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I was invited once again today to represent PMI and host the PMP certification event at Amfasoft. The event was primarily organized for their currently enrolled PMP students and also for PMs who are interested in learning more about PMI and specifically earning PMP certification.

CertificationWhat started out as cold winter morning turned into a beautiful spring-like day. I almost wished they had arranged this event outside in some park! The event itself turned out to be quite stimulating. It was a small group of about 10 attendees hungry for information on PMI. Once again, the hour long event turned out to be nearly 90+ minutes long Q&A session. It was hard to resist answering questions from very keen group of PMs who were really interested in learning about PMP and PMI.

There were so many questions surrounding PMP exam. I felt that people were pretty nervous about the exam and especially stressed out over correctly filling out PMP application. One common question I still get from PMs is why did I go for PMP certification and as well as the reasons for joining PMI. The question continues to surprise me when following are well known facts:

  • Project Management Professional (PMP) Certificates are the most important industry-recognized certification for project managers and demonstrate that an individual has the experience, education, and competency needed to lead projects.

I personally do carry credentials from AAPM (American Academy of Project Management) as well as Project Management certification from UC -Santa Cruz; however, I do think that PMP certification is more widely recognized worldwide. For me, the project management professional certification (PMP) was a “must have”. I knew how valuable and prestigious a PMP certification was. In a highly competitive world, I’ve found out being a PMP has given me a technical and as well as financial edge. On employment, about 4-5 years ago,  I do recall seeing PM job descriptions containing “PMP certification a plus”. These days, it has become common in Silicon Valley for many good PM job opening ads with literally requiring candidate to hold PMP certification!

  • Speaking of finance, the PMP certification holders are definitely earning more. According to the latest salary survey from PMI, the PMP credential holders earn hefty 10+% more than PMs without PMP credentials. PMI provides access to professional trends, such as job growth and salary data, are among the top benefits experts cite for joining professional    associations.  Such data can give you insight not only into how   much others in your field are earning, but also what their job responsibilities are, what level of education they have achieved,    and what certifications they have earned.

All in all, it turned out to be pretty engaging and highly interactive session. I was glad to help out PMs understand PMP and PMI better and especially [hopefully] to reduce their anxiety over PMP exam.

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Yesterday,  I was invited by  my friend who is Sr. project manager at HP and also PMP training instructor at Amfasoft Corporation to talk to his  students and share information about PMI and upcoming changes to PMP certification examination. I was allocated 20 minutes for this information sharing session, however, it ended up being almost 90 minutes long session.

 

I responded to questions on wide variety of topics  from students which included different  PMI certifications, value/demand of such certifications and how to handle seemingly daunting task of filling out PMP certification application.  Judging from the length of session and non-stop questions from audience, I felt that students gained plenty of information they were seeking regarding PMI and PMP certification.

 

One of the things that people who are planning to take PMP certification exam need to be aware of  is the upcoming changes to exam starting later this year. PMI recently undertook RDS (Role Delineation Study) to ensure that credential reflects contemporary practice and  evolves to meet current needs in the project management profession. As result of the RDS study, PMI is making changes to PMP certification exam starting August 31, 2011.

 

The changes will impact about 30% of PMP exam. You will notice changes in certain areas of exam. Specifically, questions on Professional and Social Responsibility section (6th domain) now will be part of every other domain rather than being as separate domain on exam. It seems that PMI now recognizes the importance of Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct as part of day-to-day work for project management professional, hence the reason for the change in PMP examination.

 

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A project manager friend of mine recently transitioned into software industry from hardware manufacturing. He was complaining about the problems he’s been having to come up with good schedule for mid-size software project.

Specifically, he was referring to the problem of padding in estimation for tasks. Being new to software industry, he was not sure whether the estimates provided by his team members were accurate or padded.

paddingThe padding refers to extra time added to a schedule that isn’t really needed but that is added just to feel confident in the estimate. The impact of padding could be significant on project schedule. The quality of the estimates directly affects whether or not the project can meet scope, cost and schedule commitments. The accumulation of padding all the tasks can result in overly cautious project schedules and uncertainties across the project schedule.

According to one estimate , the average company completes only 37% of IT projects on time, while only 42% finish on budget. Much of this is attributed to the difficulties in gathering accurate estimates of effort.

The reasons for padding the estimate could be many. The resource might have multiple projects that they work on. They have overlapping work from those projects. They have nonscheduled time or they are given conflicting priorities. Rita Mulchay explained it nicely in her PMP preparation book by summing up team member’s thoughts:

I have no idea how long it will take. I do not even know what I’m being asked to do. So, what do I say? I will make my best guess and double it!

There are a number of approaches project manager could take to address the issue of padding:

  • Use expert judgment. Let the experts review the estimates provided by estimators. The experts can identify cases where the estimation doesn’t seem right. These could be senior or principle software engineers within the company.
  • Use estimating techniques such as stochastic estimation. Ask team member to provide a range of estimates. For example, asked member to come up with task estimate for best case scenario, worst case scenario and most likely scenario. Using the 90% confidence factor, one can come up with reasonable estimate.
  • As project manager, you should provide sufficient time to estimator. If estimator is asked to estimate a task on the spot, estimator may feel pressured and provide a number just to get us off their back. Estimators should be provided enough time and encouraged them to think carefully and thoroughly to come up with estimate.
  • To minimize the schedule risks of your project, it’s

padding2

  • better to apply the padding at the project level instead of at the individual task level. This is commonly referred to as buffer. Make sure to communicate about project level buffers to all the team members to keep everyone on the same page.
  • Instead of asking for estimation of task duration asked in terms of task effort. This helps avoid introducing padding into the estimation process. Also, understand that people are human beings and no one works hundred percent of their time. When estimator provides an estimation of the effort, the numbers should reflect continuous, nonstop work.

Over the weekend, I facilitated fabulous workshop on Advanced Microsoft Project sponsored by PMI Silicon Valley chapter. According to instructor, every time software developer is interrupted it takes 14 minutes on average to get back to development work.

Additionally, I have experienced that software quality assurance engineers generally estimate efforts over cautiously whereas software developers tend to provide over-optimistic estimates. Understanding and factoring such elements can help improve accuracy of estimates.

Lastly, for medium to large projects project estimation software such as Cost Xert or KnowledgePlan can be utilized effectively. There are also other methods such as System Development Life Cycle (SDLC) which consist of a set of best practices that lets engineers break projects down into recognizable and repeatable steps, processes, tasks and outcomes, each of which can be accurately estimated.

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phew! What a busy month last month has been on various fronts! I finally managed to finish article on Team Agreements. Enjoy!

Hope to finish my blog on Negotiations soon. Stay tuned!

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Holiday Greetings!

My article on Project Risk Management using Mind Map is accepted and published this week on UC Santa Cruz Project Management web site. This is a great web site discussing various topics on Project Management. People involved in Project Management may find it useful and learn a lot. I encourage you to visit it.

My article is the  focus topic for the week of December 22nd. You can view it at:

http://svprojectmanagement.com

You can also view this article anytime by visiting:

http://svprojectmanagement.com/is-mind-map-useful-for-risk-management

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