PMBOK 5th Edition: changes to the Planning Process Group (Part 2 of 4) 4/9

October 23, 2013 at 11:20 am | Posted in PMI, Study hints | Leave a comment
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It’s me again. For those of you just tuning in, I have already released three blog posts:

Because the Planning Process Group contains 24 processes, I will be breaking this overview into four posts to cover all of its processes in smaller, more easily digestible chunks.

Part 2 (this post) will cover the following processes:

  • Plan Schedule Management
  • Define Activities
  • Sequence Activities
  • Estimate Activity Resources
  • Estimate Activity Durations
  • Develop Schedule

The rest of the processes are broken down as follows:

  • Part 1 covered Develop Project Management Plan, Plan Scope Management, Collect Requirements, Define Scope, and Create WBS
  • Part 3 will cover Plan Cost Management, Estimate Costs, Determine Budget, Plan Quality Management, Plan Human Resource Management, and Plan Communications Management.
  • Part 4 will cover Plan Risk Management, Identify Risks, Perform Qualitative Risk Analysis, Perform Quantitative Risk Analysis, Plan Risk Responses, Plan Procurement Management, and Plan Stakeholder Management.

Without further ado, here are the six processes of the Planning Process Group that belong in the Project Time Management Knowledge Area. Let’s get to it!

Introducing the Plan Schedule Management process – NEW IN PMBOK 5th EDITION

The Plan Schedule Management process is a new process to the Planning Process Group and the Project Time Management Knowledge Area. This process creates the schedule management plan that is used to define, validate, and control project time.

The Plan Schedule Management process has four inputs:

  • the project management plan
  • the project charter
  • enterprise environmental factors (EEFs)
  • organizational process assets (OPAs)

This process has three tools/techniques: expert judgment, analytical techniques,  and meetings. The analytical techniques include rolling wave planning, leads and lags, alternatives analysis, and methods for reviewing schedule performance.

This process produces one output: the schedule management plan. The schedule management plan is an input to the Define Activities, Sequence Activities, Estimate Activity Resources, Estimate Activity Durations, Develop Schedule, Identify Risks, and Perform Quantitative Risk Analysis processes.

Changes to the Define Activities process

The Define Activities process now has four inputs:

  • the schedule management plan – new to the PMBOK 5th Edition
  • the scope baseline
  • enterprise environmental factors (EEFs)
  • organizational process assets (OPAs)

The tools and techniques used during this process have not changed and are as follows: decomposition, rolling wave planning, and expert judgement.

The outputs of this process are also unchanged from the PMBOK 4th Edition, and include the activity list, activity attributes, and milestone list. All of these outputs are inputs to the other Project Time Management processes in the Planning Process Group.

Changes to the Sequence Activities process

The Sequence Activities process has two new inputs. The seven inputs to this process are:

  • the schedule management plan (a new input, and an output of the Plan Schedule Management process)
  • the activity list
  • activity attributes
  • the milestone list
  • the project scope statement
  • enterprise environmental factors (EEFs) (new to this process in the PMBOK 5th Edition)
  • organizational process assets (OPAs)

The Sequence Activities process has two small changes to its tools/techniques: applying leads and lags has been renamed to leads and lags, and schedule network templates have been removed.

The outputs of this process have not changed.

I would like to highlight some great new information that is included in this section in the PMBOK 5th Edition. The Precedence Diagramming Method section (6.3.2.1) has been expanded to better explain the different relationships. Also, a new figure (Figure 6-9) has been added to demonstrate how the relationships are displayed in a diagram. In the Dependency Determination section (6.3.2.2), a new dependency type, internal dependencies, has been added. In the Leads and Lags section (6.3.2.3), a new figure (Figure 6-10) named Examples of Lead and Lag is given. Finally the Project Schedule Network Diagrams section (6.3.3.1) includes a new project schedule network diagram figure (Figure 6-11).

Changes to the Estimate Activity Resources process

The Estimate Activity Resources has three new inputs. That means the complete set of inputs to this process is:

  • the schedule management plan (a new input, and an output of the Plan Schedule Management process)
  • the activity list
  • activity attributes
  • resource calendars
  • risk register (new to this process in the PMBOK 5th Edition)
  • activity cost estimates (new to this process in the PMBOK 5th Edition)
  • enterprise environmental factors (EEFs)
  • organizational process assets (OPAs)

There are no changes to the tools/techniques used in this process or to the outputs from this process.

Changes to the Estimate Activity Durations process

The Estimate Activity Durations process has three new inputs. The ten inputs to this process are:

  • the schedule management plan (a new input, and an output of the Plan Schedule Management process)
  • the activity list
  • activity attributes
  • activity resource requirements
  • resource calendars
  • the project scope statement
  • risk register (new to this process in the PMBOK 5th Edition)
  • resource breakdown structure (new to this process in the PMBOK 5th Edition)
  • enterprise environmental factors (EEFs)
  • organizational process assets (OPAs)

The Estimate Activity Durations process has one new tool/technique: group decision-making techniques. This includes brainstorming and Delphi or nominal group technique. The complete list of tools/techniques for this process is:

  • expert judgment
  • analogous estimating
  • parametric estimating
  • three-point estimating
  • group decision-making techniques (new)
  • reserve analysis

The outputs of this process have not changed. The outputs are still activity duration estimates and project document updates.

Changes to the Develop Schedule process

The Develop Schedule process has four new inputs. The thirteen inputs to this process are:

  • the schedule management plan (a new input, and an output of the Plan Schedule Management process)
  • the activity list
  • activity attributes
  • project schedule network diagrams
  • activity resource requirements
  • resource calendars
  • activity duration estimates
  • the project scope statement
  • risk register (new to this process in the PMBOK 5th Edition)
  • project staff assignments (new to this process in the PMBOK 5th Edition)
  • resource breakdown structure (new to this process in the PMBOK 5th Edition)
  • enterprise environmental factors (EEFs)
  • organizational process assets (OPAs)

The Develop Schedule process has two new tools/techniques: resource optimization techniques (which includes the resource leveling technique from the PMBOK 4th Edition and resource smoothing, a new technique) and modeling techniques (which includes what-if schedule analysis technique from the PMBOK 4th Edition and simulation, a new technique). Also, the applying leads and lags technique has been renamed to leads and lags.

Two new outputs have been added to this process: project calendars and project management plan updates. The complete list of outputs is schedule baseline, project schedule, schedule data, project calendars, project management plan updates, and project document updates.

Again, the PMBOK 5th Edition has added some very useful information to this section. The description of the Critical Path Method (6.6.2.2) has been expanded to better explain the method, and a new figure (Figure 6-18) has been added to demonstrate the critical path method. All activity boxes in the diagram have been expanded to include the ES, EF, LS, LF, duration, and slack of the activity. If you are unfamiliar with this method, I would strongly suggest that you look over section 6.6.2.2 and seek out other learning tools to familiarize yourself with this technique. I can guarantee this will be on the live exam in some manner!

The Critical Chain Method section (6.6.2.3) has also been expanded and includes a new figure (Figure 6-19) that is useful. Resource leveling is also demonstrated in Figure 6-20, another new figure.

That covers all the processes for this post. Watch for Part 3 of the Planning Process Group in the coming days.

Drop  me a line if you have any questions! I would love to hear from you….

-Robin

PMBOK 5th Edition: changes to the Planning Process Group (Part 1 of 4) 3/9

October 22, 2013 at 8:49 am | Posted in PMI, Study hints | Leave a comment

It’s that time again – time to give you another update on the PMBOK 5th Edition changes. For those of you just tuning in, I have already released two blog posts: a post that discusses the Knowledge Area and Process Group changes and a post that discussed the Initiating Process Group changes. My next topic is the Planning Process Group.

Because the Planning Process Group contains 24 processes, I will be breaking this overview into four posts to cover all of its processes in smaller, more easily digestible chunks.

Part 1 (this post) will cover the following processes:

  • Develop Project Management Plan
  • Plan Scope Management
  • Collect Requirements
  • Define Scope
  • Create WBS

Once that’s finished, I’ll break the rest of the processes down as follows:

  • Part 2 will cover Plan Schedule Management, Define Activities, Sequence Activities, Estimate Activity Resources, Estimate Activity Durations, and Develop Schedule.
  • Part 3 will cover Plan Cost Management, Estimate Costs, Determine Budget, Plan Quality Management, Plan Human Resource Management, and Plan Communications Management.
  • Part 4 will cover Plan Risk Management, Identify Risks, Perform Qualitative Risk Analysis, Perform Quantitative Risk Analysis, Plan Risk Responses, Plan Procurement Management, and Plan Stakeholder Management.

Without further ado, here are the first five processes of the Planning Process Group. Let’s get to it!

Changes to the Develop Project Management Plan process

The Develop Project Management Plan process still has four inputs:

  • project charter
  • outputs from other processes
  • enterprise environmental factors
  • organizational process assets

The only change is to the outputs from other processes input, which was defined as the outputs from other planning processes input in the PMBOK 4th Edition. This change better reflects the reality that updates to the project management plan can come from processes outside the Planning Process Group.

The other three Develop Project Management Plan process inputs are unchanged.

The Develop Project Management Plan process now has two tools. Facilitation techniques has been added as a tool for this process. Facilitation techniques include brainstorming, conflict resolution, problem solving, and meeting management. The other tool in this process is expert judgment.

The Develop Project Management Plan still only has a single output: the project management plan. However, there is one great graphic I want to mention: Table 4-1. (You knew this was coming – I love charts, figures, and graphics!) This table lists the components of the project management plan versus project documents. This table really helps clarify where the different components go.

My final observation is that the Develop Project Management Plan Data Flow Diagram (Figure 4-5) in the PMBOK 5th Edition has been greatly de-cluttered. (Is that even a word?) But if you compare the version in the PMBOK 4th Edition with the version in PMBOK 5th Edition, you will see that the figure has been simplified to make it easier to read. I think that you will agree with me that the new version is a great improvement. (All those arrows and bullets all over the place in the previous version made me wonder if I was coming or going!)

Introducing the Plan Scope Management process – NEW IN PMBOK 5th EDITION

The Plan Scope Management process is a new process to the Planning Process Group and Project Scope Management Knowledge Area. This process creates the scope management plan that is used to define, validate, and control project scope.

The Plan Scope Management process has four inputs:

  • the project management plan
  • the project charter
  • enterprise environmental factors (EEFs)
  • organizational process assets (OPAs)

This process has two tools/techniques: expert judgment and meetings. It produces two outputs: the scope management plan and requirements management plan. The scope management plan is an input to the Collect Requirements, Define Scope, and Create WBS processes. The requirements management plan is an input to the Collect Requirements process.

(Note that in the PMBOK 4th Edition, the requirements management plan was an output of  the Collect Requirements process.)

Changes to the Collect Requirements process

The Collect Requirements process now has five inputs:

  • the scope management plannew to the PMBOK 5th Edition
  • the requirements management plan – formerly an output of this process
  • the stakeholder management plan – new to the PMBOK 5th Edition
  • the project charter
  • the stakeholder register

This section of the PMBOK 5th Edition includes an added explanation about categorizing requirements into different categories, such as business requirements, stakeholder requirements, solution requirements, transition requirements, project requirements, and quality requirements. This is great information, particularly if you are new to project management.

The Collect Requirements process has three new tools/techniques: benchmarking, context diagrams, and document analysis.  The other eight tools/techniques that this process uses are the same:

  • Interviews
  • Focus groups
  • Facilitated workshops
  • Group creativity techniques
  • Group decision-making techniques
  • Questionnaires and surveys
  • Observations
  • Prototypes

The Collect Requirements process retained two of the outputs listed in the PMBOK 4th Edition: requirements documentation and requirements traceability matrix.  In the PMBOK 4th Edition, the requirements management plan was also an output of this process. However, this plan is now an output of the Plan Scope Management process and an input to this process.

Changes to the Define Scope process

The Define Scope process has one new input, which is the scope management plan. The other three inputs are the same. The four inputs are:

  • the scope management plan (a new input, and an output of the Plan Scope Management process)
  • the project charter
  • requirements documentation
  • organizational process assets (OPAs)

The Define Scope process has one small change to its tools/techniques: alternatives identification has been renamed to alternatives generation.

One final addition to this process in the PMBOK 5th Edition that I thought was great is . . . you got it! . . . another table: Table 5-1. This tables lists the elements of the project charter and project scope statement so that project managers can better differentiate between the two.

Changes to the Create WBS process

The Create Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) process now has five inputs, instead of three. Two new inputs have been added: the scope management plan (which is output from the Plan Scope Management process) and enterprise environmental factors. That means the complete set of inputs to this process is:

  • the scope management plan
  • the project scope statement
  • requirements documentation
  • enterprise environmental factors (EEFs)
  • organizational process assets (OPAs)

One new tool has been added to this process: expert judgment.  The other existing tool, decomposition, remains unchanged.

The outputs to the Create WBS process have been revised as follows: the WBS and WBS dictionary are no longer listed as separate outputs of this process because these documents are technically considered to be part of the scope baseline. So the scope baseline is still an output of this process (along with project document updates), and the scope baseline contains the project scope statement, WBS, and WBS dictionary. In bullet form, those outputs are:

  • Scope baseline (which now includes the project scope statement, the WBS, and the WBS dictionary)
  • Product documents updates

That covers all the processes for this post. Watch for Part 2 of the Planning Process Group in the coming days.

Drop  me a line if you have any questions! I would love to hear from you….

-Robin

PMBOK 5th Edition: changes to the Initiating Process Group 2/9

October 1, 2013 at 11:41 am | Posted in PMI, Study hints, Transcender news | Leave a comment
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If you read my previous post on the Knowledge Area and Process Group changes from PMBOK 4th Edition, you already know that PMI has made quite a few changes in the PMBOK 5th Edition. As promised in that earlier blog post, this is the first in a series to discuss the differences for each of the Process Groups and processes. In this post, I will cover the Initiating Process Group in full.

The Initiating Process Group is the first Process Group for projects, so it seemed like the logical place to start. This Process Group includes the Develop Project Charter and Identify Stakeholders processes.  There are just a few changes to these two processes.

Develop Project Charter process changes

The Develop Project Charter process still has five inputs. However, the contracts input in the PMBOK 4th Edition was changed to the agreements input in the PMBOK 5th Edition. This change more properly reflects the actual types of documents that can be included – such as contacts, memorandums of understanding (MOUs), service level agreements (SLAs), letters of agreement, letters of intent, verbal agreements, e-mail, or other written agreements.

The other four Develop Project Charter process inputs are the same: project statement of work, the business case, enterprise environmental factors, and organizational process assets.

One new technique has been added to the Develop Project Charter process: facilitation techniques. These techniques include, but are not limited to, brainstorming, problem solving, conflict resolution, and meeting management.

The project charter is still the output of the Develop Project Charter. However, the processes for which the project charter is an input have changed. The project charter is now considered an input to the Develop Project Management Plan, Plan Scope Management, Collect Requirements, Define Scope, Plan Schedule Management, Plan Cost Management, Plan Risk Management, and Identify Stakeholders processes. Last note on project charters, the PMBOK 5th Edition now requires that all project assumptions and constraints, the stakeholder list, and project high-level boundaries be documented in the project charter.

Identify Stakeholders Process changes

While the Identify Stakeholders process is still part of the Initiating Process Group, it has been moved to a new Knowledge Area: Project Stakeholder Management.

One new tool  has been added to the Identify Stakeholders process: meetings.  These meetings provide a means to develop an understanding of the project stakeholders and should document the roles, interests, knowledge, and position of each stakeholder.

There are no changes to the inputs for the Identity Stakeholders process. There is one change to the outputs: the stakeholder management strategy has been removed as an output of the Identify Stakeholders process, mainly because the stakeholder management plan is now created in the new Plan Stakeholder Management process. The stakeholder register is now the only output of the Identify Stakeholders process.

Additionally, the stakeholder register is now an input to the Collect Requirements, Plan Quality Management, Plan Communications Management, Plan Risk Management, Identify Risks, Plan Procurement Management, and Plan Stakeholder Management processes. The PMBOK 5th Edition has also added instructions regarding updating the stakeholder register on a regular basis as stakeholders change throughout the life of the project.

Summary

Because the Initiating Process Group is not very large, I come to the end of this post. My next post will cover the Planning Process Group. But with a total of 24 processes, I expect that I will need to divide the content into several posts. I expect for the Planning Process Group changes to encompass 3 to 4 posts, with the Executing, Monitoring and Controlling, and Closing Process Groups coming after those.

Keep in mind that I am writing and revising content for our practice test as I am keeping y’all posted here on our blog. So feel free to ask any questions you may have. Who knows, some of your comments and questions might make it into our next product update! I’m glad that you took some time to peek into my world and hope you stick around for the next installment in this PMP series.

Until next time,

-Robin

My PMP Journey: Bad News, Good Advice, and the Dire Warnings You Should Heed

January 25, 2013 at 4:14 pm | Posted in PMI, Study hints | 2 Comments
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While I do manage projects in my daily work, I’d never thought of myself as an actual project manager. Being a take-action, Active Directory kind of guy, I primarily develop Microsoft practice exams and leave products like Project+ and CAPM to the professionals (aka Robin Abernathy). But last year several of my co-workers began suggesting that I take PMI’s Project Management Professional (PMP) exam. Then my supervisor softly “suggested” that I take the PMP exam. Even my sister, a project manager, got in the game and encouraged me to take the exam. Furthermore, my sister said the exam was easy and did not take a whole lot of work to prepare for.

Well, she was wrong.

Since I am a veteran trainer, exam developer, and test-passer, my initial plan of attack was to fill out the application, take a practice test to identify gaps in my knowledge, do self-study to close those gaps, schedule the exam, take the exam, and pass it. BOOM! PMP-ville.

The Bad News

Not so fast. First, it took forever and a day to detail all of my project work experience for the application. Yes, you have to document 4,500 hours of project management experience (7,500 hours if you don’t have a bachelor’s degree). They also require 35 hours of formal project management training, which I didn’t have. The training materials was not actually a problem, as I was able to take a Skillsoft e-learning course that my company offers, but I did have to stop and find time for 35 hours of training in my schedule.

Once I finished the training and completed the application, back in June 2012, I got the go-ahead from PMI to schedule my exam. Next, I tested my existing knowledge by taking the Transcender PMP practice test. I failed that practice test miserably, and I emphasize: miserably.

I appealed to my friends and Dr. Internet for advice. One friend suggested a book that turned out to be a lifesaver: PMP Project Management Professional Exam Study Guide by Kim Heldman. Meanwhile, Dr. Internet suggested that I read the book chapter by chapter, then go through some practice tests after I’d finished the whole thing.

The More Bad News

Great plan, except for the part where it didn’t work. I would read one chapter, then another chapter, and then life would get in the way. I would put in one week of good study, then put the PMP info down for about 10 days. Unfortunately, a lot of the information that I’d studied seemed to float away. This process continued all the way through fall. By the time September rolled around, I was still not able to pass the practice tests that came with the book. Worse, the actual PMP exam is four hours long, but I had to take lots of breaks to finish each practice test. I just could not sit through all 200 questions. I felt like I was in high school taking the SAT test again. Augh!

I soon figured out what everybody and their mother has already posted on the Internet: you need to know every process, every input for that process, every tool and technique for that process, and every output for that process. By the way, there are a whole lot of processes. I tried to memorize them with repeated reading, but was never successful.

Finally, I tried using the audio CDs that came with Heldman’s book. Since my office recently relocated to East Tumbleweed, I had plenty of driving time to listen to someone else describe each process. Although this sounds like this would be outlawed by the Geneva Convention as torture, it actually helped a lot. I was able to memorize most of the processes and their information in this way. More importantly, I was able to do significantly better on the book’s practice tests, and started to make headway on the Transcender practice test as well.

The very last thing I did to prepare was to actually read the PMBOK guide. Not exactly a page turner, but it had to be done. I wasn’t too far into the PMBOK when I realized that Heldman’s book has done such a great job of explaining the abstract terminology with real-life examples, that I didn’t need to spend a lot of time with the PMBOK itself. I might owe dinner to the buddy that recommended Heldman’s book.

The Dire Warnings

Scheduling, or rather the impossibility of RE-scheduling the PMP exam, was no walk in the park. I strongly suggest that you do not schedule your exam too many months in advance. In fact, you might want to make sure your test date is carved in stone. If you need to reschedule your exam within 30 days of the exam date, you will have to pay a $70 fee.  Worse, if you need to reschedule within 48 hours, you lose the entire testing fee ($405 for PMI members, $555 for non-PMI members). Ouch! Just be mindful, if you schedule the exam months in advance, life might get in the way, and you will risk losing your $70.

MoneyDownTheDrain

All warnings aside, I do recommend you set a goal date. I decided on the date that I wanted to take my exam and scheduled the exam only a few days out from that date.  Set a target date for when you want to take the exam, and then try to schedule the exam two weeks out from the target date.

The test center where I took the exam reminded me of the gulag in the movie “Stripes” where the East Germans held John Candy, Judge Reinhold and the gang, before Bill Murray and Harold Ramis busted them out.

Stripes

The lighting was so bad that I could barely see what I was writing on the scrap paper they gave me. As promised, the exam had 200 questions and blocked out four hours. My sister said that it would only take me two hours, tops. As I may have mentioned before, my sister was wrong. It took nearly the whole four hours for me to finish. It was comprehensive and really a tough exam. After staring at a screen for four hours, I could barely see to drive home.

Finally, the Good Advice

The exam was not impossible. Looking back, there are some things that I would have done differently. For starters, former Transcender team member Jennifer Wagner gave some really good advice on the application process in her blog post from 2009. Like she mentions, you should start documenting your project hours as soon as you start thinking about the PMP exam to cut down on the time spent sorting out the application requirements.

After I finished the application process and got the approval to take the exam, I would have tried to take the test within 6 weeks. I would have taken several days off from work and buckled down to go through all the material and practice tests on a continual basis, instead of trying to dedicate 90 minutes to studying five days a week.  PMI uses specific terminology to describe things that seem obvious or intuitive when you’re actually managing a project. If you do not know that terminology backwards and forwards, which I didn’t at first, it will be tough to pass the exam, even if you apply those principles every day at your job.

For me, the best way to get the knowledge about the processes was to go through as many practice test questions as I could to cement the information about the processes in my brain. There are about 800 practice test questions and over 1000 flash questions in the Trancender PMP practice test. I also went through the 400 practice test questions in the Kim Heldman’s book. With my work/life schedule, it took about two weeks to go through all those questions. Going through the questions highlighted my deficiencies. This was the key to the whole process, since after I identified the weak areas, I concentrated on the processes that I was weak on. I got better and better at the flash cards and practice questions until I felt ready to schedule my exam.

The more that you space the studying out, the less you’ll retain. Dedicate some time to the process and knock it out of the park while it’s still fresh. Hope this insight into my experience helps set your expectations & project management goals. Good luck!

Graduate

–George Monsalvatge

Mobile Devices in the new CompTIA A+ exams (Part 1 of 2)

October 10, 2012 at 4:36 pm | Posted in CompTIA, Study hints | Leave a comment
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Last month, I posted an article about the virtualization topics in the new A+ exams. At that time, I indicated that I would be posting about the new mobile devices topics. I expected to get the two articles out within a few weeks of each other, but as it always seems to happen around here, other things took precedence….and a month later, I am finally sitting down to fulfill my promise.

Mobile devices have increasingly become part of our lives. Because of the popularity of these devices and our dependence on them, the CompTIA A+ certification now includes  mobile device topics to ensure that A+ technicians are proficient in certain aspects of mobile device management. The new A+ 220-802 exam has an entire domain that is dedicated to mobile devices. Domain 3, the Mobile Device domain, makes up 9% of the exam. The objectives from Domain 3 are as follows:

3.1 Explain the basic features of mobile operating systems.
3.2 Establish basic network connectivity and configure email.
3.3 Compare and contrast methods for securing mobile devices.
3.4 Compare and contrast hardware differences in regards to tablets and laptops.
3.5 Execute and configure mobile device synchronization.

There’s a lot to chew on here, so let’s focus on the first two of these objectives. (I will discuss the other three in a coming post.) Please remember that I’m writing based on my experience with mobile devices and on what I’ve read in several reference books. As of this posting, I have not actually taken the new A+ exams. CompTIA released those exams this week, so I’ll hopefully have some time to take them before Part 2 of this blog post! But since I’ve been writing study material for the A+ exams since the 300-level A+,  I am fairly confident that I won’t be too far off the mark.

For Obj 3.1: Explain the basic features of mobile operating systems, you will need to understand the features of the Android and iOS mobile operating systems.

  • Android is an open-source operating system, while the Apple iOS is a vendor-specific OS.
  • Developers for Android have access to the same APIs used by the operating system. Developers for Apple must use the software development kit (SDK) and must be registered as Apple developers.
  • Android apps are purchased from the Google Android market (now called Google Play) or from other Android app sites, while Apple apps can only be purchased from the Apple App store.
  • For screen orientation, mobile devices use an accelerometer and/or a gyroscope. While only one of these is required, many newer mobile devices use both because they work better together.
  • Touch-screen mobile devices require screen calibration. The screen calibration tool will require you to touch the screen in different ways so that the mobile device can learn how you will touch the screen. If the device does not react in an expected manner when you touch the screen, it may need re-calibration.
  • GPS information can be obtained from cell phone towers or from satellites. Keep in mind that keeping the GPS function enabled will cause the battery to be depleted much quicker. Android phones normally use satellites to obtain GPS data, while iPhones use a combination of satellites, cell phone towers, and WiFi towers to obtain GPS data.
  • Geotracking  allows a mobile device to periodically record location information and transmit this information to a centralized server. Consumers have recently raised privacy concerns overs this feature.

For Obj 3.2: Establish basic network connectivity and configure email, you will need to understand how to connect mobile devices to networks and how to configure email on mobile devices. For all of the following points, I would expect this to focus mainly on the two major smart phones (iPhone and Android), but wouldn’t be surprised if you are expected to know how to do this for the iPad and other tablets.

  • Enable/disable the wireless and cellular data network.
  • Understand Bluetooth configuration, including enabling/disabling Bluetooth, enabling device pairing, finding devices for pairing (including entering the PIN code),  and testing Bluetooth connectivity.
  • Configure email. You will need to know the URL of the incoming and outgoing email server, the port numbers used by these servers, and the encryption type (if applicable). You probably will also need to know your account details, including user name, password, and domain name. The process for setting up email will vary slightly based on the mobile device that you are configuring and the type of account. Some of the more popular mail services, such as Exchange and Gmail, are easier to set up because of configuration wizards.

To fully prepare for these objectives, it may be necessary to install a mobile phone emulator on your computer if you do not have access to a physical mobile phone. In many cases, there are free mobile phone emulators available so that you can learn how to perform many of the basic configuration steps. You may want to research the options that are available and install them in a lab environment, particularly if you are an instructor. These emulators can provide a valuable service to students who do not have experience with mobile devices.

Part 2 of this topic will be released in the coming days and will cover the other three Mobile Devices objectives in the 220-802 exam. I also plan to have a post in the coming months on mobile phone emulators, so feel free to send me any information on what you have found in this area.

Until then….

-Robin

Customer asks: Is now the time to study for Windows Server 2008 certification, or Server 2012?

September 27, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Posted in Certification Paths, Microsoft, Study hints | 37 Comments
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Editor’s note: Exam retirements are subject to change without notice. Please go to the official Microsoft Retired exams list to confirm or deny a specific test’s retirement date.

In response to a recent post, blog reader Zappy asked,

I am new to Windows Server certifications and I currently hold none. I am thinking of getting certified but I am not sure if I should begin with Windows Server 2008 or Windows Server 2012. I have a fair amount of experience in 2008. What would you suggest?

The knee-jerk response is “Forget 2008; study for the cert that will have the longest shelf life.” However, there are a few factors to consider before writing off a 2008 certification entirely. Those factors are:

  • the number of exams required to earn a certification
  • the desired time frame for earning a certification
  • the user’s level of experience with 2008 versus 2012
  • how soon the user can expect 2012 to be the standard in his or her particular industry

For the sake of demonstration, I’m going to look only at Windows Server certifications, and not specialties such as Lync, .NET, SharePoint, or Exchange. (You can find more information on those certification paths here.) I’m also going to stick with entry-level and mid-level certs, since you’d be earning those anyway as you blaze towards the MCSE or MCM.

(Remember: These recommendations are for someone who, as of late 2012, has not yet taken any Microsoft exam and needs to factor exam retirement dates into a certification strategy.)

Do it now: Be off like a shot

No matter which path you decide to pursue, do it now. The perfect time to buy your first Microsoft exam voucher is during the Second Shot promotion. That means that if you take an exam between now and May 30, 2013 and fail it, you can sit for a free retake. You can buy Second Shot assurance for a single exam or for a multi-exam voucher pack (which typically earns you a bulk discount on exam fees as well).

It only takes one

Remember that passing one certification exam, even if it’s part of a multi-exam certification track, earns you the Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) credential. As a member of the Microsoft Certification Program, you have access to MCP Flash emails from Microsoft, and you can share your transcript with others to show your progress towards a specific certification.

Single-exam certs: testing the Microsoft waters

In the “need a cert now” category, you can obtain a Microsoft certification with just one test — and it will count toward a higher-level certification, should you choose to pursue one. However, one-test certs are only offered for Windows Server 2008. The three server specializations are:

Remember that these exams include Windows Server 2008 R2 material, so you absolutely must be familiar with R2 before sitting an exam.

Our recommendation: if you’ve never sat for any Microsoft test and don’t know what to expect, combining Second Shot with a one-test cert might be the perfect low-stress entrance strategy, even if it “only” earns you an MCTS Server 2008 credential. If you go this route, choose either the 70-640 or the 70-642, since these also count toward the newly fledged MCSA in Server 2008 (more on that in the next section).

70-643 alone is not relevant to the MCSA 2008, so look at the exam’s objectives, and only choose it if you need this certification in your current job (and your boss is paying).

Three to five exams: not all middle-tier certs are created equal

Things get a bit murky as you move up the Server 2008 certification ladder. Having divided Generation 2008 certifications into five MCTS (entry level) and three MCITP (mid level) exam tracks, all covering different job roles and skills, Microsoft recently collapsed the varied tracks back into a revised MCSA, and added the upper-tier MCSE options. However, the MCITP tracks are still active. Depending on the track, each MCITP will either be phased out in July 2013 or rolled into the new generation of certifications.

You can obtain an MCITP in a Windows client or in Server 2008 R2 by taking three to five exams. The three server paths are Enterprise, Server Admin, and Virtualization Admin.

Earning the MCITP: Server OR the MCITP: Enterprise automatically snags you an equivalent MCSA: Windows Server 2008. However, Server can be earned in only three exams, while Enterprise takes five. A MCSA: Server 2008 plus the 70-417 upgrade exam can then earn you the MCSA: Server 2012.

The MCITP: Virtualization also allows you to upgrade to MCSA: Server 2012 — but, confusingly, you can’t upgrade it to an MCSA: Server 2008. Microsoft has dropped it from this list of current MCITP tracks; also see this blog post.

Our recommendation: Continue Reading Customer asks: Is now the time to study for Windows Server 2008 certification, or Server 2012?…

The CASP Exam: What it is, Where it fits, and How to prepare for it

August 28, 2012 at 5:02 pm | Posted in CompTIA, Performance-Based Testing, Study hints | 1 Comment
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At the CompTIA Academy Educator Conference in Las Vegas, I made a presentation to help educators better understand the CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP) exam. I received such awesome feedback that I decided to write a blog post based on the presentation. I will explain the CASP exam to you, where the exam fits in the certification world, and how you should prepare to take it or prepare your students to take it.

What the CASP Certification is

First, here are some key numbers for you. In CompTIA’s 8th Annual Information Security Trends study, 76% of those responding indicated that their IT staff probably or definitely need more vendor-neutral security training. 81% of those responding indicated that they would give more recognition and financial rewards to the IT staff members who complete a security certification.  Based on the findings in the 8th Annual Information Security Trends and other studies, CompTIA decided that:

  • An advanced-level security exam would be good to pursue.
  • The exam should be performance-based.
  • The exam should fit into other vendors’ certification(s) as an elective.
  • The exam should concentrate on new technologies that demand a concentration in security aspects, such as IPv6, VoIP, and SaaS.
  • Acceptance of the exam would depend on the U. S. government’s acceptance of the new certification and its applicability to Department of Defense Directive (DoDD) 8570. According to CompTIA’s IT and CyberSecurity white paper, “Those seeking compliance with IA Technical Level III and IA Management Level II of U.S. DoD Directive 8570.01-M. (CASP is proposed to the 8570 Directive for these workforce categories.)”

The result was the CASP, the first certification in the Master Series of certifications released by CompTIA. The CASP exam will certify that the successful candidate has the technical knowledge and skills required to conceptualize, design, and engineer secure solutions across complex enterprise environments.

The CAS-001 exam is available at Pearson Vue testing centers, and is currently available in English only.

How the CASP exam is structured

The CASP exam is a single exam that consists of multiple-choice, scenario-based, and performance-based questions. For the performance-based items, the CASP candidate is given a scenario/problem and prompted to push a button to launch a simulated environment that is created via software.

The candidate has 150 minutes to complete 80 questions. Upon completion, the candidate is given a Pass/Fail score. No numerical score is given. The domain distribution for the CASP exam is as follows:

Enterprise Security – 40%
Risk Management, Policy/Procedure, and Legal – 24%
Research and Analysis – 14%
Integration of Computing, Communications, and Business Disciplines – 22%

Where the CASP fits among security certifications

CompTIA has created a great graphic (shown below) that shows the CASP certification sitting between CompTIA’s Security+ certification and (ISC)2’s CISSP certification.

CompTIA’s CASP mapping

The way that CASP requires you to put real-world applications into abstract concepts elevates it above the Security+. The CASP exam expects candidates to take the core security concepts introduced in the Security+ exam and apply them to work situations. For example:

  • In Security+, you should know the ports used by the HTTP and HTTPS protocols.
  • In CASP, you should know the same ports, but you will have to apply them in a router or firewall configuration. This will include opening and closing the appropriate ports via rules or ACLs and ensuring that the rules are in the correct order.
  • In Security+, you should know when you would need to deploy a firewall.
  • In CASP, you should know when to deploy a firewall, but you would also need to deploy it in the appropriate location and know where to deploy any other devices/servers located in the DMZ/perimeter network.

After taking the CASP exam, I will agree that it’s harder than the Security+, but I feel it is equally as difficult as the CISSP exam. The CISSP exam is difficult in the breadth of knowledge that a test candidate must possess, but in the end, it is still just a standard multiple-choice, knowledge-based exam. Including performance-based items in the CASP takes this exam to the next level, even surpassing the CISSP exam when it comes to difficulty (in my opinion).

So while I accept CompTIA’s graphic and its placement of the CASP in the security certification world, I also feel that time will be kind to the CASP exam as it becomes more widely understood and accepted in the industry.

How to Prepare for the CASP Certification

Practical experience is needed for this exam, including:

  • Experience configuring ACLs/rule lists for router, firewalls, and so on.
  • Experience deploying hardware in a network. Specifically, you’ll need to understand WHERE hardware is deployed in a given network diagram based on requirements.
  • The ability to recognize when devices are under attack by viewing logs, including understanding what type of attack is occurring, the identity of the attacker, how to protect against the attack, and where to deploy the protection.
  • The ability to verify file security from a given hash value.

You can view a few multiple-choice practice questions on the CompTIA web site here: http://certification.comptia.org/Training/testingcenters/samplequestions/CASP-Practice-Questions.aspx

We at Transcender have created a wonderful product in our Cert-CAS-001 practice test. Our practice test includes simulation items that will better prepare you for the performance-based items on the live exam. At the time of this post, no other practice test provider includes these types of items in their CASP product.

Also, Sybex has released a great study resource: the CASP CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner Study Guide by Michael Gregg and Billy Haines, which I reviewed in a previous blog post. It is a great place to get started, even if you’re still accumulating those five years of hands-on technical security experience recommended as a prerequisite by CompTIA.

I hope this helps you to take the next step in your career and pursue the CASP certification. If you have any CASP-related questions, feel free to drop me a line!

-Robin

O-M-G, Microsoft announces more exam question types

August 15, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Posted in Microsoft, Performance-Based Testing, Study hints | Leave a comment
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If you’ve taken a Microsoft test in the past, you’ve experienced the Single Answer Multiple Choice and Multiple Answer Multiple Choice questions. While this is a tried and true psychometric technique, a multiple choice question does not always fully test a candidate on his or her knowledge of the material.  You may remember that a few years ago Microsoft launched performance-based testing (PBT) segments with their multiple choice questions. The 83-640 exam included a series of tasks that tested candidates’ abilities in a virtual environment. Although this exam and item type have since retired, most of us that had the chance to experience this item at a test center agreed it was the ultimate test of a candidate’s skill. And I, for one, very much doubt we’ve seen the end of the PBT item.

With a similar goal in mind, by which the certification exam truly separates the experienced IT professional from the pack, Microsoft has added several new item types to exams over the last few months. Well, I say new, but some of these item types are more like “vintage” and you just may have not seen them in a while. You can view the entire list here:

http://www.microsoft.com/learning/en/us/certification/exam.aspx#tab4

Active Screen – These questions are good at testing candidates’ knowledge because you see an actual screen. The downside is the candidate does not need to know where to go in the software to access the screen, the task is limited to the screen that’s provided.

Build List and Reorder – This is one you may recognize if you’ve taken Microsoft exams for as long as I have. This question type is used to test whether a candidate knows which steps are needed to perform a task and the order in which they should be performed.

Case Studies – Case studies allow a candidate to be tested based on different real-life business scenarios. Microsoft used case studies for the Windows 2000 Server and some Windows Server 2003 exams. If you do not have a high level of reading comprehension, you will find case studies to be time consuming. Several testing candidates who did not read rapidly enough struggled and ran out of time with this question type. Microsoft has addressed this issue by no longer timing each case study separately from the rest of the exam questions. While time management is still important, you get one clock for the whole exam, allowing you to spend a bit more time reading through the case study.

Create-a-tree – Similar to the Build List and Reorder question type, these questions test your knowledge on structures and organization. This question type first appeared in the NT 3.5 and NT 4.0 tests.

Drag and Drop – This is a basic matching question. This question type allows a candidate to be tested on multiple concepts. It also appears on exams from other vendors, such as CompTIA and Novell.

Hot Area – This question is similar to an Active Screen question. You have to click one or more places within a graphic to satisfy the question requirements.

Multiple choice – You have seen this question type zillions of times. I believe it was invented in 1,000,000 BC. This item type presents a scenario, a question, and a minimum of four answer options. A prompt within the item stem (or sometimes at the end of the question) will indicate the number of possible correct answers.

Repeated answer choices – These questions (which we called “extended matching” in our previous post, Multiple options beyond multiple choice) are presented in a series. Each question in the series has the exact same answer options. Each question is worded slightly differently, so the answer could be different for each question — or it could be the same correct answer across the questions in the series.

Simulations – These type of questions actually first appeared in Microsoft Vista exams. This question type does a good job of testing the candidate’s knowledge of navigating to the problem and choosing the correct answer. This type of question is better than an Active Screen or Hot Area because the candidate has to navigate the software or OS to find the screen or page that contains the correct choice, and is thus tested on his or her hands-on knowledge. If you do not know how to get to the right set of options, you will not be able to answer the question. The limitation to this type of question is that there may be more than one way to solve a problem. A simulation question may want you to fix a problem with a GUI tool, even though you could correctly solve the task with a PowerShell cmdlet or by running a command from the command prompt.

Short answer code – This type of question will force a candidate to actually type the correct answer into a text box or blank line. This type of question will test your knowledge of the correct code use, the proper order of the code and syntax of the code. We haven’t actually encountered this item type in the wild yet, but we’re keeping our eyes peeled.

Best answer – These type of questions appeared in the original NT 3.5 exams. It is a standard multiple choice question that may have one or more correct answers — you have to pick the BEST answer. People complained back in the day on the NT 3.5 exams as to what constitutes the BEST answer. I believe the debate will continue if Microsoft revives this item type on tests.

If you are planning to take a Microsoft exam in the near future, you may see several of the above question types – or none of them. If you have an issue with any of the types of questions on your Microsoft exam, please let Microsoft know in the comments section at the end of your exam.  Also, if you liked a particular item type on an exam, please take a few seconds to let Microsoft know. And as always, we welcome any questions or comments you might have, and will do our best to reply or point you in the right direction.

Happy Testing.


George Monsalvatge

CASP CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner Study Guide: A Resource Review

August 10, 2012 at 8:04 am | Posted in CompTIA, Study hints | 1 Comment
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All of you have probably heard of CompTIA’s first Master series certification: the CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP) certification. I took the exam some months back and am proud to say I passed it. If you want to know more about my experience, please read my previous post. In that article, I promised a review of the only CASP reference that is currently available, the CASP CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner Study Guide by Michael Gregg and Billy Haines. Well, it’s a bit past the promised due date of April (where has the time gone?), but I finally have gotten a chance to complete my review.

I used this book as my primary reference when I was writing Transcender’s Cert-CAS-001 practice test. I found that the book was thorough and covered all of the topics on the exam. I  particularly loved the Exam Essentials section at the end of each chapter. I would suggest that any test candidate read the Exam Essentials section for each chapter and think about  how to test a particular point using a job task.

If you hadn’t already heard, the CASP exam includes performance-based items. These item types require that you perform certain tasks to fulfill the objectives given in the scenario. The very nature of these item types requires that you actually perform security-related tasks on a daily basis in your workflow; therefore, they are almost impossible to replicate in a book. The book’s method of addressing these item types is to include exercises for you to complete on your own. Each chapter includes several exercises to reinforce the topics presented in the chapter. These exercises, which are included in the Lab Manual (Appendix A in the book), will help you understand the tasks that security professionals must perform.

Performing the exercises requires a standard personal computer (not a server or desktop powerhouse) with the capacity to run VMware Player; some exercises require that you have a copy of a Windows desktop operating system, either as the native OS or running on a virtual machine. The labs direct you to download and install various readily available forensic tools, such as Nessus and Wireshark.

The Exam Essentials sections and the Exercises work together to provide a good all-around experience for the test candidate. But to ensure that you can pass the exam, I would recommend that you take all these one step further. For example, one of the Exam Essentials in Chapter 2 is:

Be able to describe advanced network design concepts. Advanced network design requires an understanding of remote access and firewall deployment and placement. Firewall placement designs include packet filtering, dual-homed gateway, screened host, and screened subnet.

Specific scenarios that address this Exam Essential may include: knowing when to deploy a firewall, knowing how to configure ACLs, and knowing where in a complex network a firewall is best deployed. So you should take some extra time to ensure that you understand network diagrams, and research best practices for device deployment.

This book is an excellent reference to start you on your journey to becoming a CASP. If you pair this book with  Transcender’s practice test, you will be well on your way to success. It’s worth noting that Transcender’s practice test actually includes 8 performance-based scenarios that will expose you to the type of items you will see on the live exam. This is the ONLY practice test on the market right now that includes these types of items for the CASP product.  It is just one more way that we demonstrate why our products are considered leading-edge test prep materials and have been preferred by IT professionals for nearly 20 years.

Check back with us over the next few weeks as I hope to provide you with a bit more information on the CASP exam, including where this exam fits into the current certification pathways, and how to prepare for the CASP. Feel free to drop me a line with any CASP questions you may have.

Happy testing!

-Robin

Better than a blockbuster movie: Free Windows Server 2012 videos

July 16, 2012 at 7:59 am | Posted in Microsoft, Study hints | 1 Comment
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What is truly free in this world? Well, there’s the air we breathe, but not the water we  drink (it costs $1 in the vending machine), or a summer blockbuster (it costs $12, and they do not take free passes).

The sad truth is that most things in this world are not free. However, you can get actual free training on Microsoft Windows Server 2012.

Last month, Microsoft delivered a FREE Windows Server 2012 Jump Start virtual class that was presented by Microsoft Evangelist Rick Claus and President & Lead Architect for holSystems, Cory Hynes. The class covered an array of topics, and Rick and Cory did a great job of explaining each of them. If you missed this class, you can still watch the HD-quality video recordings on  TechNet (links below).

If you do not have several straight hours to devote to watching these videos, don’t worry about it. Each module is broken down by topic and lasts for about an hour per module:

• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (01): Core Hyper-V
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (02a): Virtualization Infrastructure, Part 1
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (02b): Virtualization Infrastructure, Part 2
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (03a): Storage Architecture, Part 1
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (03b): Storage Architecture, Part 2
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (04): Continuous Availability
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (05a): Multi-Server Management, Part 1
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (05b): Multi-Server Management, Part 2
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (06a): Security and Access, Part 1
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (06b): Security and Access, Part 2
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (07): Remote Connectivity and Networking
• Windows Server 2012 Jump Start (08): IIS, DHCP and IPAM

Each module is informative and does contain demonstrations of the topics. Most importantly, each module is engaging and not at all boring. Rick and Cory relate these topics to the real world environment. They also made a few jokes along the way which I very much appreciated. While Rick and Cory probably will not get their own special on Comedy Central, they did help make the time pass quickly.

If you’re curious about Windows Server 2012, if you plan to get certified in Windows Server 2012, or if you foresee having to install Windows Server 2012 at your office in the near future, I recommend that you check out these videos.  I had the opportunity to take the 70-410 Installing and Configuring Windows Server 2012 beta exam in early June, and I sincerely wish that I had watched these videos before attempting the exam.

Along with the 70-410 exam, Microsoft plans to release the 70-411 Administering Windows Server 2012 exam and the 70-412 Configuring Advanced Windows Server 2012 Services exams in the Fall. Before attempting any of these exams, I strongly recommend you take a few hours to check out the modules from this class. I’ll say it again: It’s FREE.

What’s better than free training? Okay, you could be watching  “Live and Let Die” for the 25th time on the James Bond marathon. But you know how this one ends, James Bond gets the girl and defeats the bad guy. You can’t say you know how each of the Windows Server 2012 modules will end, so why not enjoy a marathon of Microsoft Jump Start virtual videos instead? 

Until next time,

George Monsalvatge

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