Certification Insider

Cornelius Fichtner help you with your PMP Exam Prep (https://www.project-management-prepcast.com) as well as earn free PDUs (www.pm-podcast.com/pdu). Passing the PMP Exam is tough, but keeping your PMP Certification alive is just as challenging. Preparing for the exam requires an in-depth study of the PMBOK Guide and dedicated study discipline. And once you are PMP certified, then you are required to earn 60 Professional Development Units (PDUs) every 3 years to keep your certification alive. Let me help you make this journey easier with tips and tricks on how to prepare for and pass the exam as well as efficiently earning your PDUs once you are certified.
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Recent Posts

Should I become PMP Certified or PMI-ACP Certified?

The Effectiveness of Various PMP Exam Study Techniques

Video Impressions from The 2016 PMI Global Congress in San Diego

Episode 370: Benefits Realisation for Project Managers. An Introduction.

Episode 368: How to Make Remote Work Productive

Should I become PMP Certified or PMI-ACP Certified?

An interesting question that some of my students have been asking lately is whether they should spend time studying for the PMP® Exam or concentrate on studying for the PMI-ACP® Exam. In response to this question I give one of my favorite answers as an instructor – “Well…. it depends!” You might as well ask me "Should I get a Master’s Degree in Mathematics or Physics?” Or "Should I become a Painter or a Philosopher?"

The answer to this question cannot really come from me, but it has to come from within you and depends largely on your goals, desired career path and preferences. For example, do you want to be managing a 10-Year project for SpaceX to send satellites to Jupiter? Then go for the PMP first, because we are talking serious Waterfall-based approaches. Or do you want to be working for a small startup company developing software? Then go for PMI-ACP because you need Agility. So the answer isn't "what Cornelius says", but instead "what you want and what you need". To help you determine which is a better fit for you, let’s delve into the benefits of each approach and then you can make your own educated decision.

Waterfall or Agile? – Projects and Career Path

In order to determine which certification is more important for you to obtain as a project manager really starts with the question of what type of career you are seeking in the project management field. Just like many organizations need to decide if Waterfall or Agile Project Management is the right choice for any specific project, so it is also true that an aspiring or current project managers need to decide which type of project management training and experience will help them successfully continue their project management career well into the future. The PMP is based on PMI’s PMBOK® Guide, which outlines mainly a Waterfall Project Management best practice approach to successfully executing projects, while the PMI-ACP (as well as other Agile Project Management certifications) are based on an Agile Project Management best practice approach.

Waterfall Project Management Overview

Waterfall (sometimes referred as ‘Traditional’) Project Management involves an in-depth upfront planning process and follows a linear, pre-determined project schedule over a specified period of time. Waterfall projects are typically predictable, have a definitive end date, and have explicit procedures of how projects are initiated, planned, executed, monitored and controlled, and closed (Deming's Plan-Do-Check-Act Cycle). The advantages of using the Waterfall method to manage projects is having clear expectations and meeting those expectations by achieving certain milestones. Waterfall originated in the Manufacturing industry as a result of understanding that changes in scope mid-project were usually very costly. Generally companies use Waterfall on their projects when:

  • They have executed a similar type of project previously and it is almost cookie-cutter
  • They are able to determine up front the specific project scope and requirements
  • They can fairly accurately estimate the resources, cost and work effort necessary to finish the project on budget and on time

Agile Project Management Overview

Agile Project Management is an iterative approach that helps project teams deliver the highest value work possible to the customer within a rapidly changing environment. The essential aim of Agile is to be flexible and be able to adapt to changes rather than being forced to execute against a pre-defined plan that may become obsolete as the project progresses. There is usually no definitive end date because the customer may decide at any point in the project that the functionality already delivered is sufficient for their needs. And Agile also uses Deming's Plan-Do-Check-Act Cycle. The only difference is that product components are delivered to the customer every 2-4 weeks rather than only at the end of the project, so that they can provide feedback to ensure the project team is headed in the right direction. Agile originated in the Software Development and Mobile Application industries to help companies be first to market with new and innovative products, giving them a competitive advantage. Generally companies use Agile on their projects when:

  • They do not know specifically what they want
  • They do not know how long it's going to take to produce
  • They do not know how much it will cost to produce

The Future of Waterfall and Agile Project Management

So you may be wondering what the future of both Waterfall and Agile Project Management is and what types of opportunities will be available to you as a project manager. Well I firmly believe that Waterfall will never truly go away since some of the basic principles are also used in Agile, such as decomposition, rolling wave planning, continuous improvement and process tailoring, to name a few. Aerospace, Medical Device and Government Contracting will still be alive and well for many years to come, although they are now embracing a ‘Hybrid’ Project Management approach, which allows companies to tailor their processes to a combination of the best practices of both Waterfall and Agile. However, it will be important to have your PMP certification in order to understand the basics of how these mainly traditional companies have been operating in the past.

Waterfall or Agile? – What’s Right for You?

If you decide that Agile is the career path for you then there are a few different ways you can go. The first would be once again to gain a good foundation in Waterfall by obtaining your PMP certification but also getting your PMI-ACP Certification soon after, which will provide you an  overview of Agile principles, best practices and different Agile methods. This will give you a solid background in both Waterfall and Agile Project Management methodologies that will position you nicely for the new ‘Hybrid’ approach that many companies are embracing. You can also choose to go with an organization that is new to Agile and become a champion or driving force for change across the company using Agile. And lastly, if you really want to be ‘extreme’, you can choose to seek out companies that are cutting-edge and use advanced Agile methods such as Lean Software Development, Kanban and Extreme Programming, which will require more extensive and specialized certification training outside the realm of the PMI-ACP certification.

Waterfall or Agile? – How About Both?

In my own experience I have seen that many aspiring or current project managers decide to obtain their PMP first since it is the most globally-recognized Project Management certification and is still the methodology used on the majority of projects being executed, and then obtain their PMI-ACP certification in addition to their PMP. I believe this is a good way to go because once you understand the basics of general project management by obtaining your PMP, you may start to work on a few Agile projects with your company and decide it’s a better fit for you. And bear in mind again that the majority of contemporary projects are no longer strictly ‘Waterfall-Only’ or ‘Agile-Only’. More traditional companies in the Aerospace, Medical Device and Government Contracting industries are now embracing a ‘Hybrid’ Project Management approach, which allows them to tailor their processes to a combination of the best practices of both Waterfall and Agile.

So… once again… when you ask me the question ”Should I become PMP Certified or PMI-ACP Certified?”, in the end… it depends! And it really depends on you!!!

Posted on: October 18, 2016 02:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

The Effectiveness of Various PMP Exam Study Techniques

PMP Exam PrepIf you are just beginning or are in the middle of studying for the Project Management Professional (PMP®) Exam, you probably already know that in order to pass, you need to fully understand both A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Fifth Edition, Project Management Institute, Inc. and the Project Management Institute (PMI) Code of Ethics. You have probably spent some time thinking about the many study techniques available to you. In this article, I examine four PMP Exam study techniques, their effectiveness, and some possible alternatives, you may not have considered.

Technique 1 – Reading and Highlighting / Underlining the PMBOK Guide and PMI Code of Ethics

Reading text and highlighting or underlining as we go is a technique many of us learned and used during our high school or college days, so it is a familiar technique.

Studies have found that although 84% of students at elite colleges use this technique, they have also found it to be ineffective. It is kind of a security blanket, in that it makes the student feel that they are learning, but the student is actually more focused on highlighting or underlining rather than learning the concept.

Passively reading is a great first step, so don’t discount the need to read the PMBOK Guide and PMI Code of Ethics; however, highlighting or underlining likely adds very little to your learning.

It does little to enhance understanding of the material and long term recall of the material, which makes this technique ineffective overall. 

Try to find other methods to learn about PMP concepts other than just reading, highlighting, or underlining them such as:

Be more active while reading. For example, ask yourself “why” a concept is relevant, or try to relate the concept to a real world example you can recall when it comes up on the PMP Exam.

Attend a PMP Exam Prep Course so you can hear about the concepts from an instructor and learn from others in the class.

Use other tools to learn PMP concepts such as the PM Prepcast™ or another PMP Exam prep book such as “Achieve PMP Exam Success, 5th Edition: Guide for the Busy Project Manager.”

Technique 2 – Using Flashcards

Flashcards are a compact quick use study aid that typically covers one question, formula, or tidbit of information per card. This is another technique you may be familiar with from your high school or college days.

Spreading study sessions out over time, also known as distributed practice, has been found to enhance student performance. Flashcards provide a great method to be able to spread out learning and use the distributed practice method in a controlled and flexible way. You can easily breakdown PMP concepts into smaller “bite sized” chunks to ensure you review and master the material one concept at a time. 

Flashcards have been found to be a very effective learning technique. You can pace yourself and easily use the flashcards as many times as you need in order to solidify the concepts in your mind. You can create your own from taking information out of the PMBOK Guide or other exam prep material, or purchase premade flash cards such as PMP eFlashcards.

Technique 3 – Taking Notes on the PMBOK Guide and PMI Code of Ethics

Taking notes is the act of write down important information while reading the material to be learned. This is another technique many of us have learned while in school.

Taking notes is a better technique than highlighting or underlining, but can be very time consuming. If you use this technique wisely then it can be very effective to use while reading the PMBOK Guide and PMI Code of Ethics. Be careful not to take notes that simply regurgitate information, or your learning will be adversely affected and taking notes would be similarly ineffective as highlighting or underlining.

Alternative 1 – Use Notes to Create Flashcards:
When taking notes, do it in a manner where you can hide terms and definitions easily. For example, create two columns on a single page where the left column contains the terms and the right column contains the definitions. Writing it out this way allows you to hide the definitions with one hand as you try to repeat them to yourself. Or you can leave a lot of extra white space that you can use to rewrite the concept later to “test” yourself. Then you can compare what you wrote verses the note you took. Using a notebook is not as flexible as using flashcards, but you can use any notes you take as a basis for creating your own flashcards.

Alternative 2 – Use a Brain Dump:
Create a brain dump. After reading about a concept, take a sheet of paper and write down all of the details you can recall about that topic. Don’t forget to verify that the details in your brain dump are correctly recalled and that you did not miss anything. This is an effective technique for learning a concept since you are actively filtering for the most essential information. You also end up with a way of actively recalling the information over time and most importantly you can recreate the brain dump on the day of your PMP Exam.

Technique 4 – Taking Practice Tests

Taking practice tests can include anything from testing yourself one question at a time or sitting in a quiet location and taking a full length four hour two hundred question simulated PMP Exam.

You can self-test while reading PMP related material. For example, if student A was re-reading a PMBOK Guide chapter straight through and student B hid some text from themselves purposely as they read in order to recall the information prior to revealing the text (taking a self-imposed practice test) then student B would be more likely to recall the information long term. As student B was going through the self-imposed testing, when he failed to recall information, he simply went back to re-study the concept.

Flashcards are also a form of practice tests as each card poses a test question. Flashcards are not ideal in the sense that the format of the PMP Exam is not necessarily the same as flashcards, but are still effective. If you are looking for a PMP Exam practice test that is close to the PMP Exam, look into using the PMP Exam Simulator.

Practice tests are definitely recommended and studies have shown that taking practice tests is a very effective learning technique in a wide array of situations. Self-testing as you read PMP related study material and using flashcards are both effective methods, but most effective is taking full-length timed practice PMP Exams.


Not all study techniques are equally effective. For your PMP Exam prep spend your time wisely by knowing the best study techniques. Understanding the PMBOK Guide is fundamental to preparing for the PMP Exam, so you need to read each chapter as actively as possible and learn the concepts from a variety of resources. Practice tests and distributive practice have been found to be highly effective study techniques, so consider using flashcards and exam simulators when studying for the PMP Exam. The more active rather than passive you are in your learning the better. Create meaningful and intelligent notes, and figure out your brain dump before you decide to do any highlighting.

Posted on: October 18, 2016 05:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)

Video Impressions from The 2016 PMI Global Congress in San Diego

Categories: PMI Global Congress

Here are some video impressions of the recently held PMI Congress 2016 in San Diego. Hope to see you in Chicago next year for the rebranded PMI Conference!

Click Here to Watch the Video Now: http://www.project-management-podcast.com/index.php/podcast-episodes/726-video-impressions-from-the-2016-pmi-global-congress-in-san-diego

Posted on: October 05, 2016 04:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Episode 370: Benefits Realisation for Project Managers. An Introduction.

Categories: Project Management

(Click to download MP3...)

Dave Davis

Here is the first sentence in Mark Langley’s foreword of the in-depth report Delivering Value - Focus on Benefits during Project Execution, which PMI published as part of it’s Pulse of the Profession Series:

A project is truly successful only if it delivers the benefits an organization envisions.
-Mark Langley, PMI President and CEO

At first glance this sentence is awfully obvious to us project managers. But having good and successful benefits realization management and thereby turning this statement into a reality is what makes our job so hard. And rewarding.

So what exactly are benefits realisation and benefits realisation management? Is there a benefits management process and how does all of this fit into project benefits management?

How about if I let Dave L Davis (https://www.linkedin.com/in/dldavispmp) explain it all to you? He has authored one of the articles in that Pulse of the Profession report from where I took the earlier quote. The article is titled “The Benefits Management Journey” and serves as our guide.

We’ll learn what exactly benefits realization management is, review the process of implementing it on projects, meet the people involved, and we’ll even talk about tools.

And at the very end of this episode you’ll learn that even failings project have benefits

(This interview was originally published on The Project Management Podcast.)

Posted on: September 26, 2016 12:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Episode 368: How to Make Remote Work Productive

Categories: Project Management

(Click to download MP3...)

Bruce Harpham

Does your project rely on virtual teams? If yes, then it means that working remotely is the norm for your project team members.

Are they doing their work effectively and efficiently? And even if you answered yes, there is always room for improvement, right? Good, because how to make remote work productive is our topic today.

Our interview guest is Bruce Harpham (https://ca.linkedin.com/in/bruceharpham andhttp://projectmanagementhacks.com) who has written about remote workers and how to increase all our effectiveness. He argues that working virtually is simply the reality on many projects and project teams these days.

And so in order to help us improve remote work he recommends the following four steps:

  • Evaluate your current tools
  • Review communication preferences and strengths
  • Analyze the project’s requirements
  • Adjust your communication practices

We’ll go through each of these in detail with lots of examples from his own experience.

(This interview was originally published on The Project Management Podcast.)

Posted on: September 13, 2016 02:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

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