Wednesday, April 26, 2017

PMP Protein: Information Gathering Techniques

By Ajanta Behera, PMP

In the PMP® examination, you can expect a number of questions on various information gathering technique. In this article, I’ve outlined a few of them.

The easy way to remember these techniques is to use an acronym.

As you can see above, the acronym used to remember is – BIRD. In fact, if you add another one, which is SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threats), it becomes BIRDS!

Now, let us discuss in detail, 3 of the above ones – Brainstorming, Root Cause Analysis and Delphi Technique. 

I. Brainstorming 
This technique definitely makes its way for success for any problem at hand. Brainstorming is a technique used to generate and collect multiple ideas related to a project and product requirements.  This statement is taken from the PMBOK® Guide.  A frequent use of why a particular problem exists or how to resolve, what methods to apply, when to apply, who shall take the ownership of the resolution, Why a particular solution will work better than the other solutions will give a better understanding of the problem at hand.

Who should follow this technique?
This technique can be followed by anyone who has a problem at hand.  If there are two or more participants, this will be more useful.  But it does not exclude the situation where there is a single person and who wants to solve his own problem cannot use this technique. 

How does this work?
A team identifies a problem at hand, gets together in the room. A problem statement is stated and written down on the white board. The team starts a brainstorming session. The team starts giving the solution to the given problem. A project manager should be able to facilitate this session properly otherwise the session may not be effective.  The solution is written down on the white board.  It is discussed in detail as to why that solution must be chosen, what the benefits of that solution are. More solutions are thought of and put down on the board.  The solutions are prioritized, and the action point of who would own to work on the solutions would be discussed.  The team performs an iterative method of finding the solutions until the best solution is discovered. This technique can be applied to various phases of the project or product analysis. 

What are the benefits?
1- Greater productivity since the entire team member is participating in this activity. 
2- Better quality of products /services/results.
3- Better customer satisfaction
4- Greater bonding with the team 
5- Much effective results/products/services.
6- Lower project cost and better adherence to schedule.

Though the above technique is powerful enough to bring a lot of benefits mentioned above, if it is used in combination with Delphi technique or Root cause analysis, the results or outcomes would be more effective.

II. Delphi Technique 
The Delphi technique is a way to reach a consensus of experts. This statement is taken from the PMBOK guide. Here the project risk experts participate in this technique anonymously.  Mark the word anonymously.  A set of predetermined questions are distributed among the experts.  The responses are collected and summarized. This is done by a facilitator. After the responses are summarized, the responses are sent back to the experts for further comments. This is again an iterative process. This process helps to remove bias in the data and prevents the influence of the individual person on the outcome. 

How does this work?
A team identifies a problem at hand, gets together in the room. A problem statement is stated and written down on the sheet of paper and distributed among the participants. The team starts a rating process. Each participant is assigned a 100 token which has to be distributed among the various questions. A project manager usually facilitates this session.  There are chances that the experts may feel very strongly about a particular problem and they can give the 100 tokens to one particular problem. The ratings or responses are collected and shared among all the team members for further analysis. Another approach is to rate the items from highest to lowest priority. Now the team gets an opportunity to explain why they have chosen a particular response to the problem.   The facilitator calculates the mean, median, standard deviation.  Here the discussion is important because each member can explain why a particular rating is assigned to the problem. This is a time-consuming process. This process is repeated for much iteration until the standard deviation of the responses starts to converge and is within the acceptable range.

III. Root Cause Analysis
Root cause analysis is a specific technique used to identify a problem, discover the underlying causes that lead to it and develop preventive action. This is the definition mentioned in the PMBOK guide. Mostly this technique is used once there is a problem at hand. The solution discovered for the problem prevents the problem to recur. The solution may not be the permanent solution. Further analysis of the problem could help to develop the effective solution. 

How does this work?
A problem is identified. This would be a systematic analysis of the problem at hand. An individual or several of the team members would be finding the solution to the problem. The solution would be worked out to remove the problem at hand. In case the solution does not work other solutions are found. This is also an iterative process. It continues as long as the solution to the problem removes the problem. This is mostly a preventive method. Once the effective solution is found out, the solution must be included in the service/result/report. This may also be a time-consuming process.
The above three methods definitely would bring a greater success as much time is invested to find the solutions to the problems at hand. It would also increase the team binding as all of the team members would have come together to find out the solution.  Frequent use of these techniques can result in better outcomes. 

Written by Ajanta Behera:
Ajanta Behera is a software professional with 12 years of experience in variety of domains - Clinical, Insurance, and Finance. She is currently working as an Associate Project Manager with Standard Chartered Bank, India.

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    Wednesday, April 19, 2017

    PMP Success Story: Make Up Your Mind and Study Consistently with The Right Materials

    By Rangu Dutta, PMP

    For some years, I had an aspiration to get PMP® certification, maybe from the time PMBOK® guide 4th edition was in place.  In 2016, I made up my mind to complete the certification before December 2016. Got my PMI® membership and downloaded the PMBOK guide 5th edition and started reading. 

    My study was not consistent and sometime there were gap of 1-2 weeks between two study days. It was due to work pressure and travel time – almost 5 hours daily. 

    PMP Coaching Experience
    By July 2016, I realized I had hardly made any progress. That is when I thought, I should join some PMP coaching sessions to jump start and to get my motivation to speed. I googled for the ones, which was close to my residence and provide classroom training. I finalized one and to my bad luck I fell sick during that time and had to postpone by one month.

    In September 2016, I joined the classroom session and was lucky to meet Satya Sir as my coach. On day 1, he explained about the 47 Process connecting the process group and knowledge areas.  Satya sir said by Day4 we will be able to remember and understand the flow and sequence of all the 47 process. 

    Believe me, by end of Day 2, all my follow students including myself were able to grasp and remember the sequence flow. After Day 4 of training, I realized that not a single minute I felt bored or switched-off. And it was 32-34 hours of learning! Also, realized the amount of in-depth knowledge Satya sir have in all the relevant topics and amount of time he spent in preparation, giving tips to us etc.

    Own Study
    The ball was back in my court to study and crack the exam. Satya Sir had suggested to give the exam at the earliest because slowly we will tend to forget. I was making good process in studies as compared to before the coaching. By November, I released I’ll not be able to give the exam this year.

    By mid-December, I cut myself from everything, switched off my cell phone, social media etc. I started studying the PMBOK guide, chapter by chapter and making notes.  

    Satya Sir’s eBook – I Want To Be A PMP
    After completing the guide, I realized I had gaps and questions on Inputs, Tools & Techniques and Outputs (ITTOs).  This is when I picked my Satya Sir book - “I Want To Be A PMP.” I went through chapter by chapter in the book and many ITTOs started getting clear. The book explains why the ITTOs is used in the process, which ones are required for the process, etc. I was able to connect the dots. The book also has a separate chapter on changes in PMP exam after 11th January 2016.

    Next, I started giving all possible free PMP mock questions, some sites have 200 questions with or without timer, others had less questions again with or without timers. Some sites had answers without any explanation why the author feels that is the correct answer, I avoided such mock questions.

    Satya Sir's book had 200 questions of 3 sets – total 600 questions (and additional 75 questions for PMP exam 2016 changes). Most of the questions were situational and lengthy questions (expect similar pattern in the real exam). 

    I was able to score above 80% in the first 2 sets. But the last one set put me in back seat because of low score. Satya Sir advised to give the exam again and slowly I again gained confidence.

    PMP Exam Experience
    Now it was time to book my exam date and time, I had already paid the fee before. But March month is Annual exam time in school for my kid and wanted to fix a date after the annual exam dates. I wanted to choose early morning, not that I am early raiser but wanted to avoid Whitefield traffic and lower energy level post-lunch. I choose 30th March, 2017 8:30 AM.

    On the big day, I reached the center at around 7 AM and had my packed breakfast there and stopped drinking water at-least 30 min before the exam. 

    This what I did during the exam:
    • Since the exam is for 4 hours with 200 questions, time management is very important. I had set the target to complete 25 questions in 30 minutes without skipping any unmarked answer (kept some questions marked for review but selected an answer).
    • When I was in 125, 150 question, I was behind target by 2-3 minutes. I tried increasing my speed but at the same time was careful not to make mistakes. I had some lengthy problem and situational questions. 
    • I was able to complete 200 questions with 7 minutes left, I revisited all the marked questions, but as Satya sir suggested to make changes in answer option only when you are 100% sure.
    • I remember Satya Sir suggesting - do not let computer take the control, with around 25 seconds left, I clicked the submit button. 
    My heart started beating faster; in order to reduce my heart beat, I slowly answered the survey which is optional. But still my mind on the result and heart beat reduced negligibly. After completing the survey, my joy bounced on seeing “Congratulations” on the monitor.

    I would like to thank my spouse and kid to be with me in this journey and depriving them of spending weekends with them. 

    Brief Profile: Rangu Dutta - I have around 18 years of Project and Program management experience in variety of domains and multiple technologies. 

    Sunday, April 16, 2017

    PMP Success Story: Hard Work and A Lot of Sacrifices Finally Paid Off

    By Alok Jain , PMP

    I heard of PMP® exam quite a few years ago and also heard that it is very difficult to crack and at that time few of my managers flunked the exam. When I decided pursue this certification I had to select an institution to get coaching. At that time, I wasn’t aware of any good one. A friend who took training in PMP gave some reference but that didn’t suit my schedule. After some research, I came to know about one and it was suitable for my dates as well. I was fortunate in selection as I met Satya as coach.  

    PMP Coaching Experience
    I still remember when Satya was teaching the PMP processes, he told that at the end of training we will remember all the 47 processes and at the end of the 4th day it was absolutely correct. I personally remembered all the process at least by name and order.

    Satya relates most of the topics with day to day examples so it is very easy to understand. During the class, Satya will share lot of tips and ways to remember the things, you just need to be attentive in the class and you will get brief idea of almost all the topics and concepts.

    Own Study
    After attending the class room training in the end of October 2016, I first went through all the notes I have taken during the class, the material shared and all the blogs/articles Satya has asked to read during the classroom training.

    Satya’s eBook - I Want To Be A PMP

    Then I requested Satya for access to his book “I Want To Be A PMP”, I started going through the book and I must admit that Satya has written the book in a very easy and understandable language. The book is very precise and covers everything with examples, lot of tips to remember the content. 

    There are lot of videos shared by Satya which explains some of the difficult topics in detail. Moreover, Satya puts constant efforts in explaining the topics and keeps on sending the updates to the books.

    Honestly speaking this is the only book I had referred along with the PMBOK® guide. But before even opening PMBOK guide, I have had a thorough walkthrough of Satya’s book and I felt that almost every topic is covered by Satya in his book.

    • In the beginning, I used to study 1-2 hours a day for 3 month.
    • During this time, I have completed one thorough reading of Satya’s Book and somewhat PMBOK guide as well and attempted one full set of question paper, my score was 67%, then I realised that I have had to put some extra efforts.
    • I generally spend some time in my personal health by going for walk/Gym in the morning time but to put in some extra efforts I started studying more by cutting down my gym time and in the last month I have stopped even going to the Gym.  
    • Since I get up early and I have cut down my Gym time I used to get 4-5 hours in the morning so I have utilised this time to study and I have started scoring well in the mock test paper.
    • I realised that it’s the high time for me to schedule the exam, So I scheduled my exam just after 10 days as I was scoring very well in mock papers.
    • I utilised those 10 days in studying as much as I can and stopped studying one day before the exam.

    PMP Exam Experience
    • Since I am an early bird I had scheduled my exam in the morning hours i.e. starting at 8:00AM on 3rd April 2017.
    • I reached exam centre well on time and my exam started 10-15 mins early as I took very less time in reading the instructions.
    • I had received numerical questions on Earned Value Measurement (EVM), Critical Path Measurement (CPM), and Decision Tree Analysis (DTA). 
    • Most of the theoretical questions were scenario based; also, I had received questions on type of documents being updated in processes. 
    • In the very first hour I was able to complete 60 questions. I have not taken any break until I have completed 150 questions, then I took a break and was able to complete 200 questions in 3.5 hours.
    • Work was still not over as I had marked lot of questions and I had to review them, and just before 30 seconds I had ended my exam.

    And after few minutes I can see congratulations on my screen, it is the moment for which I had put in lot of efforts, I compromised on plenty of things and in the end I was fortunate that my hard work and efforts which I had put were successful.  

    I would like to take this opportunity to thank my wife and family for their sacrifice and Satya for his guidance to make me PMP certified.

    Brief Profile 
    Alok Jain: I am currently working as Assistant Consultant in Tata Consultancy Services and I have almost 9 years of experience in development, IT service management, transition management and IT project management.

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    Thursday, April 06, 2017

    PMP Success Story: A Long-Awaited Dream Came True

    By Ajanta Behera, PMP


    I had always been hearing of PMP® success stories from few of my colleagues since 2011.I had also heard that PMP certification is very tough. Since then, I had a dream of earning PMP credential. In earlier years, I put in some thought of doing PMP, but the determination was not that strong. Hence even though it was there in my subconscious mind, I never got a strong calling – until recently and received my PMP credential on 5th April, 2017. 

    I was working in my former company as a senior support analyst.  I used to perform well in my current role and was always waiting for the right time to get promotion to the management level. There came an opportunity once in the team, and my manager got promoted to the next level. However, I could have been promoted easily, to replace his position. 

    But as it is said, good things in life do not come easily; they need to be earned. Next in few days, it was announced that our company is getting closed. At that moment, I decided to shift my career from the technical background to the management side, as I strongly believe I am born to be a manager. That was the moment that sparked a thought of me pursuing PMP certification.

    PMP Coaching Experience
    Once I made up my mind of pursuing PMP, I looked up for the classroom training for PMP and I found that the days were quite suitable for me from 21st Jan 2017 to 29th Jan 2017, over the weekends.

    I still remember that day, when we were waiting for Satya Sir and he came in around 9.30 a.m. He was suffering from a very bad cold. He was also not keeping well. He started with one round of introduction for all the aspiring candidates for PMP.  Then he started giving details on the topics for PMP.  

    More than us, Satya sir had the confidence that we would be PMP certified someday. His knowledge on each and every topic of PMP says that he knows the content in and out.  He constantly gave us information on what is important from the exam point of view, and which one should we focus more. After each chapter, there was a rapid question answer session, which we had to answer ourselves. Then the discussion of why a particular choice was correct and many quicker and smarter ways to remember the concepts. 

    The way Satya Sir delivered each topic - made each topic so easy to understand and it was so easy to remember. It clearly shows that Satya sir has put in a lot of effort himself and that is one reason why many of his students are able to come out with flying colours. He made the formulas so easy to remember. 

    It is well said, that a student’s life can be well carved with a great teacher. Satya sir was another great inspiration for me to complete my PMP certification.

    Own Study
    After attending Satya sir’s classroom training, I had to make up my mind for registering in the PMI site. I registered within one week and then filled up the application in the PMI site. Then filled up the form and submitted it for approval to the PMI. Within 7 working days, I got a mail that I can schedule my exam. 

    I had also ordered the hard copy of the PMBOK® Guide and had thought of completing it once, along with Satya Sir’s Book “I Want To Be A PMP”, before scheduling the exam. I scheduled my exam for 5th of April 2017. This happened somewhere around Feb 2017. Then the extensive preparation phase started. Being a mother of an active girl child and no support at home, it was a tough challenge which looked quite impossible in the beginning. But my constant perseverance, determination, hard work and last but not the least extensive support of my husband and my daughter finally helped me to clear the PMP yesterday as planned. 

    When I look back at the way of doing preparation, I did the followings:

    • I used to put 6-7 hours of time daily for the preparation, getting up early in the morning, sleeping late. 
    • Even When I was travelling or went to a party, I always had the PMBOK Guide and Satya sir’s book, I Want To Be A PMP, handy with me.  These were the most important guides throughout the preparation time. 
    • I also referred Rita MulCahy’s book only for questions, Christopher Scordo book for the 1000 questions.
    • I had also solved the question sets provided by Satya sir. I had made it a point to complete around 30 to 50 questions every day
    • It was practice, practice and practice all throughout the day. Satya sir’s question papers were really tough. All the questions gave an insight to me how to find a solution for a given situation or what would be the right course of action. 
    • Day in and day out when I had time, I just got stuck to PMBOK and Satya sir’s book. Satya sir’s book had all the important information, and PMBOK was highly detailed. 
    • Combining everything, I would have attempted around 3500 questions. I had also downloaded code of ethics and professional conduct from the net and gone through it once.
    • On the exam day, I was fully calm and composed. As said by Satya sir in his book, that the preparation time was already over and it was time for performing in the examination.

    PMP Exam Experience

    I scheduled my exam for 5th April 2017 in Prestige Shantiniketan, Bangalore, India.  I knew the location as it is within my office campus. My exam was scheduled at 8AM in the morning. I went there at 6.30AM and reached by 7AM. I saw other people waiting for the exam. I completed all my formalities for the exam and went inside at 7.45 AM for the exam. 
    • During my practice of the questions and answers for PMP, I had come across several long questions many of the time. So, I had planned that I will take only one question one at a time. I had no option of coming back to the same question second time. So, at the first shot itself, I need to answer the questions and then move on to the next question. I had planned to review my questions only if I have time. 
    • And the same thing (one mentioned before) happened during the exam. Though I was thrilled to see a personalised question paper for me with my name written on the top, I had to focus on my questions. And see each and every question were a long essay. I had to go through them, sometimes reading them again and again to understand the questions well. 
    • I could only complete sharp 50 questions in 1 hour on average and I finished my exam only 10 minutes prior to the scheduled time. Once completed, I just took a deep breath and submitted my answers with the hope to see the congratulations message on the screen. 
    • Satya sir has rightly said that once you have answered the question, it would not be wise to change the answers at the last moment unless very sure. I followed the same principle. 

    Within few moments, I got one the best awaited messages of my life – “Congratulations …”! I was literally in tears. The feeling that I conquered the world can’t be explained. It needs to be felt.

    I want to be a volunteer for the PMI site. Also, would like to help people with their preparation phase for the exam. Though Satya sir is already there giving the much-needed knowledge and inspiration to become a PMP, I would like to extend the same to several other people. 

    Last but not the least, I want to thank Satya Sir, my parents, in laws, husband and my daughter to motivate me and keep me inspired to be a PMP.  This is a memory to be cherished throughout my life. Best experience with the best set of people.

    Brief Profile: Ajanta Behera, I am currently working as an Associate Project Manager, Standard Chartered Bank. I have 12 years of experience in various domains - Clinical, Insurance, and Finance. I have total of 12 years of experience in variety of domains - Clinical, Insurance, Finance. 

    Wednesday, April 05, 2017

    Book Review - I Want To Be A PMP: Concise Book with A Logical Flow

    By Abhinav Tiwari, PMP

    I cleared PMP exam on 3rd April, 2017. When I started preparing for the PMP Examination, I struggled at first to find study resources that fit my style of learning. 

    I was very happy when I discovered Satya's e-Book 'I Want To Be A PMP'. It not only presented the material in a manner that I appreciated (i.e. concisely and with a logical flow) but he also provides the reader with a proven strategy to prepare for and pass the exam as well as numerous learning tips in each chapter.

    Unique Features of the Book:
    • Practice questions at end of each chapter will reinforce the concepts and improve your understanding.
    • Videos on Earned Value Management (EVM), Critical Path Measurement (CPM), Conflict Management and Risk Response Strategies are added bonus and very well explained. 
    • Formula Gold card to learn the important formulas. 
    • Explanation of mathematical problems with clear examples.
    • Flow charts for Change Request, Deliverables, Change Log and Issue Log. 
    • Flow charts for work performance data, work performance information and work performance report. 
    • Emphasis on key inputs and outputs for each process. 
    • 600 questions in 3 mock tests which were very close to real exam and will help in determining weak and improvement areas.
    • Satya reinforces the concepts he wants to impart to the reader through use of repetition and carefully crafted process flow questions at the end of chapters.

    Brief Profile:
    Abhinav Tiwari, Senior Consultant, Workday & PeopleSoft Practice, PricewaterhouseCoopers(PwC). Linked profile: 

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