Wednesday, August 18, 2021

PMP Success Story: Have the Right Project Management Mindset Across the Value Delivery Spectrum

By Sandeep Jacob, PMP


Introduction

I have been managing teams for quite some time and have always had this dream for many years – to be a certified Project Management Professional (PMP®) from Project Management Institute (PMI®). 

However, I couldn't make it due to various reasons. But I never gave up on my dream.

PMP Coaching Experience

Satya Sir is going to surprise you with his training. He doesn’t need any support of the content or material. The entire content is completely imprinted in his mind. In his class, it was amazing to see the seamless flow of concepts. 

The 35 contact hours learning proved to be a great asset. It’s not the provider that mattered, but the content that I learned from him and easy explanations of the concepts.

The notes that I prepared during his training are the best that I have prepared. It had the gist of the entire training and I could refer throughout my PMP preparation cycle.

The best takeaway is that I could memorize all 49 processes from the PMBOK guide. It was hard to believe at the beginning of the session, but I could remember!


Own Study

The new exam pattern, with a lot of emphasis on Agile Management, was enforced from January 02, 2021. 

I wasn’t confident initially because of additional content from Agile. Thanks to Satya sir who motivated me to retake the test! 

My primary reference material for the new pattern of the PMP exam were two:

The current exam pattern is more aligned with Agile hence I took a conscious decision to give more importance to Agile topics. The combo edition of the PMBOK guide comes packaged with the Agile Practice Guide (APG). 

Also, I recommend buying an additional exam simulator(s) available in the market, which is/are really useful. This is just to prepare you for the exam since most of the questions in the exam are scenario based. Very few questions, if at all, will be direct.

Book Review - I Want To Be A PMP

Right after the training, I decided to go for this book. The main reason was because of the clarity of concepts I experienced in Satya sir’s classes. And, my assumption was correct. The chapters were aligned with the PMBOK guide structure. But it was much easier to follow. 

The interconnections between the processes through his unique diagrams is something which I consider the most valuable. You will find numerous exercises, flow diagrams, flow diagram exercises in this book. 

The revision tips and chapter end questions were of great help. The diagrams were very helpful to revise the concepts effectively. 

His book has also the new and relevant content to Agile.

What's New - I Want To Be A PMP, Second Edition

Project Management Mindset

One thing I would like to emphasize for aspiring PMPs is this: Project Management varies depending on the context. There are many ways to deliver a project and do project management. It can be in a predictive, adaptive (agile) or hybrid mode. This adaptation of mindset is key in passing this test as the majority of questions are on Agile or Hybrid. 

Please take all the full-length mock question sets from Satya sir’s book. You will find a lot of similar questions in the actual exam.

PMP Exam Experience

I scheduled the exam on July 11, 2021 and went for the Online proctored exam. The explanations and links provided by Satya sir in his book, helped me here as well. 

Below are some of the points I want to highlight for the aspiring PMPs.

  • There are two breaks in the exam, 10 minutes each. It did help me to reset and focus on the next set of questions without really worrying about the previously answered questions. 
  • About 60 to 70% of the questions were from an Agile Management perspective. There were a few questions on Hybrid, mostly as how a PM would respond to a situation from traditional to Agile transition. 
  • I have received a few drag and drop questions. 
  • In the beginning of the exam, the proctor warned me about the movement of my head (I was thinking!). I had to ensure not to make that mistake although it was a bit challenging!
  • I completed the exam within the stipulated time, but was not sure of the result. 

I cannot forget that moment when the “Congratulations…” message was displayed on my screen. I scored Above Target in all three domains. 

Suggestions for PMP Aspirants

Dos: 

  • Focus more on Agile concepts, specifically with the right PM Mindset. 
  • Use elimination as a technique to arrive at the correct answer. 
  • Time and stress management during the exam will be very important. Ensure to have practice on it. A good number of questions can be answered using the right PM mindset. 
  • Timely completion of each section is a key factor. As earlier noted, there will be two breaks in this long-duration exam.

Don’ts: 

  • Do not ignore to have sufficient rest and sleep before the exam. Sound sleep before the exam day is essential. 

Conclusion

I would continue to apply the needed PM mindset on the projects that I manage. From my experience, I consider stakeholder engagement and communication management as the most important aspects of Project Management.   

Brief Profile: 

Sandeep Jacob, PMP

I have been working as a Senior Manager, Testing at Cerner Healthcare Solutions India Pvt Ltd.  I am currently managing a Quality Assurance (QA) team.



Tuesday, August 03, 2021

ACP Live Lessons Review – One Stop Solution to Ace the PMI-ACP Exam

By John P S Oliver, PMI-ACP, PMP, RMP, PMI-PBA



During my preparation for the Agile Certified Practitioner (ACP®) exam from Project Management Institute (PMI) ®, I’ve prepared strongly to clear the exam. It’s not an easy exam like 2-days Scrum Master course or a Product Owner course, which almost everyone gets!

A question that frequently comes is this:

Is the ACP exam needed for a professional and does it truly help? 

With Agile being widely practiced not only in IT software projects but also in non-IT projects today, the PMI-ACP certification certainly adds value to one’s knowledge and career. This complements the reason why PMI-ACP is one of the fastest growing certifications in the world today. With the booming start-ups, certified agile practitioners are in high demand and having the PMI-ACP certification is certainly a differentiator in the market.

I’ve gone through this course of ACP Live Lessons – Guaranteed Pass course in depth. I’ve also checked the lesson-end as well as full-length questions. Below is my detailed review.

Why this Course?

Let’s start with the Unique Selling Point (USP) of this course. This course provides you with all the concepts and knowledge gathered from all the reference books (10+) prescribed by PMI for the ACP examination. For example, you have books for Scrum in detail, two books for Kanban, and multiple other books related to Agile. Hence, this course virtually makes it a one stop study guide for passing your PMI-ACP examination. 

The bonus is that it comes with a full Money Back guarantee which speaks a lot about the confidence of the author in his material.

Top Advantages

Some of the top advantages of this course are as follows:

  • This is a complete course since it starts from explaining the PMI-ACP certification, its background, prerequisites, application procedure, exam fees, and exam pattern all the way to maintaining your PMI-ACP certification once you have achieved it. 
  • The course is structured in such a way that it follows the Agile Practice Guide, which is a key guide for the examination.
  • This course also provides you with the mandatory training hours required for qualifying to apply for the PMI-ACP exam.
  • This course is so comprehensive that it will not only enable the student to pass the PMI-ACP exam if they prepare well but will also provide them with the knowledge required to practice agile values, principles and approach in real time projects.

Course – ACP Live Lessons: Key Features

Following are the key aspects of the course – which I found to be unique and distinct.

  • This course is well organized with relevant chapters and topics following the Agile Practice Guide.
  • Each lesson starts with the respective list of domains, sub domains, tasks, tools and techniques (T&Ts) and knowledge and skills (K&S) from the exam content outline (ECO) applicable to the lesson. This helps us in relating the ECO to specific topics / situations which is very useful from exam point of view
  • The durations of the videos are short - the longest being 11 or 12 minutes. This helps the students in a couple of ways:
    • With most students being working professionals and pursue the course in between their work from home, they can easily bookmark and return to the videos in case of a break.
    • They can easily go back to topics that they want to refer or revise.
  • The author uses real life and practical examples to explain the concepts in plain English which makes it easy for the students to understand.
  • The author keeps updating the course in response to changes in the underlying reference material so that the students are up to date with the changes to curriculum.

Most Helpful Topics

Below are some of the topics that helped me the most:

  • Explanation of various agile framework and methodologies
    • SCRUM, XP, KANBAN, LEAN
    • Their similarities and differences
    • Scrum events
    • Scrum Artefacts
  • Conflict Management
  • Tools and Techniques for Requirements Elicitation
  • Prioritization Factors
  • Features and Benefits
  • Various Agile Exercises
  • User Stories

This course covers all concepts related to Agile including advanced Agile Management. This helps you to get a holistic knowledge of Agile and not just from an exam point of view alone. This will come in handy when you practically apply agile in your real time projects.

Question Sets

While the lesson-end questions provided me with an opportunity to test my knowledge and understanding of the lesson, the full-length questions prepared me for the exam. 

The one that helped me the most in my understanding of agile principles was "Lesson – 10: Various Agile Exercises". This is truly a differentiator and helps you master agile practices.

Specific and Important Videos 

This is a complete video set and all videos should be viewed in combination to get an overall understanding of the course. There are some videos that I believe are more useful in understanding the concepts better.

  • Videos: 3.1.35, 36 Characteristics of Information Radiators
  • Video: 3.1.44 Collaboration vs. Coordination
  • Video: 3.2.10 Scrum Events – Figure
  • Video: 4.1.7 Features, Benefits, Agile Business Value
  • Video: 4.1.14,15 Prioritization Factors
  • Video: 4.1.25, 26 Backlog Refinement
  • Video: 4.1.51 Agile Contracting Techniques
  • Video: 5.1.8 Stakeholder levels and classification models 
  • Video: 5.1.16 – 27 Eliciting Stakeholder Requirements to Collaboration Games
  • Video: 6.1.12 – Agile Team – Roles and Responsibilities
  • Video: 6.1.14 to 6.1.20 Building Agile Teams to Team Motivation
  • Video: 7.1.19, 20 User Stories and Type of Stories
  • Video: 7.1.61 Agile Earned Value Management (Agile EVM)
  • Video: 8.1.10 Technical Debt
  • Video: 8.1.12 to 23 Risk Management in Agile
  • Video: 9.1.23, 24 Value Stream Mapping
  • Video: 9.1.31 to 45 Retrospectives

It’s pertinent to note that throughout the course, the author uses various examples and snapshots to explain the concepts and metrics:

  • For example, a real-time user for Personas helps you to not only understand the concept but also provides you with a template to use in real life projects. 
  • Some other useful snapshots are the Kanban Board, Task Board, Burn down chart, Fishbone diagram.

The PMI-ACP formula gold card is very useful as I had received a couple of formula-based questions especially on Agile EVM and EMV.

One of the highlights of this course is the yogic vision and yogic revision tips throughout the lessons which induces you to revise important concepts and points from the exam point of view. The tips for before/during/after the exam will guide you to prepare for the exam in an assured way.

Lessons in the Course – ACP Live Lessons

This course has multiple Lessons (from “Welcome” to “Lesson - 12”). Following are some of the important notes for each lesson. 

Lesson – 1: Welcome

The course starts with the “Welcome” lesson which provides you with an overview of this ACP Live Lessons course including details about the Author, his qualification and experience, how to approach this course, and the money back guarantee criteria. In fact, I don’t think moneyback guarantee is needed because I am sure anybody who goes through this course and takes the exam with due preparation will only have success as the outcome.

With this course you will also get the 21 contact hours certificate required for taking the exam (in my opinion, a Big Bonus). This welcome session helps us in getting started with the course.

Lesson – 2: Introduction

This lesson provides the background and overview of PMI certifications and the uniqueness of PMI-ACP certification. It covers the pre-requisites, exam content outline, exam structure, performance domains, tools and techniques, knowledge and skills of PMI-ACP certification. This lesson also provides information on the cost, blueprint and process of the PMI-ACP exam along with guidelines for filling up the application form and maintaining your PMI-ACP certification once you have earned it. 

In short, this lesson helps us in understanding the PMI-ACP certification and sets us on our journey to achieving the PMI-ACP certification.

Lesson – 3: Agile Principles and Mindset (Duration: Over 5 hours)

This lesson covers agile frameworks and approaches. This session covers all Domains, Sub Domain, Tasks, Tools & Techniques and Knowledge & Skills. I had questions on Scrum, XP, Kanban and Lean approaches. 

The lesson helped me through the exercises to remember, yogic vision and yogic revision tips. Especially the Artefacts and Events related to the approaches were presented in a coherent and easy to recall manner. I received a few questions on Scrum roles, events and Artefacts, Information radiators. 

Lesson – 4: Value Driven Delivery (Duration: Neary 4 hours)

This is the lesson that generates the MOST number of questions in the exam. 

I received quite a number of questions in my exam as well. This lesson covers Features and Benefits, User Stories, Accounting Principles, Prioritization factors and Techniques, Backlog Refinement, Risk Adjusted Backlog, Scrum and Kanban, EMV, DoD, Agile Contracts, Compliance, among others.

Lesson – 5: Stakeholder Engagement (Duration: Over 3 hours) 

I received a couple of questions from this lesson. 

This lesson informs in detail on Agile Business Case, Elements of Project Charter, Tools and Techniques for elicitation – Personas, Collaboration games, Communication Options and effectiveness, Synchronous and Asynchronous communication, Levels of listening, Conflict Resolution Strategies, among others.

Lesson – 6: Team Performance (Duration: Nearly 3.5 hours)

Some important topics in this lesson are Modes in Training, Coaching and Mentoring, Levels of coaching, Osmotic Communication, Characteristics of Agile teams, Velocity, Various performance tracking tools etc. 

Burn down charts is another important topic. I received a couple of questions on velocity and burn down charts. 

Lesson – 7: Adaptive Planning (Duration: Over 4 hours)

Important topics from this lesson are Agile Discovery, DEEP Characteristics, User Stories, Story Map, Various estimation techniques, and Agile EVM.

In my ACP exam, I received questions on User Stories, Estimation Techniques and Agile EVM.

Lesson – 8: Problem Detection and Resolution (Duration: Nearly 3 hours)

In my exam, there were questions from this domain as well. It covers Risk Management, Cycle Time and Lead Time, Throughput, Variance and Trend Analysis, Problem Solving Techniques, among others in depth.

Lesson – 9: Continuous Improvement (Duration: Nearly 3.5 hours)

Retrospectives is one of the most important topics from an exam point of view, please be thorough in your understanding of retrospectives – their objective, timing, participants, duration, input, output etc. 

I had a couple of questions on retrospectives, all situational. I also had questions from other areas. This lesson discusses Kaizen, Hybrid Model, Seven Wastes and Value Stream Mapping, Pre-Mortem, Fishbone analysis, Agile Coach – Success and Failure modes.

Lesson – 10: Various Agile Exercises (Duration: 1.5 hours)

This is a bonus for the video lessons and a key differentiator. These exercises provide a great way to measure your level of understanding of the agile concepts and revisit and revise them.

Lesson – 11: 6 Full Length Question and Answer Sets

The questions are of high quality and exhaustive. While the PMI-ACP book has only 3 full sets, the ACP Video Lessons has 6 full length questions and answers and your scores on this will serve as an indicator of your readiness to take up the exam.

Lesson – 12: Final Talk (06m 15s)

This session provides you with tips to prepare for PMI-ACP before, during and after the exam. The PMI-ACP formula gold cards provide you with a ready reckoner of the various formulas used in Agile and will be helpful in your exam.


Brief Profile: 

Name: John P S Oliver, PMI-ACP, PMP, RMP, PMI-PBA

Current Role: Supply Chain Manager

Brief experience details: 23+ years of in ITES operations and project management across BFSI, Healthcare, Telecom and Retail verticals.




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