January 21, 2018


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

Project Managers access this Free Virtual Event

This is a reminder of a wonderful free resource for project managers from any industry. The PMXPO 2015, hosted by Project Management.com that took place on 30 April was the biggest event in its eight-year history.

There were several interesting sessions covering various topics from “Redefining the PMO” to “PPM Process Management” and “Agile Leadership practices”. The virtual event sessions are still available on-demand until July 31, 2015. Existing PMP’s can earn up to 6.25 PDU’s for attending.

Don’t let this opportunity pass you by. Visit PMXPO 2015 today and enjoy the content.

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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Top Project Managers Share Quotes for Success

It is a privilege to contribute to the collection of quotes from collaboration experts on what to do to make projects successful!

Please subscribe (to the right) for future updates about project management, leadership and other related topics.

Knowledge Train – Favourite project management bloggers for 2013

It is such an honour to be listed as one of Knowledge Train’s favourite project management bloggers for 2013. It is at times like this that one is grateful that your contribution is seen, shared and appreciated.

Simon Buehring  is one of the guest authors to Virtual Project Consulting and he has published the Infographic, created by his colleague, Alson Wood, below which I’m happy to share with my community.

Please use this opportunity to check out the recommended websites from the project management bloggers below. Also connect with them on social media and become part of our global community.

Knowledge Train’s blog – our favourite project management bloggers

Project Management Standards Update for 2013


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

Calling on Project Managers to Share Success Stories

Lessons Learned but Knowledge Lost!

This was the title of an editorial that was published by David Pells in PM World Today in 2011. It was about the loss of experience and knowledge that was occurring as project managers retired.  While this is particularly pertinent in South Africa where skills shortage is considered an acute concern, it is clear that this is a global phenomenon.

The reality is that in spite of all the technology that is available to us today, we have not yet found a presentation format that captures the essence of this wisdom in a way that is relevant to future usage, readily searchable and easy to store.  It needs to be shared with present and future generations in a format that’s interesting and easy to use.  This highlights the significance of project management, knowledge management and the lessons learned process.

Lessons Learned Discussion

Recently there has been a lively discussion about Project Lessons Learned on the Association of Project Management (APM) blog.  A few key take-aways are shared here in order to understand how various individuals and companies have dealt with this requirement.

  • Some organisations have a more proactive approach and would gather in PM forum meetings specifically to share lessons learned from all projects from the whole PM team. This heightens awareness of problems, lets you see where the same thing is a happening and find solutions to prevent them from happening again.  It also allows you to highlight the good things and not just focus on the problems.
  • The documenting of lessons learned on most projects is not particularly good.  In many cases it isn’t done at all.  Where it is undertaken (often only because it is mandated by corporate procedures) it is all too often seen as a tick in the box exercise.  At least it sometimes is done.  What almost never happens is a review of relevant lessons reports by new projects.
  • Some individuals create a Lessons Log during Project Start-up and record anything that could help to create a best practice for my projects.  The Lessons Log is reviewed regularly along with the RAIDs (Risks, Assumptions, Issues and Dependencies) management documents at Checkpoint Meetings and Gate Reviews.  This really makes a difference when populating the Lessons Log and makes the job of writing the lessons into the End-of-Project Report so much easier.  (Colin Hewson, APM blog)

Lessons Learned a Contributor to Success

An interesting finding was published by Cranfield University School of Management. They conducted research to find out what helps projects to succeed or contributes to failure.  They have found that the biggest differentiating factor between organisations that generally succeed with their projects and those that don’t is “the willingness to publish and distribute lessons learnt”.

Therefore it’s not enough to close out the project and to create a Lessons Learned report – the reports have to be made available to others in a way that makes them want to read and apply. The key capability here is communication and some best practices could be:

  • organising the critical information in a way that makes it appear relevant and easy to understand,
  • making the different stakeholder groups aware that the information is available,
  • ensuring that stakeholder know where to find it,
  • arrange things so that they can quickly turn the information presented into useful actions.

Unfortunately, most lessons learned, although captured, are not being communicated out, and key learnings mostly remain with the individuals involved.  Also, for major complex projects, what you can actually capture in a report is only a small percentage.  The only way real learning gets shared is through conversation.

Certainly access to historical information in the form of validated lessons learned will be a valuable way of helping people who want to deliver successful projects. The challenge is developing a way to make the information accessible.

Case Study: London 2012 Olympics

An excellent example of capturing lessons learned, disseminating it and applying it immediately is the Learning Legacy Project of the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) who was responsible for the London 2012 Summer Olympics. The Learning Legacy Project was developed to share the knowledge and lessons learned from the London 2012 construction project for the benefit of industry projects and programmes in the future, for academia and the government.

Reports and related information from the Learning Legacy have been categorised into ten themes on this website. Each theme contains short reports, tools and templates, case studies and research summaries that document how this area of work was approached and the lessons that have been learned and the successes that could benefit others.

Another recommended resource would be the PM Lessons Learned blog from Stephen Duffield. He has completed his Masters in Project Management with the thesis theme: “Exploring factors that impact knowledge management dissemination of project management lessons learned”

His study focused on the significant factors that impact the dissemination of project management lessons between the project team and the organisation. The literature review focused on the areas of: knowledge; knowledge management; knowledge conversion; learning; organisational learning; lessons learned practices; and culture. His hope is to enhance the understanding of project technology, learning, process and people factors that will assist in the dissemination of the Project Management lessons learned practice being improved.

Learn Your Lessons

In conclusion, here are a few suggestions to ensure that we learn our lessons from past projects and that the knowledge is transferred across to future projects.

  • Create a plan for recording lessons learned at the end of each project life cycle phase.  This can be done in the form of formal team meetings, to simply requesting that people post to a discussion board, wiki, or some other form of media. Reference: “Learn your lessons” blog, Projects at Work by John D’Entremont.
  • If an ongoing process of capturing lessons learned cannot be followed, consider conducting a closing review once your project is complete. A post-project review can serve two important purposes.  It obviously aids in the collection of project historical data that can be shared, but it can also be a means of validating the work that your project team accomplished. The acknowledgement of work being done well provides good closure to the team members and a sense of achievement.
  • A more Agile principle is recommended by Anthony Mersino, founder of The Agile PMO, for teams to reflect at regular intervals, on how to become more effective, then to tune and adjust their behaviour accordingly.  The teams need to be communicating and collaborating on what works well, what doesn’t work so well, and then use that to make change. It is discussed, debated even, and it becomes part of the teams shared journey and collective memory.  The advantage of this approach is that you can immediately incorporate what you learned.

The PMO’s role in Lessons Learned is to make sure the teams are conducting retrospectives on a frequent and regular basis and incorporating the lessons learned into their planning.

Success Stories Shared Framework

As you can see from the Lessons Learned debate and the Learning Legacy project, this is a challenge that our current generation of project managers need to face and solve. In an attempt to capture the wisdom and transfer the knowledge to future projects, a framework is proposed.

This is to collect Success Stories from experienced project/programme managers in order to share experiences and to promote learning across the project and programme management community of South Africa and abroad.

Would you like to become involved with the Success Stories Shared initiative?

Please visit the Success Stories Shared page and send me an email should you wish to participate and to make a contribution in leaving a legacy to future projects and generations.

About the Author:

Linky van der Merwe is a Sr Project Manager at Microsoft Consulting Services. She is also the Founder of Virtual Project Consulting, a project management blog where aspiring and existing project managers find project management resources relating to training, software, products and services, as well as practical advice on project management processes, templates and tools based on best practices.

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.

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