July 2, 2015

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

Project Managers – Are you Preparing for your PMP Exams?

By Cornelius Fichtner and Dan Ryan

Preparing for PMP exams?In the previous article, 7 questions that Project Management Professional (PMP) exam candidates frequently ask, were covered. Here are 7 more questions that PMP students typically want answers for.

 

Question and Answers

  1. What’s the most important brain dump or diagram to learn?

An easy question – it’s Table 3-1 in the PMBOK® Guide. This covers the Project Management Process Group and Knowledge Area Mapping. It’s a complicated matrix and a very important visual representation of Project Management Body of Knowledge and Project Management framework. It is very much a guiding tool for approaching the PMP exam and one of the most important brain dumps that you could have in the testing center to help you.

  1. What formulas do I need to know for the PMP exam?

There are many formulas in the PMBOK® Guide; upwards of 20 or 30 that could be referenced in the PMP exam. You will probably only see somewhere in a range of around 15 formulas on the exam itself.

If time is short and you want to focus your learning on what will really make a difference to your success in the exam, identify the formulas that are most likely to come up and make sure you fully understand those. A formulas study guide, coach or PMP exam tutor will be able to pinpoint the most important formulas for you. Start by memorizing those to maximize your learning time.

  1. What are these Inputs, Outputs, Tools and Techniques (ITTOs)?

ITTOs tend to scare a lot of PMP students and some exam candidates have confided that they didn’t understand or know about them before they took the exam! They are very important for understanding how project management concepts and processes fit together, both for the exam and also for managing projects in ‘real life’ after the exam.

Make sure you spend enough time learning about their structure, and how you are likely to encounter them on the PMP exam. You can do this through studying the PMBOK® Guide, and using other study guides and flashcards. Taking practice PMP exams is another good way of testing your knowledge of ITTOs as you will get to see how the questions are framed on the exam and learn how best to respond to them.

  1. What are some tricks to answering these long scenario-based questions on the PMP exam?

Students want to know how to deal with the long paragraphs that they see on the PMP exam. These long questions are often a source of great difficulty for many students. The content of the question is often in a strange order and there are facts that are added in simply to distract you. The answers are also often longer than normal, so scanning through and making a quick judgment about how to answer is tricky. So how can you deal with these scenario-based questions?

Something that works well for many exam candidates is to read the last part of the question first. You can also use a process of elimination on certain answers by referring to your brain dump of Table 3-1, the Project Management Process Group and Knowledge Area Mapping, or your formula sheet.

Practicing with an exam simulator and talking to your colleagues will help you understand and practice these long scenario-based questions.

  1. How can I manage my time on the exam day?

Four hours seems like a very long time and in the past students were often able to complete the exam comfortably within this time. Some students reported that the test seems to be taking longer. You can still complete it within the 4 hour window allocated, but it is taking the full allocation of time.

This could be for any number of reasons, including that students are now better prepared and are marking more questions for review. It could also be that earned value calculations are playing a great part in the exam and add additional time.  You do need to manage your time carefully on the day to ensure that you have enough time to finish without being rushed.

Once you get on top of your time management you have a much better chance of passing the PMP exam.

  1. What’s the best approach for learning all the content?

The best approach for learning all the content (and there is a lot of it!) depends on your learning style. Some people learn best by reading and absorbing information in their own time. This allows them to make notes and create their own flashcards, for example. If that sounds like you, a PMP study guide would be a good starting point.

Other people learn best through visual means. If that sounds like your preferred learning style then find yourself a world class set of video learning lessons which will provide you with all of the content on all of the processes, the framework, and the body of knowledge in a visual way.

Others learn best in an environment with other people. A classroom course or PMP exam tutoring in a group can be a good solution if you prefer to learn in the company of others. Or learn one-on-one with a study buddy (a peer who is studying for the PMP exam at the same time as you), a mentor or PMP coach. There are online options that also give you the personal touch such as coaching via Skype.

Use a combined approach to suit your situation so mix and match your learning options until you feel comfortable that you have a study plan that meets your personal needs and preferences.

  1. How many practice exams should I take and what score should I score?

How many exams you take depends on how much time you have! It’s more important to make sure that you have access to practice exams that provide you with questions that are known to be almost exactly like the ones on the real test. Try to find a source of questions that are highly regarded to be very realistic. When you get to a point where you are repeatedly doing simulated exams at scores of 80% or better you know you are ready to pass that exam.

Do you feel better prepared for your PMP exam knowing the answers to these questions? We hope so! Every student is different. Take from this advice what will work for you and all the best for your exam!

About the authors:
Cornelius Fichtner, PMP is a noted PMP expert. He has helped over 30,000 students prepare for the PMP Exam with The Project Management PrepCast.
Dan Ryan, MBA, PMP is a global leader in PMP Exam coaching having helped hundreds of students to the PMP pass finish line.

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Are you an aspiring Project Management Professional (PMP)?

 

By Cornelius Fichtner, PMP, CSM

Preparing for PMP examHave you invested heavily in preparing for your PMP exam without positive results? Or are you keen to study for PMP, but don’t know where to start? How much time should you spend in preparing for the exam and working through Prep Questions?

Here are 7 questions people in your situation keep asking and the answers will help you get started more quickly with your own exam preparations.

Questions and Answers

  1. Why did I fail the PMP exam when I studied so long and so hard?

Everyone is different, but you probably became overwhelmed during the exam as you didn’t approach it with the proper preparation and mechanics for taking the test. It’s not enough to go online and gather tidbits from other people about how to study.

The scenario-based questions you faced in the exam are in depth and difficult, and you also need to be able to manage your time during the 4 hour exam. It’s hard and when you see the nature of the exam and the nerves kick in… all that leads to sub-optimal performance on the day.

Using a range of resources like videos, practice questions, flashcards, study guides and PMP tutoring can all help boost your chances of passing next time, if you combine them with practical preparations and test-taking strategies.

  1. I am terrible at mathematics and at formulas. How will I ever be able to do all these earned value questions?

Have confidence! If you’ve had an exposure to something like high school level math then you have the skills to do the math questions. It is just a matter of approaching these math questions in a formulaic kind of way.

First, memorize the formulas that are most likely to show up on the PMP exam – a PMP exam coach can help you identify which ones those are. When you have a theoretical understanding of these formulas and can see whether they are talking about planned vs. actual, variances or forecasts, you will be able to understand the logic behind the math. At that point, practice, practice, practice! This is rote learning and with enough practical exercises and repetition you will achieve an “AHA” moment! Once you have done them often enough you’ll see the math is no longer a problem for you.

  1. I took a few practice tests and I did OK with them so why I did I fail the PMP exam?

You probably weren’t using a very good set of practice questions. Make sure you are using the best quality question banks you can and take plenty of practice tests. Some practice tests aren’t the full length of the 4 hour exam, so be sure to attempt a few full length practice exams too. This will help you plan your time and develop test-taking strategies.

You really need to be dealing with practice PMP tests of 200 multiple choice questions and scoring 80% or more. The reason for that is because there will most likely be a number of factors that could cause your score on the real test date to drop below what it was in your practice exams. If you are only just above the passing threshold or achieving mediocre scores on your practice exams then you may drop below the success mark on the actual day.

  1. Can you help me with Risk and Quality please?

Yes! These topics must be mastered for the PMP exam. Review all those little things like the 7 basic quality tools and the difference between quality assurance and quality control. Go through all of those risk processes and make sure you understand the whole sequence from planning risk all the way down to creating risk responses and the differences between qualitative and quantitative risk analysis.

Start there and drill down deeper, making sure that you understand all the concepts of risk and quality because they are going to make up a good percentage of the questions that you see on the exam.

  1. What do I have to score in order to pass the exam? And can I get below proficient in more than one category and still pass?

The actual score to pass the exam isn’t made public and any passing percentages anyone mentions are just their best guess.

You should be aiming to score Moderately Proficient or Proficient in all process groups and an excellent PMP exam simulator will provide you with those scores. However, it is believed to be possible to pass the exam even if you are below proficient in more than one category.

  1. How long should it take me to study effectively and pass the exam?

It depends! Everyone has different things going on in their lives from work, family and other commitments, so the time available to you to study is personal depending on your circumstances. This will influence the length of your study schedule.

We see good results from students who can attack their studies aggressively and spend around 1-2 hours per day studying for the exam over a 1-2 month period. Students who put together long study plans of 4-6 months tend to see diminishing returns on their ability to pass. It’s recommended to put together a personalized schedule that is realistic for you.

  1. Do I really have to read the PMBOK® Guide twice like everyone says?

No, you do not, but it may help! The PMBOK® Guide is a useful reference guide and every good project manager should have one. You can also use a PMP prep book, a dedicated series of learning videos or the skills of a PMP tutor and have the PMBOK® Guide on hand to clarify further any concepts that you might not understand fully.

Asking the right questions helps you prepare more effectively so if you are struggling with something related to your PMP exam prep, ask a colleague, a professional PMP tutor or another trusted individual for their advice. Knowing the answers will make you feel more confident and ready to face the exam and in turn, increase your chance of success on the day.

 

About the author: Cornelius Fichtner, is a noted PMP expert. He has helped over 26,000 students prepare for the PMP Exam with The Project Management PrepCast at  and The PMP Exam Simulator 

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

5 Reasons To Become a Certified Project Manager

You may be an aspiring or existing project manager. If you are new to this profession you are perhaps considering certification to become a professional project manager. If you are an existing Project Management Professional (PMP), you may be in doubt about your on-going training requirements. This article should give you clarity about the purpose and motivation for becoming a certified project manager and the benefits for staying certified. In this context certification refers to the Project Management Institute’s (PMI) Project Management Professional (PMP) certification.
Project Management Professional

To be Certified or not

Project management certifications matter. Especially given the current unpredictable market in which companies must operate and succeed.  Project management certification makes for better project managers and reduces risk of project failure in an organisation.

After the first best practice project management standard was founded, it became apparent that following best practice and hiring certified project managers are crucial to successful project management and, hence, business success.

5 Reasons to become a Certified Project Mangager

1.       Research is showing that today’s marketplace is demanding an increase in project management certification. Holding a certification and having the letters PMP, CAPM, PgMP, PMI-RMP or PMI-SP behind your name gives candidates access to greater job prospects and thereby places them in a higher salary bracket.

2.       Project management, however, still remains a business skill that is acquired through experience combined with an internationally recognised project management certification, such as Project Management Professional (PMP) from the Project Management Institute. (PMI). The PMI certification currently has the largest footprint and is represented in 238 countries.

3.       The Standish Group International, publisher of the CHAOS Report says that two-thirds of CIOs surveyed regard a PMI certification as valuable and the number of CIOs who require their project managers to be certified grew from 21% in 2005 to 31% by 2009.

4.       Certifications such as the PMP and Prince 2 help unify teams as each member speaks the same language and uses identical processes when executing projects.  This contributes to greater project performance.

5.       Project management certification is also important from a governance perspective as certified members sign a code of professional conduct.  This automatically provides the employer with confidence that the certified professional acts with integrity and executes tasks with soundness of judgment. This minimises risk within an organisation and enhances the chance of project success.

What comes after certification?

Project management certification is an on-going process and every three years certified professionals must recertify and maintain their professional status through on-going development and enhancing the project management profession by attending conferences, writing- and presenting papers, as well as transferring their skills. This on-going learning means that certified project managers stay informed about latest project, programme and portfolio management best practices earning professional development units (PDUs).

Project management professionals stay up-to-date, through the use of the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide), which assists project managers globally to apply certain standards in project management in order to meet business goals and business intent.

PMBOK

The PMBOK Guide presents a set of standard terminology, guidelines and tools and techniques for project management. It is non-industry specific and provides project managers with a basis from which to work and can be tweaked to suit each project manager’s project. Now in its fourth edition, it was first published by the PMI in 1987 as a white paper to document and standardise generally accepted project management information and practices.

Conclusion

It is important to remember that although a certified professional has dedicated thousands of hours and numerous years to pass the exam, exceptional project managers are those who combine that knowledge with passion and strong leadership abilities. The real test for being an excellent project manager, is in the constant application and enhancement of this knowledge.

Resources to consider for aspiring and existing project managers:
Want to do the PMP exam and become certified, I recommend the PM Prepcast:

For an existing PMP who need PDU’s, I recommend the PDU Podcast, an affordable and convenient subscription to earn PDU’s in your own time:

6 Reasons To Be A Project Management Consultant

6 Reasons To Be a Project Management Consultant

to Business Owners and Service Professionals

Following on from my previous blog post on ‘About Project Management Passion’, I wanted to explain Virtual Project Consulting’s 6 reasons for being Project Management Consultants to Business Owners and Service Professionals.

1. Core Desire To Help

As a Project Management Professional it is my core desire to help, equip and empower people to reach their full potential. I realized one way of doing this is to combine my calling to help more people with the sharing of my knowledge and experience in Project Management as a business tool. If life is about learning, earning and returning, you could say that my Project Management Consulting business is about returning my project management knowledge, skills and experience of the past 11 years to help other people grow.

In choosing a name for my Project Management Consulting Business, I decided on a name that will also work for doing business online with clients over the internet.  Hence the choice of VIRTUAL PROJECT CONSULTING.

What does VIRTUAL mean to me?  Virtual has several meanings as portrayed in the following graphic:

2. Our Vision

As part of our vision to be the Service Provider of choice for Project Management Consulting and related Products on how to manage successful projects in your business, the VIRTUAL component means that you can expect practical, effective and fundamental advice from us. We are the Virtual Project Manager in your business, without actually being there.

3. Support Our Mission

I believe in consistently delivering Professional Project Management Consulting Services:

  • That adds value
  • That meets the needs of clients
  • That provides inspirational leadership
  • That empowers people by equipping them with skills and knowledge required to be successful in business.
  • That is based on ethical business principles

4. Create A Community

Through interaction with different business owners and service professionals I want to use Virtual Project Consulting as the company vehicle to build a community of people who are passionate about what they do, to connect, to learn, to grow and to give back. Share success stories and learn from one another’s horror stories of what can go wrong in business. Aspiring project managers can read more Project Management related articles here.

5. Fill A Need

Many business owners and service professionals are entrepreneurs with no or very little project management training or experience.  Any-one starting out on their own or being a small to medium business, cannot afford to employ a project manager full time for the occasional projects required to be finished from time to time. This is where Virtual Project Consulting will fulfill the need of providing a basic project management methodology and process, guidelines and tools, as well as ready-to-use project management templates that can be customized according to your own needs.  These can be downloaded instantly and used by any-one with little or no project management experience. Solid As A Rock Project Toolkit will make you successful in managing your own business projects.

For service professionals who require assistance with their Online Marketing Strategy, I can help you plan and implement your Internet marketing plan helping you to attract more customers and increase sales for your business.

6. Community Involvement

One of my other passions that I care for deeply is educating people, including adults and school children. Through proper education they can too aspire to a better life. In my country we have a majority of people who are half-educated or completely illiterate – even in these modern times.

I aspire to donate a percentage of all earnings from Virtual Project Consulting to organizations that are positioned to educate less privileged children and adults. Through this my clients will also make a contribution to a good cause that can change the lives of many individuals in this country.

Please comment if you can associate with being a principled driven business who is passionate about what you do! Share your story with us.

Cape Town Waterfront with Soccer 2010 World Cup Stadium

15 PROJECT MANAGEMENT TIPS

VIRTUAL PROJECT CONSULTING

Presents project management tips:

1.   What is a project? 

A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result. It has a clear start and finish, a set of defined goals and objectives and a  sequence of activities.

2.   What is a good project definition? 

A project has a beginning and an end and is unique; unlike operations that are ongoing. It is about managing team priorities to deliver within time, cost and quality constraints.

3.   Why do we need projects? 

Some reasons why we need projects in business today are tighter budgets, diminishing resources, more time constraints, more competition and to achieve service excellence.

4.   What are examples of projects?

Examples of projects are:

  • developing a new product or service
  • implementation of strategic objectives 
  • restructuring your business organization
  • constructing a new facility
  • office move or re-arranging the office
  • planning a special event

5.   What is project management?

The application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to projects to meet project requirements and deliver projects successfully within budget, on time and with desired quality.

6.   What does project management comprise of?

Project management comprise of a set of skills. Also required is:

  • Specialist knowledge, skills and experience are required to reduce the level of risk within a project and thereby enhance its likelihood of success.
  • A suite of tools for example document templates.
  • A series of processes. In professional project management various management techniques and processes are required to monitor and control time, cost, quality and scope on projects.

7.   What is a project methodology? 

A methodology is a set of methods, processes and practices that are repeatedly carried out as part of a project life cycle to deliver projects. The key concept is that you repeat the same steps for every project you undertake, and by doing that, you will gain efficiencies in your approach.

8.   What is the power of project management? 

The power of project management is that it makes it possible to focus on priorities, measure and track performance.

9.   What are the industries that use project management?

Project management is used in industries like online publishing, banking, software development, information technology and manufacturing.

10.       What skills do project managers need? 

Project managers need to be very skilled in leadership, communications, human resources-, quality-, time-, cost management and integration.

11.       What are the benefits of project management?

Some benefits of having project management in your business are:

  • it helps to meet or exceed customer expectations 
  • it maximizes the use of resources (time, people, money, space)
  • it brings projects to successful conclusion within budget, on time and with desired quality
  • it documents what was done for future reference
  • it builds confidence in your team for future projects.

12.       How is project management different from management?

In project management work is managed towards a single objective for a unique endeavor with a definite beginning and an end. In general management it is about multiple related objectives to manage the workload in an operations environment where work is done continuously.

13.       How are projects different from standard business operational activities?

  • Projects are unique and do not involve repetitive processes
  • Projects have a defined timescale. They have a clearly specified start and end date within which the deliverables must be produced to meet a specified customer requirement
  • A project have an approved budget
  • Projects have limited resources like labour, equipment, material
  • Projects achieve beneficial change. The purpose of a project, typically, is to improve an organization through the implementation of business change. 

14.       Who is the governing body for project management?

The Project Management Institute, or known as the PMI. The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) is prescribed as their project management handbook.

15.       Is there a special qualification for Project Managers?

The Project Management certification is called the Project Management Professional (PMP). The the title of a PMP certification is known and acknowledged worldwide.

Your VirtualPM

Linky

PS: For related Project Management articles, read here.

PPS: To use a Project Management Toolkit in your business, have a look at the Solid as a Rock here.