poniedziałek, 17 grudnia 2007

Preparing for Prince2 exam

About Prince2 exams
Prince2 stands for PRojects IN Controlled Environment and it is non-agile type of project management methodology. It bases on customer-supplier pair, who wants to make a business (represented by business cases) in a strictly formalized way, to avoid some possible misunderstanding or potential conflicts. The methodology operates mostly on customer side and it is optional for supplier, who may use different methodology (even agile).

Prince2 was financed, registered and developed by British governmental organization Office of Government Commerce (OGC). The courses, exams and materials are provided by APM Group. There are two exams to certify the knowledge in the area:
Prince2 Foundation – 1 hour long multiple choices, just to prove you may take a part in projects, 50% good answers are enough and 99% candidates pass
Prince2 Practioner – 3 hours long objective testing multiple choices, to prove you may run and manager projects, 50% good answers are enough and 75-80% candidates pass
More about exams details - here.

The interesting thing is that many companies offering authorized Prince2 courses refuses “just exam” option, even when it is not against the APM Group rules. If you are willing to take the self-learning path, probably you will need to use British Council. If it is not an option, contact APM Group directly and remember to choose the examination language ;)
More about taking exams - here.

About Prince2
It is focused on processes and documents flows maintained within 3 main folders for project, each stage and quality. Management is split into 2+ levels (above Project Board there is Company or Programme management, but it is outside Prince2 scope):
  • Project board – taking strategic decisions, before-and-after stages and when project manager reports exceptional situation (beyond established level of tolerance). Its members must represent main 3 interests – customer, supplier and business.
  • Project manager – taking daily tactical decisions
  • Team leader (optional) – may take over part of project manager duties especially if some specialized (eg. technical) teams takes a part in a project

Prince2 consists mainly of 8 processes (flows), 8 components (key elements used in flows) and 3 techniques (important approaches across all processes realized with use of components). The methodology is though scalable and the minimum is 2 level organization (board and manager) and 2 processes (initialization and acting).

The Prince2 is a brother of PMBoK methodology. The main difference is though that Project Manager Body of Knowledge (PMBoK) answers the question what PM should know, and PRINCE2 answers a question what PM should do.

Detail list of all sub-process you may find in number of places like english or polish wikipedia. The scope of the paragraph is to show the boundaries of the processes and linkages between them.

· Starting up a project (SU) [Uruchamianie Projektu/Przygotowanie Założeń Projektu (PP)] – it is about organizing Project Board [Komitet Sterujący] and nominating Project Manager (creating Organization component) and preparing documents for first strategic decision
Input: Project Mandate [Zlecenie Przygotowania Projektu] document
Output: Project Brief [Podstawowe Założenia Projektu], Project Approach [Formuła realizacyjna], Initation Stage Plan (IP) [Plan etapu Inicjowania projektu (IP)]

· Directing a project (DP) [Strategiczne zarządzanie projektem (ZS)] – that is about taking strategic decisions by Project Board; they are always taken when one process/stage finishes and next is about to begin OR if Project Manager request exceptional situation and wants to put into play the Exception Plan
Input: Output from previous stage and plans for the next one from PM
Output: Decision

· Initiating a project (IP) [Inicjowanie projektu (IP)] – when SU is just the general approval to work over vision of the project, IP is about the detail preparation for project realization split into one or number of management stages (they may be parallel to operation stages). It is about quality, risk register, business cases, controls and setting up documentation flow gathered at the end into one key Project Initiation Document. It includes also planning the basic budget plus changes and reserve budgets.
Input: SU [PP] input and permission from Project Board (DP1) [ZS1]
Output: Project Initiation Document [Dokument Inicjujący Projekt]

· Controlling a stage (CS) [Sterowanie Etapem (SE)] – As mentioned above the realization of the project is split into one or many management stages. Within the stage the full responsibility is delegated on PM, who fully manages tactical decisions and optionally he may delegate his responsibilities on team leaders. The process is about all the actions linked with authorizing and acceptance of performed work packages (1,9), controlling the project progress (2,5), registering and managing issues appearing during a project (3,4), reporting to project board (6), small (7) and big (8) crisis management depending if the problem is going out of established tolerance scope or not.
Input: Project Initiation Document and output from previous stage (if any)
Output: Realized set of work packages within controlled time and budget

· Managing product delivery (MP) [Zarządzanie Wytwarzaniem Produktów (WP)] – Prince2 is products based planning. The management products may be split into the specialized products, which may be realized outside the company. The process is mainly about dealing with such a situation. It is a very simple process consisting off three parts – accepting (1), executing (2) and delivering (3) work packages. It is the lowest possible in Prince2 acting level - doing the thing.
Input: CS1 [SE1] work package authorization > (1)
Output: 2 > CS2 [SE2] project progress 3 > CS9 [SE9] work package acceptance

· Managing stage boundaries (SB) [Zarządzanie Zakresem Etapu (ZE)] – When “Controlling a stage” process is coming to the end and a new stage is planned this process is run as a preparation for new stage including updates of project plan, business case and risk register. The result of it is Final Stage Report and plan for the next stage (small IP process), which is presented to Project Board for acceptance. The process is also used for crisis management if some significant changes to the base plan are necessary (the path CS8>SB6>DP3)
Input: Current project documentation
Output: Final Stage Report, plan for the next stage or input for “Closing a project”

· Closing a project (CP) [Zamykanie Projektu (ZP)]

· Planning (PL) [Planowanie (PL)] – planning is unique process as it is a parallel thing happening in the background through the whole project life cycle. This is mainly about documentation review and keeping it consistent. It includes products management, configuration management, schedule, risks register etc. It is especially used at sub-processes SU[PP]6, DP6 [ZS6], IP2 [IP2], MP1 [WP1], SB[ZE]1,2,6
Input: Various
Output: The project plan

1. Prince2 process flow
8 components:
  • Business Case [Uzasadnienie biznesowe]– The justification behind the project.
  • Organization [Organizacja] – The way in which the personnel involved in the project are structured.
  • Plans [Plany] – Documents describing what the project should accomplish, how the work should be carried out, when it should be carried out and by whom.
  • Controls [ Elementy sterowania] – The way in which the project manager and project board should exercise control over the project including the things like tolernace, reports etc.
  • Management of Risk [ Zarządzanie ryzykiem] – The way in which the project should approach and manage risk. PRINCE2 defines a risk as uncertainty of outcome, which may be either a positive opportunity or a negative threat. Enlisted risks are analyzed and then, they are managed in one of 5 ways – prevention, reduction, reassignment (for example on the external company eg. insurance), acceptation, planning the reserve budget in IP process.
  • Quality in a Project Environment [ Jakość w środowisku projektu] – The way in which the project should ensure that a quality product is delivered. Prince2 does not specify details and it relays on external standards – especially the once already used by the customer or supplier.
  • Configuration Management [ Zarządzanie konfiguracją]– The way in which the project's products are identified and tracked including versions management.
  • Change Control [ Sterowanie zmianami] – The way in which the project manages any changes to specification or scope of its products. Benefits/Savings versus risk,cost and time.

3 techniques

  • Product Based Planning – the technique of planning based on defining the products, establishing their hierarchy and than the relations between them – product flow diagram. Based on this information the plan is created including the schedule, quality and risks.
  • Change Control – the technique of registering and taking decisions about the planned changes including analysis and granting permission plus planning Changes Budget in IP process.
  • Quality Reviews – how the quality assurance should be performed on a regular basis, in order to provide the planned quality level

Prince2 Maturity Model (P2MM)
As Prince2 is scalable solution and many companies are willing strongly to get Prince2 label for minimum cost, many companies suffer PINO (Prince In Name Only) syndrome. OGC develops lastly the maturity model as the remedy for this, which defines 5 levels:

  • 1 Initial Does the organisation recognise projects and run them differently from its ongoing business? (Projects may be run informally with no standard process or tracking system.)
  • 2 Repeatable Does the organisation ensure that each project is run with its own processes and procedures to a minimum specified standard? (There may be limited consistency or co-ordination between projects)
  • 3 Defined Does the organisation have its own centrally controlled project processes, and can individual projects flex within these processes to suit the particular project?
  • 4 Managed Does the organisation obtain and retain specific measurements on its project management performance and run a quality management organisation to better predict future performance?
  • 5 Optimised Does the organisation run continuous process improvement with proactive problem and technology management for projects in order to improve its ability to depict performance over time and optimise processes?

APM Group among others, provide the maturity assessment to define the existing level of organization maturity and prepare the action plan to improve it for future (most of companies offering authorized Prince2 trainings does it as well).

„Understanding Prince2” Ken Bradley (polish version)
Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2 (polish version)
NOTE! There is a newest edition of these books, which you may buy in AMPG shop.
Polish and English wikipedia
Sample exam questions

I have just passed the Prince2 Foundation exam - happy Christmas ;)

PopFly - mashups

Popfly is the mashups and web page creator service published by Microsoft at November 2007. It seems like the answer to the Yahoo!Pipes service and as that solution it does not require from you to install anything – you may do all the tricks straight from your web browser. Pipes seems to be the on-line version of Data Transformation Services concentrated more on processing text data, when Popfly, is focused on the visual data like maps, photos and videos.

1. Yahoo!Pipes editor

Microsoft truly surprise also with the freshness and richness of the GUI. It is very visible that a lot of effort was put to create moving effects (based on Silverlight), which does not shade the functionality, but causes that you truly enjoy to play with solution. I love to tickle the drill down menu (like the tutorial).

2. PopFly - link two blocks

3. PopFly - specify linkage details

4. PopFly - final effect

Popfly is not only about the fireworks, but it truly provides the big number of available blocks. When there is opened option to play with picture galleries you may not only put them on maps (why there is no Google Maps? J ), but there is a wide range of various gallery displays starting from the simple one like ImageFader or PhotShow and closing on more advanced one like Carousel or PhotoSphere.
5. PopFly - Picture sphere

As far as you play just with couple of blocks, you may easily link particular metadata and the range of capabilities is truly inspiring. The part of the demo showing GeoNames is a good example.

Furthermore Popfly is not just about mashups, but it also provides the web page designer tool, with number of templates. It seems like that is a way how the creators wanted to popularize the solution and that is way you may even put there the mashup editor!

Popfly has a big chance to become popular and even now it is surprising how many new non-MS objects are available. It happens so, because the solution allows you to create the rich content without writing the line of code and I am sure that in short time it will appear in number of web pages. Furthermore, it is a also the interesting playground for the developers as well. You may put your JavaScript snippets straightforward within the IE or you may see your projects within Visual Studio! Furthermore, you may also see your friends projects and if you are allowed you may play with them!

Popfly is a beta version, but surprisingly I could not blow it out (I admit I did not try it too hardly as I was busy playing with all the toys J ). There is just couple of small, annoying things like most of available services are strongly linked with US localization. Is it though the challenge for EU developers?!

poniedziałek, 10 grudnia 2007

Plaxo 3.0 Beta

Mood: First day at work after the holidays ;)

There is quite many social national and international social networks. I use the most often LinkedIn as the most popular one and also the one, which I enjoy. I have some accounts in the other(s), but I visit them just once per a month or couple of months, when I get some invitation from them. I have made lastly the exception to have a closer look at Plaxo and I must say I have been positively surprised.

Unlike LinkedIn, which is turning more into hiring market and Question & Answer services, the Plaxo has the aspiration to become the integration/synchronization bus, which allows to track humans activities across all the existing services via Pulse. This includes not only the Social Networks, but also Photo Sharing, bookmarking, bloginning etc.

Everything in one place, as far as the service base on the open standard! With the pulse stream service you keep the information about all the actions/changes, which happened among your social network in the area – something like mega RSS :)

Some of these things are actually similar to LinkedIn functionalities, but with the fresher approach. For example… Instead informing you that your firend X get 5 new connections (LinkedIn), it says that your friend X connected to person Y. Furthermore, you do not need to know the email address of person Y or prepaid SendIn Email service (LinkedIn) to invite the person to your social network. The other example are groups, which are not so restricted like in LinkedIn – generally everybody may establish it for free and communication possibilities within it are much richer.

Actually Plaxo has the aspiration to become the key service to integrate not only all your contacts (professional, personal and family), but also the other Outlook type of information like Calendar, Tasks and notes. The sample approach of how it is achieved for calendar events you may watch at this demo. Unfortunately the Sync with LinkedIn is free, just for first 30 days :( Later you will need to pay 50$ per a year.

It is also visible in some moments that the service is still in beta version, when it frozes once per a while on loading the data…

It provides also the cool Outlook plugin. As Plaxo is different from LinkedIn, it provides within its toolbar mostly the synchronization options, but there is also "Send eCard" thing. Within a package you get also the signature editor, which allows to create the nice footer to your emails. What is not so easy to do within Outlook, is much easier with Plaxo wizard. Futhermore there a cool feauture next to each email, which allows you to do couple of actions related to person, who send you the email. Again, except the standard one like "Invite" or "send eCard", there is "Google [the person]" ;)

Plaxo is definitely interesting company and I am looking forward to see its further grow!

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