Wednesday, August 22, 2018

PMP Success Story: Mission PMP

By Shalini Pathak, PMP

I wanted to advance my carrier in management line so my husband told me to get the PMP® credential. And that's how I started to prepare for the PMP certification.

PMP 35 Contact Hours Experience
After all my research, I joined Satya’s classes for my training. I did google search and found good feedback about his classes and finally reached to attend the training on 10th March 2018.

Before the training I had read the PMBOK® Guide once. But it was Satya’s teachings that made sense to me and cleared all my doubts. I still remember all his tips and particularly the sentence “Most people could not pass PMP because they could not gather the courage to attempt it”. It kept me motivated.

Note down all the one liners which Satya tells in the class room. Along with that follow the examples, questions, videos and specially graphs. Take notes of all.

Listen carefully what Satya says when a new knowledge area starts.

Own Study
I started studying from November 2017 but only reading books were very boring until I attended training.

After training the PMBOK new version was introduced due to which I became little restless. But as I Satya had mentioned that there are not too many changes in the new edition. Hence, I decided to put my best in the first attempt. 

I used to study while commuting in the auto to and from the office. Continuity matters in the preparation. I had installed few free mobile apps which I used to solve on the way in auto. I used to study 2 hours on weekdays and minimum 4 hours over the weekends 

Before exam which was on Tuesday, I took Monday off and Saturday to Monday till 5pm I devoted my full time to ITTOs, their concepts why it is in particular process and other important topics which I had made notes during study. I was always getting 65 to 70 percent in mock tests. I attended more than 2000 questions which were available in the internet.

Due to preparation I was not able to spend time with my son which was a biggest motivation for me to clear in first attempt. Credit goes to my husband who always motivated me and helped me to achieve me this certificate.

PMP Exam Experience
I took exam appointment in Whitefield centre on 31st July 2018. My strategy was to finish every question within one minute so that I can save time for mathematical questions.

The test paper was full of tricky questions. 
  • I had to choose the document which will be updated as output or part of input to the process. 
  • Three to four questions on control chart and scatter diagram. 
  • Around twenty to thirty questions were on risk management aspects and change requests. 
  • It appeared as paper is full of Stakeholder Management, Communications Management, Risk Management, Procurement Management and Resource Management knowledge areas.
  • Four to five questions were mathematical and they were straight forward.
  • I did not get any agile related, best practices questions or emerging trend questions.

I was not sure if I can sit for so long and hence didn’t drink much water. But I didn’t feel the need to get up and refresh myself. I had put noise cancelling headphones which kept me concentrate on my test as noise is biggest distraction for me.

I finished my paper in 3hrs 45 mins. I had marked 8 questions for review in which I changed only 1 answer. After finishing when the result process was in progress I was not sure about result as you don't get much time to think about your answer as speed matters.
I passed the exam with 3 Above Targets and 2 Targets. 

Suggestions for PMP Aspirants
  • Use your commute time. Be always in touch with your preparation, even for 15mins. It helps to keep the aim of PMP in your mind. 
  • Don't read many books. Choose only one book apart from PMBOK to clear your concepts. 
  • What is not in PMBOK guide, will not be in the PMP exam (very less likely). It’s like what is not in the WBS, is not part of the project.

I hope that it will help me enhance my personal and professional growth.

Brief Profile
Name: Shalini Pathak
Role: Senior Lead QE
Organization: Tavant Technologies

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Decision Tree Analysis in Risk Management

Decisions and uncertainties abound in life. Take something as simple as deciding where to go for a short vacation. Do you go to a nearby mountain because your friends like it or to a faraway beach because you like it? The option of staying near the beach may be cheaper but would require a longer travel time, whereas going to the mountains may be a bit expensive, but you’ll arrive there earlier! Which option would you to take?

Or say you’re remodeling your house, and you’re choosing between two contractors. Contractor A will cost more than Contractor B. But B isn’t known to be a stickler for time, and there will be a high chance (or probability) for delay, whereas Contractor A, though comparatively expensive has a greater chance of finishing the work on time. Which contractor would you choose?

In both situations uncertainties exist with respect to investment and time. While making your decision, you’ll carefully consider the alternatives and see the possible outcomes. It’s likely that you’ll choose the outcome with the highest value or the one having the least negative impact.

Uncertainties lead to risks. Before taking actions on risks, you analyze them both qualitatively and quantitatively, as we’ve explored in a previous article. By quantifying the risks, you gain confidence.

Let’s take the second situation and quantify it. Let’s say that Contractor A will cost you $50,000 and has a 10 percent chance of coming in late whereas Contractor B will cost you far less — $35,000 — but with a 25 percent chance of being late. For being late, the penalty on either contractor is $10,000. With this information, is it not easier for you to decide which one to hire?

Projects behave in a similar fashion. They’re executed in uncertain environments, whether related to scope, schedule, budget, resources or something else. And like daily life, projects also must be executed despite their uncertainties and risks. If you quantify the risks, decision making becomes much easier.

For quantitative risk analysis, decision tree analysis is an important technique to understand. For your preparation of the Project Management Institute® Risk Management Professional (PMI-RMP)® or Project Management Professional (PMP)® examinations, this concept is a must-know.

Expected monetary value (EMV) analysis is the foundational concept on which decision tree analysis is based. What does EMV do? Let’s work through an example.

Expected Monetary Value (EMV) Analysis

First, don’t confuse EMV with the term EVM! The latter stands for earned value management, whereas EMV stands for expected monetary value, which is completely different. EMV is a tool and technique for the “Perform Quantitative Risk Analysis” process (or simply, quantitative analysis), where you numerically analyze the effect of identified risks on overall project objectives.

The formula for EMV of a risk is this:
Expected Monetary Value (EMV) 
= Probability of the Risk (P) * Impact of the Risk (I)
or simply,
EMV = P * I

EMV calculates the average outcome when the future includes uncertain scenarios — positive (opportunities) or negative (threats). Opportunities are expressed as positive values, while threats have negative values. Both the values will be considered by adding them together.

Example: There’s a negative risk (or threat) with a 10 percent probability of prohibiting the execution of a work package. If that risk happens, the impact of not executing the package is estimated at $40,000. For the same work package, there’s a positive risk with a 15 percent probability and impact estimated at a positive $25,000. Should you execute the work package?

EMV for the threat = P * I = 10% * (-$40,000) = -$4,000
EMV for the opportunity = P * I = 15% * (+$25,000) = $3,750
Now, the EMV = – $4,000 + $3,750 = -$250

Obviously, you don’t want to execute the work package, because you’ll lose money on it. When a work package or activity is associated with a risk, you can find the individual EMV. In other words, you quantify the individual risks.

That covered EMV for an individual work package. How about the overall project risk? A project, after all, will have many work packages, right?

To figure this out, you calculate the EMV by multiplying the value of each possible outcome (impact) by its likelihood of occurrence (probability) and then adding the results — which leads us back to our original topic. A common use of EMV is found in decision tree analysis.

Decision Tree Analysis

Decision tree analysis (DTA) uses EMV analysis internally. A decision tree, as the name suggests, is about making decisions when you’re facing multiple options.
Here are some of the key points you should note about DTA:
  • DTA takes future uncertain events into account. The event names are put inside rectangles, from which option lines are drawn.
  • There will be decision points (or “decision nodes”) and multiple chance points (or “chance nodes”) when you draw the decision tree. Each point has different symbols: a filled up small square node is a “decision node”; a small, filled-up circle is a “chance node”; and a reverse triangle is the end of a branch in the decision tree. These are noted in this table:
  • Because this format results in a diagram that resembles a tree branching from left to right, decision tree is an apt name! To analyze a decision tree, move from left to right, starting from the decision node. This is where the branching starts. Each branch can lead to a chance node. From the chance node, there can be further branching. Finally, a branch will end with end-of-branch symbol.
  • The probability value will typically be mentioned on the node or a branch, whereas the cost value (impact) is at the end.
  • Next come the calculations on the branches of the tree. To calculate, move from right to left on the tree. The cost value can be on the end of the branch or on the node. Just follow the branch to do the calculation.
  • The best decision is the option that gives the highest positive value or lowest negative value, depending on the scenario.

Let’s work through an example to understand DTA’s real world applicability.

Example: You’re doing a prototype for your project, but you’re not sure whether to proceed with this prototype. If you do the prototype, it will cost you $100,000; and, of course, if you don’t pursue it, there will be no cost. If you do the prototype, there is 30 percent chance that the prototype might fail, and for that the cost impact will be $50,000. However, if the prototype succeeds, the project will make $500,000. If you do not do any prototype, you’re already taking a risk, the chance of which is 80 percent with a failure impact of $250,000. But, again, without a prototype, should you succeed, the project will make the same money as mentioned before. What should you do?

To begin your analysis, start from the left and move from the left to the right. First, draw the event in a rectangle for the event — “Prototype or Not.” This obviously will lead to a decision node (in the small, filled-up square node as shown below).

From there, you have two options — “Do Prototype” and “Don’t Prototype.” They are also put in rectangles as shown below.

Each option will lead to two events or chances — success or failure — branching out from the chance nodes. Taking the first option, if it fails, which has a 30 percent chance, the impact will be $50,000. If it succeeds (a 70 percent chance), there’s no cost, but there is a payoff of $500,000. These are noted on the arrows in the below figure. Similarly, for the second decision, “Don’t Prototype”. (Click on the image to have an enlarged view.) 

By looking at it, can you conclude anything? I can’t. So let’s do the EVM analysis. To calculate, as noted before, you move from right to left. First, calculate the net path value along each branch of the decision tree. The net path value for a path over the branch is the difference between payoff minus costs. Next, at every chance node, calculate the EMV. From these EMVs, we can find out the EMV of at the decision node. The decision giving the highest positive value or lowest negative value is selected.

This is summarized in this table. (Click on the image to have an enlarged view.) 

EMV for Chance Node 1, the first circle:

The net path value for the prototype with 70 percent success = Payoff – Cost:
= +$500,000 – $100,000 
= +$400,000

The net path value, for the prototype with a 30 percent failure = Payoff – Cost:
= -$50,000 – $100,000 
= -$150,000

EMV of chance node 1 = [70% * (+$400,000)] + (30% * (-$150,000)]
= +$280,000 – $45,000 
= +$235,000

EMV for Chance Node 2 (the second circle):
The net path value for the prototype with a 20 percent success = Payoff – Cost:
= +$500,000 – $0 
= +$500,000

The net path value for the prototype with 80 percent failure = Payoff – Cost:
= -$250,000 – $0 
= -$250,000

EMV of chance node 2 = [20% * (+$500,000)] + (80% * (-$250,000)]
= +$100,000 – $200,000 
= -$100,000

These results are shown in this figure. 

Which alternative would you take? Look at the EMV of the decision node (the filled-up square). That’s +$235,000. With the other option — no prototyping — you’re losing money. Hence, you should go for the prototype.

Decision tree analysis can be applied to various project management situations where you’re faced to options or alternatives.

Coming back to the example of the house remodel, can you now say which vendor to choose? You can draw a diagram like the previous ones, or you can do a quick calculation:

For Contractor A, the cost will be:
Pay cost + Payback for delay
= (-$50,000) + 10% * ($10,000) 
= -$50,000 + $1,000 
= -$49,000

For Contractor B, the cost will be:
Pay cost + Payback for delay
= (-$35,000) + 25% * ($10,000) 
= -$35,000 + $2,500 
= -$32,250

The best answer? With the available data, you’d go with Contractor B, even though this vendor has a higher chance of being delayed.

It’s worth noting that the application of decision tree analysis isn’t only limited to risk management. DTA can be applied to machine learning for artificial intelligence (AI) and data mining in big data analytics.

Go forth and calculate your way to better decisions!

[1] I Want To Be A RMP: The Plain and Simple Way To Be A RMP, by Satya Narayan Dash
[2] I Want To Be A PMP: The Plain and Simple Way To Be A PMP, by Satya Narayan Dash
[3] Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) Guide, by Project Management Institute (PMI)
[4] Practice Standard for Project Risk Management, by Project Management Institute (PMI)


This article was first published by MPUG on 20th February, 2017.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

PMP Success Story: Maintain A Laser Like Focus On Your Goal

By Ashita Singh, PMP

My decision to do PMP® was heavily influenced by the value of this certification in North America. I work for a very large American company and in my daily interactions with my business counterparts (who work in the US and Canada), I felt that getting PMP certified will not only strengthen my credentials, but will also boost my project management skills. 

PMP 35 Contact Hours Experience
After I decided to pursue PMP certification, I spent about a week looking for good PMP coaches and training institutes in Bangalore. After all the research, I zeroed down on one as they had good reviews and offered the best value for money. 

I signed up for PMP 6th edition 35 contact hours of learning in the week of 24th Mar – 1st Apr. Satya's classes were spread over two weekends. I found him very knowledgeable about Project Management and related concepts. It was apparent that he is an expert in this field. The articles that he has written for Microsoft® Project User Group helped me clearly understand so many tricky concepts. I continued going through his articles even after the class and whenever I had confusion about any topic in the PMBOK® guide. Satya also has a very good-natured humorous side which made it very easy for the class to connect with him. His tips and tricks on how to prepare for the exam were also very helpful. 

Own Study
After I finished the 35 contact hours, completed my online application on PMI website and submitted it. It was accepted within a week. I booked my exam date for 25th July in 2nd week of May. This gave me about 2 months of preparation time. I decided that I will give 2-3 hours of time on weekdays and about 5-6 hours on weekends. There were days when I studied a bit less, but there were also days when I studied more than I planned. The key for me was to maintain a consistent pace and focus. 

I started studying for PMP from PMBOK guide and other sources from mid-May. I read one chapter from PMBOK and then followed it up with the corresponding chapter from other sources. After I finished both the books once, I took couple of mock tests and scored between 75-86%. Then I read PMBOK guide two times more while continuing to take mock tests online and other sources. I signed up for free one-month subscription on and downloaded their PMP question bank. As I was taking the mock tests I somehow felt that the questions that I was doing seemed too easy to be PMP standard. I started looking for harder questions and I found some from the internet. As I was taking the test, I kept making notes of my areas of improvement. I went back to PMBOK guide and other sources again and again to clear some concepts. Each time I read, my concepts became clearer than the last time. It is critical to go through the PMBOK guide and other supplementary book(s) at least 2-3 times. 

The hardest part of the preparation was to remain committed to the plan. Like most people I too had work and family commitments, and to balance all of it while remaining focused on the exam was quite challenging. Every time I’d slip from my schedule, I’ll ensure I compensate for it over the weekend. 

PMP Exam Experience
I scheduled my exam for 25th July for afternoon slot. On the day of the exam I didn’t look at any of the study material as I wanted to be relaxed and calm. I reached the venue an hour before the scheduled time. The venue was just across the road from my house ;-) and in the same building as my office. 

I was asked at the centre if I am ready and willing to start the exam early. I said “Sure, why not.” So, they checked me in and I was seated at my desk about 30 mins before the scheduled start time. 

My strategy for the exam was to read questions and the options extremely carefully. Sometimes even the placement of a preposition changes the meaning of the entire sentence. If you don’t read the question carefully, you will get the answer wrong. This was a learning I had from taking the mock tests. The other thing I focussed on was to have at least 20 mins in the end, to go through the “Marked for review” questions. I targeted to maintain a pace of 50 questions in 50-55 mins. 
  • I got about only 3-4 mathematical questions with very basic calculations. The mathematical questions were quite easy and straightforward. 
  • Most questions were situational and more than one answer seemed to be correct. 
  • I had quite a few questions on change and configuration management which was a bit weird because PMBOK guide didn’t devote many pages to this topic. 
  • A lot of questions on change requests and subsequent process flow. 
  • Most tricky questions were from Executing and Monitoring & Controlling process groups. Had to read questions very carefully and 2-3 times to determine at which stage is the project in its lifecycle, because the answer would change depending upon that. 
  • There were at least 25- 30 questions that made me really use all of my brain power. I marked these questions for review at the end. I had decided before I started the exam that I will not get stuck in tricky questions and waste precious time. 
I completed all 200 questions with 40 minutes to spare. So, I used that time to go back to the “Marked for review” questions. I changed my answer for almost half of them because when I went back to those questions and thought very deeply over each of the options, the correct answer almost emerged to me like a secret hiding in plain sight ;-) .
The exam really makes you think. I finished reviewing all questions with 3 minutes to spare. I decided to hit the submit button. As soon as I did that, my heart started racing and beating so hard I could literally hear it.  You have to click on a few more screens where you’re asked to give feedback about the test centre. I clicked through those screens with shivering hands. Finally, the screen came for which I was waiting. It said I scored Above Target in all sections with an overall Above Target for the exam. 

Suggestions for PMP Aspirants
  • Extremely important to remain focussed and committed to your goal during exam preparation. 
  • Read PMBOK guide at least twice. Use a good supplementary book to go with it. Read that too at least twice. 
  • Practice as many questions as you can. I’d recommend anything between 1500-2000 questions is good. Make sure you do good quality questions. Buy them if required. 
  • Keep a tab of your areas of improvement and make sure you bridge your knowledge gaps by reading content online. Satya’s blog and his articles are a great source of knowledge. 
  • Remain cool, calm and composed during the exam. 
  • Eat well and hydrate yourself well before you start the exam. You’ll be starving towards the end of it ;-).
  • Do not use too many books to study for PMP. PMBOK guide with one supplementary book is more than enough. 
  • Don’t waste time doing free questions from the internet. The questions on the exam are way too tough than what you will find for free online. 
  • Do not spend more than 2 mins on a question in the exam. If you think you need more time, choose the best option, mark the question for review and come back to it at the end (if you have time to spare). 

I’ll use the knowledge and the concepts that I have learned in managing my future projects. 

Brief Profile 
Ashita Singh, 
Senior Program Manager and Operations Head for GE Digital.
An experienced IT Leader with over 11 years of progressive experience in IT Service Management, IT operations and Project Management. 

PMP 35 Contact Hours Online Course:

Thursday, August 02, 2018

PMP Protein: Requirements Gathering Methods

By Dilip Nenmelil, PMP

Various methods are available with respect to requirements gathering. Each one has its pros and cons and no project uses just one method but aspects from multiple methods.

Requirements gathering methods differ from one project to another. One method which proved to be highly useful to you in one project may not be so in another project. Therefore, selecting methods for requirements gathering should be based on the benefits it offer with respect to the project you are undertaking. 

Few of the essential requirements gathering methods that one must be aware of to manage projects of varied kinds are mentioned below.

  1. Brainstorming
  2. Document Analysis
  3. Focus Groups
  4. Interviews
  5. Prototyping
  6. Requirements Workshop
  7. Questionnaires and Surveys
  8. Benchmarking

The PMI-PMBOK® Guide 6th edition, divides these techniques or methods into two broad areas – grouped and ungrouped, which is shown in the below figure. 

While brainstorming, focus groups, interviews, questionnaires & surveys and benchmarking fall under Data Gathering tool and technique (T&T) group, requirements workshop falls under Interpersonal and Team Skills T&T group, and document analysis fall under Data Analysis T&T group. Prototyping technique is an ungrouped T&T. 

Brainstorming is a method used to generate and collect multiple ideas related to project and product requirements in a short period of time. It is often conducted in a group environment led by a facilitator.
As per the PMBOK guide, brainstorming comprises of two parts; idea generation and analysis. It can be used to gather information from stakeholders (clients), SMEs or any team member for that matter. It generally helps in identifying all possible solutions to problems.

Document Analysis
Studying or analyzing documentation of an existing system can assist in creating process documents and can also be used in determining the scope of migration projects. This technique analyzes or evaluates any documented information which helps the project as a whole. Examples of documents that could be reviewed/studied are – Use cases, RFP’s, Regulatory notes, Current system architecture, Interface documentation etc.

Focus Groups
Focus groups bring together customer stakeholders, SMEs or user representatives to know their feedback or expectations about a proposed product, service or result. The feedback can be collected about opportunities, needs, and problems to determine requirements or it can be collected to refine and validate the already proposed requirements. A trained moderator guides the interactive discussion.

Interviews use a direct approach of collecting information from the users and stakeholders by talking to them. It is performed by asking prepared questions to the attendees and asking the appropriate questions to further clarify their initial responses. It is also important to record the responses as it is. Interview is usually a one on one discussion. Interviewing the right stakeholders can go a long way in identifying the functions of the proposed project deliverable.

Prototyping is a method of collecting feedbacks on requirements by creating a model or simulating the product. It’s very helpful when people struggle to articulate a specific requirement in the abstract. It can also be done via sketches or storyboards which are usually seen in Agile projects. Prototypes can go through multiple revision cycles and sometimes they are included as part of the requirements itself.

Requirements Workshops
Requirements Workshops are more organized and structured sessions where the involved parties work together to document the requirements. The participants are carefully selected stakeholders to help identify, refine, prioritize and validate requirements. A skilled facilitator usually manages these workshops. The attendees should actively contribute and if possible, results of the session should be made immediately available to the attendants.

Questionnaires and Surveys
When seeking information from multiple stakeholders; too many for an interview or focus group with time and budget constraints, questionnaires or surveys can be of help. It asks the users to choose from a set of given options, agree / disagree or give a rating on something. Questionnaires and Surveys are appropriate when information is required from a large number of varied respondents, when most are remotely located or when a project require statistical sampling and analysis to proceed.

Benchmarking involves comparison with industry best practices which can aid in performance measurement. The compared project can be from within the organization or any external organization. In project management, benchmarking supports project selection, planning and delivery. Typically, benchmarked metrics are time, cost and quality. Best practice benchmarking identifies the best firms in one particular industry or in another industry where processes are similar and compares the results to one's own.

The above-mentioned methods or techniques are few important ones among the many requirement gathering methods. The description is in no way comprehensive but is intended to give you a fair idea on the subject and I sincerely hope will help you in your day to day project management work. I also believe it will help you in your PMP® exam preparation.

Written by Dilip Nenmelil:
Dilip is currently working as a Project Manager with Infosys Ltd. He has a total of over 14 years of IT industry experience and about 4 years of Project Management experience. Dilip lives with his family in Bangalore and is a sports & games enthusiast. Write to him at or tweet to him @Dilly1981

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