Thursday, August 28, 2014

'Formula Bar' and 'Entry Bar' - Two Different Functionalities in MS Project, Not Same!


Takeaway – Frequently entry bar and formula bar are considered to be same, whereas they are completely two different functionalities in MS Project 2013. Both serve different purposes and are differently enabled in MS Project. While on former, many articles you would find on the web or other publication, the latter remains a relatively unknown item. In this post, both will be explored.

In many articles, journals and even by professionals on MS Project, you would find that Entry bar is frequently considered to be the Formula bar. They are not same! Formula Bar is a separate command available in MS Project 2013 (and also in MS Project 2010). As Entry bar looks like the Formula Bar in MS Excel and provides some functionalities of it, there is interest in finding out this bar. But, it is NOT same as the Formula Bar. Let us see.

Entry Bar in Project 2013/2010/2007:

Entry bar is long available in Microsoft Project.  As the name suggests, entry in cell of a table can be given through this bar. You can edit the contents of a selected cell in the entry bar. This gives you the functionality of a popular shortcut key – "F2", which is to edit the content of the cell. 

By default, Entry bar is not enabled in Project 2013. You have to enable it. For that: Go to File (Backstage View) – Options – Display – 'Show these elements' and enable the “Entry bar”.

Enabling Entry Bar in MS Project 2013

After you enable, it will be available below the Ribbon in MS Project. 
Entry Bar in Project 2013 - Below the Ribbon
You can enter texts in the Task Sheet below and can edit/delete it – like you do in Excel. 

How does it happen for MS Project 2010?It is similar to that of MS Project 2013. It is available under File – Options – Display – 'Show these Elements' – and then enable "Entry bar".

How about MS Project 2007? MS Project does not have the Ribbon or Backstage view concept. It is available under Tools – Option from the menu list.  Then go to the View tab in the Options dialog box.

Enabling Entry Bar in MS Project 2007

Above, left side is for selection of Option from Tools menu and right side is for enabling in the View tab. It will be shown in MS Project 2007 just below the menu options, as Project 2007 does not have a ribbon concept.

Entry Bar in Project 2007 - Below the Menus
Now let us get to Formula Bar. This is where it gets interesting. As mentioned before, it is not same as Entry Bar, but many say so!

Formula Bar in Project 2013/2010:

Formula Bar again is not available in the Ribbon by default in MS Project. However, it is one of the commands which can be added to your Ribbon or Quick Access Toolbar (QAT). Note that I have mentioned Formula Bar is available as a command – like other commands that are available in various Groups under multiple Tabs of the Ribbon,e.g., Indent, Outdent, Link, Unlink etc.

For this post, I am going to add the Formula Bar command to the QAT, not the ribbon, though that too can be done. And we will see shortly – it is a great utility. 

Go back to again File (Backstage View) – Options – Quick Access Toolbar. Now, select “Commands Not in the Ribbon” from “Choose commands from:” drop down menu. 

Formula Bar from the List of Commands - Project 2013
Now, scroll down the list of commands and select the “Formula bar” command. Add this command through “Add>>” button available as shown. And then click “OK” below in the dialog box.

Adding the Formula Bar to QAT in Project 2013
Once you do that, it will be available as an icon in your QAT as shown below. 

Formula Bar in QAT; Entry Bar Below the Ribbon - Project 2013
That is it. You are done. As you can see, both Entry Bar and Command Bar are now available for your view in MS Project 2013 and they are NOT same. So, what is the utility of Formula Bar?

Just click on it. It will launch "Options" directly! You do not have to go to Backstage view and then select option – anytime you want to make any global change. Is not that a great utility – to directly access Options in place of going through multiple clicks?

Now, how does it happen in MS Project 2010? It is quite similar to MS Project 2013. You have follow the same steps as mentioned above and you will have an icon in your QAT (or if you want to have it in your ribbon). It will look the one as shown below.

Formula Bar in QAT - MS Project 2010

Sunday, August 24, 2014

PMP Success Story: Only Winning Strategy - Have Thorough Understanding of All Concepts and Process Interactions



Ratnakar Baggi prepared on PMBOK 4th edition, but had to postpone his exam preparation due to personal commitments. Finally, he had to give the exam on PMBOK 5th edition. Though it has been over 16 months, I remember that he was one of the most active participants – a keen listener throughout, worked hands on, asked a number of questions on conceptual understanding - while preparing. When the coaching was conducted, I talked about the changes in 5th Edition, which was also then available, so that candidates can be prepare and give exam in either of the two editions.


It is not that easy – moving from PMBOK 4th edition to 5th edition – and getting certified. There are substantial differences between 4th and 5th edition. However, Ratnakar made it happen and is a proud PMP today.


Below, Ratnakar shares his learning experience in a unique way – or shall I say the PMI way. He prepared as a project management professional would and should do, i.e., via IPECC - Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring and Controlling, and finally Closing, which as he has noted “in the true spirit of a PMP certified professional”.

Go on and read his unique experience.


*****
Dear all:

It is my immense pleasure to share my experiences and learning from my PMP journey. Last year I was thrilled to successfully pass the PMP examination on my first attempt. In the true spirit of PMP certified professional I would like to elaborate my journey from the standpoint of the 5 process areas of the PMBOK framework.  

Initiating

In Jan 2013 I decided to take up formal PMP certification after many years of on-the-job experience as a project manager in different organizations.  There were two main motivating factors for this late decision: 
  1. To understand the PMBOK framework as espoused in theory and how could it be mapped and applied to practical situations on the day to day project execution. 
  2. To add the ‘PMP certification’ feather to my cap since it was one of the most sought after qualifications to apply for project management job positions.
Once I made up my mind I enrolled for the 35 hours PDU program in April 2013.

Planning

It is mandatory to attend 35 hours contact session to gain the pre-requisite number of PDUs to appear for the PMP exam. This contact session was spread over 2 weekends and conducted by Mr. Satya Narayan Dash. Mr. Satya is extremely thorough and passionate about the subject. We could grasp the fundamental concepts quickly through his interactive style and interesting analogies to real life situations. He was remarkable in giving individual attention and identifying gaps in our understanding which he could address effortlessly. He took care to stress upon the various process interactions and Inputs, Tools, Techniques, Outputs (ITTO). Never once did I feel bored or lackluster during these sessions.    

The assessment exercises and quiz questions at the end of each Knowledge Area helped us internalize the key terms and techniques. Satya could make us recall all the Process Groups, Knowledge Areas and processes and the most important ITTO. Never before had I assimilated so much knowledge and confidence from any training session. Full credit is due to Mr. Satya for his guidance and coaching.  

Executing

My first impression after the mandatory sessions was that the PMBOK framework was anything but closer to the real life project management experience. Hence one cannot rely on one’s project management experience alone to crack the examination. It required thorough text book preparation. It is also extremely important to prepare and write the examination soon after the 35 hour PDU session so that one’s memory is fresh and mindset is right. However due to personal commitments I had to wait till August to start my preparation. The examination was now based on PMP Fifth Edition instead of the Fourth Edition which I attended in Satya’s class. Undeterred I started my preparation in right earnest by first re-reading the classroom material and concepts three times over and over. Next I approached two primary reference books by Rita Mulcahy and Andy Crowe apart from the PMBOK handbook. My strategy is to focus on couple of reference material and not spread myself across too many books. Both the books make excellent reading and very helpful.

Monitoring and Control

The last one week before the exam is crucial period that should be invested in recap of all concepts and practice as many tests as possible for better evaluation for one’s preparedness for the main exam. Anyone who ignores this critical step can do so at his/her own risk of failing the exam. My target was to score at least 85% in the mock tests/quizzes available online and in the reference books in order to feel confident. The Andy Crowe book comes with access to Velociteach web site where I completed full length examinations. These mock tests also gave an insight to the actual exam experience which could help me to formulate my own strategy for the D-day.  

Closing

Finally 12th October 2013 arrived when I found myself at the Prometric centre at Domlur. During the initial 15 mins of being seated in front of the computer screen I noted down the entire process framework on the rough sheet for ready reference. I ensured that I made a first pass through entire question set in the first 3 hours, answered the easy ones and those I was absolutely sure of and marked few questions that I wanted to attempt later or review my answers. In the last one hour I completed my responses to all marked questions. Few questions were very lengthy but the answers were straightforward and few others were tricky and confusing. The only winning strategy is to have thorough understanding of all concepts and process interactions to achieve success. At the end of four hours and few minutes I was relieved and ecstatic to see pass result flash on my screen!

I wish all future aspirants the best of luck.

-- Ratnakar Baggi, Technical Manager, Alcatel Lucent

*****

Brief Profile: Ratnakar Baggi is a senior management professional and has years of project, program, and technical management experience in IT industry. He is a Bachelor of Engineering from National Institute of Technology, Karnataka and a Master in Business Administration from ICFAI Business School, Bangalore. Currently he works as a Technical Manager with Alcatel Lucent, Bangalore, India. His online PMP profile is available at PMI Online Credential Registry. 


After getting certified on PMP, Ratnakar informed me via Twitter. It was indeed a great pleasure to be able to help in his journey in getting PMP. 

I am thankful to Ratnakar for sharing his unique experience on PMP exam – preparing earnestly, not loosing focus on his goal even when it transitioned from 4th Edition to 5th Edition of PMBOK and above all, coming out certified in one of toughest certification programs on management. I believe his experience will guide others in their quest for PMP. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

How Agile are India's States and Cities?


While there are many programs available for professional Agile courses from various alliances, PMI's Agile Certified Practitioner program stands out by its sheer depth and breadth - covering aspects on XP, Kanban, DSDM, Lean, TDD/ATDD and of course the most used one - Scrum. Also, while other programs are easily done in less than a week (and sometimes even in a day or two), PMI-ACP demands quite a thorough understanding on Agile related practices and needs months of rigorous preparation.  

In this post I am focusing on PMI-ACP to check on Agility of Indian states and cities, though there are many other programs available specific to certain practices, e.g. Scrum. There is a projected future growth based on past trends. The data taken is from PMI's website as on 18th August, 2014. The total number of PMI-ACP professionals in India stands at 770. 

Chart # 1:  Top 10 States with PMI-ACP Professionals



Interpretation:
Karnataka is clearly the leader closely followed by Andhra Pradesh. But, does it mean all cities and towns in Karnataka are equally into it? Not really! Looking only at a state can be misleading as few regions in that state drive the growth. Let us look at the Chart 2.

Chart # 2:  Top 10 Regions with PMI-ACP Professionals

Here the New Capital Region(NCR) is taken as one. However, Delhi/New Delhi region has been kept out from NCR.



Interpretation:
  • Clearly Bangalore is the leader in this aspect with Hyderabad as close second. 
  • It is interesting to note that one region has been developed in most of the states and driving the growth. 
    • Only Maharasta, has two regions coming up with significant numbers, i.e., Pune and Mumbai.
But again, regions can be misleading, too!  Say for example - NCR, which is vast and covers multiple states and thousands of square kilometers - includes Gurgaon,Karnal of Haryana, Noida,Meeurt and Ghaziabad of Uttar Pradesh (UP) and so on. Similarly Bhubaneswar has been combined with Cuttack as near by cities in Odisha and Hyderabad has been combined with Secunderabad for Andhra. So, let us check on individual cities as the correct picture will come from cities. 

Chart # 3:  Top 10 Cities with PMI-ACP Professionals



Interpretation: 
  • Bangalore again leads here with a clear majority.
  • Professional strength from Bangalore is higher than combined one of Mumbai, Delhi, Noida, Gurgaon, Ghaziabad, Secunderabad (and also if you add Kolkata)!
  • Four cities - Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai and Pune - are fueling the growth
  • Hyderabad is very close, next only to Bangalore, which is a surprise for me personally.
  • Other than Bangalore, only Belgaum has one ACP professional in the list from Karnataka. Other cities like Mysore or Mangalore do not figure in the list.
  • Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Tamilnadu and Maharastra has a number of cities/towns coming in the list, which is unlike Karnataka.

Chart # 4: The Pie Chart of State Distribution


Interpretation: 
  • Karnataka has 28% which is almost driven only by Bangalore
  • Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh (driven primarily by Hyderabad) together has over 50% professionals of India!
  • Karnataka,Andhra Pradesh, Tamilnadu and Maharastra have over 80% ACP professionals of India 
However, in other states of India, this program is also being adopted. The next chart shows the list.

Chart # 5: The Complete State Pivot List



Interpretation: 
  • Good to see states like Jammu and Kashmir along with Assam have figured in the list which have been in turmoil for years due to insurgency 
  • Signal strengths super imposed on the color coded cells show the positive, negative or static trends across the states

Chart # 6: Trends Across Cities


Note that the data for 2014 is till August 18. For year 2011, only the months of November and December are applicable, as ACP program was launched during that time period.

Interpretation: 

  • Chennai went ahead of Pune in 2013 and is expected to be at No. 3 by end of this year
  • Mumbai and Delhi have seen almost same pattern of growth
  • Bangalore - a city that attracts professionals from all over India - will continue to be No.1 in 2014.

Chart #7: Overall Trend in India 


Note that the data for 2014 is till August 18. For year 2011, only the months of November and December are applicable, as ACP program was launched during that time period.
Interpretation: 
  • Based on last 3 years and data till August, 2014, the number is set to cross 350 by end of 2014 and likely to be in the range of 350 to 400.
    • The R square value is 0.82, which is close to 1 and fits the pattern.  
Based only on last 3 years, i.e., excluding year 2014, the number is expected to cross well over 400. It is not in the above graph. However, as the R square value is found to be 0.99, it can not be ignored.


Friday, August 08, 2014

Five Important Tips - Setting Up MS Project 2013


When you start to work with MS Project for the first time and create your project, it helps to have some settings, which will prove useful in later stages. During various phases of the project - planning, executing and controlling - if you have already set them up, they will come in quite handy.

As a matter of fact, these setting are frequently missed by Project Managers when they work with MS Project - sometimes even by senior managers. These options are not difficult to set, but very easy to forget when you are scheduling a project or a group of projects. And it comes back to haunt. 

All the below settings are done in "Backstage View" (or the "File tab" under the "Ribbon").  There are a number of important settings that can be done, not only from the "Backstage view - Options", which are plenty, but also in other aspects of the project in a local manner. However, for this post, I have taken five out of them, which are mostly missed by managers. 

Tip # 1: Enable Project Information for New Projects

This is the 1st step every project manager should take up. But, as I have seen, it is mostly missed! To add to the woes, it is one of the most critical ones, if you are starting off on a new project or hitting the ground while running.

Project Info Dialog box gives vital information on Project Start Date, Finish Date, Status Date, Scheduling from Start/End and Calendar. More importantly gives information on vital Project statistics such as Start and Finish Dates, Duration, Work and Cost - the must have information for any project manager.

To enable it go to Backstage view: "File - Options - Advanced - General" and select "Prompt for project info for new projects" check box, as shown below.


Enable Project Information
If this is enabled, when you open up a new project, the Project Information Dialog box pops up. Hence, no chance of forgetting it. You are bound to enter the details. Later on also, if you are already working on the project and opening on a periodic basic, it gives you a quick snapshot of the project.


Project Statistics Dialog Box
It is generally a good practice to never review a project if it does not have these setting or the baseline settings. Without having the baseline information, the project is just floating around and wont be tracked at all. 

Tip # 2: Setup the Currency for the Project

It is another option which is forgotten. In such a case, resource rates and cost, start coming in the default option, which is in US dollars, even though the project being operated is in a different locality/country. When realized, the tendency is to set up the resource rates locally in expected currency and find out the cost. But then, why not to do it from the beginning?

To set up, go again to the Backstage view: "File - Options - Display - Currency Options for this project:".


Setting up Currency
I have set INR (Indian Rupee) as shown above. Other currencies are available in the "Currency" dropdown box. When you set up the currency, the symbol and decimal digits are available, which can be adjusted. It must be noted that, the changes are applicable to the current project. If you open up another instance of MS Project, you have to reset it. 

Tip # 3: Setup Project Calendar Setting

Settings for the Project calendar are not only important for the Project, but also for the calendars of resources as they are derived from the "Standard" calendar, which is a base calendar. Standard calendar is the default calendar in the project.

To set the calendar options, go to Backstage view: "File - Options - Schedule - Calendar options for this project".

The default settings are changed for Financial Year, Number of working days in a month, as shown below. It has been changed as per convention followed in India, for a project. For respective country specific settings (or as needed by your customer), you can make the necessary changes.


Setting up Project Calendar
The settings are applied to the default Standard Project Calendar. Hence, all other calendars, such as various Resource Calendars, will derive these properties as they are in a parent-child relationship with the base calendar.

It must be noted that as a good practice, one should extend the default Standard Project Calendar, create a new calendar and then make additional project specific changes to it, such as national holidays, organizational off days and so on. As you would have already made the settings on the default calendar from backstage view, the newly created project calendar will be taking these properties.

Tip # 4: Enable Auto Saving 

This is one option, I personally recommend. This helps in auto saving your project, even though you would have forgotten to do it. 

To enable Auto save, go to Backstage view: "File - Options - Save - Auto save every ... minutes". By default the timer is set at 10 minutes and it is disabled. 


Enabling Auto Save
You may select the check box - "Prompt before saving", as shown above. Prompting helps if you want to "Undo" some changes. After you save the project, you can not undo the changes and the "Change Highlighting", related to changes, will not be shown. 

Tip # 5: Set up for Multiple Critical Paths

This is another important option which is frequently missed. A project can have multiple critical paths as the activities leading to the completion of the project can take many paths and there can be multiple longest paths (Critical Paths) in a project. 

By default, this option is disabled. To enable it go to Backstage view: "File - Options - Advanced - Calculation options for this project:", as shown below.


Setting up for Multiple Critical Paths
A Project having only one critical path is rare. You would be lucky, if you get such a project. If this option is not set, then there are chances that you might miss out on looking for some critical paths during your monitoring of the project. 

In fact, the chances are quite high that a project is going have multiple critical paths. Hence, the recommended practice is to set it from the beginning to check on multiple critical paths.

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