The PMP® Exam’s New Initiating Tasks

How to Prepare for the PMP Exam Day

In the beginning there was the Project Charter and the Sponsor saw that it was good. Then, handing the Charter to the Project Manager, the Sponsor declared: “Yea, verily, I say unto thee: Go forth and create a unique product, service or result based on the good book”.

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Understanding the Origin of Projects and Organizational Goals

Until the Project Management Institute changes the Project Management Professional (PMP)® exam on the twelfth of January, students in PMP® exam preparation courses could take the view that the Project Charter was the kick-off point for any project. However, there are three new tasks in the Initiating process group that encourage us to look beyond the Project Charter and ask where do projects come from?

These are:

  1. Identify key deliverables based on the business requirements in order to manage customer expectations and direct the achievement of project goals.
  2. Conduct benefit analysis with relevant stakeholders to validate project alignment with organizational strategy and expected business value.
  3. Inform stakeholders of the approved project charter to ensure common understanding of the key deliverables, milestones, and their roles and responsibilities.

Experienced PMPs® will look at these new tasks and see a lot of familiar ground being covered. However, when the Project Management Institute talks about identifying key deliverables, it is not talking about the Collect Requirements process in Project Scope Management. Here it is concerned with the outline scope that appears in the Project Charter. Where does this come from?

The fact is: a lot of work is carried out before any project is chartered. To appreciate the need for this, we need to study organizations and why they exist. Every organization has a goal – what is called its “vision”. A charity might seek to eliminate a particular disease or the causes of disease, such as untreated water or poverty. A commercial enterprise might want to revolutionize a particular market using innovative solutions – Audi’s “Vorsprung durch Technik“ slogan comes to mind.

Conducting Feasibility Studies and Presenting Business Cases

To realize this vision the organization has to do things. It might develop a solar powered water treatment facility for poor villages, or open a high-street retail outlet to sell its innovative products. These steps are usually managed as projects, because projects are the change agents.

In principle, everything an organization does should contribute to fulfilling its vision. So the deliverables from any project should, somehow, relate to the journey the organization is taking. The people who approve projects – the Portfolio Managers or the Board of Directors – need to be satisfied that a proposed project fits in with its overall strategy for obtaining the vision. It also needs to be practical. A start-up company might have big dreams, but it also usually has small pockets, so it needs to embark on projects it can afford and ones that will generate a revenue stream before the initial seed capital is expended.

A Project Sponsor, therefore, has to conduct some sort of feasibility study to assure the decision-makers that, not only will the project move the organization closer to its ultimate goal (or vision), but that it can be completed within the constraints imposed by the organization and its environment. In other words, the Project Sponsor has to present a business case before approval is forthcoming.

Importance of Informing Stakeholders about the Project Charter

Knowing this, the first two new initiating tasks now make sense. The third should not be a surprise to any PMP®. Immediately after the Project Charter is developed, the Project Manager is supposed to identify the project’s stakeholders. Given that the Project Charter is the only project artefact available at this point, it is a reasonable assumption that the Project Manager will inform stakeholders of the approved Project Charter. It really should provide a useful synopsis of what the project is there to achieve.

For Project Managers who are used to receiving Project Charters and proceeding along the lines laid down in the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide), knowing the background to their projects might seem a waste of effort. But this awareness can help Project Managers ensure that their projects retain their relevance in a changing environment and will also help to provide progress reports that focus on the benefits the sponsoring organization hopes will accrue.

In short, if you can appreciate that the Project Charter describes a step towards the ultimate corporate goal and that it part of a larger plan then these new tasks in the PMP® exam will not disturb you. Best of luck with it.

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