Certified Associate Project Manager (CAPM)®

Dick Billows, PMP
Dick Billows, PMP
CEO 4pm.com
Dick’s Books on Amazon

One path for beginning your project manager career is getting the Certified Associate in Project Management CAPM® credential. This is an internationally recognized certification from the Project Management Institute (PMI)®. This credential is an effective resume-builder because you learn the language of project management and its processes, techniques, terms and definitions.  Project Manager Certifications Main Page

There is no project management experience required for this certification but you must have 23 hours of education in project management and pass a 3 hour, 150 question multiple-choice exam. The information covered by the CAPM examination represents the best practices in project management. The information covered by this exam is in the ProjectManagement Body of KnowlCAPMedge (PMBOK)®.  It includes the project management knowledge areas which are: project scope, project time, project cost, project human resources, project communications, project quality, project procurement, project risk, project integration and professionalism. You will learn all these project management knowledge areas and best practices in our CAPM Exam Prep course. You will read about the project management information and watch online lectures.  Then you’ll take CAPM practice exams and learn from explanations of the questions you missed.

The CAPM exam is administered at Prometric learning centers around the world. You must submit an application to the Project Management Institute (PMI) to be admitted to take the examination. The test is 150 multiple-choice questions and the time limit is three hours. You will find out immediately upon completing the examination if you have passed. PMI allows you to retake the exam if you did not pass.

You may also want to learn the basics of a proven methodology with practical tools and techniques for managing projects in a particular industry like IT, construction, healthcare, consulting or general business. These courses include practice on an industry-specific project case study and step-by-step instructions for using project management software. Take a look at the basics course in your specialty.

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Project Management Certifications

Project Management Certifications: Functional and Specialty

Dick Billows, PMP
Dick Billows, PMP
CEO 4pm.com
Dick’s Books on Amazon

You can earn Project Management Certifications in functional and specialty areas in addition to the certifications offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI)® and PRINCE2®. Project managers should include those options in planning their career skills and credentials for advancement.

Project Management Certifications: What Functional and Specialty Certifications are Available?

Project managers can add practical hands-on skills in planning, scheduling, estimating and risk management tailored to their specialty area such as IT, construction, healthcare, business/marketing, and consulting. These programs allow you to add those skills within the framework of your industry specialty so the learning is relevant to the kind of projects you manage. Employers value the practical, real world, hands-on knowledge these certifications provide because your capabilities deliver significant payback on their projects.

These functional and specialty Project Management Certifications also add soft skills in leadership, communications, making presentations and influencing decision-makers. These are not skills that you gain by learning definitions for a multiple-choice exam. The soft skills are best learned in environments where you actually apply the skills in live simulations with your instructor and get feedback on what you do well and what you need to do better. What is particularly effective is video feedback in a simulated meeting with a team member who is not performing well. You’re able to interact with that employee live and in real time. This is accomplished with role-playing instructors who play the role of the poor performing employee. They give you a video of your simulation and feedback on how you handled the interaction. This experiential learning with hands-on coaching is the way to gain expertise and confidence in these communication and presentation techniques.

Project Management Certifications: When Should I Gain Functional and Specialty Certifications?

Planning your career properly requires you to include:

  • Earning the multiple-choice based credentials from (PMI)® or PRINCE2® project manager certifications
  • Adding hands-on skills in scheduling, estimating, risk management, etc.
  • Improving your leadership, presentation skills and ability to influence and persuade people.

It’s helpful to divide your career into a number of stages and pursue the appropriate Project Management Certifications for each stage.

Project Management Certifications: Getting a Job in Project Management

Entering the project management profession is difficult when you have no experience. One credential that can enliven an otherwise dull resume is functional training in areas like scheduling, project management software, budgeting and status reporting. Those are time-consuming tasks for project managers. People with training in those skills, but no actual PM work experience, may be able to join a project management team. Beginner project management certifications give you both the practical skills in the above areas and a credential to add to your resume. They may open the door into project management. There are number of certifications that open the door into an assistant project manager or project coordinator position.

Project Management Certifications: Your First Project Management Job

Once you’ve opened the door into project management with a position on the project management team, your next career step is managing projects on your own. To prepare you for that and give you a credential to secure that opportunity there are number of basic Project Management Certifications in specialty areas like IT, construction, healthcare, business/marketing, and consulting. These certifications do not have the substantial experience requirements of PMI and PRINCE2 certifications. You can earn these certifications in your first year or two working in the project management profession. This first certification is a credibility builder because it is relevant to a particular specialty. If your skills and this credential lead to managing small projects, your PM career is on its way.

Project Management Certifications: Moving Up to Larger and More Complex Projects

When your successes on smaller projects create the opportunity to move up to larger more complex projects (and more compensation,) you may need to add an advanced Project Management Certification. These are particularly relevant in specialty areas like IT, construction, healthcare, business/ marketing etc. These advanced certifications give you sophisticated tools for estimating costs and duration, analyzing risks, managing stakeholders, leading large teams, and making presentations to executives with advanced tracking and status reporting.

Project Management Certifications: The Multiple-Choice Certification

The next step is probably earning a certification from the Project Management Institute (the PMP)® or PRINCE2®. They require 3 to 5 years of experience managing projects. These certifications may not add practical skills but they are certainly credibility builders within your organization and when you’re searching for a new job. At this point in your career, you have a substantial amount of experience, but to earn these certifications, you need to forget most of it. The multiple-choice exams are academic and focused on knowing the detailed steps in a formal project management process. However, the investment of time and effort in gaining these certifications is worthwhile for many people.

Project Management Certifications: Managing Multiple Projects and Portfolios

The final project management career step before you move into an executive management position is to manage multiple projects, programs and portfolios. This requires many new skills beyond those you acquired in managing large projects. You’ll need training for allocating resources across multiple projects based on priorities that you’ve helped the executives establish. The political, communication and presentation requirements for effective multi-project management are substantial. There are Project Management Certifications that give you the practical skills for transition into this highest level of project management.

Project Phases – Video

Dick Billows, PMP
Dick Billows, PMP
CEO 4pm.com
Dick’s Books on Amazon

Managing a project is a sequence of steps that are called the project phases. This is not to say that there aren’t surprises and it certainly doesn’t mean there’s only one thing happening at a time. But there are identifiable project phases that are planned and executed. The project manager and sponsor must reach agreement on which phases are going to be used on each project and how much time and money will be invested in each phase. One size of project management does not fit all projects. As we discuss the project phases, we’ll talk about what phases you can do for two types of projects: a small project done within a department and a larger project done for a customer or client.


Real-world Project Management: Assessment and Feasibility

Project Phases – Initiation Steps: SOW and Charter

When we initiate a project, we begin the planning process. That’s where we identify what the project should produce. The project sponsor usually initiates the project with a document called a statement of work or SOW. That document gives the project manager information about what end result the sponsor wants from the project. Then the project manager will meet with the sponsor and talk about the deliverables the project has to produce. The major deliverable is the project scope and that’s the business result the project sponsor wants. Even on a small project, during the initiation phase the sponsor and the project manager will identify the major deliverables that will lead them from where they are now to the major deliverable, the project scope.

Let’s start the discussion with a small project example. All the work may be done within one department where the project manager works for the department manager who is the project sponsor and the boss of all the project team members. The sponsor will create the SOW and then work with the project manager to define the major deliverables. Then they might go straight to developing the project charter which is the final step of the initiation phase. The charter lays out the scope and deliverables, the resources required and the risks that have to be managed. It also gives rough estimates of the project’s budget and duration. That might be all that’s needed to initiate a small project.

On a larger project, one done for a client for example, there may be many more steps in the initiation phase. The organization in which the project is being performed may require a feasibility study to document the likelihood of success and the costs and resources required. Before granting initial project approval, the organization may require a formal business case which documents the return on investment, the cost/benefit analysis and the payback of the proposed project. The project manager might begin the process of identifying stakeholders and their requirements during initiation. They will use that information to analyze the project’s scope as well as the high-level risks. As the scale and importance of the project increases, the initiation phase changes to an effort that may require weeks of effort by a team of people. Even on a large project the initiation phase ends with the charter, just like the small project. The charter is going to be longer and contain a lot more data but it is the document that, when approved, authorizes the sponsor and project manager to begin detailed planning of the project.

Project Phases – Planning Steps: Management Plans, Schedules, Budgets and Risks

After the charter is approved by the sponsor or by the organization, the project planning phase begins. It includes two kinds of plans. The project manager prepares project management plans. These plans tell the team and the sponsor how they will manage the project scope, schedule, cost and budgets, procurement, risk, human resources, quality, stakeholders and change control.

On small projects, some of these management plans may only state, “We are not going to track costs and budgets on this project because the costs are included in the department budget.” That is a totally adequate small project management plan for costs. The management plans specify what specific techniques we will use to manage each of the above areas, who will be accountable for the management and control process and how much resource we will use. The reason this approach is a best practice is because when we start executing the project plan, all the decisions have been made and we can focus on executing as efficiently as possible. The overall project management plan includes specific plans like the project schedule and also the project management plans for schedule which tells us how were going to manage the schedule. The project planning phase tells everyone what they are supposed to do, how they are supposed to do it and when we will begin to execute the plan.

Project Phases – Executing the Plan Steps

The executing phase of a project is where all the work gets done, all the money gets spent and all the tasks get completed to produce the deliverables. If the project manager has done his or her job correctly, it is a fairly straightforward process because people follow the plans and execute them.  The risks that the project faces have been mitigated or avoided and other problems have been corrected as they occurred.  The executing phase should be boring.

Project Phases – Monitoring, Controlling and Managing Change Request Steps

The monitoring phase of the project happens at the same time as the executing phase. Every week the project manager compares what the project team produced versus what was planned. Any differences between the plan and actual results are variances. The project manager reports the variances between plan and actual in a weekly status report to the project sponsor. In that report, the project manager details what is happening on the project and provides a sponsor with forecasts of when the project will be finished and what the actual costs will be. If things are not going according to plan, the project manager will also prepare plans to fix the problems and bring the project back into alignment with its plan. Hopefully the sponsor approves these corrective actions and the project manager implements them. The goal is to deliver what was planned; no more and no less.

Controlling the project is the second half of this phase or project step. The project manager is handling requests for changes to the promised deliverables and the project plan. The purpose of change control is not to prevent all changes. The project manager must carefully analyze every change request and its impact on the project budget, duration, risk, quality and resources. The project manager analyzes every requested change and quantifies the impact on the project budget and duration. They should make a specific recommendation for every change request and then forward it to the sponsor. The project manager wants to get the sponsor’s approval of the budget and time required to complete the project including the requested changes. When this process is not in place, the project suffers from scope creep. That’s where the deliverables expand and change over time without any adjustment in the project budget or duration. Scope creep causes significant variances to the plan because of changes to the scope and deliverables. It is a major source of project failure.

Project Phases – Closing Steps

When the last deliverable is produced and accepted by the project sponsor and stakeholders, the final step is project closeout. The project manager makes sure all the vendors are paid and all deliverables are formally accepted by the appropriate stakeholders. But the primary purpose of closeout is to make future projects more successful. As part of the closing routine, the project manager conducts a lessons learned meeting with the sponsor, stakeholders and team members. They discuss what went well and what did not as well as how problems should be handled differently next time. The project manager archives those lessons learned meeting notes so that project managers who start a similar project have the benefit of the lessons that were learned from the current project. The archive for a completed project should include the management plans that were developed for the project as well as the schedule, budget, change requests, plus the estimated and the actual costs and hours worth of work. This latter data makes the estimating of a new project much much easier. With all that work completed, the project manager is ready for a new assignment.

Project Management Career – Video

There are five distinct project management career steps. The process starts with becoming a  project manager. This can be as simple as being in the right place at the right time. What I mean is that you’re an effective and valued individual contributor in your organization and someone in management taps you to run a project. When you do well, your project management career is launched. Project Management Careers Main Page

Dick Billows, PMP
Dick Billows, PMP
CEO 4pm.com

Other people carefully prepare themselves with training in the tools and techniques of project management. They use their credential to gain entry as an assistant or associate project manager. Once they have the job, good performance drives their career. They will be actively involved in planning projects, gathering requirements, developing schedules and tracking actual performance against the plan. On-the-job training can teach you a lot of that, but it’s also wise to take a course in the fundamentals of project management. You’ll learn techniques and a proven methodology that you can repeat on every project.


Steps in a Project Manager Career

The next project management career step is moving up to a full-fledged project manager position. A functional or specialty certification is very valuable during your first or second year in project management. That certification gives you proven techniques for doing the things you may have been doing by guess work. These functional or specialty certifications also teach you some of the unique project management techniques required in information technology, construction, healthcare, consulting and general business projects.

project management careerWith your industry specialty certification, you are positioned for the next career step which is getting a higher-paying position to manage larger projects. After three years working in your profession, you probably have
sufficient project manager hours to qualify for the Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification. To earn that certification from the Project Management Institute (PMI), you need to document your project manager work experience and project management training classes and then pass a difficult 4-hour examination.

You can earn a certification in your project management specialty area: IT, construction, healthcare, business  consulting.  Then earn the PMP certification from the Project Management Institute (PMI) as you move up to senior project manger and program manger.


Project Manager Certification

Dick Billows, PMP
Dick Billows, PMP
CEO 4pm.com

Earning a project manager certification is one of the paths into a project management career. It can lead to the upper levels of project, program and portfolio management.

Getting into project management for people with a some experience is easier if you have earned your first project management certification. That certification could be in a specific industry or in a functional specialty. Those certification programs give you basic skills for small projects and build on them by adding advanced techniques in estimating, risk management, planning with executives, tracking and status reporting. The better programs also give you training and practice in making effective presentations, leading meetings and communicating clearly with stakeholders and your team members. The Project Management Institute offers two certifications: the PMP for experienced PMs and the CAPM for beginners.

Specialty certification programs are available in areas such as:
IT Project Manager Certification In addition to basic and advanced project management tools and techniques, these programs give you the skills to use different systems development methodologies, like Agile and Waterfall,and select the correct one for each systems development project. They also focus on how to manage the users’ expectations.

Construction Project Manager Certification In addition to the basic and advanced project management tools and skills, these programs place special emphasis on accurate estimating, building customer/owner relationships and the intricacies of dealing with subcontractorsProject Manager Certification on your project. There’s also a strong emphasis on managing risk and change orders which are critical elements in construction project profitability.

Healthcare Project Manager Certification In addition to the basic and advanced techniques and tools, these certifications focus on dealing with the unique organizational issues in the healthcare environment. They teach you how to work with both the administrative departments and the medical staff of the healthcare institution. You learn how to build effective teams across those functional lines.

Business Project Manager Certification In addition to the basic and advanced project management tools, these programs focus on integrating different functional areas into a high-performance project team. You learn how to build project plans and effective teams that integrate the efforts of information systems, marketing, sales and operations. Each of these areas have a unique perspective on the projects.

Client Project Manager Certification – These certifications not only give you the basic and advanced techniques but also teach you how to sell engagements to clients, manage their expectations, and finish a project on time, making a profit and having a happy client. There is a major focus on handling change orders profitably while maintaining client satisfaction.
These certifications are valuable credibility-builders within your organization and when seeking a new project manager job.

You learn all of those skills in our project management basics courses. Take a look at the basics course in your specialty and start to earn your certification.

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The Project Plan Is Missing

Dick Billows, PMP
Dick Billows, PMP
CEO 4pm.com

The company VP flew you across the county to take over a project the describes to you on the phone as “troubled.”  You arrive at the branch facility where the whole team is waiting for you in the Board Room.  The EVP a 300 pounder gives you a big hug and turns to the team and says, “This PM is a winner who’s going to led us to  the finish line by the end of October or die trying.”

You scan the group and see team members smirking and averting the eyes from your glance…You turn back and see the VP picking up his garment bag and briefcase saying, “Well, I’m off to tour those Southeast Asian offices.  See you at Thanksgiving”

You reach for his elbow saying, “But we need to discuss the project scope and the project plan.”

The VP jerks his elbow out of your grip and bolts out the door saying, “The paperwork’s all done, look at those note books.” The EVP points behind you and you look to see seven 4″ thick notebooks. on the table.

As you walk toward the table, a team member says, “You won’t find a plan or a schedule or a scope in those books.  We don’t have a plan.”

You whirl around.  The VP is gone and the corridor is empty with no sign of him.

A team member with a long pony-tall and beard says, “Those books ain’t nothing but our weekly to do lists.  We each get one Sunday night.”

You face the 19 team members in the room and say, “Without a plan we will fail.”

The team members all nod back to you and each other. Pony tail said, “Ohhh, we are.” The team members all laughed agreement.

You say, “To fix this, we need to begin with the scope.  Who started this project, the VP we last saw running down the hall?

Pony tale said, “Nope he takes orders, he doesn’t give them. It was the EVP who gave all the execs the bejebbers about our customer service.  Consumer Reports. The hippo was just the last VP standing when the music stopped. So he’s the king of “World Class Customer Service – WCCS.”

You said, “OK, that’s the name now what are we doing to reach WCCS.”

Ponytail said,”Basically everything. System, procedures, training remodeling, hiring.   An exec wants something done, He just says we need this for WCCS.  The Hippo says, “Add it, just get done by October 30.”

You say, “Any chance we’ll have WCCS by October.”

The team members all thought that was hilarious.  One yelled, “What year?”

The laughing abruptly stopped when you said, “I’ll go see the EVP and get the scope defined by him.”

pony tail said, “That’s suicide man!  He thinks his instructions were clear but all he said was WCCS  by October.”

You answered, “No one ever got fired for asking questions.”

“Oh yes, happens all the time here.”

You walked out the door and looked up the EVP office in the directory by the elevator. It was located on the top floor with a cluster of assistant’s offices.

It has happened to best of us, and it can happen at any moment. All of a sudden, you are in the middle of a project from hell, and you have no plan, literally. Maybe you started of with a sound project plan, but for whatever reason, it became obsolete.Or the plan was never updated, and has become useless. You have lost your compass, people do something for some reason, and it seems that nothing is moving anymore. I have been there. Just recently. Main Project Planning Page

Today, I want to share with you a couple of ideas and lessons learned on how to turn a situation like that around. Let me encourage you: It is hard, but it is possible.

What If You Have No Project Plan – Get the big picture back first

First of all, you need to get the big picture back into focus. What is the actual objective of your project, aka, where do you want to be when the project is done. Make it visual if you can, but make sure that people get back to that point of agreement to the scope.

A small plan is better than no plan

If your original project plan has become totally obsolete, or if you never had an actual plan (don’t be ashamed, we all know how reality sometimes work), you are in dangerous waters. However, if you are in the middle of the project with deadlines approaching, you might not have the time to re-plan your initiative. So, what can you do? Start with a weekly plan. Pick any combination of low hanging fruits or approaching deadlines that directly support the overall objective, and sit together with your team to define what has to be done next week to get there. This will do two things: First, you will identify short term objectives and give people clear instructions on what to do over the next couple of days. Second, you will identify tasks that take longer than a business week, which will be a first contribution in developing a full project plan while implementing the initiative.

Next, schedule a status briefing every week. In this meeting, you’ll follow up on the short term tasks and define the objectives for the next week. This should not be a day long meeting. An hour should be plenty. As you develop more and more tasks, you can start scheduling objectives for the next two weeks and beyond in addition to the short term goals.

The strategy here is to increase the plan horizon while not loosing sight of what has to be done immediately. After a while, you will have produced a new project plan, and you will have gained back control.

Bring back change control

Most likely, your project went down to hell because of scope creep. Oftentimes, this little devil is the root cause for all sorts of problems. Hence, you must implement rigorous change control. Don’t forget: The objective of change control is not to block every change. Change control’s main objective is to keep the initial scope in tact while not ignoring the fact that changes can occur.

If you follow these three tips, you should be able to steer your project out of hell and back into warm waters.