Vicki James, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, CSM

formerly of Professional Project Services, LCC

Tag Archives: PMI

Get Ready for PMP Exam Changes Coming in January 2016

PMI© has announce changes coming to the Project Manager Professional (PMP®) examination beginning on January 11, 2016 (postponed from original schedule of November 1, 2015). The changes represent a 25% overhaul to the exam questions. While the exam is changing, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide®) 5th edition, is not. If you are scheduled to take the exam prior to January 11, 2016, do not change your course of study. However, if you do not pass prior to this date or are otherwise scheduled to take it afterwards, you will need to change your study strategy to include the exam updates.

Continue reading…

Stop the Madness…Too Many Business Analysis Tools!!

I have noticed trend developing recently that I find troubling. It started when I participated in the public review of the draft A Guide to the Business Analysis Body Knowledge (BABOK® Guide) version 3 this past May. My biggest concern with this draft was the addition of tools and techniques. The number of tools and techniques went from 34 to 46, but even more troubling was that I did not recognize some of the added tools and techniques including Business Model Canvas or Business Capability Analysis. Not only that, I did not see where they were common and useful enough to add to a collection of generally accepted best practices separate from the 34 that were already there.  Aspiring CBAP’s® and CCBA’s® will need to thoroughly understand each of these in order to prepare for the certification exams.

Then in May 2014, the Project Management Institute (PMI®) introduced the PMI Professional in Business Analysis (PMI-PBA℠) credential.  The PMI-PBA Examination Content Outlines specifically calls out 76 techniques in 22 different categories.  Add their newly released Business Analysis for Practitioners – A Practice Guide with an additional 10 techniques and business analysts who are availing themselves to certification need to learn a whopping 86 business analysis tools and techniques in order to prepare for any question the PMI-PBA℠ examination may throw at them. WOW!!!

Many of these new techniques, while great in concept, are not actually in the collective consciousness of the business analysis community as a generally accepted best practice tool or technique. With things such as Kano model, Ecosystem Map, and Interrelationship Diagram it all gets very confusing very fast. Even for a seasoned pro like me.

I think part of the problem is that the terms tool and technique is not being used as I would expect. A technique is a method (procedure, formula, or routine) to accomplish a task. A tool is a device that will aid in completion of the task. Business analysts will often have the tools and techniques to accomplish a task without adding to the toolkit or the vocabulary. Fore example, business capability analysis is a task that skilled, seasoned business analysts can accomplish without adding to the toolkit.

Is a carpenter with 86 tools in his tool belt any better than a carpenter with 34 tools?  Perhaps, but not because of the number of tools he holds.

Instead, I would apply the Pareto Principle (aka 80/20 Rule) and say that 80% of the value comes from 20% of the tools.  This 20%, or approximately 17 tools, are the core basics that any business analyst should have in his or her tool belt. The business analyst should not just have theses tools, but make sure that these tools are of the highest quality and grade. A business analyst should further be armed with the competency to research and find, or develop his or her own tools that will make the job easier and provide greater value to the project if, and only if, the existing tools are not quite fitting the need.

You are probably now wondering what 17 tools and techniques I would consider the core basic. Well let me take a stab at this.

  1. Benchmarking
  2. Cost-Benefit Analysis
  3. Data Dictionary
  4. Document Analysis
  5. Facilitated Workshop
  6. Five-Why’s
  7. Interviewing
  8. Issue / Problem Tracking
  9. Observation
  10. Process Map
  11. Product Backlog
  12. Prototyping
  13. Survey / Questionnaire
  14. Use Case Diagram
  15. Use Cases
  16. User Stories
  17. Weighted Criteria Matrix

So there you go. Vicki’s 17 Core Business Analysis Tools and Techniques.  Couple these with great organizational skills, an inquiring mind, along with the ability to adapt, and you have a top-notch business analyst who will help your project and your organization achieve great things. Let’s spend the time we would otherwise use in learning about the other 59 tools to refining and perfecting these 17 and adapt from there as needed.

What tools and techniques do you feel are most essential for a business analyst?

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!!!

6 Easy Ways to Earn PDUs for your PMP

Are you up to date on your PDUs? Is your renewal deadline fast approaching? Here are some ideas, in ease to earn order, to help you get your PDUs in time for your certification renewal. Full detail for categories is available in the PMP Handbook. Refer to your copy for additional information to plan for and record your PDUs.

Category F* – Working as a Professional In Project Management

You can earn up to 5 PDUs per year, 15 per certification cycle, for working full time as a project manager. Your 25% on your way to re-certification!

*Subject to maximum of 45 credits combined in categories D, E, and F.

Category C – Self Directed Learning

Anything you read, watch, or discuss related to project management may count towards your PDUs. Keep records of the time you participate in these activities along with any notes and record your PDUs. One PDU per hour of activity up to 30 PDUs in your certification cycle is allowed.

  • Webinars
  • Podcasts
  • Articles
  • Books

There are hundreds of self-directed learning opportunities on the web. Check out these links to find out more. Sign up for their email lists to get notice of opportunities directly in your inbox.

  • pduOTD.com – PDU of the Day provides PDU opportunities from all categories. Many are self-directed activities. Opportunities listed provide information includes category information, recording requirements, and anything else you need to know to make the most of the opportunity provided.
  • PDUInsider.com – This is a portal to many PDU opportunities of various categories. Find an event calendar of opportunities or browse for on-demand activities that are available. Also includes a link to information on the PDUPodcast.com, an opportunity to earn PDUs through recorded podcasts.

Category E* – Volunteer Service

Have you volunteered with the PMI, maybe within your local chapter, or reviewing an upcoming standard on PMI.org? This also provides PDU credit. Find out more on volunteering at the PMI Volunteer page.

Volunteering is not just a great way to get PDU credit, it also is a great way to expand your network and your skills while benefiting PMI and project managers everywhere. You earn 1 PDU per hour up to the 45 PDU limit in your certification cycle.

*Subject to 45 credit limit for activities in categories D, E, and F.

Category B – Continuing Education

Did you know that you get credit for all project management training, not just training provided by PMI Registered Education Providers? That’s right! That is what category B is all about. Participate in any formal training session and get credit for that time of the curriculum that is project management specific. So go ahead and sign up for the project management workshop you want. It does count!

Category D* – Create New Project Management Knowledge

Do you write or train on project management? Well give yourself credit. PMI grants PDUs for sharing knowledge through writing, presenting, and training. You get PDU credit for preparation and presentation time hour for hour.

*Subject to 45 credit limit for activities in categories D, E, and F.

Conferences, Congresses, and Seminar Events

This is perhaps the most fun and efficient way to earn PDUs. Not only do you get a large selections of topics to see presentations on, but you get to meet project managers from around the world and see what is happening in the world of vendors and tools. You might not even have to record your PDUs  for PMI.org sponsored events as they will often do this for you from your registration and attended sessions.

A Final Note

Make managing your PDUs easier by recording as you as you earn them. This will make the overall task easier and provide an easy to follow view of where you are in your certification cycle. Record your PDUs online on the Continuing Education Requirements System. Got too many? No problem…you can roll over up to 20 PDUs for your next cycle.

* Categories D, E, and F are grouped as “Giving Back to the Profession.” PMI has placed a limit on the number of PDUs allowed in these categories to 45 per certification cycle.
Image credit: nikolaev / 123RF Stock Photo

Number One Benefit of Achieving the PMP

I taught my first week long PMP Exam prep class last week. I recall when I first learned of these boot-camp style classes and my original thought. “Great, you learn how to pass a test. Did you learn anything about project management?” I often comment on my study experience that I learned more in studying for the PMP then I did in a 9-month university certification course and prior experience. The challenge for this course became to incorporate true learning into the crash course – to motivate the students to see how the processes, inputs, tools and techniques, and outputs would make their projects more successful.

I scheduled one-on-one briefings on the last day of class. One student, Marcus, talked of his father who had recently passed the PMP while in a long career in project management. We also had a few “seasoned” project managers in the class. Marcus questioned the value of the PMP for these folks with the reasoning that they had been successful project managers in their careers without the PMP. “Have they been successful with a reported project failure and challenged rate of 65%?” The bottom line is that even a successful project manager can learn new ways of doing things based on industry best practice and increase the chance of project success. There is no room for complacency in managing projects with millions of dollars at stake and an unstable economic market. Learning is the number one benefit of achieving the PMP.

Marcus went on to asked about case studies to support the benefit of PMP. I suggested that PMI would have plenty of information published through pmi.org and offered up the two following books for further exploration.

Remember this next time a non-certified project managers claims that a PMP is not beneficial –

Never become so much of an expert that you stop gaining expertise. View life as a continuous learning experience. Denis Waitley

Disclaimer: I do not profess that someone who has a PMP is superior to someone who does not. Only that one will have learned and demonstrated more knowledge than before attaining the PMP. See The  Chef or the Cook: Choosing the Right Candidate

Additional Resources

Related articles by me

Reflections from the 2011 PMI North American National Congress (Part 3-Observations in presenting)

This is the final of a three part series following my time at the 2011 PMI North American Congress.  This part is dedicated to my experience as a first time conference presenter, both in presenting and observation of others.

Vicki's presentation room in Dallas

I love public speaking.  I’m not sure why, but it’s true.  It’s not something that I enjoyed in school.  Getting up and talking about something that I minimally searched was a fear instilling activity.  However, somewhere in my professional life I discovered that I was good at presenting things that I knew well.  I have a strong voice, sense of humor, and ease in talking about things that I understand.  I had done public speaking a handful number of times, but the idea of speaking to an international audience was huge to me.   On October 24, 2011 I presented Effective Project Sponsorship: A Collaborative Journey at the PMI North American Global Congress in Dallas, Texas.

I decided that while I knew my subject well, I needed homework on presenting.  I started reading Confessions of a Public Speaker by Scott Berkun a few weeks prior to the congress.  This turned out to be the perfect study aid.  Scott has a great writing style and sensibility that speaks well to me.  The only drawback was it motivated me into wanting to speak more. Well, not so much a drawback.

I owe you some helpful ideas that I got from Scott.

  1. People are there to hear you, learn from you, and they want you to succeed,
  2. A bullet list of high level talking points on a 1 ½ inch sticky  that fits in your palm will get you through your main points,
  3. Get the audience grouped together if there are more seats that participants,
  4. Practice, practice, practice,
  5. Get to the room early to get comfortable and if you can at all, attend a session prior to yours to get a good feel for the room and the audience,
  6. Burn off excess energy on presentation day to help relieve the jitters, and
  7. If a presenter tells you that they do not get nervous, they are full of crap. It is natural to be nervous.

My breakout session was at the end of day two.  This afforded me to opportunity to observe speakers as I prepared for my own event.  The first speaker I saw at the congress was Rick Morris.  Rick is a fabulous speaker.  He has a great command of voice, a sense of humor, and speaks candidly.  It was a large audience.  While technically he was simply presenting, he had the audience engaged. It felt like a conversation with a trusted friend.  I left that presentation knowing my number one goal was going to be to engage the audience when it came to my turn.  I set a goal then to think at the end of each slide, “how did I engage the audience?”

The next presentation was the late in the afternoon on day 1 of the congress.  What I remember most about that presentation was the sense of sleepiness.  It had been a long day already and listening to a speaker who was not engaging proved to be very difficult.  I then had the panicked thought, “oh my, this is the time slot that I have tomorrow.  Everyone will have the afternoon sleepies!” Again, I realized that I was really going to have to engage the audience to, literally, not bore them to sleep.

One session I went too had a team of speakers.  The material was spot on and PowerPoint well laid out.  Technically, I could not put a finger on any one thing “wrong”.  However, they did not engage the audience.  The subjects and information may have been the best ever, but they were losing me.

Bill Fournet was another engaging speaker.  He had a huge room full; in fact I almost got turned away even though I had pre-registered for this session.  The title of his presentation was effective “Herding Cats”, and he started the session with a video of cowboys herding cats.  While these were great bait, it would not have been enough to sustain an hour fifteen-minute presentation.  The presentation itself was also engaging.

Okay, so I have used the word (or some variation of) “engage” 8 times now in less than 700 words.  That warrants a slight explanation of what I mean.  I would define this as something that connects the speaker to the audience in a way to triggers true listening and learning.  One of the best ways to engage an audience is to ask questions and make them respond.  However, this is not always possible in rooms full of 300 plus people.  In the cases of Rick and Bill, what made their presentations engaging was how I could relate what they said to my own experience, how they made me understand the material they were providing and see what value it would bring to my own life and work experiences.  Maybe they provided a scenario that I could relate too, or described something that I found new, exciting, and potentially beneficial to how I see my work.  In short, they did or said something that made the words they said relevant to the work I do which provided a connection.

For my plan to ask myself “did I engage the audience?” for every slide, I needed to know that I asked an open ended question, described a scenario that most could relate too, or open myself up to my own mistakes and successes that would serve as a lessons learned in relation to their positions.

Session time was coming quick.  I am an introvert by nature, meaning that I need downtime to energize or decompress.  I decided I would skip attending the breakout prior to my own in order to take some downtime to energize and to make sure I would make it to the room early and begin those mental preparations.

I showed up to the room early, verified the PowerPoint was on target, got set up a with a lapel mic, brought my handouts, and stayed near the door so I could meet people as they came in.  My friend Chandra had traveled to Dallas with me to support my first national speaking even, as well as to catch up on PDUs, and she was ready with pictures, video, and everything else I needed (thank you Chandra!).  Eventually I relinquished my handouts to the PMI room volunteer and just chatted with those who had come in.  I had some strategies in mind that I used; some worked well, others not as much.

  • Ask the audience to move forward in the room to make it easier for Chandra to gather their cards.  Nobody moved.  Maybe because the room was small, they didn’t see the need to move.  In the end I positioned myself in the middle aisle near the front where I was closer to the audience and could interact freely and be closer to the group.
  • Encourage participation by taking business cards of those who contributed for a drawing for a book.  It proved impossible for Chandra get to those who spoke to get a card as the presentation as happening and a few did not have cards available.  In the end, everybody was encouraged to provide a card.  What I did like about this strategy was that I was able to follow up with participants and connect with many on LinkedIn.
  • “Have you read the Sponsor Body of Knowledge?” This was a hook I had planned and it worked well.  In a later conversation with Jeff Furman, who was in attendance, he indicated this was a shocking yet appropriate opening to the conversation ahead.
  • Lots and lots of questions.  I asked the audience to fill in the blanks in most cases.  Most of the concepts in my presentation are not new and original in and of themselves, but rather organized into this discussion of project sponsorship introduces new insights.  I had my predefined answers ready and did review them, but letting them think through the concept ensured they were thinking about the topic at hand and helped demonstrate that they knew the answers.  In most cases, they taught me concepts I had not yet thought of that will likely be included in future presentations.

I did have the advantage of a smaller audience that made these strategies relatively easy to implement.  I thought long about how I would alter the format for a 300 person room.  I would probably still ask the questions, but in some cases would give participants a few minutes to discuss the question at hand with their neighbors.  I look forward to future challenges in keeping audiences engaged to learn from each other as much as from me.

Interested in the presentation topic, Effective Project Sponsorship: A Collaborative Journey? More information is available at http://www.professionalprojectservices.com/sponsor-flyer.

Supporting documents from Dallas Presentation

Reflections from the 2011 PMI North American National Congress (Part 2-The Wonderful Things About Networking)

This is part two of three on reflections from the 2011 PMI North American National Congress held in Dallas, Texas, USA October 22 through October 25.  Part one provided information from workshops I attended.  Part three will focus on presenting, my observations as a participant and as a presenter.

There are a lot of resources out there that talk about networking.  Just today I saw a note in Twitter recommending 4 Networking Mistakes You Don’t Know You’re Making on Forbes.com.  The purpose of this article is not to restate all the great advice available through the Internet, books, and people, but rather I want to focus on some surprise benefits that may result.

Asking for Advice: The REAL sincerest form of flattery

I was having lunch with a friend in the exhibition center when she spotted a speaker from a previous session that she admired and wanted to ask more questions of.  His topic, Agile, was something she had recently taken on in a new job.  She mentioned that she hoped to get a chance to talk to him at some point and I suggested that she go over now.  In a conference of 3,000 people, there is no guarantee that she would see him again and she should take the opportunity. She was reluctant to interrupt his lunch and conversation. I continued to encourage her to make the connection pointing out that it is flattering to be approached by someone who values your work and that he would likely appreciate the contact.  Still seeing her reluctance I suggested that she simply go to the table with business card in hand and say “I don’t want to interrupt your lunch, but I have some follow up questions from your presentation”.  Having a plan that she was comfortable with, she headed off toward his table.

I watched from afar suspecting that she would end up sitting down and talking to him. She did a wide circle around the table, gathering her courage, finally approaching him with card in hand, and finally, as predicted, she sits down.  I went about my business at this point knowing she was in good hands and we would catch up later.

Their conversation continued by email after the conference. He has offered to help her get training and certification in Scrum with assistance from his own network, since training dollars are not available where she works.  I believe a long term professional relationship is formed.

Pleasant Surprises: Stumbling Across Valuable Resources

I made it a point to personally introduce myself to every person that I am connected with through LinkedIn or Twitter, as well as presenters I enjoyed and learned from. I had two main motivators for this. One was to be able to mutually put names to faces and strengthen the connection, and also to show my appreciation and respect for their work.

In one such case I stayed back after a presentation in order spend a few moments with a LinkedIn connection, Samad Aidane.  Although Samad is located within 60 miles of me and we had corresponded on a number of occasions, I had not met him in person until the presentation.

Samad introduced me to another of his connections, Todd Williams. As it turns out, Todd is another relatively local area consultant, principal of eCameron, Inc., specializing in project audit and recovery services. Having just taken over managing a project in trouble, I was very interested in his expertise.  He discussed his strategy of auditing a project to uncover the organizational root causes.  Our conversation resulted in a new book for me to read and an offer for an initial consultation with my company. Todd and I have a tentative appointment for coffee next time he is in the area.  I look forward to the opportunity to gain additional insights on organizational changes that will improve project success in the future.

The Stuff Friendships Are Made Of

This last story actually started a year earlier.  I stayed at an offsite hotel for the 2010 Congress in Washington, DC.  There was a shuttle between the hotel and the conference center.  This is where I met Jeff Furman. We chatted in the van about my aspirations for speaking and his role in training on presentation skills.  In the van he made the assessment that I have what it takes to be a trainer, instructor, and presenter.  This being that I have a strong voice, confidence, and am articulate.  I appreciated this insight and we connected on LinkedIn following the conference.  A few months later I received an email from Jeff with a referral for someone who was looking for a virtual instructor for an upcoming program.  While this opportunity did not pan out, I truly appreciated the thought and referral.

I contacted Jeff prior to the trip to Dallas and we agreed to meet up to catch up. We did this, talking about his book, The Project Management Answer Book, and my upcoming presentation.  Jeff said he planned on attending the presentation. I was glad to hear this as I knew his insight would be extremely valuable.  The presentation went well and Jeff’s contributions as an audience member were great.

Even better are the things that have happened since.  First, Jeff was interviewed by Elizabeth Harrin for her video diary where he talks about my presentation; first commenting on the subject, sponsorship, and then publically admires my style in engaging the audience.  (Note to self, get copy of video for testimonial). The second thing that has happened is that Jeff and I have teamed to help build traffic to our respective blogs reflecting on the Congress through links and Tweets. (Jeff Furman’s Blog: Highlights of the PMI North American Congress 2011).

I know I have an ally in Jeff and can say he has one in me as well.  As I begin to focus on building the next steps of my career through writing and presenting, I know I have a mentor and supporter. I just hope I can return as much in the friendship.  It amazes me what conversation and exchange of business cards on a shuttle can do.

Conclusion

You don’t have to be actively seeking a job or clients to get significant value from networking. You never know where the benefits will present themselves.  Don’t be shy in establishing connections. Your interest in the person should be a welcomed gift.  If it isn’t, it will be their loss.

Finally, I want to thank those that took the time to show an interest in me. My sincerest thanks to Jeff Furman,  Samad Aidane, Todd Williams, Peter Taylor, Rick Morris, Bill Fournet, Alfonso Bucero, and Ricardo Vargas.   I look forward to seeing you at future events. Please let me know if there is anything I can ever do for you.

Chandra, thanks for having my back, I will always have yours.

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