Vicki James, PMP, CBAP

The Project Pro

Where Did the Blog Posts Go?

I realize that it seems as if I have given up writing by the looks of my blog page. I assure you this is not the case. I have written extensively for Watermark Learning about things such as the new PMI-PBA credential from the Project Management Institute and the public review draft of the BABOK© Guide v3 from International Institute of Business Analysis. I even have a guest spot up on Business Analysis Times with a re-print of my popular The Project Manager vs. The Business Analyst post.

Here are a few titles for you to check out. Follow the link at the top of the page to “Become a member of our learning community” to get Watermark Learning news first hand.

More about the BABOK Guide v3

It has now been a month since the International Public Review of A Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge® (BABOK®) Guide v3 began. I have had a chance to do a bit of review firsthand and wanted to share some findings. BABOK … Continue reading 

PMI-PBA Pilot Begins!

The Project Management Institute (PMI) launched the pilot of the PMI Professional in Business Analysis (PMI-PBA) certification last week. The pilot continues through August 4, 2014. The PMI has provided a couple of incentives for participating in the pilot. Education hours … Continue reading 

A Sneak Peek at the BABOK Guide v3

The IIBA has announced “the International Public Review of A Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge® (BABOK® Guide) v3” begins May 12th. I had an opportunity to get more news on the release at the Minneapolis-St Paul IIBA … Continue reading 

PMI-PBA and CBAP/CCBA Side by Side

Last week the Project Management Institute (PMI) ® announced their PMI Professional in Business Analysis (PMI-PBA) certification. They cite a statistic by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics that “business analysis jobs are predicted to increase by 22 percent by 2020.” The …Continue reading 

Three Reasons to Achieve Your IIBA Certification in 2014

Is achieving IIBA® Certification on your bucket list? The International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) announced at the Building Business Capability conference in Las Vegas last November that the current version of the Guide to the Business Analysis Body of … Continue reading 

I will be posting more on this blog as I have thoughts and contents that do not directly align with the Watermark Learning business…oh, and time!  So stay tuned!!!

A New Beginning in 2014

WL-Logo-tag-transparentWatermark Learning Names Vicki James Director of Business Analysis

Watermark Learning has named Vicki James, PMP, CBAP, to the position of Director of Business Analysis. James joins Watermark with 15 years’ experience in the public and private sectors as a project manager, business analyst, author, and independent industry consultant and trainer. Her responsibilities will include developing and maintaining Watermark Learning’s Business Analysis Training

read more…

It has been almost a month since I’ve taken on my exciting new role. I am so very excited to have joined the Watermark Learning team as the Director of Business Analysis. This has been a long time in the making but things that are meant to be have a way of working themselves out.

What excites me about this is that I get to do everything I love to do, everything I set out to do with Professional Project Services, but with the support of a great team with years of experience providing training and consulting services. Having a team of like-minded professionals surrounding me is a blessing and I know I will accomplish much more with this team then I could have ever hoped to do as a solo entrepreneur.

The project-pro.us blog will continue to live as my personal contribution to the project community but will take a backseat to Watermark Learning. I urge you to visit WatermarkLearning.com to see what we have to offer. Check out the blog for regular articles from Watermark staff including Rich and Elizabeth Larson, Andrea Brockmeier, and myself. I encourage you to join our community as a member for access to our vast library of project resources.

Thank you for supporting me through the years. I look forward to providing you great information and resources through my new position at Watermark Learning.

Transitioning to a Career in Project Management

ipmd2013

Happy International Project Management Day.  I am going to celebrate the day by providing the answer to a question I received the other day from my friend Debbie.

Hi Vicki, so I am seriously evaluating my career. Based on my skills and what I excel at, I am very interested in getting into Project management. Can you offer any advice on how to start? My resume is mainly in sales so I am lost as to even get started. Let me know your thoughts. 

It dawns on me that Debbie is likely just one of many wanting to transition into formal project management. Here is my quick start guide to beginning your career in project management.

  1. Go through your experience and resume highlighting the things that you have done that fall under the umbrella of project management. The best resource to know what this looks like is the A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK© 5th Edition). This linked mapping of tasks to Knowledge Areas and Process Groups from PMBOK © 4th Edition provides an easy reference of what those “things” are. Most people have done activities that fall in this area, but articulating what these activities are and the projects supported will be a big help to taking the next step.
  2. Begin exploring entry-level project positions that may be a good fit. Some common titles you may find are Project Coordinator, Project Expeditor, Project Assistant, or Project Scheduler.  Indeed.com is a great resource for exploring the types of jobs that are available in your area.
  3. Join the Project Management Institute® (PMI). Your membership and involvement shows commitment to the profession. Further, the network and education you can get through membership is extremely valuable in heading down this road.

With these steps, you will understand how your own experience fits into the project management field, know more about what jobs are out there, and begin building your knowledgebase and network for a smooth transition.

Project managers, what advice do you have to those wanting to explore a move to project management? Please share.

New Orleans Bound for the PMI North American Global Congress!

Image

 

Strategies for Project Sponsorship is coming to New Orleans for the PMI Global Congress.  Vicki will be presenting at 2:30p on Sunday.  Workshop attendees will receive a copy of the Sponsorship Checklist and one lucky attendee will receive a signed copy of the book.  Register for NA13ESM01 : Strategies for Project Sponsorship today!

On a different note, join Vicki for an unsponsored, informal night of local New Orleans food and blues on Saturday. Vicki’s classmate Eloise Davis is a member of Major Bacon, a local New Orleans blues band.  Join Vicki for dinner before hand and the gig.  More information on Vicki’s Facebook.

Book Review: The Project Management Minimalist: Just Enough PM to Rock Your Projects! (2nd Edition)

I recommend Project Management Minimalist: Just Enough PM to Rock Your Projects for all seasoned and up and coming project managers. Michael Greer takes a different pm_mininmalistapproach by focusing on the core best practices that are critical to project success, in some cases combining two or more PMBOK tasks into a cohesive step for managing the project. The PM Minimalist is a great reference for project managers that will specifically help in cases where…

  1. Someone assigned project manager who has not had significant experience and exposure to best practices. They will get great insight to some of the more critical project management best practices that will help make sure project success without having to become an expert on all PMBOK processes.
  2. The seasoned project manager who needs to streamline project management practices that are not adding value to the overall success of the project.  This book will offer insights to help prioritize and effectively streamline these practices when appropriate.

Each steps includes an overview, expected results, process, and practical tools, guidelines, and examples.  The one item I would add to the core list is some level of risk management. I do see an opportunity to apply the minimalist approach to this work, but do not recommend it be left out of the mix altogether. Risk management does land in the author’s previous top 20 of project activities, The Project Manager’s Partner, Second Edition so I know we are not far apart in our thinking.

Each project has its own personality and level of complexity.  Project managers will need to use their expertise and common sense to decide where the minimalist approach is best for their project and where formal processes are required. Giving processes the “minimalist squeeze” will help project managers make sure they are spending the team’s time, as well as their own, in the most productive way.

The second part of this book is especially helpful to project managers and developing their own leadership abilities. These lessons really apply to all in many situations. I think of it as a mini self-help that all project managers will benefit from broken into two main sections; the people stuff (working with team), and taking care of yourself. Quotes, examples, and stories help project managers in the softer skills required by project managers.  Additional references are provided for those who wish to explore further the idea.

More information on publication is available through the author’s website.

Authors’ Interview with Guerrilla Project Management

ImageThank you Samad Aidane for this interview on Strategies for Project Sponsorship. We enjoyed talking to you and appreciate you support.

———————————

Vicki James, Peter Taylor, and Ron Rosenhead share their insights on the secrets to effective project sponsorship from their new book “Strategies for Project Sponsorship”

Research into the causes of project failure clearly shows there is a real problem around the Project Sponsor role.  The Project sponsor is critical to project success, yet it is a role that is often assigned to a member of an organization with little knowledge or training in project management practices. In their new book “Strategies for Project Sponsorship”, authors Vicki James, Peter Taylor, and Ron Rosenhead address the challenge of project sponsorship from all three vantage points—that of the project manager, the project sponsor, and the organization. The book reveals the secrets to effective project sponsorship and how to help project managers and project sponsors work in concert and leverage their respective organizational roles and responsibilities.

Continue to interview…

 

 

PMP Exam Lessons Learned

Updated 7/27/2013 with a second student LL.

A student of mine just sat for the PMP exam and passed on his first try! Yay!! He took the extra step of writing up his lessons learned to share with his classmates. I am now sharing with the world (with permission).

Congratulations JC!!!! And thank you for sharing.

pass


Although I passed the PMP exam, it was actually a pretty stressful experience for me and there were a few lessons learned for me that I think are worth sharing without getting into the actual questions.

First of all, I made the mistake of not skipping the hard questions. I’m stubborn, so I just didn’t want to move on to the next question until I could at least make an educated guess. I felt like I was doing pretty well on the first few questions, but then I ran into this one formula question, where I could not figure out how to arrive at any of the answers using the formulas. After spending way too much time thinking about it, I finally gave up and made an educated guess without using any formulas. Because of this, and the fact that I’m a slow reader, I ended up spending almost an hour on the first 25 questions or so… So of course, I panicked and had to really rush for the rest of the exam. And being in panic mode made it hard to concentrate on questions, especially long ones. I was finally able to get through all the questions with about 20 minutes to spare for reviewing, but I wasn’t able to review all of the questions I marked. So you might want to practice the technique of skipping the hard ones the first time through.

Another mistake I made was that I drank too much water leading up to the exam and I did not go to the bathroom just before the exam. So I ended up going to the bathroom twice during the exam. And because I was in a rush for most of the time, I answered many questions while wanting to go to the bathroom…

Also, taking a bathroom break may take an extra few minutes than you think. And if you’re in a rush, you might wanna try to take your break when other test takers are not at the testing room entrance. Every time you go out of the testing room you have to check out, the test administrator has to help you sign your name and time. And before you can go back in, you have to go through the strip search again and then sign your name and time. If there is anybody else that’s checking in or out at the same time, then you have to wait your turn.

Other notes about the security:

  • The strip search involves rolling up your sleeves to show your wrists, turning all of your pockets inside out, pulling up the bottom of your pants to show the top of your socks, answering the question of where your cell phone is, and having them wave the metal detector on you front and back. So you might want to wear clothes that’s easy to show your wrist and socks and with fewer pockets.
  • However, the testing room had the air conditioning blasted, so it was freezing cold in there! I had a long sleeve shirt and slacks with a jacket on, but I often had to rub my hands and thighs to warm them up. I had only brought my jacket because it was cold in the morning and I had planned to take it off inside, but I ended up zipping up my jacket in the testing roomJ
  • Next to the locker, there was a rack to put your drink and snack outside of the exam room. You don’t want to put your drink and snack in the locker, because you CANNOT access your locker during the exam. They give you the key to your locker, but they put a plastic strip on your locker that prevents you from opening your locker until you are done with the exam. I think this is to prevent you from accessing your cell phone during your break. So I’m not sure, but I don’t think you are allowed go outside during your break either.
  • I brought my ear plugs, but I had a plastic case for my ear plugs, which they told me I had to put in the locker. Only the ear plugs were allowed and not the plastic case. I’m glad to have had the ear plugs just to eliminate the loud noise of the air conditioner. There were headsets at every desk, but I didn’t try them.
  • They also told me that I had to put my handkerchief in the locker… So I guess you have to take a break if you need to wipe your nose or hands (or use your sleevesJ)
  • I walked in the testing center around 7:50, but since there were many people ahead of me, so I ended up starting my tutorial around 8:15. So you will wanna get there early if you want to start on schedule.  If you’d like to know exactly what to expect when you walk into the testing center, here is what happens. When you walk in, they ask for your last name (no need for print out of reservation), they take your ID, stack them in a pile, give you a list of rules to read, and have you wait until it’s your turn. When you’re called, you get a numbered locker key, you put things in the numbered locker, place drink and snack on a rack, and then you get strip searched. Then they ask you for your email address that you applied with, check-in by using the same signature on your ID and they give you the time to write down. Then they hand you a stapled set of scratch paper and pencils (which you have to bring back out with you when you’re done with the exam and give it back). When they first escort you into the testing room, they ask you to wait by the door until they check your numbered seat and then give you the okay to go there.

Good luck!


Lessons Learned #2

I left 1.5 hours early after a good night’s sleep, a light breakfast, but didn’t overdue it on the coffee or water – based on JC’s recommendation.

I made the mistake of clicking on the END TUTORIAL at the end of the tutorial, which immediately started the exam. This means I forfeited the time to jot down my cheat sheet. Although I think this was mentioned in class, I still fully expected a START EXAM option.

Another odd thing was that time at the testing center is much faster than at home. I took a lot of practice exams, several with 100 questions and a full 200 question practice the day before my exam. At home I was never anywhere close to using up all the time, even including bathroom breaks etc. Similar to Jason’s report, I ended up being very rushed and paying close attention to the clock. Especially since at one point I’d fully convinced myself that since the was testing our project management skills, simply finishing within the allotted schedule might in itself affect the score.

I was very happy to have spent extra time practicing Earned Value. A few of the questions requiring formulas where however posed in such a convoluted manner that I ended up just giving it a best guess instead of figuring. I’d then note the question number on my scrap paper so that I could go back to it at the end of the test, if I had any extra time.

Understanding the differences between the various types of charts, diagrams, analyses, etc were not straightforward to me – so I refreshed my memory in this area the evening before the exam. I’m glad I did.

I didn’t spend additional time studying up on network diagramming, but only because I’ve had a lot of scheduling background, so this seemed fairly straightforward to me. I could likely have invested more time here, especially around calculating float.

I told myself I’d take a quick break at the 100th question. Of course someone walked into the ladies bathroom right as I headed there. I used the men’s room instead, and reported to the officials that they needed to restock the paper towels. I have no shame in this area.

I focused on remembering to take deep breaths at least three questions. Since it seemed that I wasn’t completely certain how to answer most of the questions, I was pretty certain I wasn’t going to pass. I reminded myself that I was doing the best I could and failing wouldn’t be the end of the world. I reminded myself that the end of the world is the only end of the world. Everything else is an inconvenience.

Poll: Most Harmful Sponsors Type

Poll: Most Harmful Sponsors Type

What type of sponsor is the most harmful to a project’s chance of success? Take the poll and join the discussion on in the LinkedIn Project Sponsors group.

Strategies for Project Sponsorship Released!

CoverI am thrilled to announce publication of my first book, Strategies for Project Sponsorship. This was a team effort with Peter Taylor (aka The Lazy Project Manager) and Ron Rosenhead. Published by Management Concepts Press, this book is already making waves in the project management community. Please read on for more information or visit our page at www.strategies4sponsors.com.  You can even get a download of our 17 item Project Sponsor Checklist for following the page.

“The project sponsor is critical to project success, yet it is a role that is often assigned to a member of the organization with little knowledge or training in project management practices. In this book, the authors address this challenge from three vantage points – that of the project’s manager, the project sponsor, and the organization.”

Management Concepts Press

Press Flyer from Management Concepts Press

What our readers are saying…

“Strategies for Project Sponsorship is a unique blend of practical, step-by-step tools; hard-won wisdom from the PM trenches; and solid, research-based recommendations…This book should be in every project manager’s tool kit and in every project sponsor’s briefcase.”

Michael Greer

Full review…

“SPS is a well written, well structured, waffle free zone, brimming with practical advice for project managers and sponsors alike.  The book covers the entire project life cycle and clearly explains how the roles and responsibilities of the project sponsor should interface with those of the project manager at each stage of the cycle.”

Jon Hyde, One Eight Consulting

Full review…

PMP Study Tips with Timeline

passI created the following study guide for students of my PMP prep courses. I post this now with thoughts of those sitting for the exam in the next six-weeks, before PMBOK 4th Edition testing ends July 31, 2013. Please comment with your own study suggestions for others.

Week(s) Before

  1. Create crib sheet
    • Create your own. Doing it yourself will force you to write the solutions which will help with memory retention. It will also make more sense to you as you will document knowledge in the way that makes the most sense to you. Suggestions for crib sheet include (in priority order):
    1. Earned Value Formulas
    2. 3-point estimating formulas
    3. Communications Channels
    4. Present-Future Value Formulas
    5. Conflict Resolution Types
    6. Types of Power for the Project Manager
    7. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
    8. Contract Types
    9. Organizational Structure Characteristics
    10. Sigma Percentages
    11. Cost Estimate Range Table
    12. Slack, Forward, and Backward Pass Formulas
    13. Risk Response Strategy (Positive Risks)
    14. Risk Response Strategy (Negative Risks)
    15. Communication Model
    16. PTA Variables
  2. Review PMBOK section 3 – Inputs, Tools & Techniques, & Outputs by Knowledge Area (also available in combined slideshow)
  3. Practice PDM
  4. Practice EMV
  5. Work through a PMP Exam prep study guide on your own paying special attention to exercise.
  6. Take sample test of at least 100 questions (http://www.headfirstlabs.com/PMP/pmp_exam/v1/quiz.html)
  7. Review score and identify missed questions by knowledge area
  8. Review study guide, the PM Answer Book*, and PMBOK*, for each the three weakest knowledge areas
  9. As needed, go to PMI 24/7 Books (eReads) – http://www.pmi.org/Knowledge-Center/Virtual-Library-eReads-and-Reference.aspx
  10. Search through library to find additional resources that will help increase knowledge of that area (many books have practice exams by knowledge area that will help you test your knowledge)
  11. Repeat steps 2 – 8 noting any changes in comprehension by knowledge area and adjusting as necessary

A note about practice test:

  • DO – use test results to determine knowledge areas that you are weaker in
  • DO – use test to get comfortable with format of questions and strategy for answering
  • DON’T – use test results as a final indicator of the score you will get on the final test


Day(s) Before

  1. Recreate crib sheet from memory (cheat only if needed)
  2. Review PMBOK by knowledge area (inputs, tools and techniques, outputs)
  3. Review PMI-isms (Rita page 15-17)
  4. Review Chapter 14 – the PMP Exam (Rita’s book)
  5. Review study book exercises
  6. Recreate matrix of Knowledge Area and Process groups from memory
  7. Take sample test of at least 100 questions (Transcender or http://www.headfirstlabs.com/PMP/pmp_exam/v1/quiz.html)

Night Before / Day Of

    • Determine any urgent study needs from test results and study
    • Verify test location and time
    • Find your exam schedule notice and set aside where you will NOT forget the next day
    • Take a break – put it all aside, relax, and take care of your self
    • Don’t over do
    • Get a good night sleep
    • Eat a healthy meal
    • Review your crib sheet, matrix of Knowledge Area and Process Groups
    • Remember your exam schedule notice
    • Pack a healthy snack and water
    • Get to test site early
    • Review your crib sheet again paying special attention to difficult to remember formulas (don’t try to crash memorize more than 3 or you’ll fill up the brain)
    • Go to exam room (they will likely let you sit for the exam early if you get there early provided they have a test station available)
    • Store your personal items in locker provided
    • Use the restroom
    • Once you are at the test station
      1. Recreate your crib sheet on paper provided
      2. Use the time available to get comfortable with the computerized test (allowed 15 minutes)
      3. Start the clock when ready

Principles to Remember

  • The Project Manager has authority within the parameters of the charter
  • Stakeholders include everyone including the team and project manager
  • For any decision or problem
    • Identify the problem
    • Analyze the Impact
    • Evaluate Options
    • Prepare a Recommendation
  • Communication is candid yet empathic with problem solving in mind
  • All project information is transparent unless confidential (for a reason)
  • The Project Manager is always proactive toward the project and bettering project management practices within the organization
  • Address problem and potential issues head on
  • The Lazy PM
    • Emphasizes planning
    • Stakeholders are privy to plans for smooth transition to response eliminating “fire fighting mode”
  • Read the entire question and possible answers before settling on an answer
  • Dissect question – what is it actually asking
    • Look for extraneous information
    • Look for double-negatives – translate to positive question
  • Look at the potential answers
    • What is the sequence of events based on the PMBOK
      • Sequence the possible answer to determine BEST NEXT
      • Review the sequence with possible answers of lists to rule-out or identify the best answer
    • Does a single answer have a mix of concepts that are not in context with the question – rule it out
    • Does a single answer sound like a good practice, something you would do, BUT is not covered in your study or PMBOK – rule it out
    • When comparing two answers – is one more formal then the other? The more formal answer may be the correct one with the informal answer being the “good idea” that is not the official answer

In Reviewing Questions During the Test

  1. Run through the test once answering the easy questions and flagging the not-easy questions.
  2. Run through the test a second time to answer the flagged questions. Unmark those you are relatively comfortable with, keep marked the ones you want to come back to
  3. Take a break!!!!
  4. Run through the test again for only the marked items, verify your answers – have a darn good reason for changing if you had answered. Your first instinct may very well be the right one.
  5. In your final run through look for
  •  Questions that may have been tricks
    • Wordy questions
    • Answers include similar lists of items
    • Seemed too good to be true
    • The first 20-50 questions that you answered as your frame of mind may not have been ready for a trick
    • Take a break!!!!
    • Last run through as you determine necessary – look for potentially obvious mistakes you may have made. Again, if you are waffling between two answer, your first instinct may be correct – consider leaving the original response
    • Know that is normal to stop breathing the second you hit “done”
    • There may be a slight delay and a survey on the test experience will be presented (SERIOUSLY!?!?)
    • There may be a slight delay and then a message on the overall test results “Congratulations, you have passed.”
    • The test proctor staff will provide you with proof.
    • Email vicki.james@watermarklearning.com (I want to hear!)
    • PMI will mail you certificate and other goodies to accompany your PMP.

What if…

A failing test score is not a failure!! You only truly fail when you give up. Remember, the test was designed to only achieve a certain level of passing attempts. Also remember, it was designed expecting test takers to already be experienced expert level project managers. You should take the opportunity to take the exam again. See 4 Steps to Recover from a PMP Exam Fail (PMStudent.com) and 10 Tips for Passing the PMP Exam…the Second Time (Watermark Learning).

* Notes

The books listed here were used for classes relating to the 4th Edition of the PMBOK. Look for the most current editions if planning to sit for the exam after 7/31/2013.  See The Project Pro’s Bookstore, PMP Prep shelf for these and other titles.

  • PMP Prep Study Books
  • PMBOK
    • A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (4th Edition)
  • PM Answer Book
    • Furman, J. (2012). The Project Management Answer Book. Management Concepts Press.
  • Find more on PMP Exam Preparation from Watermark Learning
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