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Organizational Process Assets (OPA)

We have earlier discussed EEF aka Enterprise Environmental Factors and its time we talk about its close cousin OPA aka Organizational Process Assets. OPA, alongwith EEF, are two of the most common inputs you'll come across several different processes. OPAs are basically tools that carry information on an organization's projects.

Understanding of OPAs is important as that provides a fair idea of how the projects are run in the organization. Each organization has certain templates, framework for contracts, registers and other tools to assist the management of the project. These are typically reusable across projects and are thus an 'asset'.

One of the biggest knowledge bases an organization possess is called lessons learned. Lessons learned holds valuable historical information of past projects that can be used as a reference point for the projects to come. This helps the project managers throughout the organization in avoiding similar mistakes on future projects.

Ideally, OPA includes all formal as well as informal plans, policies, processes and guidelines of an organization that helps in managing a project. But it should also be noted that just like EEF, OPA is also not a single document. Rather these are assets that are created, stored and referred to during the course of a project.

Enterprise Environmental Factors (EEF)

One of the two most frequent inputs all the processes have is Enterprise Environmental Factors. EEF can be loosely defined as anything that you should know about the way your organization does business.

Why should you know this, you may ask. Well, this information will actually be very handy when planning the project. For instance, wouldn't it be useful to know how different departments of the organization operate? Or the company's overall strategy while you are planning your project?

EEF also includes company policies that you need to adhere to during the course of the project. It also includes the company's culture and everything that you should know about the people of your organization in general.

Work Authorization System is a common EEF that determines how the company assigns work to the people. It also ensures that tasks are done in the correct order and up to the mark. Project Management Information System (PMIS) also falls under the category of EEF.

It should be noted that EEF is not a document. As the name goes, these are basically the factors that define the enterprise's environment.

Elements of the Project Management Plan

The Project Manamenet Plan is the, without a doubt, the core of Integration Management. It is the main tool of the Project Manager for running a project.

We have already covered an overview of the Project Management Plan as well as the top 5 basics that you must know about it. Do go over both the articles as they will aid in a better understanding for this article.

In a nutshell, there are 16 elements of the Project Management Plan. Let's take a quick look at them individually starting with a management plan for each knowledge area,

1. Scope Management Plan describes how scope changes are handled - like the process of adding or removing a feature for the service or the product that the project produces

2. Time Management Plan (aka Schedule Management Plan) describes how changes to the schedule are handled - like updated deadlines or milestones

3. Cost Management Plan describes how the budget for the project will be created. It also has plans on how to handle budget related issues that may come up throughout the course of project

4. Quality Management Plan describes how to deal with the problems that may arise if the product doesn't live up to the expectations of the customer

5. Human Resource Management Plan describes how to deal with the changes in project team, identifying and handling any additional staffing needs as well as constraints the project may have

6. Communications Management Plan describes all the ways that the communication will be taking place with the project team, stakeholders, sponsors and other important stakeholders of the project

7. Risk Management Plan basically contains a list of all possible risks that may occur during the course of the project as well as a plan on dealing with them if and when they do materialize

8. Procurement Management Plan describes how to deal with external vendors

9. Stakeholder Management Plan basically describes how to manage the expectations of all the project stakeholders

Performance Measurement Baseline contains a baseline for each of the triple constraints which are in turn elements of the Project Management Plan,

10. Scope Baseline is basically a snapshot of the scope that helps in keeping track of the changes that is being done as well as the work that is planned do be done for achieving the project deliverables

11. Cost Baseline is similarly a snapshot of the cost or the budget

12. Schedule Baseline is similarly a snapshot of the schedule

13. Change Management Plan describes how changes will be handled. It contains the process for managing changes on the project

14. Configuration Management Plan describes the process for addressing changes to the configurable items (like WBS Dictionary, Scope Statement etc those that require formal change control) and the process for controlling changes to such items

15. Process Improvement Plan is related to Quality Management Plan in the sense that it describes how the processes being used during the course of the project can be changed for the better

16. Requirements Management Plan describes how the requirements of the stakeholders will be gathered, documented and managed. It also describes how those needs will be met as part of the deliverable of the project

Top 5 basics to know about the Project Management Plan

We have earlier covered an overview of the Project Management Plan, let us now dive deeper and take a look at some of the basics you must know about it.

1. Develop Project Management Plan process (Process Group - Planning, Knowledge Area - Integration Management) has only one output which is the Project Management Plan

2. The number 1 priority of the Project Management Plan is planning for the possible problems that may occur during the course of the project and having all the information that you need to correct those problems if/when they occur

3. The Project Management Plan can be a single document or a collection of documents known as the subsidiary plans. Typically, each knowledge area has a subsidiary plan

4. In addition to the subsidiary plans, the Project Management Plan also contains baseline documents. A baseline is basically an agreed upon snapshot each of scope, schedule and cost that can be used for planning purposes

5. The Project Management Plan is a live document and is always up-to-date. For this reason, if you are taking over a project from a fellow PM, the first thing to do is to make sure the Project Management Plan is updated

Don't forget to check out the video on the overview of the Project Management Plan

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Project Management Plan: An Overview

We all know that the first process in Integration Management is Developing a Project Charter which has been discussed in detail previously. The next process in Integration Management is Developing a Project Management Plan. Let's understand what exactly is a Project Management Plan.

Before anything, its important to understand that the develop project management plan process is where the Project Manager shines in all her glory. Experts consider that a Project Management Plan is the most important artifact of a Project. But then isn't it obvious?!

Basically, as part of developing a Project Management Plan all the information about the project is collated. This ensures that the project team and all stakeholders have a single point of reference about everything around the project.

An analogy to the project management plan is the planning that you do before constructing a house. The elevation, interior, wallpapers or painting, facilities planning like electricity and water are all done before the work gets started. In the similar fashion, the processes in the Planning process group work towards completing the planning of the project and not the actual work. From handling risks to changes, everything is planned well in advance so that during the course of project there are as less hiccups as possible.

It is important to note that the project management plan is a single document but it is so exhaustive that its sections are themselves known as subsidiary plans. Each knowledge area typically has a subsidiary plan and all these together form the project management plan.

Elements of the Project Charter

Over here at PMP Lounge, we have already covered what a project charter is and its top 5 basics that you need to know. In this article, let's look at what exactly goes into the project charter. Although each organization and each project will have a different looking project charter to suit the respective requirements but typically the 5 items below will almost always be covered,

1. Project Description
This is a high level purpose of the project. The project description describes the goals of the project but at a very high level and doesn't talk about the intricacies of the solution

2. Project Requirements
This essentially describes the product/service that the project aims to deliver. Anything that you may know about the product/service that the customer, sponsor or stakeholders are expecting to achieve from the project

3. Assigned Project Manager
Some of the Project Charters are very explicit in this and mention the name of the Project Manager. However, don't be surprised if you come across a charter with the name of your organization/team/department as well. Also, while we are at the Project Manager, some project charters tend to define the specific level of authority or decision-making power that the PM will have during the course of project

4. Schedule Summary
Just like the requirements, this will also be a very high level schedule that may not always indicate a specific date. A schedule summary is likely to communicate in terms of month/quarter that the major milestones need to meet. However, do note that some charters are developed keeping the Go Live dates in mind

5. Business Case
This is essentially the reason why the company has decided to pursue the project. Expect to see terms like Return On Investment (ROI), Key Performance Indicators (KPI) and other such stuff that helps the stakeholders understand why the project has been undertaken

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Is the Brain Dump dead?

PMP Lounge has earlier covered the Brain Dump, but as is being reported all over the internet, it seems something with respect to the aspirants using the Brain Dump has changed. Let's understand what has changed, 

What is the Lowdown?
As is being reported from now onwards the aspirants will not be allowed to take any notes during the first 15 minutes because the first 15 minutes always belonged to the online tutorial about the exam. Aspirants can use their rough sheets only after the exam has officially started i.e. after the clock for 4 hours has started ticking!

Are brain dumps not allowed?
False! Brain Dumps are definitely allowed. It is just that aspirants are not allowed to write it down during the first 15 minute online tutorial. As soon as the exam begins you may jot down the brain dump in the rough sheet

How does this matter?
So if you can anyways jot down the brain dump, how does all this even matter? First up, jotting down the brain dump will now eat some of your 4 hours exam time. Earlier the aspirants used to conveniently make use of the 15 minute tutorial time for this activity. So if you are struggling to complete the mock PMP exams in 4 hours this could be an issue and you may have to keep your dump precise

How can I pass the exam without my Brain Dump?
Brain Dump is definitely important but it doesn't really have a huge make or break impact on the exam result. At best, the brain dump can help you answer 5-10 direct questions. Always remember, when it comes to passing the exam, nothing beats,
  • Your experience as the Project Manager
  • Your understanding of the PMP concepts and fundamentals
  • Your hours and hours of hard work and studies while preparing for the exam
So can I ignore the Brain Dump?
Ignoring the brain dump would be giving it less importance than it deserves. After all the brain dump has certain importance because,
  • Getting everything you have memorized on paper builds confidence
  • Its convenient to have a reference in physical form while answer related questions
  • Its resourceful!

Top 5 basics to know about Project Charter

We have previously discussed Project Charter in detail so do read that article before proceeding with this one. Below are the top five basics you need to know about the Project Charter,

1. A Charter is not just related to a project but portfolios and programs can have charters too

2. Developing a project charter is one of the first few things that's done on a project

3. Project Charter authorizes the project manager to do the work. This means without the PM name indicated in the project charter, she will not have the authority to tell the team what to do and when

4. The Project Manager may or may not be involved in developing the project charter. A Project Charter could simply be handed over to the PM by the sponsor (BTW - Sponsor is someone who is paying for the project!)

5. Project Charter is not a detailed document and shouldn't require frequent updates as we proceed in the project

Business Case 101

The Business Case, in addition to being an essential component of the Project Charter, in itself is also a very important document. In very simple terms, the business case tells the reader why the project is worth all the dollars being spent!

Let's look into some of the very basic questions pertaining to the Business Case,

1. What is a Business Case?
A formal document highlighting the reasons for initiating a project. It is basically prepared with keeping the audience in mind which is almost always the higher management or some other big shots!

2. Why have a Business Case?
It serves as a document to convince and get the approval of the decision maker (someone from higher management, the customer or some other big shot stakeholder) to initiate the project. It also includes financial information like Return on Investment (ROI) of the project

3. Who owns the Business Case?
The Sponsor! Sponsor is someone who is paying for the project. But the sponsor doesn't write the business case herself and will often delegate its preparation to a Project Manager or a Business Analyst. It is also possible that suppliers, users, SMEs and external consultants contribute in writing the Business Case

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