An overview of CompTIA Project+ certification (Domain 1)
If you are looking for something to add to your IT résumé to increase your value, then the CompTIA Project+ certification is well worth consideration. A basic understanding of project management, coupled with skills authenticated by a neutral third-party, can be useful regardless of the position and can help one job candidate stand out from another in the eyes of an employer.
While Project+ isn’t the most popular among the project management certifications available, it is a good entry-level endorsement that can be a stepping stone to a more intense certification from another accreditor (such as PMI, the Project Management Institute).
Becoming CompTIA Project+ certified requires passing one exam (currently PK0-004) of up to 95 multiple-choice or drag/drop questions within 90 minutes. The passing score is 710 (on a scale of 100 to 900) and it is currently priced at $319. Once certified, you have the certification for life and it does not need to be renewed.
There are four domains on the exam and they are weighted as follows:
Domain One: Project Basics — 36 percent
Domain Two: Projects Constraints — 17 percent
Domain Three: Communication and Change Management — 26 percent
Domain Four: Project Tools and Documentation — 21 percent
The focus of the remainder of this article is on the first domain and each of the headings represents a subdomain (1.1, 1.2, etc.). Over the course of the next several articles we will look at each domain individually and identify the most important things to know for it.
You should be aware that while this certification does not require documentation of experience (as some others do), CompTIA recommends a minimum of one year managing, directing, or participating in small-to-medium-scale projects.
Summarize the properties of a project
By its very nature, a project is intended to be a temporary undertaking that has a defined start and finish date (or set of dates) associated with it. The project is based on the needs of the customer (the sponsor) and is unique in its results — which may be a product, a service, an idea, or almost anything else meeting the purpose/reason for why the project was initiated.
That purpose/reason should be clearly stated, with goals and milestones that can be used to gauge whether the endeavor succeeded or not. If the project is a part of a program — one of a number of related projects or activities — then a single outcome may be shared. If the program is a part of a portfolio — one of a number of projects being undertaken — then the outcomes may be completely unrelated to one another.
Classify project roles and responsibilities
There are a number of roles that those involved with a project assume. If a project is small, then one person may operate in multiple roles, while a large project may have multiple individuals operating in a single role. Regardless of who or how many are functioning in a given role, here are some of the key roles to be aware of:
Project Sponsor/Champion: The sponsor of the project is the one who has the authority to allocate/authorize resources to the project, usually in terms of funding and support. They are responsible for the charter and should serve as the champion and as a final decision maker. It is their responsible to be able to justify the project, market it, and steer it clear of roadblocks.
Project Manager: This is the person responsible for overseeing the work and managing such things as the risk, the scope, the schedule, and the team. They act as a go-between in communication with the sponsor and manage stakeholder expectations. They manage quality assurance and are responsible for all project artifacts (documents, diagrams, agendas, etc.).
Project Coordinator: Helping the project manager with scheduling, teams, and resources and supporting them as needed is the most important part of this role. The project coordinator may also be responsible for cross-functional coordination, administrative support, and quality assurance
Stakeholder: This category includes anyone with a vested interest (the ability to gain or lose) in the project. They may provide input and help steer the project and can lend their expertise to it.
Scheduler: This is the person responsible for creating the schedule, communicating it, and updating it as needed. They not only develop the schedule but also report schedule performance and solicit task status from the resources.
Project Team: Project team members are those who contribute to the project whether on a full or part time basis and regardless of which organization they are employed by. They can contribute expertise or deliverables and they often need to provide estimations of costs and dependencies as well as of task duration.
Project Management Office (PMO): This office supports/manages projects managers with their projects by setting standards and practices for the organization, setting deliverables, providing governance and tools, setting the standards for documentation, coordinating resources, and outlining consequences that may result from negative outcomes.
Compare and Contrast Standard Project Phases
Every project has a start and an end; as it moves along the continuum, there are various phases that it passes through:
Initiation: This is where the business case is made for the project and a charter is created. High-level risks are recognized here and the high-level scope defined.
Planning: During this phase, the schedule is created and the work breakdown structure outlined. Needed resources and project requirements are identified along with detailed risks. A procurement plan, change management plan, and communicate plan is formulated. Of great importance, the budget is articulated.
Execution: The deliverables are the focus during this phase.
Monitor and Control: In order to keep track of progress, successes, and failures, logs become the core. Those logs include one of risks/issues, as well as quality assurance, change control, and budget. Reporting procedures are followed and performance against defined metrics are closely watched
Closing: At the conclusion of the project, there needs to be a hand-off/transition that takes place according to the integration plan. The hand-off needs to include any needed training, a sign-off, recap of the lessons learned, closing of the contracts and archiving of project documents.
Identify the Basics of Project Cost Control
If there was one topic recommended for all exam candidates to spend time studying, it would be this one. That is not because the topic categories aren’t logical, but rather because there are so many metrics that can be calculated and you should be familiar with a number of them.
Metrics are necessary when it comes to costs to measure adherence to the budget and to catch unexpected expenditures and address them. While there are many ways of computing and allocating costs, there are five main topic areas to be cognizant of for this exam:
Total Project Cost: As the name implies, this is the total cost (first estimated, and then actual) for the project. It is calculated by adding all the costs (real or estimated) together.
Expenditure Tracking: There are very few projects where expenditures occur evenly over the course of the project. Most have periods in which costs are very high and when costs are very low.
Expenditures need to be tracked and estimates updated to keep he numbers from exceeding the projections and risking the project going wildly over budget. Expenditures can be found on cancelled checks, purchase orders/requisitions, and bills from vendors.
Expenditure Reporting: Not only must expenditures be tracked, but they must also be reported to those who need to monitor them and keep a lid on runaway expenses. The format of the report will likely vary based on the organization, but the information it contains must be clearly understandable to be of maximum value to those reviewing it.
Cost Baseline/Budget: To evaluate a project’s financial status, it is necessary to compare planned expenditures with actual expenditures.
Identify Common Project Team Organizational Structures
For the exam, there are three organizational structures to be familiar with:
Functional: A functional organization is built around filling needs and project managers exists to help fill those needs. As a result of this type of view, the amount of authority project managers are given in this type of organization is less than in either of the other two types. The resources, instead, report to the functional manager and the project manager has either limited or no authority.
Matrix: There are multiple types of matrix organizations with balanced, weak, and strong being the three most common as the projects manager’s authority ranges from weak to strong. In this type of structure, authority is shared between functional managers and project managers — resources are assigned from the functional area to the project.
Projectized: As the name implies, this type of organization is built around the project and project managers are placed at the top of this organization in terms of the amount of authority they have (full). The resources report to the project manager.
Given a Scenario, Execute and Develop Project Schedules
Work Breakdown Structure: The WBS is defined by the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) as “a deliverable oriented hierarchical decomposition of the work to be executed by the project team.” In other words, it is the deliverable that organizes work into manageable sections.
Scheduling Activities: The activities associated with scheduling are numerous and include determine what the tasks are and the start/finish dates associated with each. Those tasks need to be defined in terms of durations, milestones, and dependencies.
Of key importance is the sequencing and prioritizing of tasks to follow a critical path to completion. Along the way, resources need to be allocated, baselines set, and both quality and governance gates (client sign off, management approval, legislative approval) reviewed.
Identify the Basic Aspects of the Agile Methodology
The Agile methodology allows project managers to readily adapt to new/changing conditions by continuously gathering and evaluating requirements. It uses an iterative approach to managing projects, allowing for continuous feedback and utilizing teams that are self-organized and self-directed.
Backlogs are employed with the product owner prioritizing them based on value to the business and team members choosing which backlog items to work on.
Continuous feedback can be obtained during standup and Scrum meetings, which should be held daily to check on project progress and be limited to fifteen minutes. Scrum is designed for teams of up to ten members, and work is broken into goals called sprints.
Burndown charts (graphs of work left to do on the vertical axis versus time on the horizontal axis) are useful for predicting when work will be completed.
Explain the Importance of Human Resources, Physical Resources, and Personnel Management
Team-building can be used to improve bonds between team members, to improve morale and to help build trust. Much of the trust building comes from working with teach other. Any time a new member is added to the team, it reverts back to the forming stage again regardless of what stage the team had been in.
Conflict resolution can be addressed through six possible approaches:
Smoothing: This solution is temporary, and it emphasizes areas of agreement (keeping the real issue buried).
Forcing: With this approach, one party goes along with the solution proposed because they have no other option — they are forced to do so. While the solution may be permanent, a problem with it can be buy-in from the party being forced to accept it.
Compromising: In a compromise, each side gives up something and neither side wins or loses.
Confronting: Of all the approaches, this is considered to be the best one as it focuses on finding a permanent solution and leads to a win-win scenario.
Avoiding: The worst of the conflict resolution approaches, this one does not resolve anything and occurs when at least one of the parties refuses to discuss the conflict.
Negotiating: The approach involves both parties actively participating (listening, sharing, communicating) and may employ a third party (without a vested interest) to reach an agreement.
This month, we looked at the first of the four domains on the CompTIA Project+ certification exam (PK0-004). In coming months, we will look at each of the remaining three domains individually, and then conclude with a self-test to allow you to gauge how ready you may be to consider sitting for this exam in the near future.