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PMI-ACP Book Coverage

PMI-ACP BooksI finished my PMI-ACP Exam Preparation book a couple of weeks ago and now it is with the publishers for reviews and final edits. It turned out larger than expected, but I think better for the extra exercises and sample exam questions.

When designing the PMI-ACPSM exam, we needed to base the content outline on existing books and resources so that candidates would understand what the exam would test them on. When choosing the books, we went back and forth on our decisions of which books to include, since there are so many good resources available. And while we recommend that people learn as much as they can, we also had to recognize the need for keeping the exam content—and the preparation process for the exam—reasonable. In the end, we selected the following 11 books:

  1.    Agile Estimating and Planning, by Mike Cohn
  2.   Agile Project Management: Creating Innovative Products, Second Edition, by Jim Highsmith
  3.   Agile Project Management with Scrum, by Ken Schwaber
  4.   Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great, by Esther Derby and Diana Larsen
  5.   Agile Software Development: The Cooperative Game, Second Edition, by Alistair Cockburn
  6.   Becoming Agile: an Imperfect World, by Greg Smith and Ahmed Sidky
  7.   Coaching Agile Teams, by Lyssa Adkins
  8.   Lean-Agile Software Development: Achieving Enterprise Agility, by Alan Shalloway, Guy Beaver, and James R. Trott
  9.   The Software Project Manager’s Bridge to Agility, by Michele Sliger and Stacia Broderick
  10.   The Art of Agile Development, by James Shore and Shane Warden
  11.   User Stories Applied: For Agile Software Development, by Mike Cohn

Reading all of these books takes some time, since the 11 books add up to more than 4,000 pages. The books also cover a lot more material than you need to know for the exam. From each book, we extracted the portions that best covered the exam content outline topics, and the exam questions were then targeted at those specific sections.

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PMBOK v5 Guide Exposure Draft Out for Review


PMBOK v5 GuideThe PMBOK v5 Guide Exposure Draft opens for public review today – so you can now read it and submit your recommendations for changes. The Exposure Draft is the first open access version to the latest version of the PMBOK Guide which is due to be published at the end of the year. This also marks the first time people writing can publicly talk about it ( or at least I am guessing so since if it available to members now the content is hardly a secret anymore)

PMI members can view the Exposure Draft here and scan Append X1 for a summary of changes.

The major changes are:

  1. Bringing the PMBOK Guide inline with a number of other standards documents
  2. Taking out Chapter 3 (The Standard for Project Management) making it an ANSI approved standard and moving it to an Appendix
  3. Adding a new Chapter 13 – Stakeholder Engagement and splitting Chapter 11 – Communications content among the remaining Chapter 11 and the new chapter 13
  4. Adding “Plan” steps to the Scope Management, Schedule Management, Cost Management and Stakeholder Management so we get new activities of “Plan Scope Management”, “Plan Schedule Management”, “Plan Cost Management” and “Plan Stakeholder Management”.

I got engaged in the development of the PMBOK v5 Guide to inject some agile content. This was a struggle since the Guide is industry agnostic, not just for IT or even Knowledge Worker projects and so we have to be very careful not to add, at worst harmful or at best irrelevant, information that does not apply.

The other struggle is that while you can suggest content, if your other contributors don’t agree with it they will just vote to take it out. Anyway the word ‘agile: does make it into the new guide 9 times. - So far, other reviewers could recommend it be removed.

These refer to the ACP certification, the Software Extension to the PMBOK Guide, lifecycles, and in Chapter 6 on Scheduling which is the chapter I worked on. Here is the excerpt on lifecycles Adaptive Life Cycles

Adaptive life cycles (also known as change-driven or agile methods) are intended to facilitate change and require a high degree of ongoing stakeholder involvement. Adaptive methods are also iterative and incremental, but differ in that iterations are very rapid (usually 2 to 4 weeks in length) and are fixed in time and resources. Adaptive projects generally perform all processes in each iteration, although early iterations may concentrate on planning activities.

I am not sure I agree that early iterations concentrate on planning activities, you could equally argue that they concentrate on risk reduction, work environment creation, or visioning activities. Anyway, I will submit a change request for that.

Here’s what ended up being preserved in chapter 6 Rolling Wave Planning

Rolling wave planning is an iterative planning technique in which the work to be accomplished in the near term is planned in detail, while the work in the future is planned at a more general level. It is a form of progressive elaboration. Therefore, work can exist at various levels of detail depending on where it is in the project life cycle.

For example, agile project management, originating in software development, uses iterative planning as a progression of rolling wave planning. The agile project team utilizes CPM scheduling for each development cycle (iteration). Agile project management focuses on shorter development cycles and tangible results for each iteration; the focus is on creating value instead of completing activities.

6.7 Control Schedule

If an agile approach is utilized, control schedule is concerned with:

  •  Determining the current status of the project schedule by comparing the total amount of work delivered and accepted against predictions of work completed for the time elapsed,
  • Conducting retrospective reviews (scheduled lessons learned reviews) for correcting processes and improving, if required,
  • Reprioritizing the remaining work plan (backlog),
  • Determining the rate of delivery (velocity) and acceptance of work per iteration (agreed work cycle duration, typically two weeks or one month),

Never have I worked so hard, to write so little, about agile. One concern I have is that people will ask: “Why does the chapter on Schedule Management talk about agile when none of the other chapters do?” Since the easier fix is to rip it out of Schedule Management than add it to the other chapters where it is needed. This would result in the loss of some agile guidance in the PMBOK guide and other 3 year wait to add any.

Maybe you do not care; personally I do, and think it is important that we start integrating agile concepts into the PMBOK Guide. Especially if 65% of PMI members are engaged on IT projects as research suggests. I will be suggesting the addition of agile related content to the remaining chapters and urge others to. If enough of us do it them maybe it will get incorporated.

The other changes of adding a “Plan” step to Scope Management, Schedule Management, Cost Management and Stakeholder Management is welcome. it sets the scene for tuning these activities for your project. So if you have a small project you may plan to manage stakeholders with a different set of tools than if you had a very large project.

It is a better fit for a-methodology-per-project and situationally specific process, concepts I welcome. How about you? Is the review process worth the effort? Should we try and change the PMBOK to meet our needs or manage around it doing what we need to do to be successful?

Timebox Alternatives

By Mike Griffiths

Agile WayThe Mayans may have had the first timeboxed project. They had a strict 2012 timebox cut off with little room for extension since the world would no longer exist. Although agile methods have been preaching the benefits of fixed timeboxed schedules since their creation, it still raises concerns with many stakeholders.

The triangles diagram from DSDM created in 1994 shows the shift from fixed Functionality (vary resources and time) to fixed time and cost (vary functionality).
Agile timebox 1

So, instead of fixing functionality (scope) via the signoff of a specification document and completing all of this functionality (hopefully within the time and budget specified), instead the resources and time are fixed and as much of the functionality as can be completed is done before the time and money runs out.

This sounds a bit like time and materials, but there is an understanding that the core functionality, the Must Haves, the Priority 1’s, or whatever you want to call them, will be delivered. In fact 80% of the outlined functionality should be delivered and it is the last 20% that is up for replacement with late breaking changes that could add even more value.

So, the best of both worlds then? All the important features and an opportunity to swap out low priority elements with things that might crop up as we go. However this is not how many stakeholders view it. Projects typically have three stakeholder groups: Sponsors who commission and fund projects, Users who, well, use them to do some work, and the Project Team who builds them. While at the 30,000 feet level all the these stakeholder groups want the same thing, a successful project, when we dig a little deeper other priorities emerge.

Agile success intersection

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