Thursday, October 28, 2021

Agile Release Planning with MS Project 2019 Agile

Paraphrasing a well-known concept in project management, one might say, 

“Planning is indispensable, but plans are useless. Hence, inspect and adapt.” 

This article was first published by MPUG.comThis is a refined and updated version with latest features of MS Project 2019 Agile. The latest content and the practical snapshots are taken from the NEW Course: Mastering MS Project 2019 Agile.

Traditional plans are driven by dates – most likely with an end date being the primary driving factor. In traditional project management, you gather the requirements from your stakeholders, build the scope of the project, and break the project down to manageable pieces of work. This, in turn, creates a work breakdown structure (WBS). Next, the lowest level of WBS, i.e., work packages, are further decomposed into activities. The activities are then linked with dependencies, and resources are estimated and applied to activities to create an end-to-end schedule for the project. This schedule is then monitored and controlled with the help of a schedule management plan, which is usually a subsidiary plan of the consolidated project management plan.

But, how many times did it happen that what you planned and what actually happened on the ground, matched? You already know the answer! The opening quote signifies that planning is essential, but expecting that we can follow the plan exactly is not a wise thing to do. When there are high churns in requirements and high uncertainty in technology or platform, PMs usually go with adaptive (or Agile) life cycles.

In fact, the fourth value in the Agile Manifesto says: “Responding to change over following a plan.” Agile is change driven, and most likely, these changes will be driven by customers. This leads to a concept called Agile Release Planning.

Release planning is unlike traditional planning, where the complete plan is considered upfront, elaborated on in detail, and can only be changed with formal change requests. A release plan can be updated many times based on the feedback from previous iterations.

Because adaptive life cycles are incremental in nature, organizations can release at the end of every iteration. They can also choose to release after a few iterations or even continuously. This necessitates a longer-term planning, but can be effectively facilitated by utilizing the release planning technique, which was newly introduced in the 6th edition of the PMBOK Guide.

For aspiring Project Management Professionals (PMPs) and Certified Associates in Project Management (CAPM) , Agile Release Planning is a key concept to know. The PMBOK Guide 6th edition has introduced Agile considerations for every knowledge area. This is also useful for aspiring Agile Certified Practitioners (ACPs).

As we get into this more, let’s first see how the release plans are developed at a high level.

From Vision to Roadmap to Release Plans

In Agile projects, work starts with a product vision. The vision then translates to a product roadmap. The roadmap contains the features to be developed over a period of time. You can also say a roadmap represents the scope of the product, which is delivered in various releases. This leads to the release plans and is shown in the figure below.

Roadmap and Product Backlog *** NEW***

One component in the above sequence is product roadmap, and to understand product roadmap, first we need to understand product backlog. In Agile approaches, all the requirements – both project requirements and product requirements – are part of the product backlog (PB). Each item in the product backlog is called a product backlog item (or PBI). Other than features (requirements), a product backlog item can be a change request, defect, bug, issue, or even specific technical work.

As we know, in Agile projects, the requirements are continuously evolving and there are significant uncertainties/risks. As a result, we usually prioritize the PBIs. The prioritized PBIs are taken from the top of the backlog and delivered to the customer(s). High priority items remain on top of the backlog and are fine-grained, whereas low priority items are at the bottom of the backlog and coarse-grained. The prioritization of the items in the PB determines the level of detail for that item in the product backlog. This is depicted in the below figure.

If you are using Agile tools such as Microsoft Project, you can develop the product backlog quickly. An example product backlog, drawn with MS Project 2019 Agile, is shown below.

Here, we have a product backlog showing the product backlog items (PBIs) of “Create a new user,” “Login to the online trading system,” “Transfer a stock,” etc. If you wanted to add any other backlog item, you’d just have to click on the “+” icon of “New Task” command box. When you user MS Project 2019 Sprint template, the Backlog will be available in the Sprint Planning Board view. Three Sprints will be created by default.

The top-level items in the product backlog can be written in user stories, which are estimated in story points – a relative unit-less measure.

Now, coming to the product roadmap, you can simply say it is a product backlog with a timeline. A roadmap depicts the planned future of the project (i.e. planned and/or proposed product releases) or release themes, listing high-level functionalities of the product. The roadmap tells what features or epics (an epic, simply speaking, is a big user story) will be delivered in each release. 

Release Plan 

The product roadmap drives the release plans. A release plan gives the release schedule – each release typically being three to six months. A release contains many iterations – from Iteration 0 (iteration zero) to Iteration N. Iteration 0 can be used for project approvals, setting up the environment for the project, initial overview and design discussions, etc. Some Agile practitioners use Iteration – H (hardening iteration), which is the final iteration at the end of the release to prepare for delivery. This iteration can include final work items such as training and marketing materials, final release notes, installation guides, system/user guides, etc. This is depicted below.

As shown, the release plan has iterations – from “Iteration – 0” to “Iteration – N.” You can decide to have a release after a few iterations and/or a final release after the last iteration.

The release plan presents a roadmap of how the team intends to achieve the project vision within the scope of project objectives and constraints. It helps the product owner and whole team decide how much must be developed and how long it will take before they have a releasable product. It conveys expectations about what is likely to be developed and in what timeframe. The release plan can also serve as a guidepost towards which the team can progress. The release plan can be updated at the end of an iteration, and it reflects the current expectations that will be included, so that they can be delivered in subsequent iterations. 

Release Planning with Product Backlog *** NEW***

To have a better understanding of release planning, you can visualize the release plans with the help of product backlog.

We already know the items in the product backlog are ranked or ordered, based on their priority. The top-level items which are fine grained, will be ready for consumption in the next iteration (under the immediate next release). The prioritized backlog, with features and other items, is shown on the left side of the figure below. 

Within MS Project, you simply have to select, drag, and drop backlog items and arrange them as per your need to prioritize them. This is shown on the right side of the figure above. Considering previous example showing product backlog within MS Project, we have this relative ranking: first “Login to the online trading system,” next “Create a new user,” then “Buy a stock,” etc.

As shown above, I’ve selected and dragged the feature item “Login to the online trading system” and dropped it ahead of previously feature item “Create a new user.” The item selected was slightly greyed out as I dragged and dropped it.

Using the backlog, you can decide which of the backlog items should be delivered in the next releases. Below, we see that the items in next release (i.e. Release 1) are mostly prioritized. The items for Release 2 might be prioritized also, but we see that items for Release 3 are not prioritized as they are low priority items.

You can visualize this release planning with MS Project, as well. Look at the figure below. There are PBIs shown to be taken in various releases. Remember a release contains iterations? In our case, for the first release, we have three iterations, and all items are expected to be delivered in these iterations. An iteration is called a sprint in the Scrum framework, which is a popular framework used by Agile PMs. For the next two releases (i.e. Release 2 and Release 3), we have the PBIs, but we have not yet decided on the iterations (or sprints).


Iteration Planning *** NEW***

If you’ve followed, the release plan consists of Iteration 0 to Iteration N and we can decide to release at the end of every few iterations or every iteration. But what happens within an iteration? Simply speaking, the scope for a set of features within the iteration is confirmed at the beginning of the iteration and delivered at the end of the iteration.

The features that are confirmed and taken for the iteration are broken down to tasks (or activities) and estimated in hours by the team members. The sequence of steps from product roadmap to release plan to iteration plan is shown in the diagram below.

Summarizing the above figure, these will be the key points:

  • The product’s vision drives product roadmap
  • Product roadmap drives release plans
  • A release plan will have iterations
  • Features, which are estimated in story points, are developed in an iteration
  • Features are broken down to tasks, which are estimated in hours

Using MS Project 2019 Agile, you can build a release plan quickly. Considering our previous backlog example, we have three iterations/sprints for the first release (i.e. Sprint 1, Sprint 2, and Sprint 3). Each sprint has a set of features to be delivered. This is shown in the below in the “Sprint Planning Board” view. 

You can also drill down to see what happens at the iteration/sprint level and find out which PBIs are being worked upon. MS Project shows this in “Current Sprint Board” view. See the figure below.

For Sprint 1, we have three items to be delivered – “Login to the online trading system,” “Create a new user,” and “Buy a stock.” These are passing through three the workflow states of “Next Up,” “In Progress,” and “Done.” Of course, you can add, remove, or customize these workflow states as per your need. 

Release Plan Vs. Iteration Plan

If you are taking the exam, you also need to know the differences between Release Plan and Iteration Plan. They are noted in the table below. Typically, the iterations are timeboxed for two to four weeks. However, in some cases, such as XP (another Agile framework), iterations can be one week long.


[1] NEW Online Course: Mastering MS Project 2019 Agile (Scrum and Kanban), by Satya Narayan Dash 

[2] Book: I Want To Be An ACP: The Plain and Simple Way To Be An ACP, 2nd Edition by Satya Narayan Dash

[3] Online Course: Microsoft Project Live Lessons, by Satya Narayan Dash

Videos Courses on MS Project Agile and Hybrid-Agile: 

[1] Mastering MS Project Agile (Scrum and Kanban) 

[2] Certified Hybrid-Agile Master Professional

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Mastering MS Project 2019/2021 Agile Online Course


I am pleased to announce the public availability of the Mastering MS Project 2019/2021 Agile Course for Agile practitioners:


It’s a complete video course and comes with full money back guarantee. It’s specifically for Agile practitioners and professionals. The main page for this course is under AGILE tab of this site:

Agile is no longer a buzzword. It’s used across industry verticals. MS Project 2019/2021 is a widely used project-portfolio management software tool and it comes with in-build Agile features with its Online Desktop Client edition. MS Project online desktop client supports both Scrum and Kanban. Hence, hands-on understanding of Agile with MS Project software increases your value significantly in the marketplace.

This course is much sought after by many aspiring Agile Management professionals. I’ve received many emails from people around the world, who have been using MS Project software and want to use the built-in Agile functionalities. 

As I have seen, there is no exhaustive and in-depth course available on MS Project Agile with its latest features. This course covers the fundamentals of Scrum and Kanban with MS Project in a practical way. Also, while using MS Project Agile features, you have to do a number of customizations to operate for Advanced Scrum and Advanced Kanban Features

*Note*: Step-by-Step Guide: Install, Set-up and Run MS Project 2019 with Agile Features (MS Project 2019/2021 Online Desktop Client)

You learn and work with a number of such advanced concepts in MS Project Agile:

  • Creation of a Velocity Profile Chart
  • Creation of Release Histogram and Release Burndown Chart
  • Building a customized Burnup Chart
  • Working with Kanban Cumulative Flow Diagram (CFD) 
  • Adjusting a Sprint in Progress
  • Closing a Sprint
  • Adjusting a Kanban Project
  • Closing a Kanban Project

For more, you can refer this page: 

Because this a fully practical oriented course, you will see how all the above functionalities can be used with MS Project. 

With this practical, hands-on course, you will move from the basics to intermediate and finally the advanced part of Scrum and Kanban. You will also learn how to build and work with Scrumban projects.

With this course, you will also have an End Course Assessment and will get a Course Completion Certificate, indicating your mastery over MS Project Agile features. More importantly, you learn thoroughly how to work with MS Project Agile while working on Scrum, Kanban or Scrumban projects.

Top 10 Features: Mastering MS Project 2019/2021 Agile

  1. Total Video Duration: 14 hours (approx.)
  2. Number of Videos: 132
  3. Number of Lessons: 10 (+1)
  4. Total Exercises (Practical): 102
  5. End Course Assessment: Detailed question set on Agile
  6. Course Completion Certificate: Will demonstrate your mastery in MSP Agile
  7. Tips and Tricks: Many Tips, Short-Cuts throughout the lessons
  8. Advanced Concepts: 50+ videos on advanced MS Project Agile
  9. Reporting: A large number of videos for custom Agile Reporting
  10. Content: Simple content and highly interactive videos with Hands-on exercises

Course Breakdown – Mastering MS Project 2019/2021 Agile

  • Lesson 1 – Welcome (7 videos): 19m 55s [19 minutes 55 seconds]
  • Lesson 2 – Introduction to MS Project Agile (13 videos): 59m 48s
  • Lesson 3 – Scrum with MS Project Agile (23 videos): 2h 26m 01s
  • Lesson 4 – Scrum Reports with MS Project Agile (10 videos): 1h 06m 52s
  • Lesson 5 – Kanban with MS Project Agile (18 videos): 1h 52m 26s
  • Lesson 6 – Kanban Reports with MS Project Agile (7 videos): 41m 22s
  • Lesson 7 – Custom Agile with MS Project Agile (11 videos): 1h 04m 13s
  • Lesson 8 – Advanced Scrum with MS Project Agile (26 videos): 3h 17m 29s
  • Lesson 9 – Advanced Kanban with MS Project Agile (16 videos): 1h 37m 28s
  • Lesson 10 - Conclusion (2 videos): 4m 10s
  • All Exercises (MS Project 2019 Agile)

The details on it this course, with information on additional features, are available also available at: 

What is Full Money Back Guarantee for this Course?

There are no little tricks, such as – “terms and conditions apply”, “** conditions apply”, “guarantee not applicable if you have seen 15% of the course”, “give all 3 attempts or we will refund your money” etc., as you would have seen in many places. 

What you see and read here is what you get.

The premise is simple.
Go through the complete course for 15 days. 100% video content of this course will be available to you.
If you don’t like the course, I’ll refund your full money. 

Note: You can also evaluate the videos before paying any money. Twenty (20) videos will be available for your evaluation, even before your purchase. 

Applicability and Validity

  • Software Used  MS Project 2019/2021 Online Desktop Client 
  • Software Understanding – MS Project 2019/2021, or MS Project 2016, or MS Project 2013
  • Price:
    $85 USD / Rs 6,799  (3 months access)
    $149 USD / Rs 11,919  (6 months access)
    Extension is also available. Price calculation will be pro-rata.
  • Payment:
    (Login, Send your payment to paypal account of, Enter the amount; Invoice will be generated after payment)
    OR, you can pay via Bank Transfer or Payment. For this, please send a mail to to get account the details.
  • Available since: October, 2021
  • Primary Format: Video, Accessible
  • Status: Available
    (accessible via laptop/desktop)

Detailed Course Breakdown

The detailed course breakdown is shown below. It details hours of learning, number of videos and various exercise details. You can scroll to see the full content. 

If you want to buy this course or have any question, please send an email to 

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

PMP Success Story: Determination, Right Material and A Lot of Practice Will Make You A PMP

By Shubhra Rishi, PMP


As a young professional in the Project Management Industry, I was motivated to get certified as a PMP to achieve a globally recognized credential that would further help me stand out among other professionals. 

I’m determined to excel and succeed in my career and this certification allowed me to gain transferable knowledge to leverage along with my experiential learnings. Additionally, I know that acquiring the PMP certification will bring me incredible new career opportunities and broaden my professional network.

PMP 35 Hours Online Learning Experience

I’ve never met Satya as I reside in North America. I went for the 35-Hour Online PMP Contact Hours Course after following his book, I Want To Be A PMP. The course was extremely helpful in my PMP preparation. Satya’s videos were detailed and explained each concept well. 

Here is my review of the course:

  • The course content flows together seamlessly. 
  • The ‘Yogic Revisions’ and ‘Yogic Tips’ really helped in absorbing the material and provided timely reminders on when concepts from the same and other lessons should be reviewed. 
  • The end of lesson questions and exercises tested your knowledge of the material in a great way, and it was very helpful that the answer sheet provided detailed explanations of the correct answer and why the other options were not correct. 
  • Satya points out which material is likely to be on the exam, take note of those things especially and ensure that you know it. 
  • Also, in some of the lessons there are articles that Satya links, I would recommend reading through those especially if the material is less clear to you because he explains in further detail in the articles which helps a lot. 
  • If there is a flow provided for certain plans or processes, it’s a good idea to understand those because it will explain how ITTOs of the processes feed into each other. 

In addition to taking the 35-hour training course, as noted earlier, I also used Satya’s e-Book for the PMP exam. 

In my view, following are key points about the book:

  • This book is a simplified version of the PMBOK guide to prepare for the exam. 
  • This book was such an easy read and I absorbed the material in a more efficient and effective way in comparison to reading the PMBOK guide. 
  • Satya provided relevant and concise examples, if necessary, but the best part was that any extra content was not included. This was great because it allowed details on the most important parts of the course and did not overload you with less important content. 
  • Each topic in the book was useful and the breakdown of the content within the sections was appropriate. 

On the administrative and overall experience of Satya’s courses, it was very helpful that all access to materials and courses was very prompt and there were detailed instructions on everything from navigating your email to locate the course, breakdown of the course, study recommendations, etc. 

Satya’s course definitely is preparing its students for grand success by providing as much information about each aspect of the process as possible.  

Additionally, Satya responded to all email inquiries in a timely manner and was always professional. He always offered to provide extra assistance if one required it. All these things really eased my mind as there were less ambiguities to overthink or stress about. 

Prior to the exam, Satya also helped guide me to specific areas that I should pay extra attention to in the weeks leading up to the exam based on recent PMP success stories. Thank you, Satya, for all the support and guidance throughout the process.

Own Study

I began my full-fledge preparation for the exam in May 2021 and wrote the exam in September 2021. I created a monthly schedule for myself to clearly know what material I needed to cover each day. 

I followed the below procedure (along with the suggestions):

  • On average, I studied 2-3 hours a day on weekdays and on weekends 3-5 hours. In the initial months, I took one to two break days a week to give my brain a rest as I was also working full time along with studying. 
  • I used Satya’s book and training course and made detailed handwritten notes to better absorb the information. I found his book and course being great to learn the material and hardly referenced the PMBOK guide or the APG (this worked well for me, but please use your own discretion with this). 
  • In my personal experience, writing down the notes was a great way to learn. I found it helpful to read aloud the notes I had made and make notes again on the most important parts of the chapters. 
  • As you review the material, test yourself on contents of project documents, plans, etc. This helped me to connect why these documents are used in the different processes.
  • I took the 6 full length practice exams in the couple weeks leading up to the exam once I had reviewed the material thoroughly. I approached it this way because at this point, I had reviewed the material a few times and was more prepared to sit through the exams. 

The obstacles I faced while studying was getting overwhelmed at times with the amount of material, and since there were overlapping plans and documents in the processes, learning to differentiate where they are used. 

I overcame this through reviewing the content a few times, asking myself questions and staying focused during my study sessions. 

I found it important to have a quiet space while studying that is free from distractions. During the summer months, I would sit outside to study because it allowed me to enjoy the weather while also being productive towards my goal. 

PMP Exam Experience

I scheduled to take the online proctored exam at home through OnVue so that I could get my exam result right away. My first strategy going into the exam was to pace myself as I completed the questions and flag any questions, I was unsure about so I could come back to them later. 

Some of the challenges while taking the exam online were:

  • No scrap paper, calculator, pen, etc was allowed on your desk. All tools to be used were provided virtually (highlighter, calculator, etc). 
  • Exam takers are NOT allowed to move their mouths to read the question back to themselves. This did throw me off in the exam because I like to read aloud or at least mouth to myself the question to better understand it. However, no movement of the mouth is allowed. 

Coming to the questions in the exam, I’ve following experience.

  • The questions in the exam are almost all situational and largely on agile/hybrid approaches. 
  • There were hardly any direct questions on the exam that referred to specific ITTOs, plans, documents, etc. Therefore, I think it is important to understand the content and memorization of each ITTO in each process is not required. 
  • I would also not focus a lot of time on mathematical questions as there are hardly any on the exam and the ones there are simple and can be solved using the virtual calculator. 
  • I had some matching and multiple response multiple choice questions in the exam that were simple to answer, majority of the exam was selecting 1 answer from the multi-choice questions. 
  • There are two 10-minute breaks that you get after each 60 questions completed. I recommend taking these breaks as they don’t take away from your exam time and it is a good time to give the mind a rest, give yourself that motivational talk or take a washroom break. 

I used the entire exam time allocated to complete the exam.

Suggestions for PMP Aspirants


  • Make a study schedule and do your best to follow it.
  • Make handwritten notes and read your notes out loud as well to review.
  • Talk to people in your network about their experience with the exam.
  • Schedule your exam once you are feeling confident because this way you will have a target timeline that you are working towards, and it will provide that boost in motivation knowing you are almost done!
  • Take some time off before the exam so that you can be fully dedicated to it, rather than context switching between work and study or other responsibilities.
  • Take breaks during the week so that your motivation remains consistent.
  • Complete your application at your earliest convenience so that your attention can be focused on the exam as the date approaches.


  • Don’t worry if you get practice questions, exams or exercises incorrect while preparing, read the explanations Satya provides and incorporate those learnings in other lessons/chapters where you can.
  • Don’t procrastinate too much in scheduling the exam, there will always be that feeling of preparing more but at some point, be confident in yourself and go for it!!
  • Don’t just be bookish, but think about your real-world experience, focus on what the PMBOK guide says is the correct way to deal with a situation, go through a process, etc.
  • Don’t Study off too many sources or courses. I find this can be confusing and can result in information overload.

Brief Profile: 

Shubhra Rishi, PMP.

Senior Project Coordinator

PMP 35 Contact Hours Online Course:

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Understanding Qualitative Risk Analysis

1999. October 29. A super cyclone measuring 160 mph hit Gopalpur in Odisha, a coastal state of India, with horrifying fury. It resulted over 10,000 people losing their lives and over $US4 billion in damages. The devastation caused was barely reported. In fact, little is known about the event, but it changed the way India braces itself for natural calamities.

2013. October 13. Another super cyclone, named Phailin, running at 160 mph landed on the same state and also at the same place just around midnight. This time, the loss of lives was less than 50 – little to none due to the cyclone, but more due to flooding. This time, the estimated cost of damages (mostly loss of property) was around $US400 million.

Two events occurred, but each one had entirely different outcomes. What was the difference? Risk Management.

A cyclone doesn’t come alone. First, it blows away everything in its path like an uncontrolled train rampaging through, in this case, a densely populated area. Then, about two weeks later, another natural calamity strikes – flooding driven by the river Mahanadi (meaning “Great River”) running across the heartlands of the state. A third calamity strikes in another couple of weeks. Water-borne diseases grow uncontrolled as public works systems are in disarray. Are the calamities over? Not yet. Two other issues arise, which cause the longest-term impact. These are that food and shelter become scare. Food scarcity because the fertile land in the river delta becomes saturated with salt water pouring up the shore and is no longer cultivable, and a shelter crisis because homes destroyed often take years to rebuild. Perhaps no other event demands risk management with such high urgency! A cyclone and its cousin disasters create a highly volatile situation and risk in a short timeframe (three to four weeks). Despite this short timeframe, the impact continues on for decades. Obviously, an event such as this can severely cripple growth, if not managed well.

Of course, we can all see that a cyclone causes quite a disaster, but every one of us takes up risks. Just driving on a road, or even getting out of bed in the morning can pose risk. You might stub your toe in the dark on the way to the light switch or trip over a wire lying next to your bed. These events don’t usually happen, but the possibility exists. 

Individual Project Risks

Project Management Institute (PMI) defines an individual project risk as:

An uncertain event or condition, if it occurs, will have a positive or negative impact on one or more objectives of the project.

As noted in the above definition, there are two characteristics for an event to be defined as a risk:

  • Risk occurs from elements of uncertainty (probability). Other descriptors, in place of ‘uncertainty’ can be ‘likelihood’ or ‘chances.’
  • Risk might have negative or positive effects on meeting the project objectives. Other descriptors of ‘effect’ can be ‘impact’ or ‘consequences.’

But, why are we looking at both the characteristics? I’d like to suggest it is because we don’t really manage all the risks we face. We have to look at both the likelihood or probability, as well as the impact or consequences.

Consider the earlier example of the cyclone(s). Here, taking steps to reduce the risk doesn’t change the likelihood of such events occurring. Can we change the course of nature? No. However, we can definitely mitigate the impact. On the other hand, removing the cord which lies on your path to the light switch (our second example), removes the likelihood of you tripping over it, but does not change the impact, (i.e., that if you do over it, you will get hurt).

Note that the definition of risk says that it must positively or negatively impact or effect at least one project objective such as scope, schedule, or cost. If it doesn’t, then it is not a risk. If the risk negatively impacts the objectives, then it is called a threat and if the impact is positive, it is called an opportunity.

For many, the term “risk” typically comes with a negative connotation. Hence, negative impact is quickly understood. But, what about the positive risks? Say you have a good team member working on your project, or that you can reuse an existing design framework. In those cases, you can enhance the chances of your project being completed early. These are examples of positive risks or opportunities. 

Risk Score, Risk Appetite, and Risk Threshold

Once we have the probability and impact values, we multiply them. This gives us the Risk Score. Putting it into a formula, it will look like this:

The higher the risk score, the higher the priority to take these prioritized risks into account and plan responses accordingly. This is what actually happens in qualitative risk analysis.

The probability scale can be numeric (1, 2, 5, etc.), textual (high, low, medium), color coded (red, amber, green), or a combination of factors. A possible probability scale is shown in the table below:

While building the impact scale you can consider various traditional objectives (i.e. scope, time, cost, and/or quality). A possible impact scale is shown in the table below: 

As we have seen before, when you combine the probability and impact, you get the risk score. It can also be numeric, textual, color coded, or a combination of those factors. This is represented in a matrix format, which is known as the Probability and Impact matrix/grid, or simply the PI matrix.

A possible PI matrix is shown below. In this case, I’ve considered both the probability and impact scales from 1 (very low) to 5 (very high). This is to keep things simple. It is possible that you can individually consider the impacts on the objectives, such as scope, schedule, cost, quality, etc. as noted in the earlier impact scale table, and then determine the score by applying mathematical formulas.

While calculating the risk score in the above table, I’ve multiplied the probability and impact values. The color coding in the above PI matrix is based on the risk appetite level of the stakeholders. You may wonder what I mean by “Risk Appetite.” Let’s define it.

Risk Appetite, as the name itself suggests, is an indication of how much hunger or appetite exists for taking risks. Let’s consider another example. When you take on an investment or mutual fund, the fund manager will ask, “What is your risk appetite?” If you are a risk seeking person (i.e. a risk seeker or one with high risk appetite), the fund manager may present equity related financial products. However, if you are a person who avoids risks (i.e. risk averse or with low risk appetite), then the fund manager may, instead, present debt related financial products.

In project risk management for projects, similar things happen. Risk appetite informs what you as an individual (or an organization) are willing to accept in anticipation of a reward. A related term to risk appetite is Risk Threshold. Risk threshold informs the level of risk exposure above which risks are addressed and below which risks may not be actively pursued (or even accepted).

The risk appetite level of the stakeholders can be represented with risk score ranges. For this article, I’ve included three categories for risk appetite level – low (green), medium (yellow), and high (red). They each have associated risk score ranges. This is noted in the table below:

The probability scale, the impact scale with considerations around chosen objectives, the stakeholders’ risk appetite levels, and risk threshold are all defined in the Risk Management Plan, which is created during the planning stage of a project. 

Qualitative Risk Analysis – What Happens?

Now that we know about the fundamentals on various risk attributes, let’s get deeper into qualitative risk analysis.

PMI calls qualitative risk analysis the process of Perform Qualitative Risk Analysis (QLRA), and says it is:

The process of prioritizing individual project risks for further analysis or action by assessing their probability of occurrence and impact as well as other characteristics.

In other words, we consider the probability and impact values of the individual project risks to conduct qualitative risks analysis. We also consider other risk characteristics. The simplified flow for qualitative risk analysis is shown in the following figure:

The salient points about the above flow diagram are noted below.

  • The risk management plan is prepared in Plan Risk Management process. It has the information on probability and impact scales, PI matrix, and stakeholder risk appetite levels.
  • The risk management plan then acts as input to Identify Risks process to create a project document named risk register, which has information on the possible individual risks identified.
  • At this stage, you can have various risk attributes documented in the risk register such as risk identifier (ID), risk title, risk type, risk category, possible risk trigger date, potential risk owners, potential risk responses, etc.
  • Next, the risk register and the risk management plan act as inputs to the Perform Qualitative Risk Analysis (Perform QLRA) process. The stakeholder register is also acting as an input as the final risk owners are nominated in the process of Perform QLRA.
  • Post qualitative analysis, the risk register will be updated as an output of Perform QLRA process. It will be updated with information for individual project risks such as probability and impact values, risk score, nominated risk owner, and other risk characteristics. We already know that the higher the score the higher the priority. Hence, prioritization of individual project risks happens in this process. Risks with low priorities are moved into a list called Watch-List. This watch-list is not a separate project document, but part of the risk register.
  • The updated risk register can act as input to Perform Quantitative Risk Analysis (Perform QTRA) providing further analysis or can directly act as an input to Plan Risk Responses process to develop risk response strategies for the risks. This is because the process of Perform QTRA is optional, represented with a dotted line above. 

Qualitative Risk Analysis – An Example

To understand further qualitative risk analysis, let’s consider the risk register shown below. There can be many possible fields in the register during qualitative risk analysis. In order to keep things simple, I’ve kept the number of fields to a minimum here.

Going by our above risk register, we have five risks. These are shown in the Risk ID column of the register.

While calculating the risk score, I’ve considered the highest impact across various objectives multiplied with the probability value. For example, Risk 001 has a schedule impact that is high (H), cost impact that is medium (M), a scope impact that is very high (VH), and a quality impact that is high (H). The overall impact is taken to be very high (VH). It has a probability value of very high (VH), as well. The overall score of the first risk is 25.

Shall we act on all the risks with high scores? Not necessarily. Rather, we will act on a risk if it crosses the risk threshold.

Let’s say our risk threshold value is 9. If the score of the risk is greater than or equal to 9, then the risk will be prioritized. Otherwise we will move it to the watch-list.

Considering the above risk register, the prioritized risks will be Risk 001, Risk 002, and Risk 004, because their scores are above the accepted level of 9. Risk 003 and Risk 005 will be moved into the watch-list, which is less frequently monitored. 

Other Impacting Risk Parameters

In our earlier definition for the process of Perform QLRA, I mentioned that other characteristics considered beyond probability and impact. These impact the score and hence, priority of the risk in question. Some of these risk characteristics or parameters, as documented in the PMBOK guide, are noted in the below table.

Quite a list, right? Although long, the concepts are not complicated. Let’s take one parameter, Risk Urgency, to understand how it impacts the score of the risk.

Say a risk is about to occur tomorrow, and another risk will happen in next week. Which risk are you going to take up first for analysis and subsequent change implementation? Obviously, it will be the risk happening tomorrow. A risk requiring a near term response is considered more urgent.

Risk urgency can be put in textual form with a weighting factor combined as shown in the below table.

Say a risk has a score of 16 and it is expected to happen in next couple of days. As the risk is imminent, we multiply it by 1.1 and increase the score. The result will be 18 (16 * 1.1 = 17.6 and then rounded up to the nearest value of 18). Similarly, if you consider other risk parameters, the score may change.

You can also combine these parameters to rank the order in which risks should be addressed. For example, if you combine risk urgency with risk manageability, you will first address the risks with high urgency and high manageability, whereas for the risks with low manageability and low urgency, you will avoid (or look at last). This is represented below:

Risk Bubble Chart

If you want to combine more than two risk parameters, you can plot them in a 3-dimesional (3D) chart, which can be represented as a Bubble Chart. The risks are presented as bubbles in the chart.

Taking the risks from our earlier risk register, a possible bubble chart is shown below:


In this case, we are considering three parameters – risk manageability (X-axis), risk detectability (Y-axis), and risk impact (bubble size). The bigger the size of the bubble, the higher the impact. Analyzing the above bubble chart, Risk 001, Risk 002, and Risk 004 will be of higher priority because they have high manageability, high detectability, and high impact.

I do hope this article gives you a deeper understanding on qualitative risk analysis. For aspiring Project Management Professionals (PMP), Risk Management Professionals (RMP), or Certified Associates in Project Management (CAPM), qualitative risk analysis is a key topic to understand. In the real world, too, this analysis usually happens on identified risks, because qualitative analysis is mandatory to prioritize the risks of a project or a natural disaster, such as a cyclone.

This article is dedicated to the memory of those people who passed away in the super cyclone of 1999, cyclone Phailin, and recent cyclone Titli, which impacted India, Thailand, Myanmar, Bangladesh, and Nepal. Today, Odisha, which has been most impacted by these natural catastrophes, is known to be one of the best prepared states to face cyclones and related calamities. It’s a tribute to her peoples’ perseverance, resiliency, and tenacity.


* This article was first published by on 11th June, 2018.


[1] Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) Guide, 6th Edition, by Project Management Institute (PMI)

[2] I Want To Be A RMP: The Plain and Simple Way To Be A RMP, 2nd Edition, by Satya Narayan Dash

[3] I Want To Be A PMP: The Plain and Simple Way To Be A PMP, 2nd edition, by Satya Narayan Dash

[4] Practice Standard for Project Risk Management, by Project Management Institute (PMI)

[5] 1999 Odisha cyclone:

[6] Cyclone Phailin:

Monday, October 11, 2021

What Should You Know about the PMP Exam Changes in 2021 and Beyond? (Part 2)


The Impact of the Changes

Obviously, as the exam has changed, there have been quite a few impacts. Let’s look at them one by one.

Impact #1: Exam Complexity

Many have been saying the new exam is more difficult, which I don’t agree with because the needed experience level to appear for the exam has not changed. It still is either of the following:

For four-year bachelor’s degree or global equivalent: Minimum 36 months unique non-overlapping professional project management experience,

– or –

For secondary degree (high school diploma or global equivalent): Minimum 60 months unique non-overlapping professional project management experience

As the experience level is relatively low and remains unchanged, I don’t expect the exam questions to be tougher. That said, the exam is more complex now because of the new addition of tasks within the new domains, along with the Agile content increased the scope of coverage. If you are an aspiring PMP, you will need to expand your horizon in the project management landscape.

Impact #2: First Score Report

The first examination score report are changed now. This is the report exam takers get immediately after the exam at the exam center. It's based on the three domains and the report will come as shown below.

The proficiency levels, nevertheless, remains unchanged, in that the score will continue to have four performance rating categories (Above Target, Target, Below Target, and Needs Improvement).

Impact #3: Detailed Score Analysis *** NEW ***

For each domain in the new ECO, there are number of enablers, and for each enabler, there are a number of tasks. These are spread across the three domains – Process and Business Environment.

More explanation on it has been given towards the later part of this article. Your evaluation will be on these domains, tasks and enablers. 

Impact #4: Questions in Agile/Hybrid Approaches *** NEW ***

As noted earlier, there is equal distribution of questions with respect to predictive and adaptive (Agile) or hybrid approaches.

These are spread across all of the domains, People, Process, and Business Environment. 

Important Note:

While Agile is 50% of the questions, many confuse Hybrid questions as part of the Agile. As per PMI, this is the definition of hybrid model:

A hybrid model is a combination of two or more agile and non-agile elements, having a non-agile end result. 

In other words, you can say that Hybrid ones will have a combination of Agile and Traditional/Waterfall approaches. 

Hence, combing Agile and Hybrid questions you can expect  more than 50% questions! In fact, many successful PMPs in this year have informed so. Some of the questions with Agile related concepts will be part of a traditional/waterfall project. These questions will fall under Hybrid type. It’s not explicitly Agile/Adaptive. 

PMI Talent Triangle and the New ECO Triangle

If you look closely, you can find that the three domains in the ECO are aligning closely with the three arms of PMI’s Talent Triangle. The PMI Talent Triangle was introduced in 2015 because technical project management skills for a practicing project manager were found to be insufficient to succeed in the real world with real life practices. Hence, two new areas were added (leadership capabilities and strategic and business management proficiency). The PMI Talent Triangle is depicted on the left side of the diagram below.


Similarly, the new ECO of 2020/2021 has three domains, which are aligned with real-world project management practices. I’ve put these three domains as the arms of the “New ECO Triangle” for easier correlation – shown on the right side of above diagram. Comparing these two triangles, you could say that:

  • The Leadership arm maps to People domain,
  • The Technical Project Management arm maps to Process domain, and
  • The Strategic and Business Management arm maps to Business Environment domain.

This is significant because in the new PMP exam, you need to evaluate your understanding in these contexts.

We now know what are the changes and impacts. Next, let’s dive a bit deeper into the domains and associated concepts of the new exam.

Domains, Tasks, and Enablers

Each domain in the new ECO is empowered by a set of tasks and enablers. In fact, in the new 2020/2021 ECO, the format of Domains, Tasks, and Enables is used throughout. I’ve depicted it in the below figure.

As shown, every domain has a set of tasks, and each task is associated with a set of enablers. Let’s look at some examples.

Domain: A domain is defined as the high-level knowledge area that is essential to the practice of project management.

  • An example of this is People.

Tasks: A task informs about the underlying responsibilities of the project manager within each domain area.

  • Examples (for the People domain) are: 
    • Task 1: Manage conflict
    • Task 2: Lead a team
    • Task 3: Support team performance

Enablers: Enablers are illustrative examples of the work associated with a task. For example, for Task 2 (Lead a team) under the “People” domain, we have these enablers:

  • Enabler 1: Set a clear vision and mission
  • Enabler 2: Support diversity and inclusion
  • Enabler 3: Value servant leadership
  • Enabler 4: Determine an appropriate leadership style

In simpler words, you can say that each answers a different question, as shown below.

I’ve received a number of questions from aspiring PMPs who are using PMP Live Lessons – Guaranteed Pass35 Contact Hours PMP Program, and/or the I Want To Be A PMP book to prep for the exam. I’ll address a few of the most common in this article.

Many aspiring PMPs in fact have followed the above courses and/or book clear the exam in 2021. You can read their success stories below.

PMP Success Stories for Year 2021

As we reach the end of this article, let see the frequently asked questions (FAQs). It's a detailed one. This list is prepared based on my interactions with aspiring PMPs. 

Frequently Asked Questions (Top 10) *** NEW ***

Question – 1: As the domains in the ECO are changing, will a new PMBOK Guide be available with these new domains? 

Answer: No. The PMBOK Guide for the current PMP exam has not changed in 2021. The 6th edition of the guide will remain as is with its five process groups. The PMBOK guide continues to remain as one of the most important reference guides for your exam.

A new edition of the PMBOK guide, 7th edition is available. But it's not related to the domains of the ECO. [Also see Question - 3]

Question – 2: Should I refer to the 6th edition of the PMBOK Guide and/or any other resource?

Answer: You have to refer to the 6th edition of the PMBOK Guide for your PMP exam preparation irrespective of taking the exam on or after January 2, 2021.

The PMBOK Guide is one of the main references that is used for PMP examination preparation. There are other references that will also be used, as noted in Part - 1 of this article. Because the questions are created by project management practitioners who are not solely bound by the PMBOK Guide. 

Question – 3: Currently a new edition of the PMBOK Guide, 7th Edition is available is available. Should I also read it?

Answer: No. The PMBOK guide, 7th edition, though released this year (July 2021), has not been enforced. There is no need to read this guide while preparing for your PMP exam.

The PMBOK guide, 6th edition is listed as a reference for your current PMP exam. 

Question – 4: When will be the PMBOK Guide, 7th edition be enforced?

Answer: There is no information available at this stage. This is as of October, 2021 when this article is posted. 

PMI will surely communicate before the PMBOK Guide, 7th edition is enforced. As and when it’s enforced for PMP exam, it will also be listed as one of the items in the Exam Reference List. 

Question – 5: Do I need to remember the new tasks and enablers of the new ECO?

Answer: No. It is not necessary that you remember them, but you have to understand what they are and how they are mapped to the contents of the PMBOK guide and other project management references to become a certified project management professional.

Question – 6: How much should I focus on the Agile aspects?

Answer: Agile is obviously 50% of the exam as mentioned earlier in this article. With 90 questions, you need to have a sound knowledge of Agile approaches.

In addition, there will be a number of questions on Hybrid mode, which will have Agile content. Hence, I’ll strongly suggest that you prepare the Agile part thoroughly. 

Question – 7: Should I read the Agile Practice Guide?

Answer: Yes. If you are going for the exam in 2021 and beyond, I would strongly suggest that you read the Agile Practice Guide, which comes bundled along with the PMBOK Guide, 6th edition.

Question – 8: Should I read all the other reference books?

Answer: There are quite a few reference books, as noted earlier in Overall Changes section. No one can read all these books and prepare for the exam. 

In this case, good preparatory courses (preferably video courses because you learn faster with videos) and books will be needed. I’ve already mentioned a number of courses and books offered by ManagementYogi. You can refer them or the course of your choice.

Question – 9: Should I practice for other types of questions?

Answer: Yes. As informed earlier in Part - 1, other question types such as Multi-response, Drag and Drop questions are coming in the exam. This has been the consistent feedback by successful PMPs who have written their success stories.

Any course material you use, must have these types of questions to give you practice. If it doesn’t have, then it’s not worth your time. Also be very careful about outdated questions, which are rampant in the marketplace. It will give you no value. 

Question – 10: As the PMBOK Guide, 7th edition has been released, will a new ECO be released now?

Answer: This is another important question. The short answer is this: Another ECO is unlikely to come this year or next. 

The ECO’s development follows a different path compared to the PMBOK Guide’s development. You can consider ECO’s development and PMBOK’s development as two separate release trains. 

new ECO, as mentioned in Part – 1 of this article, is released every three to five years. PMI has released a new ECO last year (2020, though actually first released in 2019). Hence, it’s unlikely that another ECO will be coming in 2021 or 2022.