Wednesday, November 11, 2020

PMP Live Lessons Success Story: Never Give Up, Victory is Right Around the Corner

By Vinny Dsilva, PMP



Introduction

I was introduced to the Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification by one of my friends who was aspiring to take up the certification. After doing a bit of research myself, I was clear that I wanted to get certified as a PMP. 

Having around 10 years of experience back then, I knew that PMP certification would really help me have an edge to my career. Without much delay, I registered for the classroom training sessions in March 2018.


First PMP Learning Experience

The decision was made; however, I was not completely aware of the hard work, dedication and the amount of time it will consume. Add to that, I have a full-time corporate job! 

I was fortunate enough to have the classroom training session conducted by Satya sir. His immense knowledge about project management, right guidance and tips on how to prepare for the certification gave me the confidence to prepare. I would also recommend his PMP Exam prep book- I Want To Be A PMP. The questions after each chapter, plus the full-length questions really helps you to understand how the questions would come in the exam. 

Own Study

I planned to spend a minimum of four hours every day. I would spend two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening, with some additional hours during weekends. Believe me, four hours a day with a full-time job, is not easy but fear of failing again, was the only driving factor that pushed me to work harder. 

I referred the below materials for my preparation;

Review – PMP Live Lessons

I gave my first attempt for the exam in October 2019 and did not qualify. Right then, I knew that the exam is not going to be easy. But I never wanted to give up. I immediately reached out to Satya sir. 

He helped me to identify the weak areas and guided me on how to prepare for those. Post that, I purchased the PMP Live Lessons, which really helped me to improve my score. 

I followed this approach while going through the Live Lessons:

  • I would start every chapter by going through the videos from the PMP live lesson and simultaneously make my own pointers/notes. 
  • I check and go through the PMBOK guide after each video lesson. 
  • I kept repeating this until I got familiar with each topic. 

The smart cards, ITTO video exercises at the end of each chapter would test your knowledge on each chapter. 

PMP Exam Experience

I scheduled my exam for 21st October, 2020. I opted for the centre-based testing and booked my slot at 8:00 AM. I reached the venue by 7:00 AM, however, due to COVID-19 precautions, I was only allowed to enter the premises by 7:30 AM. After completing all the formalities, I was allowed to start my exam. The entire experience was smooth and hassle free.  

I planned this thing first: NOT to spend more than a minute on each question. 

Types of Questions Faced

  • I was expecting any direct questions. And yes, very few questions were direct. However, most of the questions were situational, context based or indirect.
  • I also wasn’t expecting mathematical questions, however I got three problem solving questions from Cost management, which took some time and eventually I was running behind time.
  • Most of the questions were on:
    • Change Management
    • Risk Management and 
    • Communications Management. 
  • Make sure you read the question thoroughly and under it first. The answers can be tricky at times.

As I mentioned earlier, the biggest challenge I faced during the exam is keeping up with the time. I was left with only two seconds after I clicked the option for the last question. So please make sure you keep a close watch on the time.

When you see that Congratulations pops up on the screen, you realise that your hard work has paid off. There’s nothing more satisfying than that. You have to go through the process and earn the credential to feel and believe it. 

Suggestions for PMP Aspirants

Dos 

  • Plan well and make sure you adhere to the plan. 
  • Revise and practice as much as you can.
  • Attempt full length questions. These will help you to plan your timings while attempting the exam. 

Don’ts

  • Do not be take the examination and your preparation lightly. The exam is of high standard and the questions are tough.

Conclusion

The entire journey has been long. I would say perseverance is the key. As I wrote in the beginning: Never give up. If you believe you can, you will.


Brief Profile: 
Vinny Dsilva, Senior Manager, PMP

I work as a Senior Manager, Clinical Data Management with close to 13 year of experience in Pharmaceutical sector.



Book  for PMP exam:
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Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Course Review: MS Project 2016 Live Lessons–An Effective Way to Learn Microsoft Project

By Naveen Kumar, PMP


Introduction

Although I have in the Project Management field for a long time and have been managing various projects, I never had any formal training on MS Project software tool. I wanted to sharpen my skills, after my PMP on this tool and equip myself with all the available features of this tool. 

By gaining practical knowledge of this tool, I can now take full advantage of this tool to manage projects in my current role as a Program Manager. That is the reason why I decided to enrol for this course.


Why this Course?

This course is unique in the way that you can complete this online course in the comfort of your home and at your own pace. The training is quite comprehensive, detailed and with practical exercises for each and every topic. These practical exercises will really help you to actually master your skills in this tool usage.

Key Features

Although all the topics in the course are very informative, I liked reporting and analysing the project a lot. 

Reporting: Reporting is very helpful in how we communicate the project progress to top management. 

Project Analysis: Analysing project covers schedule compression techniques - Fast tracking, Crashing, Critical path analysis which are very helpful day to day project management.

Theory and Practical: This course has a blend of theory and practical. There is a detailed explanation of each and every feature of MS Project tool followed by quiz questions and practical exercises. This allows the user to check his or her existing knowledge post which the user can validate the result with the answers. 

Conclusion

I highly recommend this course to anyone who would like to have a detailed and structured knowledge of the MS Project tool. I found this to be very helpful in my current role as a Program Manager. I would like to specially thank Satya for his dedicated efforts to create this course and spreading his knowledge to various Project managers. He has been really very helpful and approachable throughout the learning process.

Brief Profile:

Naveen Kumar, Senior Program Manager, PMP, 20 years of total experience primarily in Project Management field.



Saturday, November 07, 2020

Using Custom Fields and Project Functions in MS Project 2019 (1)


One very important and significant functionality available in MS Project 2019 is availability of various project functions which can be used with the custom fields. While for normal management work with MS Project, you may not need these fields, you may have to use them for some out-of-the-box thinking and applicability. 

For example, you can use the fields, functions and operators to have:

I’ve listed a few above. There can be many other real-world applications. For the below examples, I’ve used MS Project 2019. You may try with other versions. 

Viewing Custom Fields

To know the custom fields, go to the Project tab – Properties group – Custom Fields command. 

You can also see the available custom fields by:

  • Checking the Gantt Chart tools – Format tab – Columns group -- Custom Fields command. 
  • Right clicking on any column on the tabular side of the view and choosing Custom Fields from there.

This will open up the “Custom Fields” dialog box as shown below.  

Types of Custom Fields

The custom fields available can be “Task” related, “Resource” related or “Project” related as the dialog box shows. 

Next, you can see that there are various types of custom fields. 

  • Number custom fields: From Number1 to Number20
  • Duration custom fields: From Duration1 to Duration10
  • Cost custom fields: From Cost1 to Cost10
  • Date custom fields: From Date1 to Date10
  • Start custom fields: From Start1 to Start10
  • Finish custom fields: From Finish1 to Finish10
  • Flag custom fields: From Flag1 to Flag20
  • Text custom fields: From Tex1 to Tex30
  • Outline Code custom fields: From Outline Code1 to Outline Code10

As you can see there are over 100 custom fields which you can use as you plan for your project or program.

Among the custom fields, the most used ones will be the Number, Flag, Date, and Text custom fields. Date is another custom field, which is also highly likely to be used. I’ve not seen much usage of other custom fields, though Cost and Duration can be used for earned value measurement (EVM) and earned schedule measurement (ESM), respectively. 

In fact, for earned schedule measurement, I’ve already used the custom fields before. You can read on it in the below link:

Earned Schedule Management (ESM) with MS Project 2019 Custom Fields


Formula Dialog Box 

This is the most interesting part available in MS Project 2019, and you can have a plethora of formulas using the available normal fields as well as the custom fields.

To write your own formula, select the radio button next to “Formula” under “Custom Attributes” and then click on the Formula button.  This will open up the “Formula” dialog box associated with the custom field.


As shown above, you can:

  • Enter the formula for in the formula area.
  • Enter the fields you want to associate by clicking on the “Field”.
  • Enter the functions you want to associate by clicking on “Function”.

Elements of Formula Dialog Box

The formula dialog box, as noted above, has primarily 3 elements – text area to write the formula, fields which can be used in the formula and functions which also can be used in the formula. 

Above the fields and functions, you have various mathematical operators such as +, -, /, * and also logical operators such as AND, OR, NOT among others. This is shown in the below figure.

There are a number of fields available when you click on the drop down arrow of Insert: Field command. These fields include the custom fields. These are shown in the below figure.


Next to the Fields, you have Insert: Function command. With this command, you can insert any function or a set of functions as you want. Of course, you have to build the logic needed to have the final formula. The functions under “Conversion” are shown in the below figure. 

For a management practitioner, the most used functions will be under “General”, “Date” and “Microsoft Project 2019” specific functions. 

Practical Examples 

Let’s take a few examples to understand the usage of formulas built with the help of fields and functions. 

Question - 1: You want to show the task ID number along with a prepended string, informing on the followings: 

  • Task type: A summary task or non-summary task
  • Task ID: The identifier value of the task.
  • WBS Outline level: The level, e.g., level 1 or level 2 of the WBS the task belongs.

An example string can be: “This is a summary task with Task ID 3. It's under WBS outline level of 2.”

Solution: 

To have the solution, we will have the following steps:

  • Create a custom text field and rename it as “String Description”. 
  • Next, we will open-up the formula dialog box and enter the following formula as shown in the below figure. This formula is concatenating multiple strings.  

As shown above, in the formula, I’ve the followings:

  • It's a text field, which means it will have a string value.
  • I’ve taken the “Type” field to know on the task type and added it to the previous string. Type is a “Number” field and hence to convert to string, I’ve used the “CStr” function, i.e., CStr([Type]), which will convert the number into a string. 
  • I’ve taken the “ID” field and again converted it to string using the CStr function. The ID field is under “ID/code”. 
  • I’ve taken the “Outline Level” field and again converted it to string using the CStr function. The ID field is under “Number”. 

The result is shown below along with the project plan. Remember to enable the “Use Formula” radio button so that the formula is applied. 


Let’s interpret the result.

  • Task A1 is with Task ID 3 and it’s correctly shown in the above string. Similarly, for other tasks. 
  • Task A1 is at Outline Level 3 and it’s correctly shown in the above string informing at outline level 3. Similarly, for other tasks. 
  • Task A1 is a non-summary tasks and hence the value for [Type] is “0”. For summary tasks, the value for [Type] is “1”. These are also shown correctly.  

However, it’s possible that you may want to show an enhance version of string, informing:

  • Task A1 is a non-summary task
  • Work Package-1 as a summary task. 

This can be done with IF function, which MS Project 2019 notes as “IIF” and it’s under one of the functions under General category. We will know this function, along with others, in the next post. 



Sunday, November 01, 2020

Course Review: MS Project 2016 Live Lessons–Concise Course with Precise Information and Effective Learning

 By Gowri Shankar S


Why this Course?

After I graduated in Engineering, I started and continued my career in construction industry and maintenance works. After getting experience in this field, I felt I was lagging in planning of work activities in a proper way due to working manually and missing my deadlines in some situations. Hence, I decided to work with a planning software tool. I believed that by learning a tool my work can be more precise and get more efficiency in my work output.

MS Project is a widely used software tool in the construction industry and hence, decided to proceed and learn the MS Project Course. As a planning professional, I believe this course will improve my skills in project planning. 


Features in this Course

This course has been designed in a proper way to give precise information in a shorter duration with an effective way of understanding. This makes the course unique compared to other online tutorials, which I’ve had checked. 

The course covers a number of areas such as planning, schedule management, resource assignment, resource levelling, earned value management (EVM), reporting, among many others

I’ll highlight the following key points of this course as I’ve gone through all the videos and related content. 

Basic Planning to Advance Schedule Control: After you have understood the basic planning, the best way to control your schedule is via EVM and related metrics. In the real world, it is more helpful for me while implementing my project activities to forecast my project schedule. EVM has quite a few forecasting metrics.

Balance between Theory and Practical: You can refer to books on MS Project, but with videos the learning is faster. This course comes with practical examples for each and every function in MS Project, which are essential for any project management professional. 

You can take the templates available, apply your real time experience and improve your understanding and knowledge effectively. 

Overcoming Scheduling Problems: As you proceed with the course, you will know many schedule management techniques. With this you can know how these techniques/functions affection schedule and its management and how one can overcome each problem with this course. 

Cost Management: Resources on their own don’t consume money, but they do consume money when assigned to tasks. With this course, the effect of resource assigning to each task is well understood and how it reflects in the overall schedule with cost and duration so that financial aspects of the project can be better improved with proper knowledge. It’s also pertinent to note that resource levelling will have an impact on cost management.

Earned Value Management (EVM): I’ve already mentioned on EVM before. With this course, you will have a more efficient way of finding project efficiency which is being taught in this tutorial with real time experience.

Reporting: For every project management professional, reporting is one of the most important areas and one has to know it very well. This course explains very well for customizing the reports in different ways which can suite management requirements.

Forward pass, backward pass calculation and Critical Path: Finding out critical tasks is most important in any project and with this course, you will learn more about a critical path in an easy way so that we can plan to expedite the critical tasks works by learning forwards and backward pass calculations.


Conclusion

This course has many real-time practical examples. These will teach you how to apply them in the real-world and on the field. It also comes with many keyboard shortcuts, which gave me knowledge on how to expedite my work with MS Project.

Brief Profile: 

Gowri Shankar S, Project Planning Engineer

I’m a Mechanical Engineer with 10 years of experience in industrial construction and maintenance experience in India, GCC regions. I’ve worked on managing the EPC activities in green field projects and maintenance activities in O&M projects. Overall, I’ve been involved in planning a project from initial bidding stage to project handover stage.