Initiating the Project – PMP Certification

Any job application for the role of project manager will be fortified with the presence of a PMP certification. It has universal recognition and acceptance, and certifies that the holder is thoroughly knowledgeable of and actively involved in all the phases of managing a project. This certification is awarded by the Project Management Institute (PMI) after the candidate successfully passes the exam set by them. The PMP certification exam has 9 knowledge areas that map to 5 performance domains or process groups.

The first of the process groups is “Initiating the Project.” It is the start of the project journey and mainly consists of defining and authorizing the project. Of the 200 multiple-choice questions in total, 26 will be related to the project initiation domain. It makes up 13% of the total exam content. This domain has been further broken down into the following 6 tasks.

Task 1 – Perform Project Assessment:

At the outset, meetings will be held to gather data about the project. Attendees must include the customer, sponsors, subject matter experts (SMEs) and other stakeholders who have some interest in the project and are positively or negatively impacted by it. With the project information in hand, a feasibility study will be carried out for the new products and services being proposed. All assumptions should be clearly stated and constraints, if any, have to be highlighted.

Task 2 – High-level Scope Definition:

While the detailed scope definition is a part of further process groups in the project journey, the high-level scope of the project needs to be clearly defined in line with the customer’s expectations from the project. It must keep the business requirements in mind and adhere to compliance regulations.

Task 3 – Key Stakeholder Analysis:

It is important to gain support of the key stakeholders in a project. For this, relevant data collection and analysis has to be carried out using interviewing, brainstorming and other effective techniques. The varying goals, agenda and priorities of each stakeholder have to be aligned with each other, with the customer expectations and with the project plans. Key stakeholder analysis process group corresponds with the Project Communications Management knowledge area.

Task 4 – Definition of Risks, Assumptions and Constraints:

The current environment of the project has to be analyzed, taking historical data into consideration as well. Experts need to be consulted for their judgment. The required outcome is a clear definition of the limitations of the project. All assumptions made have to be specifically stated. This definition also involves an approach to implement the project.

Task 5 – Project Charter Development:

Requirements have to be gathered from stakeholders in more detail and then these have to be further analyzed. Accordingly, the project charter will be developed and documented. It is the project initiation document containing the business needs, customer expectations, project justification, assigned project manager and level of authority, summary milestone schedule, influence of stakeholders and business case outlining the RoI and preliminary budget of the project. This process group fits in with the Project Integration Management knowledge area.

Task 6 – Project Charter Approval:

The sponsor has to give approval for the project charter created in the previous task. If required, the customer’s approval also has to be taken. This process assigns control to the project manager to take the project forward onto the next process group, which is planning. An example of the task he / she is authorized to perform is to assign resources. The approval also indicates that the project charter has been accepted and that the sponsors and / or customers are committed to it. It flags off the official start of the project.

Knowledge and Skills Required:

The main skills that a candidate needs to possess and polish when preparing or the “Initiating the Project” domain of the PMP certification are identifying stakeholders and risks, and developing business cases. They need to be well-versed in project selection criteria such as cost, impact and feasibility, as well as the elements that constitute a project charter. In addition, there is a long list of skills and knowledge topics required across all domains; decision making, cultural sensitivity and time management are a few examples.

PMP Certification Changes Post-2011:

Prior to 2011, the initiation process group had 11% presence in the exam paper and there was a 6th process group known as Professional and Social Responsibility. This group has now been removed as a separate identity and been merged across the other five process groups. Accordingly, the exam content proportion of project initiation has now increased to 13%. Since the project management processes in this process group are few and easy compared to the other groups, it is a very easy scoring section and can highly increase the chance of a candidate passing the PMP exam on the first attempt.

Tips for Answering Exam Questions:

* Many of the questions, especially the situational ones, are lengthy and intentionally worded in a confusing manner. Candidates should read each question thoroughly but at the same time not linger for too long on any single question, in the interest of completing all the questions in the paper. Four hours may seem like a long time, but time will fly exceptionally fast during the PMP certification exam.

* Among the four multiple-choice answers for each question, two options appear to be equally correct; the candidate is advised to first discard the remaining two options that are obviously wrong. This will reduce the level of confusion and allow better concentration to pick the most correct option as the final answer.

PMI has included two main project management processes into the initiating process group through the 6 tasks described above. These are to develop the project charter and to identify stakeholders. When both these are completed successfully, the project is ready to get underway. Much as the PMP certification is coveted, its exam is highly feared even by candidates having years of work experience as project managers. This overview of the course material covered under Initiating the Project gives potential candidates a fair idea of what to expect while preparing to take the PMP exam and encourages them to attain early success.

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