Friday, November 6, 2015

Agile versus Traditional Project Management (somewhat) Explained.

So, what is an Agile project versus a Traditional project? First, a quick note on the roles in Agile, specifically the Scrum Master job which usually spawns the question. The Scrum Master is a role on an Agile project Team that is using the Scrum method for the execution of the work. The Scrum Master is not the Agile Project Manager (not to be confused with the Agile Coach). The Scrum Master and Agile Project Manager are two different roles with vastly different responsibilities. The Agile Project Manager’s responsibilities include all the responsibilities of the Traditional Project Manager (PMP®), and there is the added (new) verbiage that is commonly used to distinguish Agile from the Traditional projects. The Scrum Master (Associate Project Manager or Coordinator are similar roles on a Traditional project) is there to help the Agile Project Manager, and the Team, get it done. An Agile Project Manager may or may not have a Scrum Master for their project just as a Traditional Project Manager may or may not have a Coordinator. At the end of the day though, Agile is nothing new or really that radically different than a Traditional project. Agile is an iterative methodology and includes dozens of implementation methods, all of which – except Scrum – refer to the work period as an Iteration, just as it does in the PMBOK® Guide, the ANSI Standard for Project Management.

There are really only two differences between an Agile project and a Traditional one. First is at the core – Agile is change driven project management compared to Traditional project management which is plan driven at its foundation. Plan driven, as its name implies, plans everything out for the entire project duration before you begin work (usually). Agile takes that concept and modifies it to accommodate the adaptability required of being change driven (much like Rolling Wave planning in the Traditional world). Instead of a hard coded schedule broken into phases of 3-6 months, Agile projects have compose Product Backlogs with much shorter Iterations – 1-4 weeks (in Scrum they call it a Sprint), but the same basic paradigm applies. You still need to know what the work is that will be done (requirements) in a work period (a Work Package or Iteration Backlog) no matter how long it is, and that work will need to be prioritized (scheduled) and tracked (monitored) to completion. And don’t forget, all the other tenets of Traditional project management apply in Agile too. Agile projects need money (budget), stakeholder management and communications, risk management (not everything is organic in Agile), and you can bet there are going to be reports to be created and questions to be answered. Agile projects have much the same controls in place as Traditional project management with some added benefits, again to accommodate adaptability.

One benefit is the Scrum Master. Basically, they baby sit the team and facilitate the adaptability of an Agile method. Imagine, as a Traditional project manager you have a Coordinator that deals with the day to day interactions of the Team; communications in/out of the Team; chasing down the problems that hold up the project; and filtering all the chitter-chatter from those who qualify as a Stakeholder, etc. I’d love that! Think of all the time we’d save? “They” did - and then came the Agile Manifesto and the Scrum Master.

A second benefit is dealing with change, which was one of the driving factors in the development of Agile and the Agile Manifesto. In Traditional project management a great deal of time is spent on ‘non value-add’ activities around managing change. And in software development, where Agile methods were born – you’ve probably heard the story about 67% of an applications features are never used – well, given that rate of change, the Traditional methods couldn’t keep up – too much wasted time. In Agile, the Product Owner (Sponsor) can make changes in the requirements multiple times per day if they want and the process can accommodate it. There is no hard coded schedule.

So which way to go, PMP, Agile PM, or Scrum Master? Well, if you’re a serious Project Manager, you get the PMP, and because you are a serious Project Manager, you continuously add to your skills by mastering Agile, Scrum, and it wouldn’t hurt to throw in some process improvement with Six Sigma. In that case, you do the PMP, get Scrum Master, and pursue the PMI-Agile Certified Practitioner so you become an Agile PMP! In that order? Not necessarily. The PMP does have a 36 month, 4500 hour experiential component that you need to document to qualify for the exam, so if you have been a Project Manager for only a year or two, you can finish the Agile Certified Practitioner certification first which only requires 12 months of experience in the role.

There is one thing for certain. Agile project management is here to stay and will grow, I believe, to become the foundation of the project management standard. Project Management is evolving. Just understanding and using Traditional waterfall processes is not enough. Yes, there are a great many projects that by their nature must be done in a waterfall fashion. Construction is one that comes to mind readily. You don’t build the roof of a house before the walls are up. BUT, you can have the roof trusses made offsite and just lifted into place when the walls are ready. Agile is about eliminating wasted time (Lean Six Sigma plays a role here). If you aren’t up to date on the processes that are transforming Project Management, you may find it hard to get a job in the not too distant future.

“PMI”, “PMP”, “PMBOK Guide” are registered marks of the Project Management Institute

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Scrum Master - What's it all about?

The Scrum Master certification is one that demonstrates knowledge of the process, roles and responsibilities, and the lexicon of the practice. It does not mean you are a "good" Scrum Master, or that you can (or want to) be one. This is why the certification is applicable not only to those that may perform the role, but for everyone on the team so they know what is expected of/from them.

Our goal - to get you knowledge and skills that can help you forward your career, at a reasonable cost, both in time and money.  

If you have been a Project Manager for a while, a weeks worth of self-study (an hour a day or so) to add the terminology and Scrum framework to your knowledge base is probably all you need to pass the exam.  It's not "hard", but if you haven't had some experience with project communication, requirements estimating, etc., then you will just need to study a little more.  Read up and take the exam from the ISI!

By the way, we are not affiliated with the Scrum Alliance for the Scrum Master certification. We are affiliated with the International Scrum Institute based in Zurich, Switzerland, which awards the Scrum Master Accredited Certification upon successful completion of their on-line test (the cost of which is included in our PMP® and PMI-ACP® courses). As of March, 2012, they have over 347,000 certificants on file in 143 countries.

What's the difference? Having taken both tests, I feel the ISI exam is more Project Management aligned, and the Alliance test more developer/programmer aligned. The difference is very subtle, and probably not recognizable by most [which could also mean I'm imagining it! :o) ].

The ISI (click here) provides FREE training tutorials on their site, and then there is YouTube!  There are litterally dozens of good videos on Scrum on YouTube.  Check out Scrum 101 (4 parts) and others.  Read over the ISI tutorial, watch a few videos, and take the exam.  It's that simple.

  “PMI”, “PMP”, “PMBOK Guide” are registered marks of the Project Management Institute

Monday, January 16, 2012

PMP® or CAPM®? - Our course prepares you for either.

[The following is from an email to a student inquiry on PMP® and CAPM® I thought pertinent enough to share.]

There are two PM certifications that our course prepares students for. The primary one is the PMP
® or Project Management Professional certificate from the PMI® (Project Management Institute - In addition to 35 contact hours of project management training (our course), there is a qualification requirement for the PMP of 36 months hands-on PM work totaling at least 4500 hours if you have a BA. If no BA, it's 60 months and 7500 hours. The application is fairly thorough (long), and they do random audits, etc. The PMP certificate is roughly equivalent to a CPA (Certified Public Accountant - IMHO) certification. The exam costs $555 ($405 if you're a PMI® member), is 200 questions and 4 hours long after you qualify, and it covers a broad spectrum of project management and general business knowledge.
The second is the entry level certification. It is called the Certified Associate Project Manager (CAPM) and only requires a high school diploma and at least 23 hours training experience. Qualification is much more relaxed, basically if you go through the training you would be qualified if you have a HS Diploma. The exam is 150 questions, $300, and focuses on the project management principles and practices of the PMBOK Guide® (PMBOK = project management body of knowledge, usually pronounced pim-bahk).
Our course covers the training for both certificates. It's more than is needed for just the CAPM, though there are a couple benefits versus taking just a straight CAPM preparatory course. First, eventually you would probably go for the PMP, and the 35 hour training class qualification does not expire. So as soon as the experiential component of the PMP qualification is met, you've already got the training component satisfied and you could apply. The next benefit is that you will receive a broader exposure to all the practices of project management with the result you'll be a more learned (and I think better) project manager. Not a bad thing.
It is pretty much a personal choice. Project Management is one of those professions that you can actually do for 30-40 years and not get bored. The diversity of types of work is almost infinite. I cannot think of a company in any discipline that does not have multiple projects running somewhere in the company just about anywhere in the world. Another nice benefit of the PMI's certificates is that they are acknowledged, recognized, and desired globally - you can take it anywhere and it will be respected. The basic principles of the PM standard are universal.
Frankly, I have literally dozens of certifications in technology and business, and more than several college degrees. Please don't misunderstand, they all have their value, but if I were applying for an $80/hr PM job and up against a PMP with 10 years experience versus having an MBA and 10 years experience, the PMP is more likely to get the job, and more likely to get the premium salary.
Here are some links to the PMI's handbooks on the CAPM and PMP certification processes. They are required reading if you decide to pursue the certification as there are questions on the exam from their content.
The CAPM Handbook -
The PMP Handbook -

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Why pick ICGPM Cert Prep School?


Consider the following:

- Many Project Managers are contract workers. This makes sense for employers. Remember that a Project is "a temporary endeavor". It also means you're probably hourly, and if you don't work, you don't get paid.

- Few companies pay for their employee's training any more, especially when it's not a specific technical need, and no one ever paid for professional services training of contractors.

- We get students from other schools that have failed the exam and don't want to repeat the same failing training course.  What's different?  Well, as we say on day one, hour one, our goal is to get you prepared to pass the exam. To that end, yes, we can give you the complex mathematical formulas, but, unlike "regular" math tests, you don't have to provide the proofs here!  We teach you how to get the right answer, not necessarily how to do algebra.  OMG! ALGEBRA!  Yep, there's some of that on the exam.  No worries, we have our "tips & tricks", and they work as is evidenced by ALL of our students that took the exam last year are now PMP®'s.

- You know, sometimes life just gets in the way. You're ready for the exam, or getting ready, and a family emergency happens. You were sitting there one day in your cube and the boss comes by and sends you across (or out of) the country for a week, month, or more. Or, and this happens a lot, your company does an acquisition and now there's 200 times as much work - yeah like you're going to study.  We have free, anytime, no strings attached, retakes of the course.

So - as it is highly likely you will have to pay for your own education, on your own time, our position is that it should be reasonably priced (affordable) and be offered (using weekend/holiday days as much as possible) when it doesn't cost you even more! You might be ok with loosing one or two days in a week for training, but Four!? That's hundreds more on top of the course cost.

When life happens, no worries. ALL of our students can retake all or any part of the class whenever they would like for up to a year at NO additional charge. Just let us know your coming so we will be sure to save you a seat. Some students just plain take the class twice! Like I said, no worries, come on down. WE want you to be ready when you take the exam.

To keep costs low there are lots of "extras" we don't pile on. No we don't provide lunch - it would cost us (you) about $35ea/day (you thought that lunch was free? LOL!). We spent 8 months writing our Study Guide, based on over 35 years experience and almost 20 years using the PMBOK® Guide principals, and we update it constantly (which is why it's not printed in advance and distributed digitally instead). We receive consistent, repetitive comments from students that our book is more succinct and easier to read/understand than what you can get at the book store. That doesn't mean those others aren't good, they are, and you may want to get one (Rita Mulcahy is real popular). But... shouldn't that be your choice?

We do include two practice exam sites. No scrimping there! Believe it, practice exams are KEY to your success. You must practice the types of questions that appear on the exam - it's not like any other certification exam you've ever taken. I know, I've taken literally dozens.

Everyone will need a copy of the PMBOK® Guide, and it's free if you join the PMI®. You also save another $20 on the exam if you join, so all in all, join the PMI®. You don't need to renew, but what the heck, save the $20 on the exam and the $50 for the book. Cost of the exam without membership = $555; cost of the exam including membership $534. Just join. You get all the other PMI® cert books free too - Risk Management, Program Management, etc.  Lot's of good ideas and practices in them.

You see, we (all the training companies) are teaching the SAME thing - the PMI's book which also happens to be an ANSI Standard - yep, we're all teaching the same standard. There are some additional topics that are not in the book, and we all teach those too (at least I hope we do).

The primary differentiators are the style and the "methods" we have individually developed. Several of our methods are not taught by anyone else - at least, we didn't experience it (yeah, we've been through PMP® boot camps too) and no one has told us different. For example - in the past two years, no student has been able to draw the complete PM Framework - 9 knowledge areas, 5 process groups, and 42 processes - from memory at the start of day one. At the end of day 4, every student can accomplish the task - usually to their amazement - and it doesn't take more than 5% of the total instruction time to learn. We have other exercises and techniques we teach that makes learning EVM (earned value management) and other requisites... not "easy", but certainly not complex or hard. Ever do a multi-scenario, probability weighted, net path value calculated business risk based decision analysis? You will for the Exam, and you'll learn how in class. It's not "hard", but our exercise will give you the skill you need to do it right.

So, you might ask, "what is your success rate?" Well, there's several ways to look at it, so to help you understand the "spin", here are the common methods you might run into.
  • Raw score - % of students that took the test and passed on first try, we are at 97+%. 
  • Students that knew they were not ready, told us so, but for whatever reason felt they "had" to take the exam on a particular day, take them out of the equation and we get a 99% pass rate. 
  • Students that knew they were ready and passed our mock exam - 100% pass rate over the last 2+ years. 
(FYI - in 2005 the pass score for the PMP exam was proposed by/to the PMI at 81%!)

No, it is not a light weight, insignificant, certification. The PMBOK® Guide is an ANSI standard recognized internationally. The PMP® Certification is a real professional certification, it's not one of those read a book, pass the exam certificates. It rates right up there with CPA (Certified Public Accountant). It's no wonder that the PMP® Certificate is being required more and more by companies, especially government, finance, and health organizations, to be considered for a position. They are looking for Professionals, not just workers.

Successful students of our course are just that, Professional Project Managers. They typically have 8-10+ years recent hands-on experience in more than one company. They are looking to advance their skill-set and status in their chosen profession. They are motivated to learn and advance themselves - we just provide some help.

“PMI”, “PMP”, “PMBOK Guide” are registered marks of the Project Management Institute

Saturday, December 17, 2011

PMP® or PMI-ACP® (Agile) ?

There's really no question in my mind - both. Which first? Doesn't matter, but I lean towards the PMP® as you probably want a job now, not 5 years from now. A recent Gartner report cites that about 1/3 of shops are using some form of Agile method, so it is gaining in use, and it will be a set of tools you will want in your kit. What has not happened yet is wide adoption outside software development. In that area, the Traditional Project Management (TPM) methodology still rules.

When it comes to qualification credentials for the exam, the ACP is lower (understandable given its less widespread use) but it's still not "light". You need 2000 hours of PM experience PLUS 1500 hours experience with Agile methods (non-specific, which is good). Total = 3500 hours. So if you're not already a PMP, you're looking at a couple years work to add up the hours. If you are a PMP, the 2000 hours PM experience are satisfied.

It's surprising, but Project Management is just recently starting to mature into a recognized profession by the masses. PM has been around for a long time, but when you reflect on the past 30-40 years, it's really only in the past 10 or so that you could tell your Mom you're a PM and she didn't go "What's that?" Agile still gets the question though (even from other PM's). Within "our little world" though, Agile is going to make some serious inroads I think pretty quickly. The idea of a 6 month project (of any type) being burdened with 3 months of PMO process on top (I just did a project like that) isn't going to last - it's just plain too inefficient. Having those Agile skills already at your disposal is going to put you ahead of the curve.

In practice though (initially), Agile is probably harder than TPM. It requires much more discipline and engagement from everyone. There are multiple methods and the method used on one project may not be exactly the same as on the next project of the same type. It's more important in Agile to keep a Team together, not throw them around from project to project willy-nilly.

The more you know and understand about all the "flavors" of Agile, the better you'll be at it. It is going to be a major paradigm shift for just about every company, and helping them transition is going to be part of your job. They (everyone!) have been trained for more than half a century in some form of TPM. Agile is a whole new way of thinking. Embrace change! Constant, consistent engagement of the customer with all the team members! Whew - that's a lot of emotional change for a manager trained in the '80's or '90's. They're going to need your help (and it's on the exam too).

Who in the world thought Project Management was easy?

“PMI”, “PMP”, “PMBOK Guide” are registered marks of the Project Management Institute

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

What you need to understand about the PMP® Certification

The PMP® certification is a Professional Certification.  Don't think of it lightly.  It's one of the toughest exams I've taken, and I have dozens of certifications, licenses, and 4 degrees.  The key mindset to get is that the PMP exam is just that - an examination.  It's not a test.  You can't "memorize" your way to a PMP certification as you can just about any technology oriented certification.  Oracle, Microsoft, Cisco -- read the book, memorize some facts, take the test - shazam!  The closest tech cert I can think of is the CCIE from Cisco, which, if you talk to some techies about it, they have a great deal of respect for.  It is not easy or inexpensive to achieve.  Experience counts, must be demonstrated, and is a mandatory requirement to even applying for the certification. 

Experienced PM's, that is roughly 10 years experience in at least several different companies and disciplines, can usually get by with about 60-70 hours total study time (that includes the 40 odd hours of the exam prep course and it's reading assignments).  Yep, even with all that experience, you can expect to spend 20-30 hours additional study after class - maybe more.  It's not that the PMP exam is "hard" - it is very broad in it's scope.  There is the basic PM framework you need to memorize (there is some memorization for sure) - and then there is the practical understanding of how to execute the PM framework that you can only really understand if you've done it.  Add to that HR, Procurement, Risk Management, team building, decision making, motivation theory, communications, finance, - there are a total of 9 Knowledge areas (domains) of expertise required, some of which have sub-domains of expertise like Earned Value Management in Finance.  Hint - they are not all covered in the PMBOK® Guide, some not even mentioned!  You see, the PMP exam is not based ONLY on the PMBOK Guide.  One other source of information for the exam, hence required reading, is the PMP Handbook you can get for free at the site.  In addition to all the info about the exam, it talks at the high level about what the exam covers.  While you are there, get a copy of the PMP Exam Content Outline.  This guide provides greater detail on what the exam covers.

“PMI”, “PMP”, “PMBOK Guide” are registered marks of the Project Management Institute

Live Classroom or Online - Which do you choose?

Online classes can save you some money – always nice.  There are courses out there for as little at $350 that you can take online, on-demand, and earn the 35 contact hour requirement for the PMP® application.  

The question you have to ask yourself is – how do I learn?  How well do I know myself?  When you opt for online learning, there is no instructor to ask questions of.  Many providers today do provide at least the option to email a question, though the turnaround is slow.  Live online instruction is a little better, though - do be patient as the instructor needs to identify you, as raising your hand for example, and because you have no visual queues, you need to have the self-confidence and assurance that you will be seen – eventually.  Unfortunately, far too many people don’t know how to use conference bridges and they leave their microphones open, and you hear all the background distractions which prompts the leader to mute all microphones, etc. etc.  Coordinating and teaching an online class is more complex that you might think.

The big piece missing from online or distance training, live or otherwise, is the instructor being able to gaze around the room, notice the glassy look in your eyes, recognize you’re lost (or need a bio break), and then prompt YOU with a question.  Another missing component is Class exercises and queries by other students.  How do you know to ask the question you don't know?  For that reason alone, we do not do any form of online training - yet.  When telepresence has become ubiquitous, we will be right there.  Until then, we want that face-to-face interaction that can fill voids of knowledge.  By the way – it is no accident that the Agile Manifesto lists as a core value face-to-face interaction.  If it is key to the success of a project, how much less can it be a key to success in learning project management?

The decision is of course yours, but do think about it from many avenues before you decide.  It is a bit of an inconvenience to go to a class, but it will typically get you the best bang for the buck.  PLUS, you have the opportunity to make contacts.  SHOP AROUND.  There are online classes that cost more than classroom courses, and the range I’ve seen for classroom PMP exam prep courses is $750-$3,275!  ALL PMP exam prep classes are teaching you the same thing – the PMBOK Guide®.  There is more to the exam than “just” the PMBOK Guide®, but can one course be worth $2,500 more (a healthy down payment on a car BTW) than another?  I guess is possible, but I think it’s highly unlikely.