Sunday, May 31, 2015

Agile Cumulative Flow Diagram (CFD) with MS Project 2013/2016

Recently, in a PMI-ACP session, I was asked this question:

"Have been using MS Project for sometime. But, find it difficult to create Agile related charts, which the sponsor wants. Can MS Project be used to create Cumulative Flow Diagrams (CFD)?"

Short Answer - Yes, of course.

The question is not directly related to PMI-ACP, but I had to answer to dispel the myth on MS Project. A number of people say that MS Project can not used for many Agile related charts. It is just not correct. Perhaps they have not used it or do not understand how to use the fields available in MS Project. MS Project 2013 comes with default Burndown chart, which is used in Agile projects. Also, I have shown how to create Agile Burnup Charts and its variants.

For details, refer:

Now, how would you create a Cumulative Flow Diagram? It is simple and with a few changes you can have the CFD. I would suggest that you go through the previous posts, before reading further.

I have used MS Project 2016 to create the charts. If you are using MS Project 2013, the steps will remain same, i.e., this functionality is available in MS Project 2013,too. After the Agile burnup charts are created, go to Chart Tools - Design tab. Select "Change Chart Type", as shown below.

The change chart type dialog box will pop up. Select Area under All Charts and from there select Stacked Area chart. Others can be selected, which we will see shortly. 

After the stacked Area is selected, I did some minimal formatting on the CFD and this is how it comes. This is for the iteration simple example with 2 tasks that I took in the first two posts, outlined above. 

One can change the CFD charts to Area, Stacked Area, 100% Stacked Area, 3D Area and so on. A number of themes can be applied depending on your need. Next shown, is 100% stacked area. 

This can be done in few minutes if one is familiar with the new fields in MS Project and how to use them for your Agile projects. You also can change the time units, date format, count, start and end date of the chart to see what you need for your project, which has been described in the previous two linked posts. 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Microsoft Project 2016 Preview – What is New?

Yesterday the new version of Project 2016 was released for preview. The download link is here. Good to see Microsoft continuously engaging with and upgrading this software, which is quite popular. 

I was trying it over this weekend and spent couple of hours on it today. It has certain new features.  Here, I’ll be talking of some of the new features available in MS Project 2016 after my quick check on the software.

1. Default Theme Change:
The default theme has changed - called “Colorful”. It gives a new look and feel.

With this the top bar color changes. 
If you want to change the theme to the previous color of 2013, you can change with the office theme to “White” or something else.

2. “Tell me what you want to do…” Query Box:
This is a new feature not only in MS Project 2016, but in other office apps such as Word, Excel, also. There are many commands in many tabs (under which many groups) in MS Project. Imagine a new user or even sometimes an experienced user, who is lost in the maze of commands given in MS Project. With this you can quickly find out the command that you want to have and use it. I find it useful. 

As shown above, a query box “Tell me what you want to do…”, is available on top of the ribbon with a bulb icon. You can type in what you want to have to and MS Project will list out possible and related answers to you. 

When you put your cursor over, it will list certain options which you might want to try. If you have certain query, then you put that into the Query Box and the responses will be listed out. Below I have typed “baseline” and it lists these options:

It is also useful that you can directly open the baseline dialog box or show slippage directly from here. For example, if I am selecting “Set Baseline” above, then it lists out some more along the way.

The tool tip text shows you what exactly the command would be doing. After you have used it, some frequently listed commands can be shown. The buffer is having 5 recently used commands. 

3. Multiple Timeline Bars:
This is another new feature in MS Project 2016. To have the Timeline view, you have to enable the checkbox: View tab -- Split View group -- Timeline checkbox.

Earlier, you can add only one timeline bar. Now multiple timelines can be added. You just have to click on the “Timeline bar” command under Format group. Below, I have 3 timeline bars after clicked 3 times on the “Timeline bar” command.

Of course, you can remove them as well by right clicking on the selected bar. This feature is useful. How? In the project below, I have shown 3 timelines: first one with L1 and L2 activities. For next two, there are further extension of L2, and goes to L3 and L4 if needed. 

Further customization can be done on it. Shown above with minimal checking. This feature also will be useful if you are managing multiple projects with MS Project 2016. One can set the date range by selecting the command in the Format tab -- Show/hide group -- Date range command.

Note: I understand other new features will be available in MS Project 2016 such as Resource Engagement functionality. I believe the upcoming MS Project 2016 software will be better as compared to MS Project 2013.

Suggestions on available New Features:
  • Have the feature “Tell me what you want to do…” configurable so that the user can choose what are the 10/15 most used commands and that can be frequently accessed. It is already there for archive projects (default upto 25) and number of recent projects (default value 4) from Options -- Advanced -- Display. 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Changing PMI-ACP Exam in 2015: What is New and What Has Changed? (Part – 2)

In past few years, a trend has been visible: Scrum is the most used one; Kanban is being used more now; however, organizations mostly follow their way of Agile implementation. The last one is interesting! Few follow Agile or Scrum or Kanban practices by the book per se, rather it is mostly customized as per the need of the organization. 

For the new PMI-ACP exam, the reference book list has changed and quite a few new book have been added – especially for Kanban – perhaps matching the trends in the Agile world. Also the new syllabus for PMI-ACP tries balance them in its changes with respect to Tools and Techniques as well as Knowledge and Skills. 

Note: My comparison will be with respect to PMI-ACP Handbook and PMI-ACP Exam Content Outline (ECO) which I had used in giving the exam in year 2013. The recent handbook has been published in April, 2015. 

My earlier experience on PMI-ACP examination has been outlined below. 
My Experience – PMI ACP Examination

In this post, I’ll cover the syllabus changes in the below areas:
  1. Changes in Domains (Sub-domains) and Tasks
  2. Changes in Tools and Techniques
  3. Changes in Knowledge and Skills
  4. Reference Books
  5. Important Exam Dates
1. Changes in Domains and Tasks
The new domain added is "Agile Principles and Mindset". It is the first domain. It has been made the first domain. Addition of this domain takes the number of domain to 7. Earlier it was 6. 

This domain talks of, in PMI’s words, “Explore, embrace, and apply agile principles and mindset within the context of the project team and organization.”

The first domain does not have any sub-domains, rather has 9 tasks. Overall these are the changes.

2. Changes in Tools and Techniques
The number of Tools and Techniques remain the same. However, there have certain modifications - like "Soft Skills Negotiation" is now called "Interpersonal Skills"; "Value Stream Analysis" has been replaced with "Process Improvement". The brief description with the new T&T are in the below table.

3. Changes in Knowledge and Skills
There were 43 knowledge and skills in the earlier ECO for PMI-ACP. In the new one, there have been 33 knowledge and skills. 

Here a lot has been changed. Putting the differences for each K&S is beyond the scope of this blog. However, at a high level these are the changes:

Some of the new Additions are:
  • Agile Discovery
  • Developmental mastery models like Tuckman, Dreyfus, Shu Ha Ri
  • Agile Hybrid Models
  • Managing Agile with KPIs
Some changes have gone into certain existing K&S, like:
  • Training is now added to "Coaching and mentoring withing teams"
  • "Continuous process improvement" is now rather called "Continuous improvement"
  • Value based analysis is replaced "Value based analysis and decomposition" and so on
Certain K&S have remained unchanged.

4. Reference Book List:
Now there are 12 reference books compared earlier 11 ones. There have been addition/removal of certain ones - especially few new ones w.r.t Kanban has been added.  The reference list is available here - Link

It is equally important to know - as noted by PMI, by no means the above ones are inclusive of all resources needed for the PMI-ACP exam. Rather the exam is a competency based certification with an integrated set of knowledge, skills and abilities, acquired via real world and learning experiences.

5. Important Exam Dates:
For PMI-ACP certification aspirants, below are the two important dates.
  • Last Date to sit in the exam with the previous edition: 14th July, 2015
  • New edition (based on new RDS) to be applicable: From 15th July, 2015
For more details on dates and pilot exam, you can refer PMI:

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Changing PMI-ACP Exam in 2015: What is New and What Has Changed? (Part – 1)

The PMI-Agile Certified Practitioner(ACP) exam is changing in 2015. 

I was a Role Delineation Study (RDS) reviewer for PMI-ACP in October 2014. There were quite a few questions covering a bunch of Agile practices. As per PMI, they have contacted number of agilists in multiple countries and have taken their feedback to develop the new syllabus. 

Good to see that PMI is continuously taking on its Agile Certification Program. In my view, it is one of the best in the market. Though, it is an entry level certification for agilists, it tests quite thoroughly on one’s Agile knowledge, skills, applicability and understanding.

Note: My comparison will be with respect to PMI-ACP Handbook and PMI-ACP Exam Content Outline (ECO) which I had used in giving the exam in year 2013. The recent handbook has been published in April, 2015. 

My earlier experience on PMI-ACP examination has been outlined below. 

In this post, I’ll cover the changes at the below levels.
  1. Exam eligibility criteria
  2. Exam Blueprint
  3. PMI-ACP Exam Information
  4. Exam Cost
  5. Post Certification PDU Requirements

1. Exam eligibility criteria:
It remains unchanged. It has been outlined below for your reference. 

Of course, after it you have to give the PMI-ACP exam conducted by Prometric.

2. Exam Blueprint: 
Overall, at a higher level, it is not complete overhaul. But, when you dig deeper, it has certain changes and they have added the percentage based segregation in the domain areas.

There are 7 domain areas in place of earlier 6. The new one is – “Agile Principles and Mindset”.  Rest 6 are – “Value-driven Delivery”, “Stakeholder Engagement”, “Team Performance”, “Adaptive Planning”, “Problem Detection and Resolution” and “Continuous Improvement (Product, Process, People)”. Addition of Agile Principles and Mindset is a good one, as it is the fundamental part of Agile driven practices. 

The PMI-ACP handbook (available April, 2015) clearly says the exam blueprint is 50% for Tools and Techniques (T&T) and 50% for Knowledge and Skills (K&S).

Tools and Techniques, Knowledge and Skills - In PMI-ACP Exam
Update July 2016: In the revise PMI-ACP handbook as of 20th June, 2016, the percentage of questions is NO longer divided between T&T, K&S, but among the 7 domains as noted below. 

However there also has been a segregation on the 7 domains, earlier mentioned. This is new as compared to the earlier one.  Earlier, it was mentioned that the domains (and its tasks) while not being used for PMI-ACP, they are important and they are the basis of educational and training programs. 

In this NEW exam of PMI-ACP, domains (and its tasks) are clearly part of the exam as per the new ECO. The segregation is as follows:

7 domains in PMI-ACP Exam
Highest weightage has been given to Value Driven Delivery, which as a reviewer I had given the highest ranking as well. Even today, products are being built, where many features are not being used by the customers. Value the customer is getting is and should be the KEY in building products.

Now, by this time you would be asking: Which one will used – the earlier one of 50% each for Tools & Techniques and Knowledge & Skills or this new one of domains? Both! Both – Domains/Sub-domains/Task along with Knowledge & Skills and Tools and Techniques - will be used. Primary reference will be to Domains/Tasks and secondary reference will be to T&T and K&S

3. PMI-ACP Exam Information:
This also remains unchanged as compared to earlier one.

4. Exam Cost:
The exam cost remains unchanged, i.e., for the Computer Based Tests (CBT) it will be $435 USD for members (€ 365) or $495 USD (€ 415) for non-members. 

5. Post Certification PDU Requirements:
It also remains unchanged, i.e., 30 Professional Development Units (PDUs) in a 3 year cycle. However, the internal PDU details are changing and they will be applicable from December 2015 onwards. 

In the next post, of this series, we will see what has actually changed internally in the domains/sub-domains, Tools & Techniques, and Knowledge & Skills. There have been significant amount of changes/movements in the mentioned areas and as much as possible, I'll explain what has actually gone in.