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The Project Management Institute (PMI) encourages its members to advance the profession. One of  the ways to do this is by helping others increase their project management skills. The target audiences for this blog are professional PM’s early in their careers as well as those who manage projects but are not PM’s by title or trade. I will be posting every week or so, offering practical tips and tools on the full range of project management topics. I hope you will find this useful and help you advance your career.

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Establishing A Project Management Office (PMO) Part 6 – Timeline And Budget

The Timeline

The PMO Sponsor must decide which priority is the greatest: Getting the PMO up and running by a specific target date or making sure the hiring (especially for the PMO leader) matches the desired traits as closely as possible. If there is a date that cannot move, it is possible some compromises will be made in the hiring process.

Once that is determined, the timeline can be fleshed out as with any other project. You do a work breakdown on the key deliverables (hiring staff, establishing policies and standards, creating/assigning work space, executing the organizational change management plan). Assign the tasks, estimate the durations, and determine dependencies. Mix all of these together and the result is your schedule for establishing the PMO.

The Budget

The budget will also be a key factor in the hiring process. The bulk of the budget for a PMO will be the salaries. The level of talent attracted will be directly proportional to the assigned salary ranges. It is possible that this, like the timeline, can also generate compromises in the hiring process.

Hiring the right people is the most important aspect of establishing a PMO. The manager of this project must do their best to convince the Sponsor to minimize compromises in the hiring process. The people you bring on board must be in alignment with the Sponsor’s vision of the PMO. In fact, a good PMO leader might also enhance the vision and show the Sponsor how the PMO might evolve over time.

Other budget factors might be established for the following:

  • Annual PMI member dues
  • Ongoing education for PDU’s
  • PM software such as MS Project
  • Subscriptions to PM related periodicals

A reminder that my Kindle book “Project Management For The Real World” is available at

http://www.amazon.com/dp/b089krddvn

Establishing A Project Management Office (PMO) Part 5 – The Scope

The scope of the project to establish a PMO may be produced in a variety of ways. In this post I will list my preferred methods, which happen to be the same methods I use for most any project.

Here is how I would establish the initial scope:

  1. Work backwards from the Project Objectives – The Project Objectives contain the products, services or results of a project that survive and are maintained after a project has ended. For each objective, define the steps needed to accomplish it.
  2. Construct a Context Diagram – (If you don’t know what a Context Diagram is, you can search this blog using that term). Define who your “Suppliers” and “Customers” will be and how you and the PMO will interact (what data will be exchanged). Things such as “Request for Project Management Services” or “Project Status Reports” are examples of interactions with these entities.
  3. List the Processes – Once you have a Context Diagram, you can then create the list of internal PMO processes needed for every interaction. Some or all of these may also have been defined in the Project Objectives. If you missed any in the Project Objectives, add them in as you discover new ones. You may also have processes that are triggered by events that are not from “Suppliers” or “Customers”. They may be based on time (e.g. “Produce Monthly Portfolio Report”) or the state of data (e.g. “When there are more current project requests than PM’s, notify PMO Sponsor”). Define the steps needed to accomplish these additional objectives.
  4. Review the Stakeholder List – All of your Stakeholders (the ones affected by the product, service or result of your project) should appear on the Context Diagram. Review your list of Stakeholders to confirm this. If any are missing, add them and any interactions and internal processes associated with these Stakeholders.

These four categories should produce a good high-level scope. You can flesh out additional information when you get to the “Detail Requirements” stage.

A reminder that my Kindle book “Project Management For The Real World” is available at

http://www.amazon.com/dp/b089krddvn

Establishing A Project Management Office (PMO) Part 4 – The Stakeholders

So far in this series of posts where the project is “Establish a PMO”, we have defined the Business Objectives (business outcomes we expect by having a PMO) and the Project Objectives (the things we need to accomplish to state we have now established a PMO). Now we will take a look at the Stakeholders.

Stakeholders fall into two broad categories:

  1. Those affected by the process of executing the project
  2. Those affected by the business and project outcomes of the project

Stakeholders in the first category are typically those who will work on the activities needed to accomplish the Project Objectives. They will do things such as document the organization structure, create the job descriptions, do the hiring, write processes and policy, etc.

Stakeholders in the second category, in this case, will mean everyone in the organization! Why? Because the PMO can manage or oversee projects in any area. If the PMO is around long enough they will interact with every department and many of the personnel. With so many people to inform, a careful Organization Change Management Plan will need to be documented and agreed upon. Having a PMO will be a huge change for most organizations. Some areas may even object to having one. Formal Change Management will be critical to the success of your PMO. I can’t stress this enough. If your PMO gets off to a bad start due to lack of Change Management, it may not survive for long.

If you search this blog for “Organizational Change Management”, that series of posts will provide you with guidance for this discipline.

A reminder that my Kindle book “Project Management For The Real World” is available at

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B089KRDDVN

Establishing A Project Management Office (PMO) Part 3 – The Project Objectives

In the prior post, I talked about defining the Business Objectives (outcomes) for the PMO. Once these are known and agreed upon by the PMO Sponsor, you can move on to defining the Project Objectives, with the project being the establishment of the PMO.

I list here some considerations for setting Project Objectives for the PMO. It is not meant to be a complete list, but it will give you a good idea of what to consider.

  • Budget – What will be the budget for the PMO? Consider salaries, benefits, ongoing education, funding for professional organizations such as PMI, paying for certifications such as PMP, and travel.
  • Organizational Structure – What will be the level of the top of the organization (Officer, Sr. VP, VP, Sr. Director, Director, etc)? Will there be multiple levels below this? Will you have different levels of PM’s? How many full time employees? Will you use consultants?
  • Offices and Locations
  • Job Descriptions – Once you have an Organizational Structure defined, you will need Job Descriptions and pay ranges for each defined job. These will be used as guides in the interview and hiring process.
  • Hiring – Starting with the top of the PMO organization. Once hired, this person will be largely responsible for hiring the rest of the team.
  • PMO Charter – This will contain the “rules of engagement” for the PMO. Things like how projects will be assigned, the roles the team will play, the project life cycle for this organization, the definition of when the PMO engagement on a project ends, etc.
  • PMO Processes and Templates – These will be the standards and practices for all steps of the project life cycle.

Your Project Objectives for establishing the PMO should be approved by the PMO Sponsor before moving on to the next step.

A reminder that my Kindle book “Project Management For The Real World” is available at

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B089KRDDVN

Establishing A Project Management Office (PMO) Part 2 – Business Objectives

If you have been following this blog you will recognize a common theme in almost everything you want to do: Know your outcomes (aka “Business Objectives”). Before establishing a PMO, you need to understand the PMO Sponsor’s vision of what problems they are trying to solve and/or what opportunities they wish to exploit.

Here are some possible problems your business may face that can be mitigated by having a PMO. You may have one or more of these to solve:

  • We aren’t maximizing our Return On Investment (ROI) from our portfolio of projects.
  • Our project mix is not aligned with our long and short term business goals
  • We don’t have control of our project request process
  • We have key resources frequently overloaded causing project bottlenecks and delays
  • Our projects are usually late
  • Our projects are usually over budget
  • We under-deliver on the agreed upon scope
  • Our projects often have the scope expanded without knowledge or approval
  • Our project quality is frequently lacking
  • We take on too much risk
  • We don’t take on enough risk

Depending on the problems you wish to solve, here is just a sample of the measurable business outcomes you can obtain my investing in a PMO:

  • Regular financial analysis reviews showing the ROI on the current active project portfolio and the ROI on alternative combinations of projects
  • No resource bottlenecks; Resources obtained and deployed in the most effective manner
  • Deliver projects on or under the approved schedule and budget
  • Deliver on the approved scope
  • Control how much risk we are taking on (possibly by regular review of the risk/reward matrix of the current portfolio of projects)

In the next post I will present some possible Project Objectives for the establishment of a PMO.

A reminder that my Kindle book “Project Management For The Real World” is available at

ww.amazon.com/dp/B089KRDDVN

Establishing A Project Management Office (PMO) Part 1 – Overview

If your organization is embarking on creating a PMO, congratulations! You will typically find one in the best run companies. If you are not sure how to go about it, I will offer some guidance and suggestions in the upcoming series of posts.

Creating a PMO is a goal. Presumably, you want to have it done by a target date. The combination of a goal and a target date means you have a project! You should treat the establishment of a PMO as a project and use formal project management techniques to do so.

Here are the topics I will address in this series:

  • Part 2 – The Business Objectives
  • Part 3 – The Project Objectives
  • Part 4 – The Stakeholders
  • Part 5 – The Scope
  • Part 6 – The Timeline and the Budget
  • Part 7 – Risks, Constraints, Dependencies
  • Part 8 – Summary

Something as business critical as creating a PMO should never be done via undocumented, ad hoc conversations. Following the guidelines I provide in the upcoming posts will give you a much greater chance of success.

A reminder that my Kindle book “Project Management For The Real World” is available at

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B089KRDDVN

Studying For The PMP Exam Part 2 of 2

In part 1 of this 2 part series, I gave you some good reasons why you should get your Project Management Professional (PMP) certification from the Project Management Institute (PMI). In this part, I will share the methods I used to prepare for the exam.

There are many excellent exam prep courses available but they are usually very expensive (over $1,000) and in my opinion are not necessary. If you are comfortable with self-study, you can prepare for this exam for a lot less money.

Here is what I did:

  • Purchased a self-study book that had excellent reviews
  • Took as many free practice exams as possible

The book I used and the one I recommend is “The PMP Exam: How to Pass on Your First Try” by Andy Crowe. The author does an excellent job leading you through everything you need to know, with practice exams at the end of each chapter. The most important thing this book does, though, is change the way you think about project management to be in alignment with how the PMI wants you to think about project management. If you go into the exam trying to pass just based on your project management experience, in the words of Andy Crowe, “The exam will chew you up and spit you out.”

I personally went through the book three times to make sure I thoroughly understood the material. You will have to decide for yourself how many times you will need.

The other thing you need to do is practice! There are many free PMP practice exams available on the internet. Just use Google to find them. A general principle in learning anything is to “try, fail, correct, try again”. This is the best way to master any skill or subject. The practice exams will reveal your areas of weakness, where you need to focus your study time. Take as many of these as your schedule allows. I even found one that had a full 200 question, four hour timed exam. That was a very valuable exercise. The practice tests in the Crowe book tend to be a bit easier than the real exam so you need to seek out difficult practice questions.

Be prepared to put in many hours preparing for the exam. It is not a slam dunk and you need to be well prepared. I studied over the course of six weeks, about 1-2 hours per day. If you fail the exam there are no refunds and you will have to pay to take it again so it is in your best interests to pass on the first attempt.

Good luck to all of you preparing to take the exam!

A reminder that my Kindle book “Project Management For The Real World” is available at

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B089KRDDVN

Studying For The PMP Exam Part 1 of 2

If you are planning either a career in project management or having project management as a critical part of your job function, you should absolutely get your Project Management Professional (PMP) certification from the Project Management Institute (PMI). There are two primary reasons for doing this:

  1. It will greatly enhance your job opportunities and career advancement prospects. The PMP certification is a validation of your knowledge and experience, and shows a commitment to ongoing education in the discipline. Many organizations use the PMP certification as a filter to select qualified candidates to interview. Without the PMP, in many cases you will not even be able to get a phone screen interview.
  2. It will make you a better Project Manager! In my personal experience, just studying for the PMP exam will improve your abilities as a Project Manager. How? It will introduce you to processes, tools and techniques you will likely have never used as a “seat of the pants” Project Manager. You will use this additional knowledge in your future projects and see how they greatly improve the quality of your outcomes.

You cannot go into the PMP exam hoping to pass it just based on your project management real-world experience. The PMI wants you to know and understand best practices, and also wants you to approach project management using their paradigm. You cannot pass without knowing these things.

In Part 2 of this post, I will share with you the methods I used to study for and pass the exam on the first attempt. It didn’t cost anywhere near the $1200 or so some companies charge for PMP prep classes. I hope you find it useful and informative.

A reminder that my Kindle book “Project Management For The Real World” is available at

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B089KRDDVN

Requirements Elicitation Techniques Part 14 – Summary

Planning

In the prior posts in this series, I introduced the following requirements elicitation techniques:

  • Part 1 – Overview
  • Part 2 – Acceptance Criteria
  • Part 3 – Benchmarking
  • Part 4 – Business Rules Analysis
  • Part 5 – Data Modeling
  • Part 6 – Document Analysis
  • Part 7 – Interviews
  • Part 8 – Non-functional Requirements
  • Part 9 – Observation
  • Part 10 – Prototyping
  • Part 11 – Root Cause Analysis
  • Part 12 – Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Part 13 – SWOT Analysis

These are in addition to the Business Event/Response technique which I discussed in detail in a prior series of posts. These techniques can be considered a “toolbox” from which you can select the appropriate tools for the job. You will likely never use all of these in a single project. Based on the type of project you are working on, you will select the techniques that fit the size, background and scope of the project. Every Project Manager should have familiarity with these techniques and be able to apply them. They are core techniques in the Business Analyst’s Body of Knowledge (BABOK).

If you are a Project Manager and don’t currently perform the Business Analyst function, I encourage you to get training in this area. PM’s that can perform this function are immensely valuable to their organizations.

Feel free to leave comments on your own experiences as a Business Analyst. Include what worked well, what didn’t and why.

A reminder that my Kindle book “Project Management For The Real World” is available at

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B089KRDDVN

Requirements Elicitation Techniques Part 13 – SWOT

Planning

The acronym SWOT stands for “Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats”. It can be a useful tool to analyze a business process undergoing change. Honest evaluation from all parties is important here. The group undergoing the evaluation must not feel threatened by the analysis. Note that “Opportunities and Threats” are external factors beyond the scope of control of the assessed group.

As with all endeavors in the field of project management, always make sure you have first defined your objectives and expected outcomes of the analysis. This will ensure that proper use is made of the results.

The SWOT evaluation team should be comprised of a cross-section of middle and upper management of the business process owners, as well as those who actually participate in the execution of the business process. The team should be instructed to first identify the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats independently to avoid group bias. Then the group is brought together to compare notes and agree on the final list.

You proceed to make a matrix with S and W as the rows and O and T as the columns. The cells are filled in by the evaluation team as follows:

  • SO – How can the groups strengths be leveraged to exploit the potential opportunities?
  • ST – How can the group use its strengths to ward off potential threats?
  • WO – Can the group use an opportunity to eliminate or mitigate a weakness?
  • WT – Can the group restructure itself to avoid a threat?

The answers are analyzed to determine cost of implementing vs. value and from that you can determine which of these the project sponsor wishes to include as part of the business requirements for the project.