Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Using Timeline View for A Sprint in MS Project Agile

Timeline view is a useful view in MS Project traditional as well as Agile. With this view, you can quickly visualize the complete Sprint, features in a Sprint, tasks along with features, various Sprint events as well as increments as milestones.

In another article, I’ve demonstrated such capabilities. You can read the article here: Adjusting A Sprint in Progress with MS Project Agile.

Do again note that MS Project Agile features are available with MS Project Online Desktop Client. You can install the software with this step-by-step guide.

Now, let’s see how to use the Timeline view. This post is based on a comment received from one of the readers. 

Enable the Timeline View

Of course, first you have to enable the Timeline view. To do so, go to the View tab > Split view and enable the Timeline checkbox. After the Timeline view will be enabled in the top-half of your screen. 

As shown, the Timeline view is on the top half of the screen, whereas the Current Sprint Planning Board view is the bottom-half. 

Add the Features as Bars

Next, you have to take the features from the Current Sprint and add them as bars into the Timeline view. To do so, use Timeline Tools > Format tab > Insert group > Existing Tasks command.

In the popped-up Add Tasks to Timeline, select the features taken for the Current Sprint and click on OK button. It’s shown below. 

When you add the features into the timeline, it’ll come as shown below. Next, you have to perform two quick operations:

  • Adjust the width of the bar:
    • Set the width to 3. 
    • This can be done by going to Timeline Tools > Format tab > Show/Hide group > Text Lines command.
  • Adjust the Date Range:
    • The date range can be set by going to Timeline Tools > Format tab > Show/Hide group > Date Range command. 
    • Set the date range from Current Sprint start to finish. 
    • In our case it’s from September 11, 2023 to September 18, 2023. 

Once you do these changes, it’ll come as shown below. 

Add the Scrum Events as Callouts

Next, add all the Scrum Events such as Sprint 1 Planning, Daily Scrums, Sprint 1 Review, Sprint 1 Retrospective into the timeline. Use the same Existing Tasks commands that we have used before. 

Now all the events will also get added as bars. But we want them as Callouts or Tasks as Callouts. For this purpose:

  • Simply select the Daily Scrum events one-by-one.
  • Use the Callout Task command (highlighted below).

Color Code the Bars

This is the final step and we have to color code the bars. For this purpose:

Select the bar that you want to color code in the Timeline view.

  • Choose the color coding by going to Timeline Tools > Format tab > Font group > Background command.
  • Select different color coding for each bar. 

When you complete, the final Timeline view for the Current Sprint will come as shown below. 

That’s it! If you could have done this far, then I’m sure you would have been able to draw the Timeline view for the Current Sprint in your Scrum project.

A timeline for a Sprint or multiple Sprints is quite helpful to communicate and in fact, a very effective way to quickly know the current status of the Sprint as well. 


[1] Video Course: Mastering MS Project Agile, by Satya Narayan Dash

[2] Video Course: Practical Scrum using MS Project, by MPUG.com

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


Friday, March 17, 2023

A Masterclass in Leadership: Leadership, Leadership Levels, Leadership Styles and Qualities for Project Managers

We need a leader. Courageous, self-sacrificing people, setting examples for all of us. Everybody loves a leader, people line up for ’em, cheer for ’em, scream their names, and years later tell how they stood in the rain for hours just to get a glimpse of the one who told them to hold on a second longer.

– From the movie, Spiderman 2

The above, slightly paraphrased quote comes from the Spiderman 2 character, Aunt May, an old, frail-looking, but very warm, kind, and gutsy woman. She taught the young, down, and dejected Peter (Spiderman) the basics of leadership. One important part in the quote is courage.

Consider a big-budget movie being produced with hundreds of staff working on it. There are multiple managers also putting forth their best efforts, but many think the movie will not succeed in the market.

A leader is one who stands in front of everyone and calls out, “Wrong movie!” It takes courage to say that. Imagine the opposition and backlash. Some managers may negate it, or even scoff at it and indicate they are making progress. But what is the meaning of “progress” if you are building the wrong product?!

Leaders will have a vision and long-term goals, with which they are able to foresee how things will play out. Managers execute that vision. Leaders don’t always know the terrain, hence they navigate with something like a compass. Managers have to know the terrain, and hence, need to use maps. Leaders constantly monitor the environment and change directions. They are change agents. Managers use roadmaps and follow directions. They are change adaptors.

So, there’s a difference between managers and leaders?

I see it this way. Every leader has management capabilities. But every manager doesn’t have leadership capability. A truly good manager is also a very good leader. Management is about meeting objectives, whereas leadership is about purpose, passion, and enabling people to be successful.

With this background in mind, let’s turn to project management and start with the definition of a project manager (PM). In this article, I’d like to explore how leadership can transform management roles.

Project Manager as the Leader

I define a project manager as follows:
A project manager is an individual on the project formally assigned to lead the project team in order to meet the project objectives.

The Project Management Institute (PMI) in its definition also emphasizes leadership aspects, and I quote: The project manager is the person assigned by the performing organization to lead the project team that is responsible for achieving the project objectives.

Did you notice the underlined emphasis? It’s not about managing the project team, but about leading the team.

We can see that the leadership aspect is very important. I define leadership for project managers as follows:

Leadership is the capability to influence people through inspiration toward the desired outcomes of the project.

Why is this needed? Projects are unique endeavors and unlike operations, where roles and responsibilities are often established. Because of this unique, cross-functional, and sometimes even cross-organizational nature, projects demand a unique need: effective leadership.

This article focuses on PMs, but the content can very well be applied to a variety of management roles and spheres of life. In fact, many executives show a complete lack of leadership, though they may be very efficient managers.

Notice the term “efficient” being used for managers. Leadership is not about efficiency, but about effectiveness. Management is about hands (efficiency), whereas leadership is about heart (effectiveness). To understand this aspect more, let’s see the differences between management and leadership.


Leadership Vs. Management *** UPDATED ***
As we have seen, the project manager is the leader of the team. This is irrespective of the organizational structure. However, leadership and management are not the same.

Management involves directing the team to move from one point to another with a known set of expected behaviors. Leadership is not about directing, but about guidance with discussion and dialogue (not debate) from one state to another.

The comparison table below notes a few more differences between management and leadership.

Now, you may be wondering how one can have such diverse thinking and such a leadership mindset at the same time? The key is finding a balance based on the situation and the context.

Authority Vs. Leadership *** UPDATED ***
In many cultures, leadership directly equals authority. Command and control is the only way to get things done.

Putting that into an organizational perspective, line or functional managers mostly follow one leadership style: command and control (autocratic), because they control salaries and raises.

However, as a project manager, most of the time, you won’t have this form of formal or positional power with its uses and/or parenthetical abuses. The best thing to do in such a case is to recognize that leadership is not authority.

Authority is given to a person by formal means, document, or title, but the following is also true:

  • Authority may not motivate. If that were the case, every country would produce a hundred Olympic gold medalists. Does that happen?
  • Authority doesn’t mean expertise. A person with high expertise, knowledge, and skills is, in fact, more followed than one with authority.
  • Authority doesn’t mean respect. Intrinsic respect from one’s heart is different from enforced respect.
  • Authority doesn’t imply trust. People may comply with authority, but don’t always commit to it.

So, what should one do? I’ll outline two things I have learned:

  • Recognize that the best form of power is not formal. It is expert power, relational power, and persuasive power, among others. Such is exercised mostly through inspiration, because your actions - not words - inspire others to dream, act, and be more.
  • Understand that leadership styles can vary. It’s best to apply leadership styles based on context and situation. We will review several leadership styles in a moment.

Leadership Growth Levels
*** UPDATED ***
The growth levels of leadership are depicted in the below figure. This is based on my research, experience, and over a decade of interactions with thousands of managers. You may be seeing it for the first time. It is taken from my new course: A Masterclass in Leadership.

The lower levels of leadership are Positional (Level-1/L1) and Relational (L2). At L3, Inspiration, you have started to truly move up. When you deliver results (L4), you are established as a leader. The higher levels of leadership are Mission (Purpose), and Passion. The highest level is Culmination (L7), which very few reach.

Siddhārtha Gautama, known worldwide as the Buddha, the self-awakened and enlightened one, was one such leader in spiritual dimension. The teachings of leaders at the highest-level echoes in eternity.

Such a leader doesn’t want to be photographed everywhere, but people want to be photographed with the leader. The leader doesn’t put his picture everywhere, but people carry his picture and frame it inside their homes. The leader doesn’t pay the media to promote him or her 24*7 as we see today, but people come voluntarily to listen as they can smell: a real change is in the air.

I’d also like to say the best leaders are finally invisible. This type of leader is not seen but felt because he has enabled other leaders!

Leadership Styles
Various leadership styles are noted and described in the below table:

So, which leadership style is the best?

My answer to that is: not one in particular, as leadership style depends on a variety of factors. Sometimes, you may have to combine multiple leadership styles.

A Leadership Style Exercise
Let’s do an exercise to understand leadership styles better. In the below table, we have a number of situations. Think about which leadership style fits the particular situation.
The answers are explained in the below video [Duration: 04m:52s], which I’ve prepared in support of this article. The content of it is taken from my leadership course. Additional explanations and new leadership styles are also provided. For a better audio-visual experience, you may want to go full HD and plug-in your earphones.

Conclusion *** UPDATED ***

Before I sign off, I want to mention some frequent questions that come up regarding leadership.

Why does leadership fail?

One key reason is that leaders don’t follow their own preaching! The leader must role model the behavior he or she is expecting from others. It’s the ‘setting examples for all’ part in the opening quote.

How does one become a leader?

Also from Aunt May:

“I believe there’s a hero (leader) in all of us, that keeps us honest, gives us strength, makes us noble, and finally allows us to die with pride. Even though sometimes we have to be steady and give up the thing we want the most.”

An oft-ignored leadership quality is sacrifice. As a leader, you have to sacrifice a lot. You have to give a lot without expecting anything in return. Managers don’t sacrifice, but for a leader it’s a must.

Many don’t understand the importance of sacrifice. This is important because to get you must give first. It’s paradoxical, but true. But how many of the currently “supposed leaders” do that? You know the answer! You see, true leadership is exceptionally hard.

As Aunt May rightly tells, the hero is inside you. A leader is also inside you. Search for that leader, and when you discover it, nurture and expand it with the levels and styles we have reviewed. The path may be long and arduous. Sometimes you might stumble or even fall. But, if you are true to your heart, you are unlikely to be disappointed with the result.

I wish you all the very best in your journey and welcome your thoughts and comments. 


This article was first published by MPUG.com on 13th September, 2022. This is an updated version.

[1] NEW Course: A Masterclass in Leadership, by Satya Narayan Dash

[2] A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, by Project Management Institute

Wednesday, March 08, 2023

How To Become A PMI Professional in Business Analysis (PBA) in 2023 and Beyond


Project Management Institute’s (PMI®) Professional in Business Analysis (PBA®) is relatively a new certification as compared to others. Though young, it is one of the fastest growing areas of certification. As of 2022 end, over 6,000 professionals hold PBA certification globally.

Business analysis is increasingly considered to be an important area of competency needed by project managers. In my interactions with management professionals, I find many PMPs also want to increase their understanding of business analysis. Many are pursuing a certification in this area. Another driving factor is inaccurate requirement gathering. In PMI’s pulse of the profession report 2018, 35% respondents reported inaccurate requirements gathering as the primary cause of project failure. This, in turn, is a major reason for scope creep, and shows the need for project managers to have more knowledge of business analysis.

The PMI-PBA certification holds good value mainly due to the following facts.

  1. It is coming from PMI, a well-recognized and credible body globally within the management and business-analyst community.
  2. Unlike many other certifications, which can be easily done in few days or with little to no effort or learning, the PBA certification takes real effort to earn.
  3. It is well-structured, well-administered, tested professionally, and recognized within the management community.
  4. The PBA certification helps hiring managers in many aspects as the examination checks if the aspirant has sound understanding, knowledge, and experience in applying business principles, practices, tools, and techniques.
  5. The practices, tools, and techniques in business analysis are evolving, and along with them, the reference material published by PMI. The certification meets the current practices in business analysis domain.

Recently, the PBA exam has changed and it is now in alignment with terminologies used in the PMI®Guide to Business Analysis (PMI-BA Guide), which was published in December 2017. This guide also includes the standard for business analysis. Other than this guide, there are other reference guides such as A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMI-PMBOK® Guide), Business Analysis for Practitioners – A Practice Guide (PMI-BA® Practice Guide) and books.

However, going forward, I’ll be using the PMI-BA® Guide (not the BA Practice Guide or PMBOK Guide) mostly as a reference for understanding in this article. The other two guides are important ones to know and read, but I’ve used the PMI-BA® guide primarily here to keep it simple.

PBA Exam Prerequisites

To be eligible for the exam, PMI considers education – degree or diploma, experience in business analysis, general project experience, and formal contact hours of training. To earn the credential, you need to have all of them. The table below shows the prerequisites for the exam. 

PBA Exam Pattern

The PMI-PBA exam is primarily based on the Exam Content Outline, popularly called ECO in short. The ECO explains the exam topics to be covered, the domains a participant will be tested upon, the tasks under these domains, knowledge and skills needed, and which percentage of questions will come from which domain.

The ECO has five domains, which are described in the following table:

Exam questions are segregated on these domains and the associated tasks.

In the PMI-BA® guide, these domains are mapped into six process groups (PGs) and six knowledge areas (KAs). A process group, as the name tells, is a logical grouping of processes. The PGs indicate when the processes are used. In total, we have 35 processes across six PGs.

  1. Defining and Aligning – 8 processes
  2. Initiating – 1 process
  3. Planning – 7 processes
  4. Executing – 15 processes
  5. Monitoring and Controlling – 3 processes
  6. Releasing – 1 process

The knowledge areas, on the other hand, focuses on why the processes are used. A knowledge area is a field of specialization commonly used while conducting business analysis. The KAs are:

  1. Needs Assessment – 7 processes
  2. Stakeholder Engagement – 7 processes
  3. Elicitation – 4 processes
  4. Analysis – 9 processes
  5. Traceability and Monitoring – 4 processes
  6. Solution Evaluation – 4 processes

The 35 processes are spread across the KAs as well. For example, a process named ‘Assemble Business Case’ is part of Defining and Aligning PG, as well as the Needs Assessment KA. A process named ‘Support Charter Development’ is part of Initiating PG and also the Needs Assessment KA.

Details on PBA Exam

The PBA examination has 200 questions in total. The time given to take the exam is four hours or 240 minutes. For every question, you will get 72 seconds or just over a minute.

Out of 200 questions, 175 questions will be scored and 25 will be unscored. The 25 questions are not considered for your evaluation. They are included to check the validity, difficulty of the questions, etc. The questions given in the exam are from a question data bank. There is no negative marking. When taking the exam, one should attempt all 200 questions.

Both computer-based testing (CBT) and paper-based testing (PBT) are allowed. I would suggest that you go for the CBT. The exam score will be available upon exam completion, and it is more convenient.

Each domain will be given a rating, along with main report of PASS/FAIL. There are four performance rating categories for the five domains. This replaces the earlier proficiency levels. The performance rating categories are explained below.

  • Above Target: Your performance exceeds the minimum requirements for this exam.
  • Target: Your performance meets the minimum requirements for this exam.
  • Below Target: Your performance is slightly below target and fails to meet the minimum requirements for this exam. Additional preparation is recommended before re-examination.
  • Needs Improvement: Your performance is far below target and fails to meet the minimum requirements for this exam. Additional preparation is strongly recommended before re-examination.

The targets are expressed in ranges, which helps you to see how you scored in the exam with respect to the performance domains. Graphically, a sample is shown as below.

The exam report will contain a rating for each performance domain. For example, “Above Target” in “Needs Assessment,” “Target” in “Planning,” and so on. The overall performance (Pass or Fail) is shown on top your exam report. See the figure above. Each question answered correctly is worth 1 point. Your final score will be the total of all scored points. Based on the final scored points, you will be put into one of the aforementioned performance rating categories.

Your individual ratings on the performance domains will look something like what is shown below.

For every domain, the performance will be further analyzed for the associated tasks.

The cost details for the exam are as follows:

  • For a PMI member, US$405. For a Non-PMI member, US$555.
  • You can take three re-exams, including the 1st attempt, in case you are unsuccessful the first time. The re-examination fee is US$275 for a PMI-member and US$375 for a non-member.

PBA Exam Blueprint

Below are the topic areas or domains, with percentage of questions expected from each domain:

The approximate number of questions from each performance domain is shown in the right column. You can expect a few variations.

PBA Exam Process

The entire certification process is outlined in the figure below:

Once you post your application submission, an application completeness review will be done, followed by the audit process. The process for audit changed last year. As shown above, the audit (Step – 3) happens before you make the payment (Step – 4). Earlier it was after. An audit is done randomly on some applications. The timeframe for audit is 90 days or 3 months. Post audit, you will be allowed to sit in the exam. If your application is not audited, then PMI will confirm you are ready to sit in the exam. This happens in a few days.

From the date of approval (if audited, approval will occur after the audit is done), you have a one-year window to appear in the exam. For example, say your application was approved on October 10, 2022, you will have from October 10, 2022 to October 10, 2023 to sit in the exam.

You need to have the required 60 professional development units (PDUs) in three years after your certification to continue with it. One hour of learning, content creation, or instruction etc., equals one PDU.

If you do not fulfill the PDU requirement, , your certification will expire, and you would have to reappear in the exam.

If you have the 60 PDUs and you have renewed, your certification will extend for an additional three years. The fee to renew is US$60 for PMI members and US$150 for non-members.

Continuing Your PBA Certification

The requirement to accumulate 60 PDU’s after you get your PMI-PBA credential, is required to maintain your certification. This is mandated by PMI and is called continuing certification requirement (CCR). At a high level, your PDUs should be within two categories.

The Education Category PDUs are segregated into the arms of the PMI Talent Triangle, which is depicted below.

You need to have at least eight PDUs in each arm of the triangle.

  • Ways of Working (at least 8 PDUs)
  • Power Skills (at least 8 PDUs)
  • Business Acumen (at least 8 PDUs)

Together, in the Education category, you need to have a minimum of 35 PDUs.

The Giving Back category is sub-divided into three areas.

  • Volunteering
  • Creating knowledge
  • Working as a Professional (maximum 8 PDUs)

Together, in the Giving Back category, you can have a maximum of 25 PDUs.

Filling Your PBA Application Form

PMI documents that candidates for PMI-PBA certification must display the following:

  • Perform their duties under general supervision and be responsible for working with stakeholders to define an organization’s business requirements in order to shape the output of projects and ensure they deliver the expected business benefit.
  • Spearhead the discovery, analysis, and overall management of the requirements for a project.
  • Demonstrate sufficient knowledge and experience to appropriately apply business analysis tools and techniques to enable project success.

A few generic guidelines while filling in your application forms is noted below.

  • After you have started your online application process, you can’t cancel it. The application will remain open for 90 days, after which it will expire. After you begin on it, don’t postpone.
  • Your experience in projects should cover a period of three years for bachelor’s degree holders, or over a period of five years for diploma/high-school certificate holders. All these experiences should have been accrued in last eight years prior to your application submission.
  • No experiences should be overlapping. For example, if you have two projects, A and B, and Project A is running from January 2022 to June 2022 with Project B is running from January 2022 to March 2022, there is an overlapping of three months. You can’t show both while filing your application form. In this case, you could show only Project A running from January 2022 to June 2022.
  • You can do both business analysis work and project work in the same project. However, do note that for PBA, specifically mention your business analysis work.
  • You need not mention each and every project that you have worked on. Rather, try to include the latest projects that you have worked on. If they were done a few years earlier, go ahead and include those projects.
  • When explaining your project work, don’t directly cut-paste PMI words from the reference guides and/or books. Rather, inform on what you did. In your business application area, the language and terms may have been different. You will do well to use your own words.
  • Try to estimate your work hours (either 4,500/36 months or 7,500/60 months) offline in an Excel sheet. Once you have them outlined, then fill out the online form.

If you are aspiring to be a PBA, I hope this article will guide in your preparation for the examination.


This article was first published by MPUG.com on 14th August, 2018. This is an updated version.


[1] The PMI Guide to Business Analysis, by Project Management Institute (PMI)

[2] PMI Professional in Business Analysis – Examination Content Outline

[3] PMI Professional in Business Analysis Handbook

[4] PMI Pulse of the Profession, 2018, Success in Disruptive Times

[5] Business Analysis for Practitioners: A Practice Guide by Project Management Institute (PMI)