Friday, November 24, 2017

PMI-ACP Success Story: Agile is Transforming The IT Industry and ACP Credential Equips You to Lead this Transformation

By Geetu Bharti, PMI-ACP




Introduction
I was lucky to see the Agile transformation in my organization. Though initially challenging, the overall result was motivating. As a Scrum developer, I felt involved and empowered to make my work-related decisions and the customers were elated to see a working increment just after few sprints. 

This inspired me to explore more about Agile and I found PMI-ACP was a perfect way to expand my skillset and get an exposure to multi-faceted methodologies in agile.


ACP Coaching Experience
To obtain 21 Contact Hours of Agile Education I decided to go with classroom training. It was a 3-day weekend workshop conducted by Mr. Satya Narayan Dash.  


These 3 days were full of brainstorming, deep diving into Agile Values, its Principles, various Agile approaches and much more. 

Satya’s in-depth understanding of APM, Scrum, EVM, XP, Lean, Kanban, Kaizen concepts, coaching experience and the tips shared during the sessions really helped me learn, prepare well and gain confidence for the exam.

Last day, all aspirants gave a well-defined mock test which helped us to judge our current level and preparation that we would need to crack the ACP exam.


Own Study
Since it’s really hard to read through all the recommended books, I focused only on couple of books “I Want to Be an ACP” by Satya Narayan Dash and “PMI-ACP exam prep Guide” by Mike Griffiths. Classroom notes too came in handy while recollecting the information absorbed earlier during the 3-day classroom session.

As planned, I had majorly finished the two books by end of two months and spent remaining one month on practice tests to test my readiness and learning more about Agile, its best practices, and various tools and techniques (T&T) by browsing through online blogs and websites.

I also used a lot of other fine materials which I have mentioned in the References section.


Book Review - I Want To Be An ACP
Being an avid reader, I prefer reading eBooks as they come in handy, can be easily referenced and searched for any specific information. 

The book, I Want To Be An ACP, is divided into chapters based on each domain of the exam content outline (ECO) and has liberal use of visuals to help even a novice understand the complex concepts. Another key aspect of the book is the videos explaining the concepts of Earned Value Management (EVM) and Conflict Management in a very simple language with examples.  It covers all the seven domains extensively and neatly. Each chapter has Yogic Tips, followed by practice quizzes that make reading interesting and useful in reinforcing the concepts.

This book is an excellent resource for anyone keen on learning about Agile and preparing for ACP exam. In essence, full value for your money.

ACP Exam Experience
My strategy was to complete all the 120 questions in first 2 hours and use the remaining hour to revisit the bookmarked questions and walk-thru all the answers.  

The first few questions were confusing, lengthy to read and put me under pressure. I hardly faced any straight question. After an hour, I realized I still had around 70 questions left. I picked up the pace, marking tricky questions and proceeding to the next. I was able to complete all questions almost in time and had 45 minutes left to review.

The exam ended automatically and hurray! I saw the Congratulations message appear on the screen. I passed the PMI-ACP® exam with an overall score of “Above Target”.

Multiple questions were on SCRUM and XP Roles, Retrospectives, burndown chart, many scenarios based to calculate velocity, number of iterations required to complete the release, very few on Kanban and Lean and almost none on Crystal, FDD, and DSDM.
  
Suggestions for ACP Aspirants
Dos:
  • Be consistent in your preparation, download the study material in your smartphone and revise whenever feasible.
  • Practice as many as PMI-ACP® sample exam questions and target a score of 75%.
  • Plan your test strategy and try to execute it well but be prepared for a turn around on the fly.
Don’ts:
  • Don’t depend on PMI-ACP practice exams as your sole resource for studying.

Conclusion
Agile is transforming how IT industry works and PMI-ACP equips you with the knowledge to lead this transformation from the front.

References
600+ FREE PMI-ACP® Sample Exam Questions.
https://agilealliance.org/
https://managementyogi.blogspot.com/
https://www.mountaingoatsoftware.com/blog
https://www.scrumalliance.org/agile-resources



Brief Profile 
Geetu Bharti, Senior Scrum Developer and passionate Agile QA professional with 9+ years of experience in Project Management, Business Analysis, Development, and Testing. 






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Monday, November 20, 2017

PMP Protein: Gaps in Project Management in India’s Construction Industry

By Manjunath R, PMP




When people talk about project management in construction industry, they will be most likely referring to the Project Management Consultants (PMC). Unfortunately, PMCs lack knowledge, information and experience. Most of the PMCs concentrate on paperwork rather than actual work. The transition from one process to other is not controlled by PMCs; sometimes they don’t even notice the transition! PMCs limit their roles to mere documentation like checklists,work orders, bill of quantities (BOQ) and Schedules. The organizations lack information and knowledge about the actual functioning of PMC. They just deploy people at site who run around preparing checklists. Middle management will be focused on the schedules. Top management will be taking care of work orders and payments. 

Nevertheless, there are PMCs, who undoubtedly work professionally. They are usually engaged by big developers. The overheads required to accommodate the required infrastructure is little more, which can be absorbed by big project budgets. Surely, this is an investment, which will eventually have a remarkable value addition for the project as well as the performing organization. Generally, the project management offices (PMO) in these organizations will be handling portfolio and program management to share the overheads. However, it doesn’t mean the smaller projects can’t be carried out professionally. It needs custom tailored processes to suit the size of the infrastructure and overhead cost.


One more big misconception in construction industry is this: Project management is limited to PMCs. Developers often deploy the PMCs and then doze off. They usually wake up when they realize that the projects are off track – from schedule or cost or other perspectives.

It is important to know that the project management is required for the whole team. And the team includes developer, PMCs, contractors and other vendors. All have to play their role to make the project a successful endeavour. 


I’ve outlined a few reasons why many construction projects fail in India.

Reason #1: No understanding of Stakeholder and Stakeholder Management

The term “stakeholder” is a highly misunderstood term in construction industry. People who invest capital or end users are only considered to be stakeholders. Nothing can be further from truth. The identification of stakeholders is the most neglected thing. Even a small vendor who delays the supply of materials can make an impact on critical path of the schedule. He is also a stakeholder. Secondly, identification of stakeholders is a continuous process throughout the lifecycle of the project.  The levels of stakeholder engagement keep on changing from time to time. Stakeholders who are ‘neutral ‘may suddenly start ‘leading’ the project. People who are’ unaware’ may become ‘resistant’. This happens most of the time in construction industry. 

One more important fact is politics. Handling politics is inevitable part of stakeholder management. People fail to understand this. This is one of the reasons why projects end up being over budgeted or getting delivered beyond the timelines. 


Stakeholders have a direct impact on the project constraints. The whole of the project team should be made aware of this. They should be educated about this primarily. The next level is to make them accountable. Even the end user has to be educated about their role and the processes involved.

If case of small projects, usually team buy in is taken before any decision is made. this motivates the team to contribute. But, in case of bigger projects, the decision is made and passed on to the lower levels, not giving any room for discussion or brainstorming thus lacking team buy in. 

Reason #2: Unrealistic Budget with No Reserves and No Earned Value Management (EVM)
Usually, no contingencies or management reserves are planned in the cost budget, which makes it vulnerable. 

The quantities in the BOQ will not be peer reviewed, which makes the BOQ uncertain. The rates are only looked into for awarding purpose. When the project completes, there will be usually variances in the actual and planned due to the above mentioned reasons.

Biggest reason why earned value management can’t be applied to projects is the difference in BOQ and actual quantities. There is always a variance, if the BOQ quantities are not weighted properly. 

Reason # 3: The Forbidden Kingdom of Risk Management

Risk management is a forbidden kingdom. Construction industry is not aware of this aspect of project management. Projects are planned considering most positive situations. The threats and opportunities are never thought about while planning the project. Of course, the subjective and objective analysis is never looked into. This makes the projects vulnerable and projects will be at mercy of God. 

Reason #4: Lack of Fact Driven Decision Making in Change Control Boards

In Indian construction industry, this is a virtual board comprising of top management people who take decisions based of artefacts. The basis of decisions will be generally over shadowed by the influential personalities may be CEO/CFO/MD/Chairman of the organization. This will not make the decision unbiased.

Reason # 5: Quality Management and Schedule Management are 180 degrees apart

Quality and schedule doesn’t go hand in hand. Unrealistic timelines will be agreed to the end user, which makes it impossible to take care of quality aspects. For example, the curing period of 28 days for the slab as mentioned in the quality assurance can’t be followed, since, next level slab have to be caste within 7 days as per the agreed schedule. Of course, other methods of curing are adopted to compensate, but, it’s just a compromise again. 

Reason # 6: Project Charter is Unheard-Of

Most of the Project managers/Organizations haven’t heard of project charter. Believe it or not!Even if it is prepared, they might never refer back to it. In the sense, they don’t understand the significance of the project charter. Generally, top management authorizes the project manager to take over the project and an organization chart is submitted to the client/developer. The initial sign off will just be an agreement associated with BOQ. Sometimes, the special clauses will be missing in the contract agreement. Templates used for agreement are same for all the projects. 

Reason #7: Unprofessional Communications Management

This is not listed out professionally. Instead, project directory is referred. Communication is the main aspect of any project. Most of the project manager’s time is spent in communicating. If a project manager fails to keep the stakeholders in loop or to cascade any important message, the results may be awry.

Reason # 8: High Scope Creep

In other industries, scope is validated by the customer or end user after it is thoroughly inspected by project team. But, in construction industry (most organizations), client is free to walk in his apartment during construction and advise changes/customizations which is technically a scope creep. This will have a tangible negative impact on the cost baseline as well as the schedule base line. Few organizations don’t allow customization. They don’t even allow customers in the construction zone unnecessarily. Client relationship management has to be in place and has to function properly to avoid the scope issues. 

Reason #9: Lessons Are Never Learned
This has to be recorded by all of the project team and has to be stored a part of organizational process assets. With this, lessons learned can be archived by the project managers, to take benefit of the experiences of the project team from previous projects. This is never done in construction industry. 

Conclusion: Construction projects in India fail due to unprofessional and unscientific approach. A system has to be created and followed to get desired results. The major drawback in Indian construction industry is people find their own via media for every process. They don’t even standardize it. Short cuts may yield short term results. Long term benefits can be yielded by proper Project Management. It’s truly a value addition.

Author: Manjunath R 
Manjunath R is a project management professional in construction industry . He is a graduate Civil Engineer.He is passed out from BIET (VTU) Davanagere in year 2005.He has been involved in construction industry as Deputy General Manager working for PDD Infratech. He has worked with several reputed organizations in Bangalore. He is having 12 plus years of hands on experience .He is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) from Project Management Institute (PMI). 





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    Sunday, November 12, 2017

    PMI-ACP Success Story: Learn Agile Concepts in Greater Depth To Earn This Credential

    By Umasankar Lakshmana Dass, PMI-ACP




    Introduction
    I’ve been working as a team lead in Scrum projects for the past 6 years but I didn’t have any certifications on it. Hence, I decided to study agile in greater depth. 

    First in April 2017, I completed my Scrum master certification. Later, I decided to achieve Agile Certified Practitioner (ACP) before the end of 2017.

    ACP Coaching Experience
    I nominated myself for the PMI ACP training in July 2017. I completed by training end of July from KnowledgeHut. The classes were conducted over weekends (22nd, 23rd and 29th July 2017) so there was no impact to the work. Of course, it was challenging to compromise the weekends. All logistics were well taken care of and absolutely no hiccups on all three days. 

    We had very interactive sessions and wonderful batch-mates. And we had one of the best coaches - Mr Satya Narayana Dash. Since he has hands-on experience with agile coaching, the practical examples he gave us was very useful in addition to the classroom exercise. 


    What I liked the most in the sessions is that the focus was not limited to passing exam but to gain the knowledge on agile values, principles, practices and methodologies.

    Good thing with ACP is that you just need to understand the concepts behind values. That’s it. No need to memorize anything. It is important to read out the Agile manifesto, its 4 values and the 12 principles. Also, more than reading, it is also about applying the thoughts behind it.

    The preparation starts from being attentive in the class. From the questions I received during exam, I felt that at least 60% – 65% could be easily answered if we just go with the training flow. There were many key takeaways from the training -  the key concepts, shortcuts, discussions on different scenarios, exercises, etc. 

    Own Study
    After the coaching completed, I have revised all the seven domains in the first week. This helped me to remember many of the concepts and it helped me to face the exam with confidence. Later I spent 1 hour every day for two months. Also, in parallel I submitted my online application.

    I ordered Andy Crowes book. After reading the book twice in a month, I took up mock tests from the book. Apart from this book, it is the training material and the class notes I have gone through for my preparation.

    I wrote all the key points in a notepad while learning. This will help you to remember and recollect. I kept my learning notepad handy and referred to it whenever possible. 
    It was tough to allocate one hour every day for two months but I kept myself committed to it. It is all about being agile with yourself.

    ACP Exam Experience
    Once I was confident after finishing my daily study for 2 months, I scheduled my examination for 2nd November (4 weeks after preparation). I choose the morning 8 am batch so that I have a fresh mind. 

    To crack the exam, I had only one strategy to “Give my best” and answer all the 120 questions on time. I also read few experiences of other successful candidates on how they took the exam.  

    I had most of the questions from Scrum and Kanban methodologies and questions related roles in those. It is important to understand all methodologies, principles, values, roles, artefacts and practices. As long as we believe in agile values, understand the fundamentals behind each of the framework/methodology, it is simple to pass the exam. I read all the tasks in all domains.

    The primary advice is “Do not panic”. There will be lot of twisted situational questions that you have not seen in your mock ups. Keep yourself calm and focus on the options. You will be able to figure out the answer easily. Also, take one or two breaks to relax and focus more during the exam. 

    Suggestions for ACP Aspirants
    Dos
    • Revise regularly.
    • Buy a book a for preparation and also for your reference.
    • Write and learn during preparation.
    • Keep calm, never panic. 
    Don’ts
    • Never procrastinate your preparation after classroom training.

    Conclusion
    First, I’ll be very happy to update my linked in profile and my signature with PMI ACP ;-). My primary aim is to learn and explore other methodologies in addition to Scrum and Kanban. In addition, I’m aiming to train other colleagues in implementing the right agile practices.  

    After passing the exam, I’m feeling on the top of this world. My sincere thanks to my coach, my batch mates, my colleagues and my family for supporting to achieve this certification. 

    Brief Profile 
    L Umasankar
    Team Lead 
    Having 12+ years of IT experience in Mainframe application programming with expertise in banking domain in areas of maintenance activities and project management.




    Footnote: This is a new initiative taken to share the experiences in ACP exam by fellow professionals and to inspire others in learning and applying Agile values, principles and practices. ACP exam from PMI takes time to prepare, a deeper understanding on Agile values and principles and also ability to learn and apply a number of Agile methodologies/frameworks in Lean-Agile spectrum. I am thankful to Umasankar for sharing his experience, which I believe will enrich and guide others in their journey for PMI-ACP credential.



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    Monday, November 06, 2017

    PMP Success Story: Understand the Concepts, Have Courage to Reach The Exam Centre and Do It With Confidence

    By Shikhar Vaid, PMP




    Introduction
    Over a period, the importance of Project Management has been increasing and evolving at the same time. The constraints in project management are no longer only scope, time and cost. Other constraints like quality, resources and risk have gained equal importance. Additionally, none of the above stated is enough for an appropriate project management in modern world. 

    It must also be in sync with Organization Strategy. Being a Strategy professional, it did excite and push me towards getting PMP certification. 

    Few of the PMP benefits, which augmented my decision, are as below: 
    • Worldwide-recognised certification, provided by world's leading project management organization.
    • Applicable and holds equal credentials across all industries.
    • Ranked 4th worldwide after security certifications.
    • Wide range of Job Opportunities for PMP certified professionals.

    PMP Coaching Experience
    While shortlisting the institute for my PMP training, I narrowed down my search to two providers. Knowledge Hut was not a part of that list. However, one of my friends who was trained under Satya sir referred me. I therefore enrolled myself for PMP training there.


    First day I entered the class with the mind-set that PMP training would be boring and more theoretical. However, I must say, if the trainer is passionate and understands the subject; he will make the subject interesting for aspirants to help them to gain most out of it. Best part of Satya sir's class is that they are interactive and the subject taught with real life examples. In my PMP journey, Satya sir's training has played a vital role. I must say there are two ways to take advantage of Satya Sir's training classes.

    • Attend training merely to get 35 contact hours only.
                                                    - OR - 
    • Attend training to understand the concept by being more participative and interactive. Earn the needed contact hours and then practice for few weeks and complete the certification.

    Choice is all yours

    I grant 50% credit of my PMP certification preparation to the training I received from Satya sir.

    Own Study
    My study preparation started with high hope and confidence with a plan to finish “I Want To Be A PMP” followed by PMBOK. This to be followed by mock tests and go through “I Want To Be A PMP” once again before appearing for the D day (26th July’17). I planned to spend 2-3 hours a day and 4-6 hours on weekends to stay aligned with my plan. Nothing worked out. I followed the schedule for 10 days. I had completed my studies until Project Scope Management before a medical emergency came my way. I cancelled my D date (26th July) and could not start my preparation again until mid-September. 
    Post this, the first step I took was to book an exam date on 26th October’17 and then start my preparation from scratch. Now at this point, I had 45 days to equip myself with the sufficient knowledge and confidence to appear for the exam. I made my study plans as below:
    • Understand the flow of all 47 processes within 10 knowledge areas (KA) and 5 process group (PGs)
    • Understand the reasoning behind the existence of all processes
    • Visit and understand the Inputs and Outputs of all processes
    • Clear understanding of Input, Tools and Techniques and Outputs (ITTOs) within all processes, their existence and importance
    • My focus was to master and aim at Exceed Targets for Initiating (2), Executing (8), Monitoring & Controlling (11) and Closing (2). However, I aimed for getting Target in Planning (24)

    After carefully understanding and completing “I Want To Be A PMP”, I started taking mock tests. I was hitting the accuracy of 68%-70% in all Mocks. After writing the Mock test, I used to visit the question where I had gone wrong followed by reading and understanding the concept once again in same book as mentioned above. My aim was not to answer these questions wrong ever again. Also, if one knows the concept it will be easy to answer the questions in less than 1 min. You will be having 1.2 min for every question.

    In addition, I frequently visited and read all the pages Satya Sir had asked to bookmark in the classes to further hone my skills and concepts on important topics.

    A thought of postponing the exam did cross my mind many a times but I kept going forward with a confidence of clearing it in first attempt with a thought “It’s now or never”.
    At last, I did achieve my aim of exceed Targets in Initiating, Monitoring & Controlling and Closing. However, I had to manage with Target in Executing.


    Book Review - I Want To Be A PMP
    As said earlier, 50% of the credit goes to the training, the rest goes to “I Want To Be A PMP” book. When the book was mentioned in one of the classes, I took the discussion lightly thinking that it is a marketing technique for an author to push for his books for more sales. However, I did purchase the book after thinking about it for few days. 

    THIS WAS THE BEST DECISION I TOOK THAT SHAPED MY CERTIFICATION JOURNEY. 


    This is the ONLY book I read, this is the ONLY book I referred to for my Mock tests. I found that this book is very interactive. The flow of information, highlight areas and Yogic Tips are so well designed for easy understanding of each concept for any PMP aspirant. For me it is a PMP Bible, as you get a lifetime access to this book and it is being updated on regular basis as and when there is a change from PMI towards PMP exams and course materials. 

    One of the greatest aspects of this book is that the important topics all have videos explained by Satya sir himself. You have the content, tips, videos and blogs all and everything needed to equip yourself available at one place. 

    The book is divided into logical order of knowledge areas with chapter end questions, full-length questions, and Exam Content Outline (ECO).


    IF YOU ASK ME, THIS BOOK IS A MUST FOR ANY PMP ASPIRANT.

    PMP Exam Experience
    I scheduled my exam in Prometric centre, Whitefield Bangalore. This is the first time I was visiting the centre and was careful about the traffic during peak hours on outer ring road. I had my exam scheduled for 8:30AM. However, I had light breakfast and left early from my home and reached the exam centre by 7:15AM. I appeared before the reception and completed the formalities by 7:45 AM, before I was allowed to take my seat and start the exam. You cannot carry anything inside the examination hall other than your identity proof. You will be provided a notepad and pencils, which you would be returning to the concerned coordinator upon completion of exam. If you want to use calculator during the exam, do ask. However, there will be a digital calculator on the computer screen itself. I opted for physical calculator. 

    The strategy that I used to crack 200 questions in 4 hours was to spend and understand question in 15 min and answer the same within 1 min. If doubtful about the answer, mark the question to visit them again at last before being confident on marked choices. I completed all 200 questions in 3.5 hours. Now, I had 30 min to revisit the questions which I had marked earlier and then hit the final answers to all such question. Wherever I was not confident about the answer, I started striking off the options, which were least possible for being an answer to arrive at correct one.

    The questions were mostly on the below subjects:
    • Stakeholders Management.
    • Creating WBS.
    • Risk Response strategies
    • Change Request (Very Important)
    • Quality Assurance
    • Close procurements
    • EV, PV, AC, ETC, BAC
    • Critical Path as well as Critical Chain Method (Very Important)
    • Crashing and Fast tracking (Very Important)

    Suggestions for PMP Aspirants
    Dos:
    • Do understand the concept and reasoning behind existence of every process.
    • Do understand the Inputs, Tools and Techniques and Outputs (ITTOs) of every process.
    • Understand the flow of processes within KAs and PGs.
    • While attempting to answer the questions in exam, do understand what process group the question falls under. Understanding this itself will make you look for the right option within the answers given.
    • Do read PMBOK, if reading multiple sources helps in understanding the concept better My situation of reading “I Want To Be A PMP” was best suited for me.
    • Do have a copy of “I Want To Be A PMP” as it can be accessed anywhere, if you have internet connection.
    • Try to think of real life examples and align the concepts for better understanding.
    • Do have a courage to reach the exam centre and appear for it.
    • Practice, Practice, Practice.

    Don’ts
    • Do not mug up anything.
    • Do not underestimate the exam questions. The questions are not direct but situation based.
    • Do not take the preparation lightly. PMP certification is one of the best investment you will make for yourself.
    • Do not panic when you get tricky questions. Trust your preparation.
    • Do not ever get demotivated. Believe in yourself.

    Conclusion
    I look forward to leveraging these skills and knowledge, coupled with my experience and lead projects within consulting industry successfully.

    Brief Profile: 
    Shikhar Vaid, 8+ Years of experience in Strategy & Operations across multinational companies catering to financial services, healthcare, retail & manufacturing industries.