Agile Project Management

The case for agile methodologies in formal project management and non-software focused organizations is an evolving one.  There is still a reactionary attitude by many PMPs that agile development is uncontrollable or otherwise at odds with PMI’s disciplined, structured approach to planning.  A more balanced response is often to consider whether and how the two methods can coexist.  I’ll take that a step further to submit that many of the methods of formal project management are actually agile already; they just don’t think of it that way.

A fundamental principle of professional project management is iterations.  A project manager should plan the pieces of the project that are known, to the extent that is possible and reasonable, and leave the rest only loosely defined.  As more stakeholders are consulted, more information about things like quality requirements, risks, and resources are considered, planning is updated.  Even after the plan is defined and approved, changes remain welcome in formal project management.  Strategies, designs, and deliverables are progressively elaborated using rolling wave planning.  Within the project, processes and methods are continuously evaluated for opportunities to improve efficiency and deliver more value.  Baselines are constantly measured and adjustments are made in-flight, to correct variances discovered.  Systems are put in place to accommodate change requests.  This all sounds fairly agile, doesn’t it?

Functional organizations as well are adopting agile processes.  A manager told me recently, she was implementing a disciplined approach to continuously exchange feedback, status, and goals on her team to avoid surprises later.  They planned to ask the questions, “What I have done recently? What am I planning to do next?  What may interfere with my goals?”  This might be unsurprising if she were leading an agile software group, but she was the director of human resources and had never heard of agile development.  The approach to communicate status and plans on a frequent, organized basis may have been taken directly from a Scrum meeting format, but she was excited about a more general application of the same flexibility advantages afforded to engineering teams.  This proactive approach to appraisal management  staff is now frequently championed.

I hear a recurring theme from management professionals working outside of software development: “We’d prefer to make corrections early and more frequently to improve our responsiveness and our ability to deliver on our commitments.”  Large organizations, technical and not, are increasing adopting agile methods to deliver results, without surprises.

PMI Definitions

The terms, explanations and usage of PMI vocabulary used in PMP work and study.

I found learning, compiling online and testing myself on the following terms, definitions and usage a useful study method.  For self testing, you can keep the answer column off screen and display only the first 2 columns of the table. The answers include personal interpretation and description in my own words. So please refer to the PMBOK for clarification, additional information, or correction. Or feel free to advise me of any feedback in the form at the bottom or via email. Good luck!

Term Practice Definition
Delphi technique Gathering input separately from multiple experts, then compiling it and resending it for review to the same experts. This allows for objective submission and review of ideas.
Watchlist non-critical risks documented during qualitative risk analysis for later review (during monitoring and controlling)
Issue Log Risks that have been realized are documented here and provide a recourse to stakeholders when they cannot be handled immediately.
SWOT Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats analysis of project
Business Risk
Pure risk
A venture’s gain or loss (e.g. the iPhone)
An insurable risk of a loss (e.g. fire, theft, etc.)
Scope Baseline Part of the PMP composed of: project scope statement, WBS, WBS Dictionary. Completed during Create WBS
Grade raiting given to items with same functional use (features) but different quality requirements. (a hammer rated for professional use vs. just home) Quality is how well a hammer of grade n works.
Ishikawa diagram a.k.a Fishbone diagram and cause and effect diagram. Allows a backward look at a problem/symptom to determine root cause.
Pareto Chart Histogram (bar chart) organized by results to prioritize most critical to help identify root cause
PERT Program Evaluation and Review Technique / 3 point estimate.EAD = ( P + 4M + O ) / 6
PDM / AON Precedence diagramming method (most common) a.k.a activity on node uses boxes and arrows to show relationships like Finish to Start.
GERT PDM + activity looping
ADM Arrow diagramming method uses circle nodes and records durations on the arrows. A dotted line arrow has zero duration.
Parametric Estimating
Uses historical/other parameters to plot forecasts of activity durations, cost, scope, etc. Data can be evaluated via scatter diagram or learning curve.
FPIF Fixed price incentive fee. Performance incentive is specified in contract. FPIF successive target contract allows for multiple incentive levels.
FPAF Fixed price award fee. Same as FPIF except award is set in advance.
FPEPA Fixed price economic price adjustment addresses uncertain future economic conditions. e.g. pricing could be tied to US CPI.
PO Contract Normally signed by just the buyer, used for simple commodities, they become contracts when they are ‘accepted’ by ‘performance’ e.g. seller ships purchased equipment.
T&M Contract Payment is on a per time or per item basis, so it is useful when effort level is not defined at contract signing. Has FP element (the hourly or per item price) and CR element in the open ended volume. Best for low cost, short-term contracts. Caps can be set.
Unit Price Contract
Same as time and materials.
CR Cost reimbursable is useful when scope is uncertain. Buyer incurs more risk because he relies on seller’s accounting of costs to be paid.
CPF / CPPC
Cost plus fee / Cost plus percentage of costs is bad for buyers and not allowed for US federal contracts. Sellers are not incented to offer value. They profit from higher pricing.
CPFF Cost plus fixed fee provides some incentive for seller to offer value as they do not profit from higher pricing.
CPIF Cost plus incentive fee allows an incentive to be paid over costs based on performance. The seller often shares cost savings or overruns with the buyer in an 80 / 20 ratio.
CPAF Cost plus award fee is same as CPIF but there is no penalty, just an predetermined award. Since it is awarded subjectively, a board is often used, making the process cost high
3 Point Estimate Program Evaluation and Review Technique.e.g. EAD is ( P + 4M + O ) / 6
Fast tracking Doing critical paths in parallel that were originally sequenced. (multiple tracks)
Crashing Adding resources to a critical path at increased cost. (crashes the budget too)
Checklist A list of things to inspect. A quality checklist is an output of Plan Quality.
Work authorization system Project manager’s system to approve the start of work packages.
Straight line depreciation The same amount is deducted from the value each period.
Change Management Plan
Controls changes to the project due to deviation from planned baselines. It is composed of change control procedures, approvals, board creation, meeting plans, and tools used.
Change Control System Standardized processes, tools and OPAs like forms and software to track project changes.
Configuration Management Plan Defines how to manage the specifications of the deliverables and control the changes to them.
Configuration Management System
Tools, documentation, and defined processes to track and verify conformance of the deliverable to the requirements.
Corrective Action Brings variance in line with the PMP performance baselines.
Preventative Action Address predicted, potential variance from PMP performance baselines.
Requirements management plan
How requirements will be controlled.
Process improvement plan
How the project processes will be improved.
Constrained optimization
A mathematical approach to project selection. Methods includes linear, integer, dynamic, and multi-objective programming.
Benefit measurement
A comparative approach to project selection. Methods includes murder board, peer review, scoring models, and economic models.
Present value
The value today of future cash. The present value is less, assuming a positive interest rate.
IRR Internal rate of return. This calculation includes others like BCR, so if when it is an option and positive, it is the best choice.
Marginal analysis
Determines when the benefit of quality improvements equal expenses incurred to make them, after which the return is not worthwhile.
Conformance Analysis
Tracking how close to the baseline ( e.g. to product requirements) the project is.
Design Of Experiments
Statistical experimentation that simultaneously changes all important variables for a faster, more accurate identification of the most critical.
Operational work
Ongoing, non-project work
Project objectives
The goals of project, created in the charter and later refined in planning. They determine completion of the project. More on Rita p24
Constraints Beginning with the charter, time, risk, cost, scope, quality, etc. are prioritized and managed by the PM for their affects on each other.
Projectized An organization type structured by projects. Functional is the opposite and matrix a mix.
Project coordinator
This is the project role between PM and project expediter, where the position has some authority of a PM.
Analogous estimating
A ‘top down’ method of predicting project time or cost, often based on previous data of similar projects. Sometimes provided by management as an expectation or cap on project. Accurate to +/- 50%
Critical Chain Method
A scheduling approach that considers resource availability. The schedule is adjusted to level resource requirements, by starting each as late as possible. (not as common on exam as critical path method)
Product life cycle
May include many project life cycles during its phases of conception, growth, maturity, decline, and withdrawal.
Project life cycle
Also has stages, depending on industry, like design, code, test. Differentiate this and above from Product Management Process.
Product Scope
Requirements of the project deliverable. (specifications, features, etc)
Project Scope
The work that will be done on the project.
Nominal Group Technique
A group’s ranking of ideas, usually those generated in same brainstorming meeting.
Product life cycle Everything needed to do the work.
Project Scope Statement
States the common interpretation of the project work. Can describe what is in and out of the product. Helps gain project buy in.
Variance
Quantifiable deviation from a known baseline.
Process Improvement Plan
A required part of project management is to plan in efforts to improve efficiency of the methods, not just effectiveness of the product.
Trigger Indicator that a risk has occurred or is about to. (warning sign)
Deming (method)
Plan, Do, Check, Act. He planned in quality vs. inspecting for it later.
Staffing Management Plan
Part of HR Plan (and so part of the PMP) describes how HR requirements will be met.(acquisition timing, resource calendars, etc)
Program Management
Centralized, coordinated direction of projects to achieve strategic goals. (Space Program)
Portfolio Management Projects or programs related with by an overall strategic business goal.(NASA)
Management by Objectives
Emphasis on realistic goal setting techniques, aligning with organizational strategy, monitoring variance, and corrective actions.
Projectized Organization
Opposite of functional org. Staff is structured into project specific silos.
Weighted Scoring Model
Factors are rated and compared toward a decision (vs. forecasting variables to predict as in constrained optimization)
Present Value
Amount of money needed to day in order to have a certain amount in the future.
Expected Present Value Present value analysis that considers to the opportunity being calculated.
PMIS Project management information system
Rolling Wave
Planning for near-term items in detail and future items at high level.
Definitive Estimating
Based on analysis of scope, risk, quality, etc.
Control Account
A level of the WBS management can use to capture cost, scope, EV, variance, etc. (How much will the solid rocket boosters cost?)
Lag and Lead A lag is a delay between one activity’s end and the next’s start. A lead is the opposite, where the next activity may start before the previous ends.
Free Float
Total Float
Project Float
Buffer before activity delays next activity.(LF-EF)
Buffer before project is delayed.
Buffer before project delay impacts customer.
Slack Same as float
Logic Bar Chart
Same as Gantt chart. Tracks activity durations and dependencies.
ConvergenceBurst
Network diagram arrows come together from multiple predecessors.Network diagram arrows fork to multiple successors.
1 Sigma
2 Sigma
3 Sigma
6 Sigma
68.26%
95.46%
99.97%
99.99985%
Weighted Milestone
? Has to do with 2 or more? reporting periods. Mentioned in the depreciation section.
Chart of Accounts
Account list used by accounting to track costs of projects or parts of project.
S Curve
Graph of earned value, planned value, and actual costs over time.
Cost Funnel
Early estimates have a wide range (+/- 50% / ROM) an later, definitive estimates have a tighter (+/- 5%) range.
What-if Scenario Analysis
Used with a schedule network analysis to test the implications of adverse conditions and ramifications on the project. Monte Carlo simulation is a common method.
Control Limit
Area on a control chart composed of 3 standard deviations from the mean.
Specification Limit
Area on a control chart composed of that indicates the customer’s requirements.
Total Quality Management
Deming’s approach to proactively improve quality with a focus on detailed statistical analysis.
Precision vs. Accuracy
Precision is the consistency of the result, whereas accuracy is the nearness to the target result.
Quality Metric An operational definition describing something in detail and how to measure it. (see comment 6 for more info)
Probability
The likelihood that something will happen. Exam totals probabilities as 1.0 or 100%.
Population Testing
You test the entire batch (e.g. all airliners) vs. sample testing where you determine some % of the batch to test (e.g. M&M’s)
Variable A generic characteristic of the product that is unknown, like weight, that will be measured by the QC process
Attribute The measurement of the variable.
Rule of 7
If 7 consecutive data points appear on one side of the mean, the process is out of control.
Assignable Cause
An anomaly on a control chart whose reason of failure requires investigation. Also called special cause.
RACI Chart
(R)esponsibility, (A)ccountability, (C)onsult, (I)nform chart uses R, A, C, and I to indicate roles in a table format with people on one axis and project area on the other.
RAM Chart
Responsibility Assignment Matrix: chart uses (P)rimary and (S)econdary tags to label roles in a table format with people on one axis and project area on the other.
Herzberg Theory
Hygiene (job attributes like supervision, peers, salary) affects job dissatisfaction and satisfaction is driven by ‘motivators’ such as professional growth and recognition.
McGregor’s Theory
Theory of X and Y is that managers use one of 2 methods to categorize workers: theory X states that workers are inherently lazy and avoid work and theory Y that workers may be ambitious and self-motivated.
Project Manager Powers
Formal/Legit, Reward, Penalty, Expert, Referent. Reward-based and expert power are best options.
McClelland Theory of Needs Achievement, affiliation, or power drive worker motivation
Conflict Sources Fall in this order of frequency: Scheduling problems, scarce resources, personal workstyle, technical direction, methodology details, cost, personality.
Paralingual Voice characteristics like pitch and tone.
Status Report
Progress Report
Reflects current status.
Reflects accomplishments during a specified time period.
Communication Model / Components Sender, message and Receiver
Communication Types
Formal Written: Contract changes, Performance issue escalation.
Informal Written: Emailing a meeting invitation.
Informal Verbal: Discuss performance problem with team member.
Formal Verbal: Presentations to mngt, hosting a bidder conference.
Bid Peddling
Bid Shopping
Using existing bid details to solicit additional bids.
Using existing lowest bid to solicit additional, lower bids.
Risk Register
Lists risks, risk owners, triggers, responses, and risk analysis results.
Secondary Risk
Residual Risk
New risks created by initial risk responses
Risk remaining after the risk response.
Workaround
Real-time contingency response to an issue, used in monitoring and controlling. Also referred to as ‘winging it’
Risk Response Options
Opportunities can be shared, exploited, or enhanced. Threats can be avoided, transferred, or mitigated. (S.E.E. the A.T.M.)
3 S.O.W. Types
Performance, functional, and Design.
Contract Requirements Capacity, Consideration, Offer, Legal Purpose, Acceptance. (C.C.O.L.A)
Cost Management Plan
Specifications for currency used, estimates’ level of accuracy (level of the WBS used), reporting formats, cost performance measurement rules, to include direct and/or indirect costs, and control thresholds.
3 Estimate Ranges R.O.M. is +/- 50%
Budget Estimate is -10% to +25%
Definitive Estimate is +/- 10% or some use -5% to +10%
50 / 50 Rule
20 / 80 Rule
0 / 100 Rule
50% of project is considered complete at start and 50% at finish.
20% of project is considered complete at start and 80% at finish.
No progress credit is given until activity is finished.
Special Conditions These are added to address considerations not already in the term and conditions
Negotiation Tactics
Attacks, personal insults, good guy/bad guy, deadline, limited authority, missing man, fair and reasonable, delay, extreme demands, withdrawal, and fait accompli (an established fact).
Conflict Resolution Techniques In order of preference: confronting/problem solving, compromising, withdrawal, smoothing, collaborating, and forcing.
Scope Verification
Product Verification
Customer acceptance of the product.
Properly completing the product work.
Change Requests types output Monitoring and Controlling
Corrective action, preventative action, and defect repairs
Change Process steps
Evaluate the impact, create options, get internal approval, and get customer buy-in.
Scope Management Plan
How will the project scope be planned, defined, executed, measured, verified, and controlled?
Focus Group
A specific group of expertise discuss product ideas via a moderator.
Facilitated Workshop
A variety of perspectives are combined to discuss the product and build consensus.
Nominal Group Technique
Brainstorming ideas are recorded and ranked.
Affinity Diagrams
Requirements are sorted into like categories to better identify what may be missing.
Plurality Technique
In group decision making making, this method chooses the option with the most support, in the event there is no majority choice. Other GDMT methods are consensus, majority, dictatorship and unanimity.
Balancing Stakeholder Requirements Prioritizing project requirements and evaluating scope, cost, etc to meet everyone’s competing needs.
Product Analysis
Work may be needed during collect requirements to define the product being requested.
Schedule Management Plan
Denotes management of project schedule, baseline and handling changes, tools used, and methods to track performance and variance.
Schedule Baseline
The schedule baseline is the agreed upon schedule for the project. It’s created via iterations during planning and part of the PMP.
Value Analysis / Value Engineering
Improving the cost effectiveness of how you get the work done.
Management Reserves
The project funding allotment minus (what is budgeted) and the cost baseline (what is needed). Accounts for unforeseen expenses.
Powers of the PM Formal/legitimate, Reward, Penalty, Expert, and Referent. The fist 3 are official. The last 2 are earned.
Risk Management Plan
Components include risk methodologies, roles and responsibilities, budgeting, timing, categories, probability and impact definitions, stakeholder tolerances, reporting formats and tracking/auditing.
Risk Categories
These can be general, like internal/external, specific like lack of available materials, or team expertise, or source-based like schedule, cost, etc.
Risk Register Updates
Include prioritized, quantified risk list, contingency time and cost reserves, confidence levels of time and cost estimates, probability of objectives, and risk trends across updates, contingency responses, .
Procurement Documentation
The procurement S.O.W., proposed contract term and conditions, and information for sellers (project background, bid procedures/guidelines/forms, source selection criteria, and pricing forms)
Special Provisions
Contract changes to address a particular project’s risks, requirements, legal, or other issues.
Privity A contractual oblication
Force Majeure
Legally, and act of God event, such as an earthquake.
Fait accompli
A foregone conclusion in a contract, e.g. we’ll need to budget for safety measures.
Constructive Changes
Things a buyer does that interfere with the seller’s ability to meet the contractual obligations. At that point the seller may file a claim.
Records Management System Documents that need to be managed according to a particular project’s specific needs. These can range from just the important formal docs like contracts to all written communications like emails and meeting notes.
Known Unknowns
Unknown Unknows
Risks are unknowns, so this is just another way of saying “known risks  and unknown risks”. Known risks are identifiable things like design delays and handled by contingency reserves. Unknown risks are not identifiable and handled by management reserves.
Human Resources Plan
Components include:  roles and responsibilities, org charts and staffing management plan
Standard Deviation
The amount of range, sigma or exactitude in an estimate.
term
term
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term
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PMI Processes

The first table is to practice.  The completed table is available below for reference.

This is a basic study aid for learning and testing on the Project Management Institute’s 42 processes. It is  helpful for the PMP certification exam to have each process memorized and know where it falls in the project lifecyle.  The answers are available by scrolling down to a second, completed table below. The formatting on the form boxes is a bit quirky. You can use them however works best for you. The scroll bars are removed but you can navigate within a box if needed, using the cursor. Each box is at least 5 rows high, so enough room is provided for the maximum number of processes per knowledge area. Feel free to advise me of any problems or suggestions.

Process Groups Initiation Planning Execution Monitoring And Control Closing
Knowledge Areas
Integration
Scope
Time
Cost
Quality
Human Resources
Communications
Risk
Procurement


Process Groups Initiation Planning Execution Monitoring And Control Closing
Knowledge Areas
Integration Develop project charter Develop project management plan Direct and manage project execution Monitor and control project work. Perform integrated change control Close phase or project
Scope Collect requirements. Define scope. Create WBS. Very scope. Control scope.
Time Define activities. Sequence activities. Estimate activity resources. Estimate activity durations. Develop schedule Control schedule
Cost Estimate costs. Determine budget Control costs
Quality Plan quality Perform quality assurance. Perform quality control.
Human Resources Develop HR plan. Acquire project team. Develop project team. Manage project team.
Communications Identify stakeholders. Plan communications. Distribute information. Manage stakeholder expectations. Report performance
Risk Plan risk management. Identify risks. Perform qualitative risk analysis. Perform quantitative risk analysis. Plan risk responses Control risks.
Procurement Plan procurements. Conduct procurements. Administer procurements. Close procurements.

PMI Formulas

This is a very basic study aid for typing and memorizing the PMI’s Project Management formulas. The answers are available by scrolling down to a completed table below. You can use the first table to test yourself.

As recommended by Rita, I generally tried to express each formula description at least once in my own words. I find it helps me initially to understand them and later to recall them, but this does leave room for variance in interpretation. Feel free to advise me of any corrections, clarity needed, or suggestions.

Acronym Name or Formula Interpretation
EAD
Activity Standard Deviation
Activity Variance
EV
PV
AC
BAC
CV
SV
CPI
SPI
EAC
ETC
VAC
TCPI
AWCS
EAD
AV
SD
Activity Range
Project Expected Duration
Project SD
Project Range
EMV
Communication Channels
PTA
Final Fee
Final Price
Float
Formula
Formula
Formula
Formula

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Notes:

  1. Except for TCPI, the 4 letter formula acronyms are either dated or invalid.
  2. EV comes first
  3. Actual cost must be provided in the question
  4. “Not enough information is provided.” is a possible correct answer
  5. Variance formulas are EV – something
  6. Index formulas are EV / something
  7. Cost formulas use CV
  8. Schedule formulas use PV
  9. For variance, negative is bad. Positive is good.
  10. For indices, > 1 is good. < 1 is bad.
Acronym Name or Formula Interpretation
EV Earned Value The estimated value of the work completed.
The completed portion of the originally estimated, total value.
PV Planned Value The value of the work planned to be be done by now
AC Actual Cost The current amount spent.
The total cost so far for the work completed.
BAC Budget At Completion The total project budget
How much did we originally expect the total project to cost?
BAC = PV of entire project
CV Cost Variance
EV – AC
Value of work accomplished – cost incurred
SV Schedule Variance
EV – PV
The value of work completed – The value of work planned to be completed.
Work completed – Expected work completed
Negative is behind schedule. Positive is ahead of schedule.
CPI Cost Performance Index
EV / AC
We are getting X value out of each $ spent.
Also as: “Cumulative CPI” when figures used are costs to date.
SPI Schedule Performance Index
EV / PV
We are progressing at X rate originally planned.
We are getting X value per original planned value.
EAC Estimate At CompletionAC + Bottom-up ETC

BAC / CPI

AC + (BAC – EV)

AC + [ (BAC – EV) / ( CPI * SPI) ]

What we currently expect the total cost to be.Current cost + Bottom up (redone) estimate of remaining cost. Used when original estimate was flawed.

Currently, the total cost estimate per (cumulative) performance.
Used when there is no variance from BAC. Most common on exam.

Current cost + Remaining work TBD.
What you’ve spent + What you need to spend.
Used when current variance is expected to change.

Current cost plus remaining budget per performance.
Used when variance is typical, CPI is poor, and completion date priority is high

TCPI To Complete Performance Index
(BAC – EV) / (BAC – AC)
The remaining work TBD per the remaining money.
In order to stay on budget, what remaining performance is needed?
ETC Estimate To Complete
EAC – AC


Reestimate

How much more will the project cost?
Updated total cost – current cost


Reestimating the work from the bottom up.

VAC Variance At Completion
BAC – EAC
How much over/under budget will we be?
AWCS Actual Cost of Work Scheduled Not a real term!
Oxymoron
May be an incorrect test question choice.
EAD Expected Activity Duration( P + 4M + O ) / 6 The most likely estimated is weighed 4 times the pessimistic or optimistic.This and all formulas below can be used for activity time and cost
AV Activity Variance[ ( P – O ) / 6 ] ^2 A quantifiable deviation from an expected baseline or estimate. Also equal to standard deviation squared.
SD Standard Deviation( P – O ) / 6 The square root of the variance. Used to calculate the activity range. EAD +/- SD
Activity Range EAD +/- SD The estimated scope from EAD – Standard Deviation to EAD + Standard Deviation.
Project Expected Duration EAD + EAD + EAD The sum of the EAD’s / PERT estimates
Project SD Standard deviation of the projectsqrt[AV + AV + AV …] Each of the activity variances (AV) on the critical path are calculated individually. The square root of their sum is the project standard deviation. It is used to calculate the project range.
Project Range The project expected duration +/- Project SD The sum of the project EADs +/- the project standard deviation.
EMV Expected Monetary ValueEMV = P * I EMV = Probability times Impact
Communication Channels [ n (n-1) ] / 2 The number of channels between people. n is the number of people
PTA [(CP – TP) / BSR] + TC Point of total assumption.
The amount at which seller pays all additional costs. Used in FPIF contracts.
The margin between the maximum and target prices is divided by the buyer’s portion of the sharing ratio and added to the target cost
Final Fee FF = (TC – AC) x SSR + TF Sellers fee/profit is adjusted for cost performance.
The target fee is adjusted by adding: target cost – actual cost times the sellers portion of the sharing ratio
Final Price FP = AC + FF (or CP, whichever is lower) Final price equals actual cost plus final fee (or ceiling price)
Buy or Lease Purchase CostOwning Cost * Time = Leasing Cost * Time So if something costs $1,000 to buy and $10 / day to maintain but costs $50 / day to rent, how many days does it take to break even?  1,000 + 10 * t = 50 * t The break even point is 25 days.
Float Float = LF – EF or LS – ES Late Finish – Early Finish or Late Start – Early Start

PMP Exam Study Tips

TestTip
These are items I’ve compiled by either authors, instructors, or myself intended to help prepare for the PMP certification exam.

On an ethics note, everything below was written before I sat for the exam and nothing represents my actual knowledge of the exam process or content.  Good luck!

  1. Some questions may be easy.  Forgetting this point may cause you to over-evaluate or presume there is a trick involved when the question is merely being direct.
  2. If a math question uses all high, numbers like 400,000 / 10,000 / 550,000 reduce them to common denominators like 400, 10, and 550.  The math is easier and results are the same.
  3. Write out the 42 processes before beginning the exam. I will probably just write out the planning processes since sequencing is significant.
  4. When asked about what to do FIRST, keep in mind the availability of other ‘correct’ actions that can be done afterwards.  In these questions, fixing the root cause or choosing the most comprehensive solution may not be the first action to take. If it does not say first, the best choice is more likely regarding root cause correction.
  5. Consider exam project context in terms of lasting over a year and budgeted over $1M.
  6. Assume the project manager is correctly managing the project according to PMI methods, unless indicated otherwise.
  7. Assume organizational structure is a balanced matrix unless told otherwise. Assume it is being compared to a functional organization if that is not stated.
  8. Learning process ITTOs requires knowing what each means or is composed of.  Knowing an input is the risk register or an enterprise factor is not helpful if you are asked about triggers or culture.
  9. Initiating phase involves less project manager responsibility and more of the sponsor.  Issues include sponsor commitment to the project, protection against scope change, and providing clear objectives.
  10. If IRR (Internal Rate of Return) is an option and positive, choose it because it includes consideration of the tools. Otherwise choose the best of the remaining tools (Highest NPV, ROI, BCR, or shortest Payback Period).
  11. You can skip calculating the n(n-1)/2 communications formula for questions that ask how many more or less channels are added when a team member is added or removed.  When adding a member to the team, the channels added are equal to the existing team size.  So if you had 17 people and add 1, there are 17 new communication channels.  If you had 17 and lose 1 team member, there are 16 fewer channels.
  12. On very long questions, try to discern first what the question is actually asking. It may be worth even looking to the end of the question and at the answer choices, before reading the entire question carefully.
  13. For professionalism / ethics and conflict questions, communication with the pertinent party is often the best / first option.
  14. Technical conflict resolution / escalation is best handled using the functional manager, even in a strong matrix as they have the expertise.  Other conflict methods such as forcing or compromise are poor options because they do not address the technical aspect.
  15. Payment ethics questions:  If it is pre-contract e.g. to be considered for a project, this is generally a bribe. If it is regarding a payment during a contract, like for a permit, it is generally allowed if the requester is an official of the other government.  Otherwise, consult your legal team.
  16. Since projects are unique, they have not been done before in an organization. Therefore things like identifying risks and qualifying a preferred vendor are important considerations and not assumed.
  17. Risk are an important topic / purpose of all team meetings.
  18. The response to change requests goes in this order: Understand it, Evaluate impact, Create options, Get change approved internally, Get customer approval
  19. The PM needs to have the authority and the attitude to be able to say no when needed.
  20. “Do the change” refers to writing up the change request, not implementing it.  **This requires citation. Please see comments for details.
  21. A change is not considered approved unless expressly stated.
  22. Don’t calculate Float (backwards pass) unless the question needs it.   Evaluating the critical path may be sufficient.
  23. If the exam does not ask for the earned value of a specific period, it means the to-date cumulative figure.
  24. The PM is considered part of the team for purposes of team size computation.
  25. Assume you are the PM for the buyer unless otherwise stated.
  26. The PMO handles policy, prioritization, and standards across projects.  Within a project, the PM handles decisions.
  27. You need to know the components of each of the management plans (to be able to choose things that are not)
  28. Reevaluating and potentially reducing risks, is a way to cut improve time, cost, and quality throughout the project.
  29. Plan Quality determines the strategy that will be used.  (how we ensure quality?)  Perform Quality Assurance analyzes the methods used to create the product. (are we following the process?) Perform Quality Control tests the product/results. (does the product meet requirements?)
  30. Does the information or process in question contribute to the success of the project?  This is how to determine if an answer (or a real-world practice) is correct.