Top tips on passing the Project Management Professional exam

Posted: December 12th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Behind the Scenes | Tags: , , , | Comments Off on Top tips on passing the Project Management Professional exam

The Europe West region in Comptel, have been encouraging their Project Managers to study for and attain the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification from the Project Management Institute (PMI).

I am pleased to say that on Friday 23rd November I passed my PMP exam and proudly became a Project Management Professional! Europe West now has 4 PMP certified project managers in their team.

My latest blog covers why it’s sensible for organisations to encourage and support their Project Managers in achieving this qualification. Furthermore, whilst it’s fresh in my mind, I thought I’d share my tips for passing the exam!

  • Credibility: Having a Project Management team who have the qualification adds weight to our services credibility. Highlighting our experience and knowledge of Project Management.
  • Motivation: Setting this objective and supporting your Project Manager’s to attain this qualification is a good motivational tool.
  • Standardising approach and language: By learning the PMP approach, your project managers have a common understanding of process, terminology and templates.
  • Learning new ways of doing things: No Project Manager knows it all, so learning the PMP way, will also help teach new techniques and ideas.

My Top tips on passing the exam are below, they are not an alternative for hard work mind and I’m afraid a thorough revision of the PMP study materials will also be required!

  • Memorise the mathematical formulas relating to Earned Value. Being able to recall these 4 formulas will help answer a good number of questions on the exam.
  • Focus on the process groups around Risks and Scope. A good understanding of these two areas will help prepare you for the exam.
  • Thoroughly revise Project Closure activities. Whilst they appear easy, it’s worth thinking about the order in which you’d logically close a project.
  • Practice exam questions religiously and above all, concentrate on why you got any answers wrong.
  • The day before the exam, my manager said to me, when looking at the exam questions, if you are stuck; take a step backwards and look for the most simple and straight forward answer. Don’t always look to justify a complicated answer, sometimes the answer is the simple option!
  • Finally in the exam, have confidence, rely on your experience and revision. Trust your instincts!

If you are in the process of studying for your PMP certification, I wish you good luck! At Comptel we recognise it’s a worthwhile achievement for individuals and the company alike!


All Good Things Must Come to an End: Reporting from the Olympics, Part 3

Posted: August 16th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Events | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Well it’s true, all good things must come to an end and on Sunday night we fondly waved farewell to the London 2012 Olympic Games! This is also the third, and final, post in my series drawing parallels between project management and the Olympics. In this concluding post, I’ll focus on how to properly wrap up a project, or in other words, hold its Closing Ceremony!

On Sunday night we watched the festival of British Music mark the end of the Games with performances by George Michael, Queen and the Spice Girls! We also saw the athletes celebrate their medal triumphs during the ceremony – after all, this is an opportunity to recognise their achievements, say thank you, and take a moment to reflect on future possibilities.

For any event or project, the closing ceremonies hold just as much significance as the opening ones. At Comptel, the Europe West Services team places great emphasis on properly closing a project. And while our project closure activities are not as jaw-dropping as the Olympic Closing Ceremony, they do share many of the same objectives.

Recognising achievements:

The project closure phase is an opportunity for teams and individuals to be rewarded and thanked for their efforts. Recognising when a project has been successfully delivered is important for morale and team building. During the London 2012 Closing Ceremony, for instance, a section of the show was set aside to honour and thank the thousands of volunteers who have helped make the Games such a success.

Formally marking the end of a project:

It is also important to formally mark the end of a project, allowing resources to be re-allocated to other initiatives and ensuring loose ends, like the project financial accounts, are properly closed. By marking the end of the project, the team can also begin to concentrate on finding their next venture. Furthermore, it’s an ideal time to provide a thorough handover to the support teams who will look after the customer as part of business as usual.

Documentation and materials:

The materials and assets relating to the project, like effort estimates, need to be updated and saved to the communal areas/libraries for use by subsequent similar projects. Take, for example, transportation – considered one of the main concerns around London 2012. Prior to the Games, there was talk about whether the city’s old transport system could cope with the additional journeys that were sure to come with the Games. This was no small task, with around 4.3 million journeys being taken every day! Detailed plans were put in place to help the city handle these additional journeys, and the next host city of Rio de Janeiro will certainly be looking to these for guidance on overcoming transportation issues for 2016.

Lessons learned:

It’s important to perform a lessons learned exercise to build upon what went well and understand how to improve other items for next time. In terms of the Olympics, team Great Britain won their greatest-ever record haul in over 100 years, centred on the great successes from the cycling and rowing teams that dominated their sports. Other nations, as part of their lessons learned, will be assessing how they can improve and compete with Great Britain at the next Games.

Ongoing legacy:

Finally, you want to make sure there is an ongoing legacy, or in other words, another related project following on from the one you have just completed.  But moreover, it’s important to ensure the relationship with the existing customer is maintained. At Comptel, the customer is transferred to a dedicated client manager who provides ongoing support and care for them. With the Olympics, the transition to Rio for the 2016 Games was marked with the Mayor of Rio arriving and acknowledging the handover by waving the Olympic flag for all to see!

So we come to the end of my Olympic project management related posts. This blog covers the steps we complete at Comptel’s Europe West Services team to ensure that our projects end properly and on a high note!

And on a personal level, I have thoroughly enjoyed watching the Olympic Games in London; the whole country has been swept away by the excitement and spectacle of hosting one of the greatest events on earth. For me it was sad to see them come to an end, but now our focus and anticipation switches to Rio in 2016… And I, for one, cannot wait!


Going for Gold with Project Management: Reporting from the Olympics, Part 2

Posted: August 7th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Events | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Going for Gold with Project Management: Reporting from the Olympics, Part 2

As I mentioned in my previous post about the Opening Ceremony for the London 2012 Olympic Games, I’m amid a kick-off session of my own for a major Europe West Comptel project and discussed some tips for a successful project launch.  Now in the second post in my series, I’ll focus on the implementation phase – and how this parallels with the Games!

Firstly, I’d like to mention this year’s amazing Opening Ceremony, which not only rewrote the rule book for kicking off the games, but also showcased Britain’s collective passion, strengths and sense of humour to the world. What a fantastic show and start to the Games! Now with the kick-off phase behind us, both my client project and the Olympic Games have moved into the marathon implementation phase.  Here are some tips that I use as a project manager on Comptel’s Europe West Services team to ensure the implementation stays on track for a podium finish.

Organisation:

From watching the games in full force, what has struck me is the level of organisation that is required –from the food stalls to the medal makers, to the facilities and even the technology. All of these items required planning, tracking and organisation – and this is all about being prepared and knowing who needs to do what and when they need to do it! A project implementation phase is no different, as it requires a properly thought-out project plan that can be used to prepare, monitor and drive this phase, ensuring every work item is delivered on time and all dependencies are understood.

Communication/Reporting:

Reporting is vitally important – after all, the London 2012 Olympics can be enjoyed on the television, mobile devices, the Internet, Twitter and through various newspapers. Similarly, project reporting is just as important. For instance, understanding what’s going well and what requires additional focus helps the entire project team concentrate on the essentials. Agreeing to the type of reporting and meeting structure upfront is vital to ensure everyone is informed and the progress is transparently tracked.

Team Work:

Whilst watching the cycling road race on the first day of the Games, I was struck by the level of team work required for an individual to win a medal – and with it all the glory. Project implementation phases parallel this sense of solidarity. It is imperative to create a team spirit and ensure that, where required, your implementation team works together to keep the project on track.

Strong Leadership:

During the implementation phase strong leadership is essential to ensure the project is delivered on time and all issues are managed effectively. The role of the project manager is vital to coordinate and drive the project to completion.

Focus on the Goal:

Finally, as in the Olympic Games, there must be a steady focus on the goal in order to come out on top. It is easy tobecome distracted during the implementation phase and, for example, look at bringing in additional scope. But you must remain dedicated to fulfilling the original requirements for which the project was created. Take, for instance, Michael Phelps – he has remained focused throughout the Games with the sole intent of securing as many medals as possible. This unwavering drive and concentration is the key to securing success and, combined with his talent, has made him the most decorated Olympian ever.

On a personal note, on Friday 3rd August, my family and I headed to the Olympic Stadium and watched the first day of the athletics, the highlight of which was the Women’s Heptathlon opening rounds with team Great Britain’s ‘face of the games’ Jessica Ennis competing.

Upon entering the Olympic Park, I was struck by the sheer scale of it. The stadium is enormous and really quite inspiring with the fantastic Orbit sculpture dominating the view. There was a real buzz of excitement around the place as spectators made their way to their respective events. Upon first glimpse inside the Olympic Stadium, it really does take your breath away and once it’s full, the atmosphere in the arena is incredible – the whole stadium enjoying being part of the Olympics and urging the athletes to do well.

I truly got the sense that Britain is very proud to be Olympic hosts and to have this incredible once-in-a-lifetime event in our capital; to the point where the crowds were going to make sure they enjoyed every second of the experience and spectacle! The London Olympics was intended to inspire a generation to take up sport and our great city has certainly stamped its personality on the games, grabbing the world’s attention along the way. It will be quite sad to see them come to a close!

Speaking of, my next post will sadly turn to reviewing the Closing Ceremony and my tips for what we do within Comptel’s services team to ensure that a project is properly concluded with all the lessons learned.


Looking forward to the Opening Ceremony!

Posted: July 26th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Events | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

The emphasis, excitement and media coverage surrounding this Friday’s Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics Games, is an imminent reminder of the importance of getting off on the right foot for any event or project. After all, the opening ceremony sets the tone, the atmosphere, the momentum and brings unity among the participating athletes.

Coincidentally, I am currently organising my own ‘opening ceremony’ in the form of a kick-off session for a major Europe West Comptel project. Whilst my ‘kick-off’ sessions are pretty tame in comparison to the blockbuster opening of the Olympic Games, they share similar objectives: team building, gaining credibility, marking the event and creating the drive and focus to succeed.

Of course, the Europe West services team believes in the importance of well-organised, structured and informative ‘project kick-off’ meetings, as well. And from our experience, an internal kick-off meeting should be followed by a more formal introductory meeting with the customer’s team. The ultimate objective for both of these meetings is to ensure the success of a project, by bringing the team together, outlining the project goals, and uniting everyone in the effort to achieve these. Based on this, I’ve developed a checklist for successful project kick-offs:

Basic introductions:

Introduce the customer to the project team, highlighting their needs and preferences. Establish the key stakeholders, walk-through the customer’s history with the company, and summarise their current technical architecture. In addition, such a session should include an introduction of the internal team members and establish agreements regarding the frequency of subsequent meetings and project reporting required.

Confirm scope and objectives:

When confirming the scope of the project, focus on what is to be delivered and what is needed to meet objectives. This is also an excellent time to answer any last-minute architectural or solution-based questions.

Align everyone to the plan:

The kick-off is the ideal time to share the overarching plan, in addition to project deadlines and milestones. Doing so is critical to ensuring the team members are aligned, driven and motivated to meet their deadlines. As with any good project plan, be sure to include identified issues and risks to prepare for any anticipated challenges.

Break the ice:

Remember, project kick-off meetings help break the ice, foster a sense of team spirit, and explain who is doing what and when! They also give the team a chance to ask associated product experts any questions that will enhance the delivery.

Hit the ground running:

Above all, the kick-off meeting is designed to enable the team to hit the ground running! With a good kick-off meeting, the team should begin on familiar ground with the customer and immediately understand the project details and their requirements.

This Friday, I will be watching the Opening Ceremony on television from East London, as the Olympic ‘project team’ officially kicks-off the Games. The spectacular event will only reinforce the importance of formally marking the start of a project — a sentiment that we share at Comptel and express through our project kick-offs.

And next week, with the Games in full swing, we’ll see what happens after the Opening Ceremony, as the project moves into full implementation! Furthermore, I am lucky enough to have a ticket to the Games themselves, so I will share my first hand experiences of events from London!


The Rising Importance of Proof-of-Concepts

Posted: April 30th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Industry Insights | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off on The Rising Importance of Proof-of-Concepts

Recently, outside of my working life at Comptel, two of my friends have been looking for new jobs after a considerable time in their current roles.

Separately, they both shared with me their remarkably similar job seeking experiences. They explained there appeared to be more candidates looking and immediately available, and stated that the interview process was longer, harder and had more steps than they had remembered. Significantly, my mates had to attend lengthy assessment centres, where they had to literally demonstrate their suitability for the prospective jobs.

I am pleased to announce they were both successful in their applications, but the steps, themes and parallels they encountered made me think of the current way telecoms software providers are selected by communications service providers (CSP).

From my position as project manager in Comptel’s Europe West services team, I acknowledge the rising importance of proof-of-concepts in the procurement process. Has this become the equivalent of the assessment centre in an interview process? Helping customers to assess and select the right vendor for them?

For a measured financial outlay, proof-of-concepts can be of enormous mutual benefit to both technology providers and CSP customers:

Suitability: Our customers can experience first-hand the suitability or relevance of Comptel’s products and solutions against their specified functional user scenarios. As the supplier, we can ensure that we properly understand the requirements and priorities that matter to our customers (and on occasions, gain ideas on how to improve our core products for all customers!). Furthermore, customers can assess the impact of a potential new solution on their businesses.

Technical Solution: Technically, both parties immediately understand how they can integrate a new solution with existing systems and interfaces. Through hands on knowledge of the requirements and technicalities, Comptel can accurately and confidently deliver fixed price quotes.

Commitment: A proof-of-concept is a real statement of intent from both parties; they are committed to reviewing and proving the solution is appropriate for the product and strategy.

Risk: Investing in a new solution is a substantial decision by CSPs. With an upfront proof-of-concept, the risk to the business is reduced through upfront working and engagement. Comptel ensures that it understands CSPs’ businesses, and that its solutions can really meet their requirements.

Head Start: By investing in a proof-of-concept, it allows both parties to make a head start when the full implementation project is approved. There is a common understanding and relationship in place from day one. Unlike a brand new customer, contracts and ways of working together are understood, reducing kick-off lead times.

Learning: Through a proof-of-concept, all participants learn, from subtle things such as understanding customers’ key business drivers, to actually meeting the Comptel personalities that will work on the main implementation!

From a Europe West services perspective, I enjoy being asked to manage proof-of-concepts. They are often fast-paced, focused and provide Comptel with an opportunity to show its strengths and values.

I also believe that going through an interview process does not have to be stressful—it’s a collaborative event to make sure that both parties understand each other and can work together to deliver success. Comptel believes in the value of understanding and working together with its customers!