PMPĀ© Exam Changes 2016

07 December, 2015

The Project Management Institute has changed its Examination Content Outline for the Project Management Professional (PMP)© exam. On the surface, this looks like a massive change – most of the tasks listed have been reworded and new ones have been added. According to the Institute, some 25% of the exam questions are going to change when this is rolled out on the 12th of January 2016.

As you can imagine, this news is very disturbing to Registered Education Providers, such as Velopi. Our Blended Learning Solution includes simulated exams and we need to ensure that these provide adequate preparation for the real thing. So we turned very pale as we compared the original Examination Content Outline with the revised one. Then we calmed down a bit, because it became clear that most of the new wording just brings the Examination Content Outline into line with the terminology used in the fifth edition of the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK© Guide).

For instance, under “Planning”, the existing task 2 is:

“Create the work breakdown structure with the team by deconstructing the scope, in order to manage the scope of the project.”

This has been changed to:

“Develop a scope management plan, based on the approved project scope and using scope management techniques, in order to define, maintain, and manage the scope of the project.”

Back in the fourth edition of the PMBOK© Guide, we did not have a Scope Management Plan, so Project Managers were expected to manage the scope based on the WBS. However, developing the Scope Management Plan is a new process in the Project Scope Management area and the Examination Content Outline has been revised to reflect that.

Similarly, we see under “Executing”:

“Obtain and manage project resources including outsourced deliverables by following the procurement plan, in order to ensure successful project execution.”

However, this clearly assumes that we acquire all our human resources externally. So the revised version of this task makes perfect sense:

“Acquire and manage project resources by following the human resource and procurement management plans in order to meet project requirements.”

If you are comfortable with the 47 project management processes and know what they entail, you have nothing to fear from this rewording. However, you may be more concerned about the new tasks introduced. There are eight in total, listed in the following table:

The really interesting developments happen under the “Initiating” heading. In the old days, we took the view that in the beginning there was the project charter and project management began from there. Now project managers need to have a clearer idea of where projects come from. They need to be aware of the organization’s strategic goals and objectives and understand how projects are change agents, required to move the organization in the desired direction.

The first new task – identifying key deliverables makes sense. Deliverables are usually used to drive the work breakdown structure we use in scoping. However, deliverables are also an effective way of conveying to stakeholders the purpose of the project. The second new task, however, involves some unfamiliar ground.

We need to understand “benefit analysis” and “project alignment with organizational strategy”. These terms are familiar to Program Managers, but may not be in widespread use among Project Managers.

Project Managers tend to think in terms of deliverables. This project will produce a particular product, service and result and our role is to make this happen within budget and on schedule. However, those higher up in the food chain do not perceive projects like that. They think in terms of outcomes and benefits. For instance, if you are developing the next generation computerized lathe, the outcome of your project is not a machine; it is a more saleable product offering. Its benefits could be a means of breaking into new markets, or simply maintaining existing market share.

Remember that the Project Sponsor and those who decided to give the project the go ahead are not worried about the details of the products, services or results your projects generate; they are concerned with ways of improving the bottom line, attracting more customers or keeping costs down. If, as the Project Manager, you understand that your new product needs to boost sales then your team can focus on ways of differentiating the new one from the old – addressing customer complaints for instance, or including exciting new technology. Your efforts should be to provide a product that will sell better, not necessarily be better. In other words, listen to your customers, your sales people and study the competition. Your goal is to make something that is easier to sell. So if your customers are complaining that the existing product takes up too much space for instance, then developing a smaller footprint should be a priority. Similarly, if no one is complaining about the product’s power consumption, it is unlikely that a more energy efficient product will achieve the goal of more sales.

The remaining new tasks mainly involve reference to the various planning documents. This should not upset anyone familiar with the PMBOK© Guide’s planning processes. However, watch out for the lessons learned addition under “Monitoring and Controlling”. The Institute is now keen that lessons are learned and acted upon during the course of the project and not simply at the end.

By Velopi Seamus Collins

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