Agile is in the PMBOK so it must be true

Yesterday, I was having coffee with Jesse Fewell and we discussed, among other topics, how the PMP® or Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) credentials legitimize many in the eyes of stakeholders. This is a sore spot for many, particularly for me.  Experience and project leadership trumps a certification any day of the week.  But, for those of us who believe we know what we're talking about, a credential is sometimes a necessary evil.  As I advise a Federal PMO on a multi-year project, I have grown to accept that progress can be slow and expensive. Things can be so slow and expensive, we rarely get to see actual value delivered.  Rather, successes are measured with earned value. Sometimes, I think it's just the nature of the beast. But, it doesn't have to be that way.

You can only imagine my excitement when a vendor proposed using Agile to deliver the next (year) software increment. The PMO I advise has many PMPs but only one CSM...me.  I'm not going to go into the details of the project.  But, how could the opportunity be seized to leverage Agile?  Rather than answer that directly, I'll ask a question.  If you believe in the Agile Manifesto, how would you convince people with no experience with Agile or Scrum (but lots of experience with the PMBOK and Waterfall) that you know what you're talking about and that Agile is a viable option? I would propose that you make sure you can communicate with stakeholders in a language they understand. If you start using terms like Sprint, ScrumMaster, and Burndowns, when they understand contract periods of performance, project managers, and EVM reports, you may lose that essential stakeholder buy-in.

One of the first things I would recommend you say is "Agile is actually in the PMBOK". If your stakeholders are PMPs and they believe the dogma of the PMBOK, you'll have their attention. It's not called Agile but it is there. In Chapter 2 (Project Life Cycle and Organization) of the PMBOK, you'll read about Project Phases, specifically phase-to-phase relationships, and then even more specifically the iterative relationship.

...only one phase is planned at any given time and the planning for the next is carried out as work progresses on the current phase and deliverables.  This approach is useful in largely undefined, uncertain, or rapidly changing environments such as research , but it can reduce the ability to provide long term planning.  The scope is then managed by continuously delivering increments of the product and prioritizing requirements to minimize project risks and maximize product business value.  It also can entail having all of the project team members (e.g. designers, developers, etc.) available throughout the project or, at a minimum, for two consecutive phases.

For the Agile pundits out there, does that sound a little familiar?  For those who believe the gospel of the PMBOK, is it reasonable to believe Agile is an approach that can be considered?  Agile is not a bunch of voodoo for the wild and undisciplined.  It's an excellent opportunity to deliver value.

2 of 100 Items Missing From the PMBoK

Missing VAC FormulaVariance At Completion (VAC) is the difference between what the project was originally expected (baselined) to cost, versus what it is now expected to cost. Every month, our vendor is required to report this total on the project as a whole and on key deliverables.  I'm used to seeing the numbers reported and how to calculate them.  I'm not asking for the Cost Performance Index (CPI).  I want to know how far over or under we're going to be compared to the budget.

The formula I memorized for the PMP exam and the same formula I use to calculate VAC today is: Variance At Completion = Budget At Completion - Estimate At Completion (VAC = BAC - EAC)

So, I ask myself, [1] why is there no VAC definition and [2] VAC formula in the PMBoK?

Free Critical Path and Float Calculation Worksheet

Critical Path Float Calculation WorksheetThe number one search on the Critical Path website is for a Critical Path and Float worksheet.  Though you should be using software to calculate a critical path, if it is mission critical, it is important to understand the concept for the PMP exam. Rather then go into the specifics on how to calculate the critical path and float in this post, I'll merely say a free worksheet template  and PowerPoint presentation are available and you can download them at any time. (see links below)

Remember the Critical Path tells you the activities that can not slip a day without increasing the total duration of the project or moving the project completion date. It is the longest path of logically related activities through the network which cannot slip without impacting the total project duration, termed zero float.

[Click here to download the Critical Path and Float Calculation Worksheet]

[Click here to download the Critical Path Scheduling PowerPoint Presentation] PDF Also available in PDF

Project Duration Forecasting

I've had a subscription to a trade rag called CrossTalk (The Journal of Defense Software Engineering) for a few years now. I've read the articles but none really got my attention and kept it. In the December 2008 issue, there is an article about comparing Earned Value Management Methods to Earned Schedule. It was written by Walt Lipke of the Oklahoma City Chapter of PMI. Now that I'm working on a very large government project, this article really sparked my interest. If you're working in a government PMO or on a government project, I recommend you give it a read. The author did a really good job of using real project data and also did an excellent job comparing EVM methods to the Earned Schedule (ES) prediction technique.

If you're new to Earned Value Management or still studying for your PMP, this may make your head hurt a little. If PVcum, EVcum, and BAC are in your daily vocabulary, you'll enjoy it. Article Link

Earned Value Management (EVM)...the basics

Should all projects or programs utilize Earned Value Management? Short answer: No Long answer: The industry standard for project control systems described in American National Standards Institute (ANSI) EIA-748, Earned Value Management Systems, must be implemented on all projects with a total project cost (TPC) greater than $20M for control of project performance during the project execution phase.

Earned Value Management (EVM) is a systematic approach to the integration and measurement of cost, schedule, and technical (scope) accomplishments on a project or task. It provides both the contractee and contractor(s) the ability to objectively examine detailed schedule information, critical program and technical milestones, and cost data.

In layman's terms, it quantifies the estimated value of the work actually accomplished.