November 23, 2014

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Project management advice, tips, tools and recommended resources for existing and aspiring project managers.

Planning for Project Success

When looking at Project Planning, an important output of the planning process, is the Project Management Plan. This article will discuss what the Project Management Plan is, why fully understanding the Project Management Plan is essential to both project success and PMP Exam success,  what subsidiary plans and documents are, and once approved how changes are made to the Project Management Plan.

What is the Project Management Plan?

project planningAccording to the PMBOK® Guide, the Project Management Plan is “the document that describes how the project will be executed, monitored, and controlled.” Objectives of the Project Management Plan include documenting assumptions and decisions, communicating how the project will be executed, and documenting high level goals, costs, and milestones. The Project Management Plan is much more than a single document that is created and set aside. It integrates subsidiary plans and documents, it is created during the Planning Process Group and is expected to be updated as the project progresses. It is a living document.

Why the Project Management Plan is essential to both project success and PMP Exam success?

That is because it is the “go to” document used to answer questions during the project, and understanding what kinds of questions it may answer is vital to both project and PMP Exam success.

The Project Management Plan should be able to answer why a project was sponsored and what problem it is expected to resolve or what value the project is expected to add. It should describe the work to be performed and what the major deliverables or products are. It should identify who is involved in the project and what their responsibilities are and how they are organized. It should define how the work is to be executed in order to meet project objectives and how any changes will be monitored and controlled. If all of these are included in the Project Management Plan, then you will be able to answer the why, what, who, when, and how type questions that may arise during a project.

What are subsidiary plans and documents?

These are most often outputs of the other Planning Processes. For example, the Cost Management Plan is an output of the Plan Cost Management Process. It describes how project costs will be planned, structured, and controlled. It is considered a “subsidiary plan” to the overall Project Management Plan. Subsidiary plans are all of the “plan” outputs from the Planning Processes that include Scope Management, Requirements Management, Schedule Management, Quality Management, Process Improvement, Human Resource Management, Communications Management, Procurement Management, and Stakeholder Management. The subsidiary plans may be defined at a high or detailed level depending on the type of plan, the specific needs of the project and the requirements of the performing organization.

Subsidiary documents are the baselines developed as part of the Planning Processes. They include the schedule baseline, cost performance baseline, and scope baseline. Don’t forget that the scope baseline also includes the scope statement, WBS, and WBS dictionary.

How are changes made to the Project Management Plan?

Changes to the Project Management Plan are made through a Change Control System. This system consists of methods to request, review, and approve changes. When Requests are done, they are reviewed by the project manager, project sponsor, select set of stakeholders, or change control board. Once a change is approved the Project Management Plan is updated. Changes that are not requested through the Change Control System or approved should not be implemented. Including unapproved changes will let the project go out of control.

The Project Management Plan is a vast topic. There are many other facets such as the other inputs besides subsidiary plans and documents, how it is used to communicate how the project will be executed and controlled, the importance and usage of a Project Management Information System, and the formality of the Project Management Plan all of which are vital to know and understand for the PMP Exam.

A few additional aspects to keep in mind when studying the Project Management Plan are that it is typically a formal written document, that it guides project execution and control, that it is approved by the project stakeholders, and that the project cannot start until the Project Management Plan is approved.

In order to understand this topic completely read the Develop Project Management Plan section in the PMBOK® Guide. Then explain what a Project Management Plan is, how it is developed, and how it is changed to a friend who is not a project manager. Because if you can explain it clearly to them, then you fully understand it yourself; and use a Project Management Plan for your projects because practice makes perfect when it comes to the PMP Exam.

How Project Management Professionals help overcome problems on projects

We all know the challenges that projects face on a daily basis. They present themselves as problems that cause projects to fail,  or go over budget, over time or fail to achieve benefits.

This Infographic, kindly provided by Villanova University, looks at how Project Management Professionals (PMP) can help address the typical problems on projects and how to enhance their chances to be a success.

Looking to become a PMP, please visit the Resources Page for many products and training to help you with your preparations for the PMP exam.

Looking to employ new project managers, look at the advantages of using certified project professionals.

Why do projects fail and how PMPs can help
Infographic by Villanova University Online, your source for PMP certification resources.

Tips for Passing your PMP Exam

By Scott Coonrod and Cornelius Fichtner

Do you have as a personal or career goal to obtain your Project Management Professional (PMP)® Certification? Are you wondering about what materials might be the most helpful in studying and where is a good place to start?

If you are interested in the experiences and insights of those who have been there and who have recently passed the PMP Exam, there’s a forum you need to explore on The PM PrepCast website. There are comments from individuals like you who are full of questions and concerns, and looking for a place with information and answers. They also share tips and information concerning their study methods and experiences taking the PMP Exam.

Here are some tips and lessons learned from Scott Coonrod soon after he obtained his PMP certification.

Tips and Lessons learned when preparing for the PMP Exam

  1. Find others who are also studying to obtain their PMP Certification and review key items in the PMBOK® Guide together. Studying with others is a great support system during the exam preparation process.
  2. Go through The PM PrepCast lessons and take notes on the material being presented. Even if you do not go back and refer to the notes later they will serve as a good method for retaining the material.
  3. Take the quizzes after each PM PrepCast Lesson. If you feel as if you missed too many answers, you can always go back and listen to the presentation again or review the notes you had taken.
  4. Answer many, many, many practice questions. The study guide mentioned below comes with a CD with two 200 question sample exams and an option to obtain a third sample exam.
  5. Download free PMP Exam question apps. The great thing about these apps is that many have 25-50 questions each that you can answer whenever you have a free moment.
  6. As you are nearing your PMP Exam date create a data dump sheet with key formulas, definitions, and other items you want to make sure you remember for exam day. Practice recreating it; because that is what you are going to need to do on your exam day.

Tips and Lessons Learned related to PMP Exam study materials

  1. Read the most current version of The PMBOK® Guide together with others who are also looking to pass the PMP Exam if possible.
  2. Include additional study materials like the PMP Prepcast from Cornelius Fichtner, an exam prep video workshop; the “Project Management Professional Study Guide (Fourth Edition)” by Joseph Phillips. This study guide provides you an interactive quiz that indicates not only ‘if’ you answered correctly or incorrectly, but also ‘why’ the answer was correct or incorrect, as you answer each question. Also consider the PMP Exam Prep System from Rita Mulcahy.

Tips and Lessons Learned related to taking the PMP Exam

  1. Know where your exam site is. Allow for plenty of time to get to the Prometric Test Center without causing yourself unnecessary additional stress.
  2. Remember to have your two forms of identification because you will need to prove who you are in order to take the exam.
  3. Do not bring too much stuff with you. You will have to lock everything up because you can’t take anything into the exam room with you.
  4. If you are nervous about taking a computer based exam, don’t worry because there is an optional 15 minute tutorial at the beginning of the exam that does not count toward your PMP Exam time. If you are comfortable taking a computer based exam, use this time to recreate your data dump.
  5. If you start to feel nervous or overwhelmed, take a few deep breaths, tell yourself “you’ve got this”, and keep going.
  6. Answer all of the questions you know and mark those you don’t for follow up. Some questions/answers later in the exam may help you answer those you had marked.

These are just a few examples of the PMP Exam related lessons learned and other tips offered in The PM PrepCast Forum at http://www.pm-prepcast.com/ll.

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Project Management and Soft Skills

project manager soft skillsWhen a project manager starts a new project, it is important to do a check-point of both the Project Management Methodology and templates that will be used, but also the soft skills that will be required. This article highlights some essential soft skills to ensure that a Project Management Professional can effectively manage, collaborate, and influence as needed to drive a project to successful completion.

According to Joanna Durand, Managing Director of the Citigroup, effective leadership consists of a balance between both “hard skills” and “soft skills” that act as the conduits for success.

Hard Skills versus Soft Skills

Soft skills, also called behavioral skills, is a sociological term relating to the cluster of personality traits and behavioral competencies that characterize relationships with other people. Soft skills complement hard skills, also called technical skills, which are the occupational requirements of a job and many other activities.

Soft skills are essentially people skills – the non-technical, intangible, personality-specific skills that determine your strengths as a leader, listener, negotiator, and conflict mediator.

Hard skills, on the other hand, are more along the lines of what might appear on your resume – your education, experience and level of expertise.

Essential Soft Skills

Effective communication serves as the foundation by which all other soft skills are derived.  Mastery of communication skills will ensure broader success with rounding out your soft skills.

Communication skills include Oral, written and non-verbal communication.

  • Oral: presentation, audience awareness, listening, body language
  • Written: presentation of data, critical reading, revision and editing, writing
  • Non-verbal: personal style, tone, body language and audience awareness

For communication to be effective remember the five “C’s”:

  1. Clarity
  2. Completeness
  3. Conciseness
  4. Concreteness
  5. Correctness

Stakeholder Management

Project success is often determined by the ability to successfully manage stakeholder expectations.   These interactions all begin with the basic communication process and an understanding of stakeholder objectives.

Some recommended best practices to communicate effectively with project stakeholders are:

  • To know your audience and to customize your message according to their needs
  • To have a professional presence
  • To summarise the top 3-5 key messages
  • To acknowledge personal communication styles

 How can a Project Manager’s soft skills be developed?

  • Set clear expectations – the team needs to be aligned as to what is being delivered. This will help with accountability and to manage changes to the scope.
  • Stage your delivery by creating interim deliverables.
  • Think ahead of what can go wrong. Anticipate problems (risks) and work with the client to find mitigation strategies.
  • Speak up and escalate when help is needed. This is a sign of confidence.
  • Skip the jargon and speak to clients in the same language they use.
  • Leverage the strengths of the team. Take time to know the team and their strengths as your project will run more effectively if the right people are working on the right things.
  • Don’t steal the limelight when things are going well and give credit to other people’s ideas.
  • Be realistic when setting deadlines. Promise what you know you can do and finish on time.

It is important to understand how the basic communication process works and to appreciate the communication styles of different personality types. To grow as a project manager you need to consistently try to close the gap between “hard” and “soft” skills.

For more articles about Project Management based on best practices, please subscribe to the Blog feed.

Project Management Standards Update for 2013

PMBOK

All project managers use the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) Guide to prepare for the certification exams in order to become a Project Management Professional (PMP). This book presents a set of standard terminology and guidelines for project management.

Overview of changes in new editionIt was first published by the Project Management Institute (PMI) as a white paper in 1983 in an attempt to document and standardize generally accepted project management information and practices. The first edition was published in 1996.

The PMBOK Guide is process-based, meaning it describes work as being accomplished by processes. This approach is consistent with other management standards such as ISO 9000 and the Software Engineering Institute‘s CMMI. At the beginning of 2013 the Fifth Edition was published as the latest release.

 

Summary of Changes

This article will give a summary of the changes made in the latest edition.  At the end you will also find a link to a video from IIL explaining what to expect in the newest edition.

As an overview the following changes were made:

  • One new knowledge area (Project Stakeholder Management)
  • Seven new processes
  • Two moved processes (Distribute information, Report performance)
  • Nine process name changes
  • Eleven new process definitions
  • Many changes to the Glossary definitions
  • Chapters are now called sections

The biggest change is to split Project Communications Management into two parts, namely Project Communication Management and Project Stakeholder Management.

There is an increased discussion of Project Management Offices or PMO’s, as well as project life cycles and phases.  The Chapter 3 Project Management Processes has been moved to Annexure A1.

For a complete overview of all the changes made to the PMBOK, please view the following video:

A PMBOK Guide – Fifth Edition Overview

The Lighter Side of Project Management

Today I want to share a few proverbs on the lighter side of Project Management. Most project managers will enjoy the humour!

 
project management proverbs

Can Social Media Drive Project Success?

Can social media drive project success? Social media has become an integral part of our daily lives in South Africa. Recent studies have revealed that South African consumers have a very high motivation (70 percent versus, for example, 40 percent in the UK) to follow brands on social networks.  We use Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and other social networking services to converse with friends and colleagues and to share photos, videos, and important moments in our lives.

Worldwide, Facebook enjoys 80 million unique visitors per month, YouTube 800 million and Twitter 160 million, according to DoubleClick Ad Planner.  In South Africa, users spend on average seven hours a week on social networking sites, with MXit and Facebook being the most popular sites.

Against the back-drop of these statistics Project Managers need to seriously consider the integration of social media with their project management tools. Let’s look at ways to do that and to evaluate if the use of social media tools can drive project success. Some aspects of security and confidentiality will also be covered.

In a previous article: “10 Ways to Integrate Social Media with Project Management” we referred to a number of different social media tools available to project managers which can be used for project delivery. Many social media tools are more widely adopted by project managers than we think.

Social Media adoption

Many social media tools like collaboration tools, instant messaging, podcasts, webinars and social networks are already used widely for project delivery.

Podcasts and webinars are especially used for further training of professional project managers, PMP’s, who gain professional development units (PDU’s) for attending. Project management training companies, like Roeder Consulting, hosts a webinar every month presenting project management topics, as well as inviting host speakers, with the audience being able to claim a PDU per session.  Attendees are also invited to become members of their LinkedIn group. This has grown them a large following and keeps them front of mind for training needs.

Social media tools which may be considered more during project delivery are blogs (project information distribution to virtual teams), Wiki’s and RSS, to subscribe to feeds relevant to your project or to information that will help develop project managers who are reporting into a Project Support Office (PMO).

Security and Confidentiality

By nature social media implies collaboration, mutual trust, and a strong sense of common purpose. With social media your company and project needs a policy the same way as you need a policy for the use of email or the internet. Ensure that employees and team members know about the policy and follow an education program to ensure compliance with regulatory and legal guidelines.

Security concerns around the open flow of communication using social media tools can be addressed by using access controls to manage the flow of data. Give usernames and passwords to only those people who need to log in. Access control administration can be delegated to a PMO or a project support officer. Have a process for requesting access to the tool. For third parties requests, access may be limited by assigning permissions to certain “views” only. Some social media tools have an audit trail facility with which you can track changes.

Include social media tools in the company backup processes and business continuity plans. Another consideration around authorized software is to allow only social media tools that are supported by your IT department in order to not make you vulnerable to viruses and other security threats.

With proper consideration, project managers and their teams could adopt appropriate social media tools and by following the proper channels to put approved social media tools in place, this will enhance successful project delivery.

BIO: Linky vd Merwe is a certified project management professional (PMP) and Founder of Virtual Project Consulting.  She has been a senior project manager at Microsoft Consulting Services South Africa for the past 4.5 years.  She likes to blog about project management and integrated online communication marketing. Her mission is to provide project management best practices advice and to recommend resources to aspiring and existing project managers.

Guide to Becoming a Project Management Professional (PMP)

Are you a project manager who plans to write the PMP exam in order to become a certified Project Management Professional, also called a PMP?

Today I want to recommend a really useful resource that would pave the way for you to prepare  and pass the PMP exam easily.  It is called: “Short Guide to Becoming a PMP“, by Cornelius Fichtner. If you want to take the PMP exam, but don’t know where to start, then this Guide is for you.

The first Guide will give you a high-level overview of the 8 steps involved with becoming a PMP.

The next Guide is about the 10 Secrets to make it easier to obtain your Project Management Professional (PMP) credential.

Short Guide to Becoming a PMP

Short Guide to becoming a PMP

10 Secrets to becoming a PMP

10 Secrets to becoming a PMP

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Download your Guides today and start reaching for that planned goal of becoming a certified PMP!

For existing PMP’s there is also a step for you about Getting Re-certified, explaining what you need to do to earn your PDU’s as part of your continuing education requirements.