As we discussed last month, CompTIA has made some significant changes to the content of the Project+ exam as they migrate from PK0-004 (currently available) to PK0-005 (coming soon). This month, the focus in on the topics beneath the second domain of the new exam (Project Life Cycle Phases) and some selected topics that appear beneath each of the five subdomains.
Among the topics to know for this domain are that communication is imperative at every phase of the project. Communication does not become less important once you’ve created the project charter, written a clear list of objectives, defined the scope, and begun execution — but the way in which that input is accepted and acted upon may change as you move through the project.
2.1 Explain the value of artifacts in the discovery/concept preparation phase for a project
Financial concepts and terminology come into play beneath this subdomain with three to know being ROI, CapEx, and OpEx. ROI is return on investment (ROI). ROI is simply the amount returned divided by the amount invested. If, for example, a $100,000 investment can be projected to return $1 million in revenue, then the ROI is ten.
A weakness of ROI is that unless you convert returns to present dollars then the ROI may be 10 for a project that will reap $1 million within one year, as well as for another that will reap that amount over the course of 20 year. The number alone does not identify the difference in time periods between the two.
Artifacts are usually considered to be the documents, diagrams, agendas, and so forth, that communicate components of the project with the project’s management plan being the most discernible.
The word “artifacts,” though, can also refer to the tools and processes that are in use throughout the project: for that reason, it is important to read thoroughly any question regarding artifacts and put into context what is being asked before answering.
2.2 Given a scenario, perform activities during the project initiation phase
The project charter is overseen by the project sponsor/champion and it outlines the project’s objectives, scope, and success criteria. (It is difficult to know if you’ve succeeded unless you know what the success criteria are.)
It is the project charter that formally authorizes the existence of the project and provides the Project Manager with their authority to apply organizational resources. A responsibility matrix (RACI) is used to identify those Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed to make sure that work gets done.
The responsible individual(s) are those who actually do the work, while those accountable are the ones who sign off on it, approve it, and are answerable if the work is not correct. The consulted are typically subject matter experts who weigh in on work before it begins or while it is ongoing.
The informed individuals are those who are kept up to date on progress and related factors. A distinction between consulted and informed is that typically communication with the consulted is two-way (a dialogue) while with the informed is one-way (an announcement or report).
2.3 Given a scenario, perform activities during the project planning phase
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.
The work breakdown structure (WBS), 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" is used to organize work into manageable sections — with “manageable” being a key element.
In other words, the project can be broken into components and work packages: Completing those elements leads to the completion of the project.
In the WBS, components exist at levels based on how far away they are from the whole of the project itself. For example, if a project were to empty an office, the finished project (an empty room) would be level one, while taking out the furniture would be level two.
Each individual piece of furniture that needs to be removed would be level three, while taking the legs off the desk so it can fit through the door would be level four. There is not a limit on the number of levels that can exist, but each lower level is a child to the parent level above it.
By breaking the work into the smaller levels, it is possible to identity the tasks that need to be done to complete the project in much the same way a schematic can show all that needs to go into the building of a bookcase, dresser, or other item needing assembly.
2.4 Given a scenario, perform activities during the project execution phase
The deliverables are the main focus during this phase and to keep everything on track, it is often necessary to manage conflicts that arise. Conflict resolution can be addressed through five 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.
Collaborating: 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. The approach involves both parties actively participating (listening, sharing, communicating) and may employ a third party (without a vested interest ) to reach an agreement.
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
As everything progresses, a phase gate review can be used: The phase-gate model divides a project into stages (phases) and each one of them is divided from the next by a “gate.”
When a stage is completed, then there is a review done before the project moves to the next phase. Quality checks are done at this time and the sponsor holds sole responsibility for the review.
2.5 Explain the importance of activities performed during the closing phase
One thing that makes a project a project — as opposed to a continuing operation — is that it has the feature of being finished, of reaching completion. When this occurs, the resources that were dedicated to it no longer are, and instead move on to something else (usually the next project).
Before abandoning the finished project, though, there is a closing phase and closure typically accomplished with 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. At the closure meeting, the focus is on the sign-off by the sponsor and acceptance of all the deliverables.
It is important to know that not every project undertaken may reach the closure initially defined during the planning phase. It is possible that a project may need to terminate early due to changes in circumstances (acquisitions, budget cuts, refocusing, new priorities, or any of a number of other reasons).
If the project does end earlier than anticipated, it is still important to have a closing phase and transition from this project as smoothly as possible. One additional record that becomes important during an early termination is a formal document detailing why the project ended and ceding the unfinished deliverables to a responsible party.
Regardless of how the project ends, lessons learned should be discussed and documented, as they can be helpful for future projects. This can be done in an official “Lessons Learned Register” but should be done at the minimum in note form if a formal document is not desired/kept. The final report for the project should summarize the venture listing key elements from documents created for each of the prior phases.
Not to be overlooked, successes achieved as a result of work on the project should also be celebrated or rewarded. It is important to acknowledge what was accomplished by those who dedicated their time and resources to the undertaking and made it possible.
This recognition can be of team members who gave more of their time/attention than they needed to, of champions who went above and beyond to get approval when it was crucially needed, or of vendors, suppliers, and almost anyone else. Public acknowledgement of those not expecting it can go a long way toward building loyalty and buy-in from them for future projects.