Tuesday, September 28, 2021

PMP Success Story: Takes Sweat, Determination, and Hard Work to Make Your Dream a Reality

By Ansuman Mishra, PMP, SAFe Agilist, CSM



Introduction

“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination, and hard work.” This quote, by Colin Powell, former Secretary of the United States, is perhaps the most appropriate one to describe my PMP journey!

During the early phase of my career, I came to know about PMP from my managers who were already PMP certified. Then I did more research about the certification and had the dream of achieving this precious certification one day. Over the years, I was able to clearly see the difference in the way PMP certified professionals were handling the projects and teams.

Although I attended the PMP classroom session a few years before, I could not prepare and give the exam because of professional and personal commitments. Finally, during January, 2021, I decided to go for it.

I knew Mr. Satya Narayan Dash from the classroom sessions and I called him one fine evening to express my eagerness to appear for the exam. He set-up a video call in the same evening and by the end of the call, I was motivated enough to go for the exam, no matter what happens on the other side of my life.

PMP 35 Hours Learning Experience

Though I attended the 35 hours mandatory training session a few years back, I decided to go for that again. Hence, I requested Satya Sir to share the 35 Contact Hours video course, along with the book, I Want To Be A PMP

About the 35 Contact Hours Online Course

  • I was learning the latest content with respect to the PMBOK guide (I had learned earlier in PMBOK 5th edition) and also had to go through the Agile content. In addition, the style of questions has changed. 
  • What I liked about the video materials shared by Satya Sir, is the simplicity and clarity. The way he explains the concepts is amazingly simple and straightforward.
  • The thing which I appreciate the most is tips and tricks. There are tips and tricks to remember and understand all the 49 processes, in sequence. It helped a lot during the preparation stage and during the exam, to relate and answer questions correctly.
  • The content is actually of 35 hours long and covers all the lessons thoroughly.

About the ‘I Want To Be A PMP’ Book
I’ve read this book around 4 to 5 times. 
  • It is aligned and structured, as per PMBOK guide. Hence, it is very easy to read and revise.
  • I really appreciate the texture. It is very clear and motivates to continue the reading process, page after page.
  • Yogic vision tips: It is one of the highlights of the book and helped me during the preparation phase.
  • Yogic revisions: It helps to remind the past learning. Gives a signal to go back and check the concepts again, if needed.
  • The book contains a lot of flow diagrams and tables, to expedite the learning process.
  • Each chapter contains the comparison/mapping of the Agile environment with traditional predictive methods.  

About Question (Practice) Sets

The questions are really of top class. I’ve also taken questions from Oliver Lehman and Udemy, which gave me more practice. But the questions from the 35 contact hours and the book are way ahead of them. Each chapter contains questions, apart from full length ones.

The reason I mentioned the questions are far ahead because they are situation-based questions. You will face similar questions when it comes to the real PMP exam. Rarely any question, if at all, will be direct!

The answer sets have clear explanations and that helps a lot. The content in the book and videos along with the questions sets, complement each other well! 

Own Study Process

I started with 35 hours of online video sessions and simultaneously referring to the book I want to be a PMP. I was also preparing my own notes.

Each and every day, I ensured to devote at least 2-3 hours, mostly in the evenings after office hours. During the day, whenever I was having time, I was browsing the topics on the internet for light reading.

I have gone through all the questions shared by Satya sir along with his materials, more than once. After finishing two rounds with the reference book and video materials, I started reading PMBOK and APG. I was able to appreciate the content of PMBOK, because I completed the reference book first.

My practical experience in Agile Project Management helped me a lot during the study phase. During my preparation, I was scoring well in the Agile areas as I know it from my job experience. 

Towards the end of course, I did call Satya Sir a few times to check my readiness for the exam. He was very gracious to devote his time, asking questions to me to check the understanding and clarify questions.

In the end, I took an assessment test and received the 35 contact hours course completion certification. When I was consistently scoring more than 75%, I got the confidence to schedule and appear for the exam.

PMP Exam Experience

Below is my exam experience at the exam center and during the PMP exam. 

Exam Center

  • I scheduled the exam in the Pearson VUE center in Bangalore, because I never wanted to take a chance with electricity/ISP/technical glitches at home and wanted to have complete focus on exam content/questions.
  • I did not get disappointed because of my decision. The experience in the exam center was good. They are following all Covid-19 related regulations strictly.
  • I reached the center an hour early and that helped me to settle down, before the exam.

Types of Questions Faced

  • Around 70% questions were based on the Agile and/or Hybrid model.
  • Not one question was direct. All the questions were situational based and needed a deep understanding of concepts.
  • I did not have any mathematical questions barring one on Cost Performance Index (CPI).
  • There were few questions related to multi-response, questions related to graphs. I also received a few drag and drop questions.
  • A lot of questions were there from Stakeholder Management, Communications Management, and Quality Management processes.

Time Management

This is another aspect I want to emphasize. While doing practice sessions, I was able to complete 180 questions within 2.5 hours to 3 hours. However, during the exam, literally all the questions were lengthy. First 60 questions took me around 70 minutes, the next 60 took around 80 minutes and the last 60 around 70 minutes. I marked a few questions for review and spent a few minutes answering those at the end of the phase.

10-Minutes Breaks

The exam comes with two 10-minutes breaks. I took both the breaks and that helped me to refresh for the subsequent sessions.

Suggestions for PMP Aspirants 

The PMP exam is not at all any easy one and below will be my suggestions/advice for the aspiring PMPs. 

  • When you decide to go for PMP, just go for it. Do not give any break in between. Even a gap of one week is good enough to derail the preparation.
  • Read PMBOK guide and Agile Practice Guide, at least 2 times, word by word.
  • Just remember 49 processes (in sequence) and important Inputs, Tools & Techniques and Outputs (ITTO). You need not remember all the ITTOs.
  • Pay focus to Agile related concepts. Map those to traditional processes and ITTOs.
  • After each practice set, spend a good amount of time reviewing the answers. If needed, go back and refer to the concepts in PMBOK/other reference books.
  • Practice enough questions, but choose from reliable sources only. On the internet, there are many free questions available. Ensure that those questions are based on the current version of PMBOK and the answers/explanations are based on PMBOK guide.
  • Do not wait for the last day to learn/understand new concepts. That won’t help to answer the questions, which are more or less situation based.
  • Celebrate your success!!

Conclusion

I cannot forget the moment when I saw “Congratulations” on the computer screen, after answering 180 questions and three “Above target” scores were icing on the cake. 

More than anything, I will remember the journey. The knowledge acquired during the process is something which is priceless and I am sure it will help me in future assignments.

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to my family members (blessings of my parents and rock-solid support from my wife were instrumental), friends, all my supervisors/managers and team members who supported me, directly and indirectly during the amazing journey.

As I reach the end of my journey, I can clearly say that, without Satya Sir, I could not have seen the light of the day. He was there for me each and every time I wanted. Without his motivation and constant push, I could not have achieved success.   

Brief Profile: 

Ansuman Mishra, PMP, SAFe Agilist, CSM

Project Manager, Tata Elxsi Ltd, Bangalore

 


Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Agile Asanas: Scrum Sprint Inputs and Outputs 2021 (Sprint I/O)(2)


This is in continuation of Part – 1, which you can read by going to the below link.

Agile Asanas: Scrum Sprint Inputs and Outputs 2021 (Sprint I/O) – Part 1

[ This post is part of the Agile Asanas series. 

To read all posts in Agile Asanas series, use this link. ]


I’ll strongly recommend that you read the Part – 1, before proceeding with this post. In the earlier part, we have discussed 

  • A brief on Scrum Events
  • A brief on Scrum Artifacts
  • A brief on Scrum Artifacts
  • Event – 1: Sprint Planning (Inputs and Outputs)

In this part we will see the rest of the Inputs and Outputs (IOs) of three contained events:

  • Event – 2: Daily Scrum
  • Event – 3: Sprint Review
  • Event – 4: Sprint Retrospective 


Event – 2: Daily Scrum



When? Happens daily after the Sprint Planning.

Who? Developers. If the Product Owner and the Scrum Master are working on backlog items, they can participate as developers. 

How Long? Timeboxed to 15 minutes a day. 

What For? Inspect progress toward the Sprint Goal; Adapt progress towards work being completed from the Sprint Backlog; Synchronization; Communication.

Inputs: 
  • Sprint Backlog: See Scrum Planning I/O. Sprint backlog is an actionable plan which has enough details that helps the team to understand the progress during the Daily Scrums. 
  • Spring Goal: Questions are asked in Daily Scrum have to be aligned towards the Sprint Goal. It can be of any structure and the team can use any technique. 
  • Development Activities: See Development Activities input in Sprint Planning.
  • Impediments: Obstacles which are preventing the team members from executing their work and achieving the objectives. 
  • (Sprint) Burndown Chart: The burndown chart is a widely used information radiator in Scrum Projects. This shows the remaining cumulative work till day for the current Sprint. The Daily Scrum can happen in front the Task Board with Burndown Chart. 
Outputs:
  • Updated Sprint Backlog: Daily scrum helps in inspection, planning, adaptation for the next 24 hours. If any new work is needed, the Sprint Backlog is updated. Sprint backlog is also updated when work is completed.
  • Updated Development Activities: The development activities are updated. Estimates for them may also change. 
  • Impediments Backlog: Not all obstacles can be resolved immediately, after the Daily Scrum. Impediments Backlog helps here to keep track of them when raised in Daily Scrum. It has to be tracked and resolved by the Scrum Master.
  • Updated (Sprint) Burndown Chart: The Sprint Burndown Chart can be updated. It can be after the Daily Scrum, or at the end of the day.
To have proper utilization of time (it’s timeboxed to 15 minutes!) revised estimates or updating of tasks can be done immediately after the Daily Scrum. However, Daily Scrum is not the only time when developers can adjust their plan. They can meet throughout the day, after Parking-Lot meeting by some team members to adapt/adjust their plan.


Event – 3: Sprint Review


When? Happens at the end of the Sprint, and before the next Sprint Planning.

Who? Product Owner, Key Stakeholders, Developers and the Scrum Master.

How Long? Timeboxed to 4 hours for one-month Sprint. Length will be less for shorter Sprints, e.g., 2 hours for 2 weeks Sprint.

What For? To inspect the increment and adapt the product backlog. 

Inputs
  • Product Backlog: Product backlog items which have met the Definition of Done (Increment) and “Not Done” (or the stories not completed) in this Sprint are explained by the Product Owner.
  • Product Goal: See Sprint Planning I/O.
  • Increment: A usable version of the product developed by the Developers of the Scrum Team (or the entire Scrum Team). It is the combination of all product backlog items completed in the current Sprint and value of increment of all previous Sprints. 
  • Sprint Goal: See Sprint Planning I/O.
  • Sprint Backlog: See Sprint Planning I/O.
  • Definition of Done: See Sprint Planning I/O. 
  • Business Conditions: I am taking this as an umbrella area - for market conditions, environmental conditions, new or changed business conditions, new opportunities etc. Based on these, the Product Backlog can be updated.
Outputs:
  • Revised Product Backlog: It will have probable product backlog items for the next Sprint.
  • Inspected Increment: The increment demonstrated by the Developers to the key stakeholders.
    Note: Increment can be delivered at any time during the Sprint as per the latest Scrum Guide, 2020. This is the final increment combining all previous increments. 
  • Completion Date Forecast: Product Owner gives the likely completion date based on progress done to date.
  • Actual Velocity: Shows the actual velocity of the Scrum team, i.e., taking up the items actually done in this Sprint. 

Event – 4: Sprint Retrospective


When? Happens at the end of the Sprint, and before the next Sprint Planning.

Who? Developers, Product Owner and the Scrum Master.

How Long? Timeboxed to 3 hours for one-month Sprint. Length will be less for shorter Sprints, e.g., 90 minutes for 2 weeks Sprint.

What For? For the Scrum team to inspect itself, increase quality and effectiveness. A plan is created for improvements that can be undertaken in the next Sprint. 

Inputs
  • Product Goal: See Sprint Planning I/O.
  • Definition of Done: See Sprint Planning I/O.
  • Sprint Backlog: See Sprint Planning I/O.
  • Spring Goal: See Sprint Planning I/O.
  • Impediments Backlog: See Daily Scrum I/O.
Outputs: 
  • Updated Definition of Done: The Scrum team can plan ways to update the Definition of Done, e.g., stronger criteria for quality. 
  • Updated Definition of Ready: The Scrum team can update the Definitions of Ready. 
  • Improvement Plan: Improvements are identified in the retrospective and a plan is created to implement those improvements. The items from this plan can be added to Product Backlog for prioritization and subsequent execution in the next and/or upcoming Sprints.

Conclusion
In your Agile Certified Practitioner (ACP) exam, Scrum is expected to be a major topic of focus. You must be very clear about the 3 artifacts, 5 events, the what, when, who and why these events take place. 

Along with Scrum, the practices of Scrum can result in some situational questions and you must be ready for such questions.

Saturday, September 04, 2021

Agile Asanas: Scrum Sprint Inputs and Outputs 2021 (Sprint I/O)(1)


The Scrum Guide has changed and it has come with a number of new concepts such as Product Goal, Lean Thinking, Commitment based Artifacts, among others. With the new Scrum Guide, you can also see changes to the various events of Scrum. 

[ This post is part of the Agile Asanas series. 

To read all posts in Agile Asanas series, use this link. ]

For the earlier edition of Sprint IOs, you can refer the below link: 

PMI-ACP Prep: Agile Scrum - Sprint I/O (Inputs and Outputs)

It's one of the most visited posts, however the content is outdated with many new additions in the latest Scrum Framework. Now, let's move to the latest Scrum Framework, 2021!

***

At the heart of Scrum is Sprint, which as per the Scrum Guide 2020 also sets the heartbeat of Scrum.  The rhythm for this heartbeat is set by cadence, which is built by five events in Scrum. Cadence is developed when you have regular Scrum Planning meetings, Sprint retrospectives, Daily Scrums, Sprint reviews and you keep on delivering usable versions of the (product) increment. 

You can learn more on Cadence with the following linked article:

The Rhythmic Dance of Agile with Cadence

Key here is delivering a working product of highest value to the customer – one of the cornerstones of Agile manifesto, i.e., Working Software or Product. As cadence is important, so are the ceremonies (or events) of Scrum, as they build the cadence.

Hence, it is important to know the events of Sprint and what are the inputs and outputs (I/O) of those events. In this article, I’ve not taken various tools such as task board, online spreadsheet, electronic tools such as MS Project Agile. I’ve also not taken various estimation techniques such as planning poker, T-shirt size estimation. They tend to vary a lot from team to team. 


Overview
In total, there are 5 events in Scrum, as noted in the below table.


Figuratively, you can think of Sprint, the container event having these 4 container events. As a Sprint is concluded, an Increment is usually available.  


In some cases, it’s mentioned to be 4 events, which are contained with the Sprint event. These events, along with purposes, duration (timebox), timeline and participants will be the focus on this article. 
It’s also pertinent to note the 3 artifacts in Scrum, along with the associated commitments, which are represented in the below table.


There are also 3 formal roles in Scrum and all part of a single team–the Scrum Team. 



There are 4 events (or ceremonies) in Scrum. Note that these are all contained events.
  1. Sprint Planning
  2. Daily Scrum
  3. Sprint Review
  4. Sprint Retrospective
Now, for each event the inputs and outputs are as follows. 

Event – 1: Sprint Planning


When? Happens after the Sprint review of the previous sprint, but before the first Daily Scrum of the current Sprint.

Who? The participants are: Product Owner, Developers and the Scrum Master
Others, e.g., subject matter experts or domain specialists can be invited into this meeting.

How Long? Timeboxed to a maximum of 8 hours for one-month Sprint. Length will be less for shorter Sprints, e.g., 4 hours for 2 weeks Sprint.

What For? Sprint planning, as the name tells, plans for the work and forecasts the functionality to be developed during the Sprint.

Inputs: 
  • Refined Product Backlog: Product backlog, before presented in the Scrum planning, has to be refined (also referred as backlog refinement) by the Product Owner. Refining means having fine grained items ordered on top of the Product Backlog with ID, description, estimation, and value.  
  • Product Goal: A long-term, single objective for the Scrum Team, which informs the future state of the product. The product goal is developed by the product owner and is communicated to the team. The Product Goal is part of the Product Backlog.
  • Projected/Estimated Team Capacity: It is a simple calculation considering the length of the team, number of developers (and sometimes availability of the team members)
  • Projected Velocity: It is the past performance of the team. It is kind of yesterday’s weather. It may or may not be available, e.g., for the 1st Sprint, it won’t be available.
  • Definition of Ready: I'm taking this term from Scrum Guide. Ready means the story that can be done by the Scrum Team in one Sprint are pulled from the Product Backlog to Sprint Backlog.
  • Key Stakeholders: Subject matter experts or domain specialists can be invited into this meeting among others (as needed).

Outputs:
  • Updated Product Backlog: As the items are pulled into the Sprint backlog, there will be discussion on the product backlog items. Some of the product backlog items are likely to be updated.
  • Sprint Goal: The single objective of the current Sprint. Should be in terms of business value to be delivered. The Sprint Goal is part of the Sprint Backlog.
  • Sprint Backlog: It has the forecasted product backlog items that will be delivered in the Sprint. It also has the plan for delivering the work items, in decomposed form, so as to have the product increment.
  • Sprint Review Date: This is the demo date. Sprint gives the usable version of the product. On the demo date, the product increment is demonstrated. 
  • Estimated Velocity: After the development team takes up the product items that can be done in this Sprint, the estimated velocity is known.
  • Development Activities: The product backlog items are broken down (or decomposed) into development tasks or activities by team members. They can take help from technical specialists or SMEs who are invited to the meeting. 
  • Definition of Done (DoD): A checklist of items with quality criteria. When the product backlog item selected into the Sprint Backlog meets the DoD, it is considered to be complete. The Scrum Guide 2020 puts it quite well and says:
    When a backlog item meets the DoD, an Increment is born.

For Part 2 of Sprint IOs, use the below link.


References:

[1] Online Course: PMI-ACP Live Lessons – Guaranteed Pass, by Satya Narayan Dash

[2] Online Course: PMI-ACP 21 Online Contact Hours, by Satya Narayan Dash

[3] Book: I Want To Be An ACP, the Plain and Simple Way to be a PMI-ACP, 2nd Edition, by Satya Narayan Dash

[4] A Deeper Look: Top Changes in the New 2020 Scrum Guide for Agile Practitioners, published by MPUG, US

[5] The 2020 Scrum Guide, by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland