My comments on upcoming changes to the PMP exam

Posted on: September 30th, 2015 by Jim

So in my last post I detailed the changes to the PMP exam. I’ll drill a little deeper here and talk about my thoughts on what these changes might mean. I say might because none of the exam prep providers has released questions yet and PMI is notoriously close to the vest on these. They are like Mary Poppins – they never explain.

As a reminder, the blueprint for the exam is the Examination Content Outline which talks about project manager tasks and skills. (Although they never define the difference, I’m assuming the former is my responsibility to do, the latter what I should know or understand.) Generally speaking, the added tasks make sense especially in light of post-PMP PDU changes. (More on that in a future post). It’s some of the dropped tasks that have me puzzled. To wit:

-The first task I notice they dropped is “Define the high-level scope of the project.” I will here speculate that they did this because they feel that that is rightfully the job of the sponsor.

-The first big surprise – for me – is that they dropped the task “Create WBS.” Yet under Knowledge and Skills, they state that a needed skill is “Scope Deconstruction (e.g., WBS, Scope Backlog) tools and techniques.” This puzzles me on two fronts. Firstly, the WBS is a vital output in the PMBOK. It is a vehicle through which all planning (and Earned Value Management) is done. So by dropping it from tasks and putting it in Knowledge and Skills what is that saying? That it needs to get done but not necessarily by the PM? And that he or she must only oversee it? I don’t know. Totally unclear. This may not get resolved till PMBOK 6 which is likely still a year away if not more. (A few months ago, I asked PMI when the next edition would be out and they were noncommittal).

And Scope Backlog? That expression does not show up even once in PMBOK 5. And any references to backlog in the book are strictly within the limits of Agile. So does this statement prefigure an expanded view of Agile in the next book? Again, a mystery.

Another task dropped is “Develop a Budget Plan.” By this I assume they mean budget. But yet again, this is relegated to Knowledge and Skills, not Tasks.

Under Monitoring and Controlling, “Communicate Project Status to Stakeholders” is dropped but I think perhaps this has been pushed into Executing.

So it will be very interesting to see how exam providers deal with these changes. My guess is that there will be various interpretations that won’t be reconciled until PMBOK 6 comes out.

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