PMP Exam Change 2016: New Topics and Study Guidance (Part 2)

6 minute read    Updated:    Harwinder Singh

PMP Exam Change 2016: New topics to study, what has changed

PMP Exam Change 2016 (Part 2): In Part 1, we learned about PMI’s Role Delineation Study (RDS), PMP Exam Content Outline, PMBOK Guide, and PMP Handbook, and how these influence the PMP Exam. We have all heard that 8 new tasks have been added, few tasks have been modified, and some deleted from the PMP Exam Content Outline. I’ll not go into the full laundry list here. Rather, I’ll be focusing on the key theme, and provide a list of the new topics that you need to focus on for the new exam. At the end, I’ll also provide some guidance for PMP aspirants to help them align their preparation to the new changes. Let’s get rolling.

Influence of Agile on traditional project management

PMI has woken up to the fact that traditional “waterfall” project management has to adapt and become more “Agile”. There’s an unequivocal influence of Agile on the recent PMP exam changes. With this, there’s a greater focus on areas such as Stakeholder “engagement”, “two-way” communication, gathering lessons learned “throughout the project”, lean and efficiency principles, and a lot more. Let’s have a quick look at the 4 core values in the Agile Manifesto:

Agile values

- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
- Working software over comprehensive documentation
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
- Responding to change over following a plan

Stakeholder Management

Stakeholder Management was a new Knowledge Area added to the PMBOK Guide, 5th Ed. Now it has found it’s way to the PMP Exam Content Outline. Emphasis has been given to stakeholder engagement and two-way communication with stakeholders, instead of just pushing the information down (one-way) to the stakeholders.

Benefits Analysis, Business Strategy and Benefits Realization

There’s emphasis on involving project managers early and taking their inputs in areas such as benefits analysis, alignment of projects with business strategy and Benefits Realization Management (BRM). The idea is that when project managers participate in these discussions, they are more likely to focus on creation of business value rather than getting the deliverables out the door.

Refer to my post on BRM for details, but in short, projects do not end with the formal closure. BRM is about working with the customer to ensure that the product (or service) delivered by the project gets integrated into the customer’s organization, and delivers the business value detailed in the Project Charter. BRM helps to reduce project failure rates.

Lessons Learned

Greater emphasis has been put on utilizing and documenting lessons learned throughout the project. Lessons learned management is viewed as an enabler for continuous improvement. Agile folks - does it ring a bell? In Agile, Retrospectives are done every few weeks (at the end of each iteration), instead of once at the end of the project (when it’s too late).

Lean and Efficiency Principles

There’s increased focus on Agile, and process analysis techniques like Lean, Kanban and Six Sigma. Agile and Lean principles have been mentioned in the PMBOK® Guide, 5th Edition, and the Content Outline has now “caught up”.

Responsibility of creating the Project Charter

Those who have read the PMBOK® Guide, 5th Edition understand that the Project Manager should participate in the creation of the Project Charter, but is not solely responsible for creating it. Usually the Project Charter is created by someone “higher up” such as the Sponsor. Again this is an area where the Content Outline has caught up with the PMBOK Guide.

What are the new topics to focus on for the PMP Exam 2016?

Here’s a list of new topics that PMP aspirants should focus on (not in any particular order).

  • Benefits Realization
  • Performance measurement techniques (KPI and key success factors)
  • Customer satisfaction metrics
  • Process Analysis techniques like Lean, Kanban and Six Sigma
  • Project quality best practices and standards (e.g., ISO, BS, CMMI, IEEE)
  • Delegation techniques
  • Business acumen
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Expert judgment technique
  • Generational sensitivity and diversity
  • Knowledge management
  • Lessons learned management techniques
  • Meeting management techniques
  • Regulatory and environment impacts assessment

Guidance for PMP aspirants to prep for PMP Exam 2016

PMI said that 25% of the exam questions have changed. Does this mean that 25% of your study material needs to change? The short answer is ‘No’. As I mentioned in part 1, the PMP Exam change 2016 is in many ways an alignment of the Content Outline with the PMBOK Guide. Most mainstream PMP certification courses and books have always provided full coverage of the PMBOK Guide because that’s the “safer” approach for them. Yes, it means that PMP aspirants were getting trained on topics which were not “officially” included or tested on the actual PMP exam.

PMP aspirants were preparing for topics which were not tested on the PMP exam.

Specifically talking about the 25% change, I think 10% of that change relates to the Project Stakeholder Management knowledge area, which the “older” exam prep material already covers. Similarly, topics such as benefits analysis, lessons learned, PM’s role in creating the charter, etc. are also well covered in “older” material. That leaves us with about 5-10% of content that may relate to some of the newer topics.

In summary, if you have “older” course material (meant for PMP exam until Jan 11, 2016), you can still use it to pass the new PMP exam provided you bridge the 5-10% “gap” (new topics highlighted above) through free sources available online.

Should I take the new PMP exam now or wait?

PMP exam is a costly affair and I would not like to be PMI’s guinea pig. PMI has a history of screwing up with exam changes. My advise is to wait for 2-3 months to let the dust settle down. There are brave hearts out there who cherish new challenges. Let them go in first and learn from their lessons learned before taking the dive.

This completes the 2-part series on the PMP Exam Change 2016. I’ve spent several days in putting this together. If you found it useful or have any questions, please comment below and let me know. I’ll appreciate your feedback.

2-part series on PMP Exam Change
  1. PMP Exam Change 2016: RDS, Content Outline, PMBOK and Handbook - I'm So Confused!
  2. PMP Exam Change 2016: New Topics and Prep Guidance (you are here)

Image credit: Flickr / strupler

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