumulative Actual Work is 0 hr. It is actually on the X-axis, but has been overridden by the  Baseline Cumulative Work value. 
  • No baseline has been done yet, so that line is also dormant and actually on the X-axis. Look closely! As noted in the previous point, if you remove "Baseline Cumulative Work" from the graph, the "Cumulative Actual Work" will be shown. 
Next, baseline the Project, via Project – Schedule - Set Baseline.

Go to View tab – Task Usage View and select “Actual Work” and “Cumulative Work” from Task Usage tools – Cumulative Work. With the help of “Add Details”, add the field “Baseline Cumulative Work”. 

Set the status date. In my example, the status date has been set after 5days of the project. Initially the actual work done by the resource is empty, i.e., for Task 1, which is executed by Resource 1, from Monday to Friday - actual work field is showing empty.

Enter the data for the “Actual Work” performed by the Resource. After I entered actual work done by Resource 1, the task usage details is shown as below.

Now go back to your created Report. You now have a Custom Chart called “Agile Burnup Report". Select it from Report tab - Custom - Agile Burnup Report. It will look as shown below.

Our simple example can be expanded to have multiple tasks. As noted earlier, during Iterations/Sprints, it is about tasks and estimation is in hours. Many ask to estimate in Story Points in the iteration for the tasks, which I really do not agree with. As story point should be actually considered on a longer time horizon. 

You can customize the report, export the report, copy the report or create various other Agile reports with the help of MS Project.Will see that in next post.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

9 Ways to Check Critical Tasks (Critical Paths) in MS Project

One of the participants in a class for MS Project 2010/2013 was having trouble in viewing Critical Tasks in his customized view of the Project Management Plan and few weeks after the session, asked me ways to check them. Now, critical tasks are important from scheduling perspective and a seasoned project manager frequently checks on them. 

MS Project gives a number of options to check on critical tasks. In fact, there are so many options that it wont be possible to outline them all in this post! It is immaterial which view you are in or which table you have applied - you can easily check your critical tasks.

The easiest and quickest way is outlined below in # 1. 

Way # 1: Option Under Format Tab

Let us take a simple example. I have 5 tasks and 2 milestones with duration as shown below. To see the critical tasks, go to Format Tab -- Bar Styles group. Under that, select the checkbox for "Critical Tasks". The critical tasks will be highlighted in red in the Gantt view.

Critical Tasks - Enabling Option from Format Tab

Above - Task 3 and Task 5 are Critical Tasks, whereas Task 1, Task 2 and Task 4 are Non-Critical Tasks.

Still, you might be in different views or different tables, but still you can check on the Critical Tasks. However, as noted earlier, you have enough options to check on critical tasks wherever you are in MS Project. In rest of the ways, we will reuse the above simple example. 

Way # 2: Switch to Tracking Gantt View

Another important view which you will use frequently is the Tracking Gantt View. Here, the critical tasks are also shown and are highlighted in red. You need not select any checkbox, rather it will be done by MS Project for you. To switch to Tracking View: use View tab -- Task Views group -- Other View -- More Views and select Tracking Gantt View from the opened up dialog box.

Critical Tasks in Tracking Gantt View
Tip: The checkbox noted earlier in Way # 1 is automatically selected when you switch to the Tracking Gantt View!

Way #3: Use Filter for Critical Tasks

Go to View tab -- Data group. Under that, select Filter: Critical from the drop down menu as shown. Critical Filter is one of the built filters in MS Project.  After selection, only the critical tasks will be shown, irrespective of your view. In the below image, critical tasks are filtered and shown for the Gantt Chart View. The non-critical tasks will be filtered out. 

Critical Tasks - Applying Critical Filter
As you can see, the Critical Tasks - Task 3 and Task 5 - are only shown in the filtered view.

Tip: To disable Filter, select Filter:[No Filter]

Way # 4: Highlight Critical Tasks

Critical Tasks in the complete plan can be highlighted in a different color. To do that, go to View tab -- Data group -- Highlight: Critical, which is to be selected from the drop down menu. 

Highlighting Critical Tasks
As you can see, the critical tasks are highlighted in yellow. 

Tip: To disable highlighting, select Highlight:[No Highlight]

Way # 5: Group Critical Tasks

There is not only a built-in filter for Critical Task, but a built Critical Task group. To group the critical tasks, go to View tab -- Data group -- Group by: Critical. 

Grouping Critical Tasks
Both the critical and non-critical tasks are grouped and shown to you with Critical:Yes and Critical:No headings. 

Tip: To disable grouping, select Group:[No Group]

Way # 6: Switch to Detail Gantt Chart

Detail Gantt View is another view which you will use to check on the delayed introduced due to leveling and used when you perform resource leveling. Here critical tasks are shown by default and are highlighted in red. To switch to Detail Gantt View, use View tab -- Task Views group -- Other View -- More Views and select Detail Gantt View from the opened up dialog box.

Critical Tasks in Detail Gantt View

Way # 7: Switch to Network Diagram View

Network Diagram View is another important view used by professional users of MS Project. This gives a clean and easy way to check on the activities/tasks in a Nework Diagram. Here critical tasks are shown by default and are highlighted in red. To switch to Network Diagram View, use View tab -- Task Views group -- Network Diagram View. 

Critical Tasks in Network Diagram View
Nework Diagram view used the Precedence Diagramming Method (PDM) as noted in PMBOK and shows task details along with dependencies. 

Way # 8: Add Critical Field to the Table

Critical Tasks can be seen in various task tables - it does not matter which table you are in - by adding a new column/field called "Critical", which is built into MS Project. 

To do that, simply right click on the table side of the view and select "Insert Column" and then type in "Critical" to be have the field added as one of the columns in your table. The critical and non-critical tasks will be populated with "Yes" and "No" values, respectively. 

Column "Critical" in the Entry Table showing Critical Tasks

Way # 9:  Use Critical Task Report

MS Project 2013 has a new Tab introduced - Report tab. Here, you can generate a report for Critical Tasks. Go to Report tab -- View Reports group -- In Progress and select "Critical Tasks" Report from the drop down menu. 

In Built Critical Task Report
Here, the status of the Critical Task - Complete, In Progress, Future etc. - all will be shown. As our simple project has a planned start date on Nov 17, 2014, all critical tasks are shown as Future Tasks. If you are in MS Project 2010, go to Project tab -- Reports group -- Overview -- Critical Tasks.

Still, there are few more ways to check on critical tasks. Like you can create your own custom filter or custom group and apply different color code or switch to yet another view called "Descriptive Network Diagram View" to check on critical tasks. However, I hope the above 9 ways would suffice to check on critical tasks in your project and will meet your need.

Update (February 2, 2018):

To know the various ways to check Critical Tasks, a video has been made available for you!
This is from MS Project 2016 Live Lessons - Guaranteed Learning or Your Money Back.

The video is from Lesson 9: Analyzing Project.

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