Monthly Archives: May 2012

I Quit!

I’ve decided to quit the software development and project management biz to get into the more lucrative, albeit illegal spam biz.  I could spend a billion spams a day!  If you’ve been following my blog, don’t dispair.  You’ll still hear from me, just in the form of men’s health emails.  (That’s a joke, folks!)

CIO Insight did a short piece on eleven reasons to quit your job.  See the full story here.  It’s so funny!

http://www.cioinsight.com/c/a/Careers/11-Outrageous-Reasons-to-Quit-Your-Job-758179/

Do you have a trust fund?  That’s a good reason to quit.  What about if you are making too much money and don’t feel you deserve it.  Well then just quit!  Those are just a few good ones from the survey CIO Insight did.

Prototype

CIO Insight

Actually, those are great reasons.  In fact, all the items on the list are great – for the employer, that is.  That’s because you don’t want a person like that on your team.  If they’ll quit because they can’t get up in the morning or there’s a must-see sporting event one day, then you can live without that person.  Reasons for quitting tell you a lot about a person.  It’s a window into their true character.

But wait a minute…  You want to know their character before you hire them.  Oh, yeah…

The time to test a person’s character is before you add them to your project team – during the interview and selection process.  That means you must either be a really good judge of character, or use a test to weed out the deadbeats.

During my career, employers have used multiple interviewers.  On “interview day” you go from office to office talking to a half dozen team members.  Those team members report back to the HR department with a score, and anecdotal feelings about your “team player” aptitude.  Of course, prospective employees are on their best behavior during such sessions, so you can’t get any dirt on them.  But if your team members are each good judges of character, you’ll have a good idea what you’re dealing with.

One employer put me in from of an impossible-to-finish test.  They said I had two hours to compete it, and that I should answer as many questions as I could.  Problem is, the test would take any normal person four hours to complete.  So what’s a guy to do?  Rush through it, scribbling down answers as fast ask you can?  Or take it slow and easy, answering only the ones you know you’ll get right?  Clearly this was a trick test to see how a person reacts when given too much work to complete in a given time period.  Will they make a big mess of the job by rushing?  Or are the smooth and level-headed.  A test like this will reveal their true character.

Another idea is to take them out to lunch and gang up on them.  See how they react in different settings.  What comes out of their mouth when they aren’t guarding it so closely?  Ask them to gossip about the worst boss they ever had.  Do they take the bait and spill their guts?  Or do they say all their bosses were saints?  You could ask them to rat out their worse coworker.  Same trick…  Do they partake in vicious gossip about their previous workplace?  If so, it tells you that they’ll do the same at your company.  They may even say similar things about you.  Or they may walk off the job to join a rock band!

ASPE PMP Boot Camp Day 4 (Last Day)

It’s Thursday afternoon, and I’ve finished the Project Management Professional (PMP)® Certification Exam Boot Camp hosted by Dave Caccamo at ASPE and I’ve decided that it’s not a real Boot Camp because we didn’t fire any guns.  I blame ASPE for the misleading title.  🙂 

So aside from that little misunderstanding, I’d definitely go with the Boot Camp title – this is hardcore!  If you like hardcore, get in on this course.  If you don’t, maybe you can pass the PMI PMP Certification Exam on your own.  Good luck with that!

Actually, I thought of doing that very thing about two years ago.  I researched the PMI PMP exam, and strongly considered signing up for it.  I figured I knew enough about project management to pass.  Heck, it was probably just a bunch of terminology and best practices, right?  I knew that stuff and figured I could pass.  Now after taking this course, that idea seems so laughable.  I probably would have had about a 1% chance of having my application accepted, let alone passing the exam.  There is so much I didn’t realize about PMI and their PMP exam and their expectations of project managers.

This course enlightened me considerably.

We spent the last day finishing up the 42 PMI project management processes.  That included those from the Executing, Monitor and Control, and Closing process groups.  This is where the Initiating and Planning processes are performed.  After finishing those, we took a final test quiz and finished out the course.  Anyone with a low 70’s grade on the final quiz should feel comfortable moving forward with the PMP exam after a reasonable study period.  So I guess I’m good.

I have to say, even though we stuck closely to the PMI processes, this classroom offered a perfect setting for a wide range of project management topics.  It wasn’t all PMI Process Heaven.  All the methodologies  came out eventually, with comparisons to PMI – the good, the bad, and the ugly – and how real-world PM’s get things done.  So felt I grew a little outside the sanctioned course material.

One thing to stress is that you cannot come riding into this course on your high horse.  Don’t think you are going teach everyone how wise you are in the world of project management.  Get ready to submit yourself to the PMI method, even if you disagree with it.  There just isn’t time to argue platitudes.  You’ll miss the whole point, and likely ruin your chances of passing the exam.  Stick to the subject matter and you’ll be farther ahead.

I hope you have enjoyed the series.  I offer my sincere apologies to those in the PMI world for oversimplifying, misunderstanding, and perhaps misrepresenting the material.  Again, this was my personal experience of going through the PMP Certification Exam Boot Camp.  You’re seeing it through my limited experience level – a complete novice to PMI and the PMP exam.  Your mileage may vary.

 

 

My Notes on Day 4 of PMP Boot Camp:

Focus on being able to write out PMBOK matrix in its entirety.

Practice PMP cert exam write-ups.  Make sure you have some experience for every process group, even if it’s light or it may not be accepted.  Must use some PMI buzzwords, but not an obvious list from page 43 of PMBOK.  Go into some detail in one or more areas, a success.  No technical details, no technical lead.  All details should be PM related.  Connect PMI processes to show project success.  If you were a team member without a formal PM title, you’ll have to come up with something related – descriptive rather than formal titles.  How you integrated processes, management deliverables.  You can still get away with a “Project Task Manager” title.

Send your PMI write-up to Dave Caccamo at ASPE before submitting.  He can tell whether it will be accepted.

Use the patterns for learning process inputs and outputs.  At this point, I know I should be doing this, but haven’t memorized the patterns, so I forget them.  I suppose I didn’t know the significance of the patterns early enough.  Pretty important, or else you have to memorize all inputs and outputs without a framework of logic.  PMI doesn’t like simplified pattern style of learning.

A spaghetti factory is what you get if you try to show flowcharted rubber band connections between all the inputs and outputs.  It’s just too complex to draw out.

Turn brain cells over to PMI.

Read PMBOK for Monitoring and Controlling (and Closing) Process Group.  Closing Process Group questions may be tricky and picky.

PMP cert pass rate is about 70%, and the average score is 72%, but PMI doesn’t publish this info.

Get the “Random Thoughts on the PMI Exam” document from Dave Caccamo.  Answers a lot of questions.

After drawing the matrix every day (before exam), name one major output to help key you during the test.

 

Links to previous ASPE PMP Boot Camp posts

 

Disclaimer: The thoughts and feedback for the ASPE PMP Certification Exam Boot Camp associated with this series of posts are my own. In exchange for providing my feedback on this community forum, ASPE has provided benefits related to my course attendance.

ASPE PMP Boot Camp Day 3

At what point during an intense technical seminar do people start to weary and tune out?  For me, that point almost came at the last hour of Day 3.  As you know from my previous posts, I’m taking the Project Management Professional (PMP)® Certification Exam Boot Camp offered by ASPE SDLC Training.  I got a direct mail piece one day, and just signed up.  So here I am in Denver, taking the class.  These are my personal experiences.

Okay… so I’ve lasted one hour shy of three days.  All is well… I’m challenged… I’m getting it… I’m filling the notepad… but I’m starting to notice a peculiar feeling not hitherto experienced… exhaustion.  Probably from burning the candle at both ends and sitting a pretty intense course.  So I guess I’ll tune out, right?  Slack off on the notes, let a few minutes of lecture gently ease over my head while I fake the Active Listening feedback.  Sure, I could have done that.

But then came along Earned Value Analysis!

Bing!  I woke right up!  The next hour (and last one of the day) flew by like the very first ones had on Monday morning.  Discussions of Earned Value and Planned Value and Actual Cost drove cobwebs from my weary brain.  Then there were formulas for Cost Variance and Schedule Variance, and then Cost Performance Index and Schedule Performance Index, and further discussions of how SPI is only a defining value when taken from the Critical Path killed off the hour.  (You gotta be a geek.)

Lesson learned: you have got to come into this class with some real interest in the project management process.  Pick a topic: Scope?  Time and Cost?  QA or QC?  How about Human Resources or Communications?  Procurement?  Pick one.  Because without some natural interest, and some serious geekology (the study of geeks), you might not survive this Boot Camp.  That’s what I realized today.  I really like some of this stuff!  Although I’m not sure why.  But when certain topics come up, my heart leaps and I drill in extra hard for all the good stuff.  I can honestly say, this course did not disappoint the geek within.  Even on the last hour of the third day (there’s one more Day to go), Dave Caccamo did not slack up.  Earned Value came forth with the same enthusiasm as Developing Project Charters and Identifying Stakeholders had on Day 1.  That was a surprise.  You would think he’d run out of steam like I had.  Nope, not Dave.

Okay, changing subjects… I really get the feeling that PMI wants to weed out the deadbeats.  A good portion of this course was raising the awareness of the heights to which PMI will go to trick exam-takers and would-be PMP’ers.  If you don’t live for this stuff, they want you gone.  The novice who has never taken a course like this would never know that… until they bombed the exam four times.  I now know about twenty ways PMI could trip me up.  Maybe that will help when sitting the exam.  Hope so.

One more thing: I would have liked one improvement.  I would somehow like to see special significance given to process inputs and outputs.  After Day 3, I realized that from the dozens of processes, lists, phrases, formulas, and methods you read through, the process inputs and outputs seem to all blend in.  You have to manually pick them out of the soup.  I found it difficult to elevate them to a higher status that would help me instantly identify even though they were clearly listed on the slides.  In other words, they didn’t stand out from the minutia.  I know that sounds dumb, because there they were on the slides and flash cards.  But it seemed like as we zoomed through the material, one list had equal standing with the next, and only by applied effort was I able to elevate the process inputs and outputs to the level they deserved for memorization.  After all, you can’t memorize everything.  You have to prioritize, and process inputs, outputs, tools, and techniques were the likely choice for me.  I don’t have any suggestions for improvement; I’m just griping.  I can do that, right?

So, there’s one more day left…  I’m excited to complete this, but I’m also weary.  Will I survive?  Yeah, I think so.  Will I tune out?  Probably not, but you never know.  But I know this will certainly stand out as a career highlight for me.  I’ve gotten more knowledge in these few days than several years’ worth.

Check out ASPE.  Great organization.

 

My Notes Taken on Day 3:

There are some useful “PMI thinks” rules that dictate input and outputs.  Remember these rules and you can predict the inputs to any process.  Dave Caccamo has developed these rules.  Get from him.

There are so many trick questions that you can’t list them.  Very numerous.  Plus, all the wrong answers will be common things people think of based on the trick terminology.  The subject material is hard enough without these shenanigans; tricks just put it over the top.

There are 50 “pretest” questions mixed into the test.  You won’t know which questions count toward the results and which don’t.  Pretest questions don’t count.  They are used by PMI to decide if the question will eventually be put into the real questions.

Drink the Kool-Aid.

I found it difficult to remember where each process input was produced.  Which process produced it?  Sometimes they abstracted by other process outputs.  Outputs do not always go directly to inputs.  I would like to see a computer rubber band model that traced inputs to the processes that created them.

By now memorization should be giving way to logic.  Inputs should be predictable.  Problem is, there’s so much information that needle-sized outputs are hard to pick out of the haystack.  Actually, I’m not even sure if all inputs are outputs of other processes.  Maybe some are from external sources.

Fog of war.

I admire people who hold forth well beyond my comfort level.  How do they do that?

Links to previous ASPE PMP Boot Camp posts

 

Disclaimer: The thoughts and feedback for the ASPE PMP Certification Exam Boot Camp associated with this series of posts are my own. In exchange for providing my feedback on this community forum, ASPE has provided benefits related to my course attendance.

ASPE PMP Boot Camp Day 2

It became clear on Day2 of the ASPE PMP Boot Camp that the PMI world revolves around page 43 of the PMBOK.  Just as I suspected.

If you’re still reading, you may be following my personal experiences of the ASPE PMP Boot Camp class in Denver, Colorado.  I’m taking the training course for the purposes of sitting the PMI PMP exam, but I’m also sharing my thoughts along the way.  Hopefully, this will help others who journey down this road.  Just exactly what does this course cover?  How much does it cost?  What requirements does it expect of the students?  And how will you personally feel when going through it?  Those are the topics explored in this series.  This is Day 2, so scroll down for earlier posts to catch the dialogue.

So… back to my premise… PMBOK page 43 is King!  What’s on page 43 again?  Page 43 of the PMBOK is the grid of Project Management Process Groups and Knowledge Areas.  In other words, the processes that PMI project managers use to initiate, plan, execute, monitor, control, and close a project.  When taking this PMP Boot Camp seminar, you will spend all four days examining page 43 from a hundred different angles, yeah a thousand angles.  Everything you study comes back to it, so make sure you study it well.  Memorize it early.  Forward and backward.  Be able to write it out upon demand.  In fact, you are allowed to do just that within the first ten minutes of the PMP exam to use as a cheat sheet.

The ASPE instructor handed out 50 flash cards, which I found very handy for quick study.  You’ll use them to name the 42 PMI processes, each having inputs, outputs, tools, and techniques.  You must memorize every word of this or risk exam failure.  And don’t try to write these out during class because you’ll miss too much of the lecture.  Do it the night before.  Unfortunately, understanding the general flow of processes is not enough for success.  There are simply too many unfamiliar terms to mentally juggle.  You’ll have to memorize too.

Make no mistake about it, this class is a Boot Camp just like its name says.  Marine Corps Boot Camp.  As I stated in my Day 1 post, this is very, very intense.  The 42 PMI processes are just the beginning.  As I said earlier, each one has inputs, outputs, tools, and techniques you must understand and memorize.  But it doesn’t end there!  Each one of those has a tidy list of 2 – 10 items encapsulated within: project documents, breakdowns, formulas, methods, theories, plans, etc.  Want to count the cost?  Multiply processes times your list of inputs, outputs, tools, and techniques, and again times those encapsulated lists and you’ve got thousands of pieces of information at your fingertips.  You’ll literally be hit with scores each day.  And you’ll be expected to recall them from memory for the exam.

This course will tax every resource you can muster, most notably: time.  Don’t expect to have any kind of real life for these four days.  Remember, this is Boot Camp not play time!

Okay, that’s probably enough about the hardships.  Further posts likely won’t even mention that aspect unless I suffer a complete nervous breakdown and am dying to tell you about it.  Instead, I’ll focus on other aspects of the course.  But I wanted you to get the full picture of what you might experience in taking this course.  It’s a doozie!

Are the hardships worth it?  Of course!  Gosh, it’s only four days.  Anyone can survive that.  So don’t let this discourage you.  Sure it’s hard but survivable.  Just remember, anything worthwhile is hard, or at least seems that way when you’re in the middle of it.  Later, you’ll look back and realize it wasn’t all that bad.  So stick with it and you’ll be glad you did!

You should also know that the Boot Camp course it not the end of your journey to the PMP exam.  After this four days of classroom instruction, you should expect to 2-3 weeks in the ASPE Study Guide and PMBOK.  Make sure to factor that into your near-term plans.

Plan to love the PMI methodology, at least for the duration of this undertaking.  I mean love it!  Dig in like a toothless redneck at a pie eating contest.  Focus all your attentions on the PMI way of doing things.  There’s a reason I say this; it’s a subtle but important one…  If you get the notion in your head that this methodology doesn’t work for you, or can’t be justified in real life, or won’t work for your company, or any other reason to hate it, you will not have the fortitude to continue.  You must (at least temporarily) set aside your personal beliefs and love this PMI approach like it’s you own.  Imagine yourself as a highly paid PMI project manager at the top of a Fortune 100 company, or whatever it takes.  Just love this stuff for a season.

During all this, I have gotten a renewed respect I got for the ASPE instructor, Dave Caccamo.  Not only did he write the 850 page Participant Manual and Slide Guide, but delivers it with flawless execution.  That’s no trivial occupation.  Pray you get this guy.  Seriously.  He’s good.

Okay, that’s it for today.  I’ve got 20 flash cards to write up, 43 processes to memorize, and five formulas to refresh my memory on.  I hope you’re enjoying the series.  Click the “About” page link to let me know what you think!

 

My Notes From Day 2:

Start right out writing out the Project Management Process Groups and Knowledge Areas Mapping matrix on page 43 of PMBOK.  Write out matrix in shorthand and put X’s where there is a process.  9 x 5 grid, 26 processes.

Flash cards came in real handy because we went over all the planning processes.  Inputs and outputs were on the cards, and very handy to refer to in class.  Write these out the night before!  If you don’t, you can get lost in the pace.  There are 42 processes.  Must know all inputs and outputs.  Instructor spends most time on Day 2 explaining inputs and outputs.

But flash cards only cover some of what you’ll cover.  There are deep discussions of tools and techniques that are not on the cards.  Much of that has to be studied and memorized as well.

Inputs and outputs of processes are so numerous and unfamiliar that memorization seems like the only way to get them.  They are natural and logical, but just too numerous to mentally juggle.  That means a huge amount of study.

Memorization is destroyed by adrenalin

There were a fair number of descriptions of the sneaky ways PMP questions can be posed.  PMI will sneak in adjacent inputs or tools and techniques to trick you into a wrong answer.

There were several discussions amongst students about when they could take the PMP exam.  Wait too long and forget everything.  Try to take it too soon and risk not studying enough.  Plus, there’s work  and personal schedules to account for.  Bottom line: this is a big commitment with a fair amount of risk.

Quick recall is the premium skill for this course.

Links to previous ASPE PMP Boot Camp posts

 

Disclaimer: The thoughts and feedback for the ASPE PMP Certification Exam Boot Camp associated with this series of posts are my own. In exchange for providing my feedback on this community forum, ASPE has provided benefits related to my course attendance.

ASPE PMP Boot Camp Day 1

“Intense” is the operative word for the ASPE PMP Boot Camp Day 1.  Or maybe “panic!”  Actually, I never reached a full state of panic.  Maybe “bracing concern” is a more accurate description.

Remember in yesterday’s post here, I agreed to share my experiences in the 4-day ASPE PMP Boot Camp.  So here it is!  Day 1.  Don’t get scared!

The first thing you should know  about this course, which I gradually discovered about 1 – 2 hours into it, is that it is not a general purpose project management course.  It is not a Cliff Notes of the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK)® guide.  You are not coming here to learn all the latest theories on how to make successful projects, on how to manage a project team, on the correct way to manage projects.  You are here to learn PMI’s way to do things.  You are here to learn the PMI terminology and process.  And more specifically, here to learn how to pass the PMP exam.

Throw away everything you think you know about project management.  It will not help for the next four days.  In fact, it may hurt you.  Again, you are here to do it the PMI way.  Anything else will only hinder that singular goal: learn PMBOK so you can pass the PMP exam.

As you may have read from my first post, I was unsure what to expect when I signed up for this.  Would I get a foundational course in project management including all the terms and philosophies?  Would it be a crash course in all the techniques for successful project execution?  I wasn’t entirely sure.  But that all became clear within the first few hours.  No!  This course is focused almost entirely on getting a person up to speed with PMI’s PMBOK, which is the basis for the PMP exam.

Another thing became clear within the first few hours of the ASPE course; you cannot cram the entire PMBOK in to 35 hours of instruction.  Even if you turn it sideways!  On Day 1, I’m left wondering if you can even survey it in that amount of time.  So what is your best use of four days in the classroom?  I guess, hit the highlights, and point students to the places where they can study for the test.  Sure, there’s more to it than that, but that is certainly a major component of this class.  You get that right away.  The ASPE instructor’s number one goal is your success in sitting the PMP exam.  I certainly give the instructor high marks for a good mix of humor, depth of personal knowledge, and the ability to deliver a large amount of information in short bursts.  Kudos to ASPE!  These guys are good.

After the first day, you sort-of feel it’s possible to pass the PMP exam.  But only after dozens more hours of study.  I expect to get a good start for that in the classroom, but don’t expect to be able to run right out and sit the exam the next week.  There’s just too much information to absorb.  After all, the PMBOK is almost 500 pages!

It has become acutely obvious that a huge amount of memorization is necessary to pass this test.  The class professor understands this and points that out on Day 1, which brings on a strong feeling of panic, which they say gives way to resign on Day 2, and then to confidence on Day 3 and 4.  The full scope of memorization just isn’t clear on Day 1, and you look at that huge PMBOK that could choke a horse, and you’re not sure if you can pass or not.  It just requires dedication, they say.

So after posting this tonight, I’ll hit the books.  I’ve got to fill out a series of flash cards and then memorize the “Project Management Process Groups and Knowledge Areas Mapping” grid on page 43 of the PMBOK.  After that, I’ll read through the 190 pages of the “ASPE Participant Manual/Slide Guide that we covered today.”  Of course, I’ll do most of that during the boring 2-hour meeting I have to attend tonight.  Then maybe I can sleep!

 

My Notes for Day 1 of ASPE PMP Boot Camp Seminar:

Course Instructor: Dave Caccamo, M.Econ, PMP, CSM, Network+
35 hours of instruction

PMP Exam: 175 questions, 4 hours, passing grade: 61% or 106 correct answers, before exam 20% of applicants will be audited for further certification

20% of questions will not be in PMBOK.  Look at 1,000 questions before taking test.  ASPE goes over about 500 questions.

While studying: keep a sheet of paper that you fill out for every question you miss that contains “the one piece of knowledge” that would have helped you get the questions right.

Don’t expect to cram during the prep course and then pass the exam immediately after.  Take it as soon as possible, but you must study.  15 – 25 hours of extra study and memorization are necessary.  Don’t read the PMBOK before exam.  Much of it won’t apply.  You must already be a good project manager to pass the PMP exam.  Memorization is not enough.

PMI asks questions like no one else.  Evil questions.  Think like PMI, not necessarily how things work for you in practice.  Questions are always according to PMI lists, not personal experience.  Trick questions will include fake answers from real-world.  Use PMBOK answers instead. Don’t get into the mindset teaching PMI the “right way” to do project management.  Tricky and picky.

There is a ten-minute period just before the exam where you can write down anything you want.  You can use that as a cheap sheet.  You cannot bring in anything.  They will give you pencil and paper.

PMBOK pg. 43: Table of Process Groups verses Knowledge Areas, memorize this page!

Study following the class:
First 3 days after 4-day class: Daily warm-up: write out matrix, study cards
For 10 days: read study guide chapters for ten days
Last 3-4 days: Online assessment, 2 closing processes, read appendix G to see buzzwords, read domain tasks directives

Memorize:

  • PMBOK Page 43
  • 16 Formulas
  • Inputs and outputs

 

Course materials:

  • 1. The Project Management Professional (PMP)® Certification Exam Boot Camp 3-ring binder, 846 pages
  • 2. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) Fourth Edition, 467 pages
  • 3. Flash cards, part of study guide, quick reference
  • 4. The Complete Project management Professional (PMP 4.0)® Study Guide, 332 pages (for use after the class is finished for study and memorization for the exam)

Links to previous ASPE PMP Boot Camp posts

 

Disclaimer: The thoughts and feedback for the ASPE PMP Certification Exam Boot Camp associated with this series of posts are my own. In exchange for providing my feedback on this community forum, ASPE has provided benefits related to my course attendance.

The ASPE Project Management Professional Boot Camp

Okay, I’ve decided to do it!  I’m attending the ASPE Project Management Professional (PMP)® Certification Exam Boot Camp in Denver, Colorado!  It is part of a twelve-city tour by ASPE, Inc. to educate and prepare would-be project managers for the PMP Exam.  Cool!

Wouldn’t it be neat to read the unbiased personal experiences of somebody who had been through the course before taking the plunge yourself?  That’s exactly what I’m offering in this series of blog posts.  You’ll get my unvarnished daily experiences of the entire PMP Prep seminar.  After reading them, you can decide if this is for you.  I expect to enjoy myself, so you probably will too.

I’ll be posting my personal experiences every day I attend.  You’ll get a firsthand look at the whole process: the course materials, the homework, the hardships, and the excitement along the way – everything one might expect when taking such a course to prepare for sitting the PMP exam hosted by PMI.  See links below to check out the ASPE course I’ll be taking.

Honestly at this point, I just have a sketchy view of the week ahead.  I sort-of know what to expect, but not exactly.  I’ve been doing project management for longer than I care to divulge, but have never taken the PMP exam, and never formally studied the disciplines of project management.  Of course, having worked in engineering shops since college, I know much of the terminology and probably apply the principles on a daily basis.  So I’m coming from a different perspective than those who may just be starting their careers.  Honestly, I wish I’d done this a long time ago, but it’s never too late to improve your career with training like this.

To prepare, I read through the ASPE PMP Boot Camp overview and course outline (see link below).  I learned that there are four very full days of coursework – from 8 AM to 6 PM.  (I’m expecting to drink from a fire hose.)  The course outline lists 68 topics grouped into 8 areas.  We’ll cover such lofty subjects as Project Management Overview, The Project Management Life Cycle, The Knowledge Areas, The Elements of Project Management, The PMP Exam, The PMP Certification, and The Credentials.

After finishing the course, they say 97% of ASPE students pass the PMP examination.  That’s reassuring.  It probably means I could too!

The cost is $2,395.  Honestly, I think that’s a small price to pay to advance your career.  I mean really… if you plan to spend any time around projects for next forty years, this is probably a good idea – it doesn’t matter what your role is.  You’ll certainly earn it all back, especially since it launches you on a fast-track to higher management positions.  And PMI claims a PMP certification it directly impacts your salary.  Who doesn’t want that?  This little-understood fact is a big deal for career advancement:  Get all the training you can handle.  And get it early in your career!

Helpful links:

http://www.aspe-sdlc.com/courses/pmp-boot-camp/

http://www.pmi.org/certification/project-management-professional-pmp.aspx

http://www.projectteamblog.com/?p=239

Links to previous ASPE PMP Boot Camp posts

 

Disclaimer: The thoughts and feedback for the ASPE PMP Certification Exam Boot Camp associated with this series of posts are my own.  In exchange for providing my feedback on this community forum, ASPE has provided benefits related to my course attendance.

Engineering Begins with Prototypes

I was talking with a senior software developer last week about the importance of early prototypes to define products. We concluded that it is pointless to begin developing any real architecture or engineering until the prototypes are finished and signed off. You must put your ideas into tangible form before you can trust them to the discipline of engineering. And customers must see examples of the finished product before you can move forward with deep development. Here’s why:

Under-the-hood engineering depends entirely on what you plan to sell. Notice I did not say what the developers thing might be cool or trendy. It’s what you plan to sell. Period. It doesn’t matter if you are selling transmissions or skyscrapers or operating systems; you have to know what the customer wants before you can build the most efficient version of that. Just try to dream it all up alone on a deserted island – without any input – without customers telling you what they will pay for and what they will not. That’s a lot like what you’d get if the developers in their Tommy Bahamas island shirts said, Oh, yeah! That’s so cool. Let’s make that!

Prototype Prototype

Take the automobile transmission for example. If you designed it on a deserted island, and sent the designs straight into production, the risks would be enormous. The finished product would likely have extra gears, “cool” new ideas, and “special” modes that the customer never asked for. And won’t pay for. All those extras make the product less efficient, more costly to manufacture, and more costly to maintain. You probably can’t afford that. Only the most efficient and cost effect designs survive. In other words, only what the customer asked for – nothing more.

Sure, you can get creative and throw in some extras. I call that “programmer candy.” The product doesn’t have to be a total bore. But make sure your core competencies are taken care of first.

 

Prototype

 

Also, it should be understood that prototypes can rarely be morphed into shipping products. (Managers don’t get that.) They are usually throw-away models, so expect to add that extra time to your overall project schedule. For instance, take the old clay automobile models as an extreme example. Remember them from the 1950’s? Even after sanded and painted, they still couldn’t serve as production automobiles. It’s almost humorous to imagine. But still, it has always been a strong desire in engineering circles to go from prototype to shipping product with the stroke of the pen. After all, the prototype looks so real, why not just clean it up and ship it! That’s what the manager usually ask for. Actually, that goal is not far off in computer-aided design, like software development, because editing is so easy. Not so with clay models.

YouTube Video: Consulting Software

This YouTube video for consulting software is pretty neat. It covers a lot of ground in five minutes, and is worth taking a look at. Amateur, but neat. The premise starts with a timesheet and closely related time log view where consulting hours are displayed. Of course, the timesheet is a typical Monday thru Friday grid with client projects on the left. Things got cooler with the time log ivew. The time log displays the same records as the time sheet, but in a top-to-bottom view.

Consultants will drool over this. Trust me.

For every time log record (which is also displayed in the timesheet) you get a client field, project, category, start and end times, actual work field, client rate, client cost, billable, and billed columns. There are other columns not shown that can be added to this view. Plus, you can filter that time log view to show only the work you did for a certain client or project, or only the work for a selected consultant. Or only work for a selected date range. That’s slick! You can also filter out the non-billable records and only see what is billable to the client.

But this is only where the app just begins…

The video goes on to show a glimpse of the billing rates window. (Wish it showed more.) It seems that you can set the billing rates for each consultant, and for each project they work on. So every consultant has his own rates for every project. And they only see the project they work on. Nice. But again, the video is brief, so you have to check this out for yourself – it’s just a five minute overview.

If time tracking is not enough, there is a menu item to show project revenue over a 12-month timeframe. This lets you see trends for the coming months and identify bad months that require attention. If only it also showed historical results for the last 12 months… That would be cool, but probably not as useful. Every project has its own win/loss percentage projections so it acts like a sales funnel. But all that’s a side issue that consulting companies get for free. Sure, you’ll use it, but the real stuff is logging billable hours.

The video sticks right to the point: client receivables and consultant utilization rates. That’s is the heart and soul of consulting. Get those wrong and you fail. So those reports let you see where your money is coming from, and what your effective billing rate really is. In other words, how much is your organization is billing for the work it does. Reports like this naturally raise the question, “How to increase your effective billing rate?” Edging out small increases is what consulting is all about. If you spend too much time on non-billable or in-house jobs, you die. If your effective billing rate is too low, you die. If you don’t book gigs, you die. If you don’t invoice billable hours, you die. This program seems to get that.

What is not mentioned in this video is equally valuable: expense tracking, client invoicing and QuickBooks integration. Yes, the product has those things, but the video fails to highlight them. Why? Not enough time, I suppose… I’m not sure. But it’s nice to know that there’s more to this product than the basics that can fit in a 5-minute video. Definitely worth a look.

Check it out: Consulting Software

That’s Where Experience Comes In

Recently, I overheard a senior project team member reminding a junior software developer to make sure his code built and could be checked in every day. He reminded the junior coder that we now have more coders on the project, and that leaving files checked out for multiple days put others in a difficult position. They could not get his changes until he checked it in, and long delays held up forward progress of the project.

That conversation got me thinking about all the little things you learn throughout the years. Here are some more to consider.
A few things experience has taught me:
• Check your code in often
• Don’t go dark for long periods of time
• Make yourself accessible
• Research everything you don’t know the meaning of
• Try new things
• Don’t get locked into legacy products
• Upgrade your development environment often
• Get a new development machine every three years
• Network with team members
• Answer every email you get, and in timely manner
• Get on Skype
• Blog often
• Re-read your emails before sending
• Let no bug survive
• Don’t be an obstruction to others
• Clear obstructions for those who work with you
• Take a vocabulary class
• Use good grammar and punctuation, not IM slang
• Decline unproductive meetings
• Produce a lot of code
• Design before you code
• Get peer feedback
• Learn to spell
• Work on communication skills
• Make a lot of friends

Got something to add? Become a contributor and add your comments below. I’d love to hear them!

Define: Fixed Duration, Fixed Units, Fixed Work

Fixed Duration: The task calendar ‘Duration’ will not change when you change the ‘Work’ or add resources.

Fixed Units: The resource percentage of work will not change when you change the task ‘Duration’ or ‘Work’ hours.
Fixed Work: The ‘Work’ hours will not change when you change the ‘Duration’ or percentage of resource work.

Double-click on a Microsoft Project task to display the dialog box below. The field we’re describing is highlighted below: ‘Task type’.

Task Properties

The default setting for ‘Task type’ is Fixed Units. That means the percentage of resource work (Example: “Buzz[50%]”) doesn’t change when you enter a new number for the work hours. For instance, if Buzz is set to work 50% of his time, changing the amount of work won’t change that. He will still work 50% of his time.

Changing the ‘Task type’ to Fixed Duration causes the Duration field to not change when you enter ‘Work’ hours.

Changing the ‘Task type’ to Fixed Work means that the Work field won’t change when you update the other two fields.