Dr. Jimmie Flores

Month: May 2017

How to Handle Scope Questions on the PMP Exam



The Project Management Professional (PMP)® exam will feature a good number of scope-related questions, which means that test-takers must understand the topic well. To keep it simple, know that scope also means the work to be executed on the project. Once the customer is clear regarding the final product, service, or result, the project team will define the work and how it will get done.

Start with the Customer

The customer often speaks from the standpoint of what they want the deliverable to do. For example, “We’re want the building to include state-of-the-art technology that allows our workers to stay connected at all times.” The project team must ensure what is meant by “state-of-the-art” and “stay connected.”The customer has an idea or vision regarding the output, but the details are often left to the subject matter experts (SMEs). Of course, it’s important to have a good idea regarding the budget so that the recommendations are viable.

Know the Order of the Scope Management Processes

One can expect many tricky questions on the PMP exam related to scope, but knowing the processes in order for this knowledge area can make your job easier when selecting the BEST answer. For example, one must know that requirements are collected before the scope is defined. In the “real world,” the requirements may be gathered as the project is moving forward, and sometimes the project team assumes they know what the customer wants and will skip the process of collect requirements.

Here are the processes in Scope Management, and I will share a short definition to make them easier to understand:

  • Plan Scope Management (5.1): The process that creates the scope management plan, and explains how both project and product scope are defined, validated, and controlled.
  • Collect Requirements (5.1): The process of determining the stakeholder needs.
  • Define Scope (5.3): The process of developing a detailed description of the work to be performed.
  • Create WBS (5.4): The process of decomposing the project work into manageable pieces.
  • Validate Scope (5.5): The process of confirming the work completed has met the requirements as stated in the project scope statement.
  • Control Scope (5.6): The process of taking corrective action when there is a variance with scope, such as when the customer requests additional work beyond what was agreed (i.e., scope creep).

 I recommend that you go through all 47 processes, and create your own short definition. By doing so, you will have more control when taking the exam. The questions are written to test your overall knowledge, which means that memorization will have little value.

These 3 Credentials Can Ignite Your Career


As a corporate trainer, I spend many days teaching students how to prepare for certification exams. These individuals are fortunate because the companies that hire me pay for the entire training, including all the materials. I enjoy doing this type of work because the students are motivated to earning a professional credential. It’s great when I receive an email from a student who has just passed an exam. This is what makes my work gratifying.

Here are the professional certifications that I recommend to my students: Project Management Professional (PMP)®, ITIL Foundations v3, and Agile Scrum. In fact, I refer to these three as the Iron Triangle. The advantage of these credentials is that they are industry agnostic. In other words, they will benefit you regardless of the industry where you work.

Project Management Professional (PMP)®

The PMP® is considered the Gold Standard in the project management industry, and it doesn’t matter where you live because the Project Management Institute (PMI) is an international organization. To qualify, candidates with a 4-year degree must have 4,500 hours of leading and directing projects; those without a 4-year degree must show 7,5000 of leading and directing projects. The exam is 4 hours in length and consists of 200 questions. The test is difficult, and I recommend taking a prep course so that you’re well prepared. The average salary in the United States for a PMP is $109,000. There’s no doubt that you will have more opportunities after earning this in-demand project management credential.

ITIL Foundations v3

ITIL stands for Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL), and we are currently teaching Version 3. While this is a technology-related credential, even non-techies should consider it. In fact, I teach this course to account managers, marketing analysts, budget coordinators, event planners, and so on. In a nutshell, ITIL pertains to IT Service Management, and focuses on how Business and IT can work together to provide value to the customer. The candidates are allowed 1-hour to take a 40-question exam, and the passing score is 65% or 26 questions correct. ITIL-certified individuals can expect to earn roughly $75,000 annually.

Agile Scrum

Agile Scrum has taken off in recent years. Agile is the preferred approach for IT-related projects because flexibility is required. For example, software projects are unpredictable, and change is necessary. The Scrum team must embrace changes, which means the customer is not charged for these updates. In fact, the work is completed in two-week sprints. The core Scrum team includes the Product Owner, Scrum Master, and Development Team. This group delivers business value after each sprint, and provides a demo to the key stakeholders. Based on this feedback, the next sprint is planned. I recommend taking a Scrum Master 2-day course that includes the certification exam. The Scrum Master credential can earn more than $70,000 in the market.

With good planning, these three certifications can be earned in one year. Make sure to find out if this training is offered in your organization. If not, you can find the classes in the open market, both face-to-face and online delivery. Even if your company fails to reimburse for the class and exam, I recommend that you pursue them. Remember that this is an investment in your future, and you will reap the benefits.

Keys to Outsourcing Work

In my work managing projects, I spend significant time collaborating with vendors. As a small IT company with fewer than 50 employees, it’s necessary to outsource work. Whether good or bad, it’s impossible for our company to have all the skills and knowledge necessary to complete our work. For example, we recently launched a project to create a mobile app, and we lacked the internal resources to get this done. Thus, we had to find an external company to take on this project.

Get to Know the Vendor

The big mistakes we’ve made during the procurement process is moving too fast. In one case, we hired a graphics designer stationed in Europe who claimed she could create marketing materials to help build our corporate brand. She asked for an upfront payment, which we made promptly. Once the requirements were provided, it took her about a week to respond. After a week, she had failed to do any work. Instead, she had more questions about the requirements, and she mentioned that it was our job to tell her exactly what was needed. While I agree that we must have clear specifications, we also expect contractors to have the expertise in their field. After a month or so of poor performance, we decided to cut ties with this individual. She responded several weeks later asking for more money, and even threated a lawsuit.

Assign Project Manager to Handle Oversight Responsibilities

While the work is done by an external company, the buyer must ensure that someone is managing the contract. I recommend that a project manager keeps a close eye on the work. This individual will ensure the requirements are clear. Further, it’s essential to track work performance data related to budget, schedule, and scope. The project manager reviews the progress, and provides guidance when necessary. Given that the vendor is external to the company, it’s easy to forget about the work they are doing. If communication is inadequate, the outsourced company might stop doing work. They will get the impression that the project is not urgent.

Seek Milestone Presentations

To ensure that work is progressing according to the plan, the company should seek frequent updates. For example, I usually ask for a demo after a milestone is reached. This allows me as the customer to provide feedback along the way. By taking this approach, the final product, service, or result is more likely to meet expectations. These meetings can be held virtually by using Adobe Connect, Skype, WebEx, and so on. I also urge my team to have frequent meetings to discuss problems and opportunities. These get-togethers can be 15 minutes or so. The idea here is to stay engaged.

The other key point is to have a contract in place for the work that is outsourced. By having a legally binding agreement, the vendor is more likely to do the work as prescribed. The contract should include how changes are handled, the process of transferring the product or service to the customer, and the agreed payment structure. While contracts can spike the cost of running a project, they serve the purpose of making sure the parties meet their respective obligations.

3 Must-Have Abilities of Project Managers



Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to work with many top-notch project managers. These men and women do what is necessary to meet the objectives of the project. They encounter obstacles along the way, including spending more than budgeted, and falling behind schedule. However, they quickly identify the problem, and take corrective action to keep pressing ahead.


Ability #1: Can Work Under Pressure

For more than 25 years, I officiated Div. I men’s collegiate basketball. Of all the work I’ve done in my lifetime, serving as a referee at this level is the toughest. The players are fast and strong, and we have a split-second to render the right decision. A missed call late in the game allows the referee to become the scapegoat. The pressure to get every call right is bigger today because of the internet. A blown call travels fast via social media, which can negatively affect one’s career, especially an arbiter wishing to climb the ladder.


Like a referee, project managers work in a stress-filled environment. Differently, though, they have the option to think over a problem, and to run it by associates. Unfortunately, many project managers feel they can handle all situations, and may even feel that asking for help is a sign of weakness. An excellent trait for those managing projects is to stay calm and cool when working under tight deadlines. It’s imperative to keep an open line of communication with the customer and sponsor, as this will reduce the chances of surprises.


Ability #2: Adaptability

By reading the PMBOK Guide, one learns the importance of following the process groups: initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling, and closing. One knows that all the plans must be created before the work is executed. The management plan become the guiding light. Through the planning process, the cost, schedule, and scope baselines are created, and deviation should be avoided.


What happens if the quality level we expected is not being met? How do we handle the situation where a key team member leaves the project? At this point, the project manager should adapt to the situation. The hope is that a contingency plan is in place, but if one lacking, a workaround is implemented. The approach described here is that of an effective project manager.


Ability #3: Communication

It’s tough to write an article about essential abilities of a project manager without including communication. Communication can take place formally or informally. Formal includes a presentation to the stakeholders, and an executive summary update to the sponsor. The type that is used is based on the needs of the project.


I’ve had success using informal communication, such as coaching a team member regarding a situation. I also take the opportunity to offer specific praise when work is done right. It doesn’t have to be a big deal. The point here is to acknowledge good work immediately. This type of communication is effective when sincere.


Other abilities of excellent project managers include decision-making, time management, and leadership. To successfully lead a project, one must be committed from beginning-to-end. Just as important, it’s necessary to ensure the team members are aware of how the project will benefit the organization. When buy-in takes place, the chances for success skyrocket.

How to Tell the Customer He is Wrong

How to tell the customer he is wrong
As a business owner, I do whatever possible to make my customers happy. When they ask for a new feature, I get to work on the proposal right away, and will have it to them ASAP. If they wish to negotiate the price, I set up a meeting to discuss the requirements. When I’m convinced the price is too high, I revise it. If the customer asks for rush delivery, I will do what I can to meet the deadline.

As you can see, I’m committed to making my customers happy.

What if They are Wrong?

We had a customer (i.e., Steve) from North Carolina that was a toughie. Even when things were going well, he came up with something that he didn’t like. “Jimmie, you guys need to be a better job! I will not tolerate any more mistakes!” After reviewing these situations with the team, we often determined the issue was on their side, and not because of something we failed to do.

For example, Steve’s company asked us to develop a database to collect information throughout the year. Our team worked on the feature, and had it ready within a week. We provided a demo to the client via WebEx, and they were happy. At the end of the year, however, Steve called me upset that the report was “not running right.” After a quick review, I realized they had not populated any of the data for the entire year. Of course, he blamed us for failing to remind his team that they needed to update the records.

How to Take Care of It

I suppose that I could call Steve and tell him that he and his team are incompetent. They should know that the data must be entered by them, and that we have nothing to do with this part of the work. As you know, this approach is going to cause more problems, so here’s how I handled it.

Steve, I wanted to follow-up with you regarding the database issue. After thinking about it, I realized that I should have informed your team that you were to update the database throughout the year. My apologies for failing to communicate this expectation. However, we have a team ready to help you get the work done. I know you need the report by this Friday, so please give me a call to get going. Thank you.

After sharing this story with colleagues, some tell me that I should put Steve in his place. I should let him know that he is wrong for expecting us to do their work. I see the point shared by business associates, but I’m confident that teaching Steve a lesson will do little good in the long run. The next year Steve was just as difficult on us as before, but this was a major contract for our company. Thankfully, he was up for retirement, and a new point-of-contact was assigned. This person was nice, professional, and reasonable.

There are times when we need to take a tough stance with customers. In some cases, we can tell them that we’re no longer interested in doing business with them. However, my experience has shown that taking the high-road will work most of the time.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén