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Yet more sample APMP Questions

Paul Naybour Paul Naybour

Published: 21st November 2014

Fran paste your answers here

  1. Student says:

    Thanks Paul, that’s a relief as I took the exam on Friday. If you’d said they were way off I’d have had a tense few weeks waiting for my result!

  2. Paul says:

    Three very good answers to these questions, you clearly have a good idea of the level of detail required. Ten like this in the examined you should pass with out too much difficulty, well done

  3. Student says:

    Hi Paul, could I please get some feedback on the following three questions? I completed them under exam conditions / time pressure, and with more time on reflection I would answer the 2nd and 3rd quite differently, but it would good to get your thoughts on how close these are to meeting the requirements as well as any pointers for better answers next time or things to revisit before the exam on Friday.
    Many Thanks

    5.1) State the purpose of the business case. (10)
    5.2) Explain three different investment appraisal techniques (30)
    5.3) Describe one factor that should be considered in addition to the investment appraisal when considering a business case (10)
    5.1 The purpose of the business case is to allow the Steering Group to fully understand the costs, benefits and risks involved in a potential project, whether they believe these are appropriately balanced, and ultimately to give the necessary information to enable a decision on approval to go ahead.

    5.2 Payback is a simple Investment Appraisal Technique that compares the investment made in a project with the income received over a period, establishing the time that would be taken to re-coup the costs. For example, if investment in a project would be £10,000 and income £1000 per year, it would take 10 years to get payback. Although this is a simple and easy technique it does not take into account the reducing value of money over time.

    Net Present Value takes this reducing value of money into account by applying a ‘Discount Factor’ to the income received, reducing it to the equivalent present value. For example, a discount rate that is quite high could mean that income is only the equivalent of £6000 in that same period. In this case the NPV technique shows a loss of £4000 in that period. A disadvantage of the NPV technique is that it is very reliant on the discount rate used and set by accountants.

    The Internal Rate of Return technique counters this by calculating the NPV based on more than 1 discount rate, plotting this on a chart and establishing the Discount Rate at which the NPV is £0. This gives the IRR. This is however a complex technique and can give confusing results, although it does give a useful rate that can be compared to organisational expectations regarding return on investment.

    5.3 Another factor that should be considered when reviewing a business case is the impact on Business as Usual operations. Even if a project seems to have a positive business case on paper, if the impact on BAU would mean a considerable detrimental impact to operations, trust in the organisation or long term reputational damage, then the financial benefits may not be worth the ‘cost’.

    List and describe five actions a project manager should take when monitoring and updating a project risk register. (50)
    1 – Review Plan
    2 – Identify further risks
    3 – Assess changes using PIG
    4 – Make decisions (with sponsor)
    5 – Communicate further impacts – update PMP

    1 – When monitoring a project risk register it is important for the project manager to continue to refer to the risk plan. This will ensure that the proper schedule of review is followed, that appropriate processes continue to be followed and communicated as agreed in the original Project Management Plan. This in itself reduces the further risks of not following agreed processes.

    2 – When any risk register items are updated consideration is needed of downstream or secondary risk impacts. For example, if a decision has been made to avoid the risk of a supplier going bust by using a different supplier, what other additional risks might this pose. These further risks must be added to the risk log.

    3 – Any updates to the risk register must also be assessed, in terms of impacts to probability or impact of different risks. A Probability Impact Grid should be used to get a more objective picture of the highest priority risks, and if a risk becomes more of a concern, due to increased probability or impact, appropriate decisions will need to be made regarding any change in action plan required. This is also true if the probably of a risk maturing reduces – it may no longer be worth the investment in tackling that risk.

    4 – When any changes are made decision need to be made with any appropriate stakeholders. This maybe something the project manager can make a decision on themselves or they may need to involve the sponsor if it impacts on the business case or any other stakeholders. The resultant decision, for example, to take actions to share an opportunity with a partner firm, must also be recorded.

    5 – Any further impacts must be fully communicated to all interested parties. This could be through regular scheduled reviews and sharing of the risk register as per the plan or an unscheduled exception update. This will also involve updating the project management plan with any actions required to tackle risks, communicate appropriately or ensure other items are updated, such as the configuration documents if a change is required as a result of the risk-related decision.

    Explain the benefits of project governance
    Project Governance provides appropriate ‘checks and balances’ to projects to ensure that agreed processes, methodologies and tools are being used as agreed. This avoids wasted time and resources on team members ‘straying’ into using other techniques that may create inefficiencies or duplication. For example, if phase gate reviews require information to be presented in an agreed template that is familiar to all those involved in the review.

    Proper project governance also ensures that decisions are made using up-to-date relevant and realistic information. This is essential in ensuring that correct decisions are made and risks are minimised associated with data. For example, proper scheduling of reports and reviews can ensure that the information used in those phase gate reviews is correct.

    Good project governance involves the right people at the right time, maximising efficiency and reducing risk. For example, the use of audits can give assurance to stakeholders regarding their investments, while reducing the need to individually review the full project status and outputs individually. Where senior individuals are involved this can greatly reduce costs of time investment.

    A good project governance process also ensures that projects are, and remain to be aligned to business goals. A robust review procedure at appropriate stages in the project that looks at the alignment to goals and proactively ensures that projects don’t ‘stray’ from those strategic goals and benefits can reduce the chances of ‘mission creep’. For example, applying scrutiny at the approval of a PMP that it is still aligned with the original business case.

    A clear project governance process also clearly sets out the roles and responsibilities in a project and appropriate times and routes for escalation. This ensures that any issues are quickly addressed by the right people, avoiding delays (or worse, incorrect decisions and rework) due to lack of clarity regarding who can make what decisions and when these should be raised to those people.

  4. Paul says:

    Governance question is very good. for the team work question please try to say what the project manager would do at each stage. For example forming the PM would set the overall direction. Motivation question is very good, no real comments. And the Belbin roles are good to. In general I think you have got the hang of the level of detail required in the questions.

    Try this question,
    1) List and describe the different forms of conflict that can across the project lifecycle?

    You will need to reference the project lifecycle and the sources of conflict in your answer.

  5. Student says:

    Please could I have some feedback on the following 2 question responses on Planning for Success:

    Q. List & describe 5 main components of an information management process.
    The more information you collect the more data there is to analyse. It is therefore important to decide the scope of the information that is required and only collect that information which is necessary for the purpose in hand. These days there are lots of forms of information, such as written (eg. reports, letters, e-mails) as well as video and podcasts, it is also important to consider in what ways the information will be collected.

    Much information is stored electronically today and there should be standards regarding how the information is stored. This includes things like naming conventions, version control, backup, security and access arrangements. The Data Protection Act cover individual’s right in relation to the storage, retention and use of personal data and consideration should also be given to requirements under this act to ensure compliance.

    It is important to understand who needs the information and when, as well as how the information will be supplied to them. This includes who needs to be made aware as things change. For example, who will need a copy of the Highlight Report, how frequently will they require it and will they receive the report as a hardcopy or an electronic version?

    Some information has to be held for a minimum time period, for example tax documents. It is important to understand legislative requirements relating to the retention of data, in order to to ensure compliance. Consideration also needs to be given as to how and where information will be archived and an effective cataloguing process created so that archived information can be efficiently retrieved. The Freedom of Information Act gives the public the right to request access to information held by public authorities and there are standards relating to turnaround times for requests.

    There are costs associated with storage of information. Excessive retention of information will increase costs unnecessarily and may also put you in breach of legislative requirements. There should therefore be regular house-keeping and where appropriate destruction of information.

    Q. List & describe 3 types of estimating techniques and give examples of where 2 of them might be used in the life cycle.

    Comparative estimates
    This type of estimating is where you take the actual costs or duration of a similar project or activity and simply scale them up or down. You also need to allow for any variables which are not proportional. For example, if a 400,000 metre square warehouse cost £1million to build last month, you could estimate that a 500,000 metre square warehouse would cost £1.25 million to build (£1m x 5/4). This type of estimating is useful in the concept stage of a project, when you are producing high level estimates for a Business Case.

    Bottom up estimates
    This type of estimating is where you take the costs or duration of the multiple, individual components of the project (eg, work packages) and add them all up to get the total estimate. For example if a project consists of three work packages, with work package one costing £10,000, work package two £5,000 and work package three £20,000 then the total estimate for the project would be £35,000. This method requires a detailed understanding of the various components of the project. It is therefore more likely to be used during the project definition phase when creating the Project Management Plan, once the Work Breakdown or Product Breakdown structures have been created.

    Three point estimating
    This method uses three estimates (best case, worst case and most likely case) to arrive at the best estimate, as opposed to using a single estimate. The best estimate is calculated using a PERT formula as follows:
    Best Estimate = [ (1 x Best case) + (4 x Most Likely case) + (1 x Worst case) ] /6

    For example if the duration to complete a task is 30minutes best case, 45 minutes most likely case and 90 minutes for the worst case, then the best estimate would be 50 minutes.
    This type of estimating is often used to simulate statistical modelling using a computer.

    Q. List & describe 4 elements that can cause estimates to be inaccurate and what the project manager can do to try and prevent these problems.

    Estimate accuracy increases with the more information and experience we have and therefore it increases as a project matures. A project manager faces the following problems which can lead estimates to be inaccurate:

    Estimates supplied by individuals are based on their experience and knowledge and are therefore also subject to bias, particularly when based on a bitter experience. A project manager can try to prevent estimate inaccuracy relating to subjectivity, by understanding what has been taken into account when creating the estimate and trying to eliminate any bias involved. This could be done through seeking views from others regarding the estimate given. Another approach would be to apply an estimating technique, such as Comparative Estimating and thereby using factual, comparative information from similar projects to arrive at an estimate.

    There are inherent risks in most activities and individuals may include contingency within their estimates to mitigate the risk and cover the potential impact. This can increase estimates unnecessarily. The project manager needs to ‘peel back the layers’ and understand what level of contingency has been included in estimates given. The project manager could also use the ‘Parametric’ estimating technique if information regarding quantities and unit prices were known. For example if historic, reliable evidence shows that it costs £1 million to construct 10 miles of motorway and the project is to construct 50 miles of motorway, then the project cost estimate would be £5 million.

    Estimates may be based on assumptions and there is a possibility that the assumptions could be erroneous. The project manager needs to challenge estimates to ensure that as far as possible they are based on facts. This includes seeking out-turn data from previous, similar projects and using this information intelligently through the use of estimating techniques, such as comparative estimates or three point estimates, to create realistic and robust estimates for their project.
    Not knowing who
    In the early stages of project planning you may not know who is going to do the work. It may take the actual person, who does the work, longer or less time than the person who provided the estimate allowed, as they may have different levels of competence and skills. To prevent this problem, the project manager should always try to get the person who will undertake the work to provide the estimate.

    Many thx

  6. Student says:

    Please could I have some feedback on the following 5 question responses on Governance and Leadership/Team Work!!!

    Q. Explain the overall aim of project governance and explain what each of the following four components of project governance seek to ensure:
    Portfolio direction
    Project sponsorship
    Project management effectiveness and efficiency
    Disclosure and reporting

    The overall aim of project governance is to ensure that projects are managed and controlled effectively, with effective oversight. Project governance links with overall organisational governance to help ensure the ultimate success of the organisation, including the projects undertaken by it and to minimise organisational risk.

    Portfolio direction seeks to ensure that the organisation is undertaking the optimal mix of projects and programmes, which contribute to the organisations strategic objectives. It ensures that projects and programmes are started and terminated at the appropriate time to maximise benefits and minimise risks for the organisation. The approval of the project Business Case would be an example, of how, through Portfolio Direction, projects are screened and sifted.

    Project sponsorship seeks to ensure that the organisation is committed to the project and that the project is linked to benefit realisation. The project sponsor will govern the project manager throughout the project life cycle, ensuring that the right decisions are being made and that risks are being managed. The sponsor will also be responsible for ensuring the realisation of benefits delivered through the projects end deliverables.

    Project management effectiveness and efficiency refers to the organisations project management capabilities. The organisation seeks to ensure that it has right amount of resources with the appropriate capabilities, competences and levels of authority to successfully deliver the projects. This also includes the use of a project management method, such as Prince2, which through the right mix of people, products, processes, templates and tools will ensure that projects are managed and delivered effectively and efficiently.

    Disclosure and Reporting seeks to ensure that there is open and honest reporting of information, including risks and issues. That the organisation does not attempt to hide bad news and that information is accurate and relevant. This enables correct decisions to be made and action be taken as and when required. Risk reporting and gate or stage reviews would be examples of discourse and reporting in practice.

    Q. Describe the term teamwork and describe 4 stages through which a team might develop.

    Teamwork is where a group of individuals work together in collaboration or co-operation to achieve a common goal. Tucker describes four stages of team development:

    This stage is when the group first come together. They may not know each other and could be distrustful of each other and the manager. At this stage the team will be largely uninformed and may therefore make wrong assumptions about their objectives.

    This second phase is where the team start to gel, although individual team members may still be unsure about how they will inter-operate. There is likely to be a lot of competition and conflict between individuals as they start to understand each other’s responsibilities. The main focus for a project manager during this stage is conflict resolution and helping to coach, coax and coerce team members out of this phase and into the more productive ‘norming’ stage.

    The team are now fairly cohesive and have started to deliver their objectives. They are adapting to changes well. The risk during this stage is that the team become complacent and lose their creativity and impetus. They may also start to think that the group is more important than the task itself. The project manager needs to ensure that the team stays focused and motivated and thereby continue to progress their objectives.

    This is the optimal development phase for the team. They are now a highly productive and cohesive unit, supporting each other in their tasks and decisions. They need very little supervision, pro-actively identify ways to improve their working practices and are able to solve their own problems.

    Q. Describe the term situational leadership and four approaches they may adopt to respond to the need to adjust their leadership style.
    Hersey and Blanchard used the term ‘situational leadership’ to postulate how leaders need to adapt their leadership style in different situations. The leadership style is adapted based on the needs of the followers and their willingness to be lead. They stated that there were four leadership styles, depending on the level of direction and support given by the leader to their followers:

    This is where there is one way communication from the leader to the follower. The leader ‘tells’ the follower what to do and how to do it, therefore there is both a high level of direction and support. This style is useful when managing new starters, who may have little competence in the role or task.

    This leadership style is where the leader still provides direction but their emphasis is more on explaining the purpose of the task or role. In this way the follower is more likely to become involved in the situation. This style is useful where team members have some level of competence but may lack commitment.

    Here the leader and the follower jointly make decisions, such as how to do a task better, quicker or more cheaply. The leaders style is more focused on supporting the follower in their choices. This style is useful when the follower is confident but lacks confidence.

    This leadership style is where the leader merely monitors the progress of the work. The follower has full responsibility for the task and how to go about it. This style is used to empower followers who are highly competent and confident.

    Q. List & describe 5 ways in which a project manager might seek to motivate their team.
    The Herzberg Two Factor Theory suggests that factors leading to job satisfaction and dissatisfaction are independent and that the following factors are types of ‘true motivators’:

    Being given the opportunity to achieve is a source of job satisfaction and hence motivating. A project manager should set clear, achievable targets and role expectations in order to give team members the best chance of understanding and achieving them. For example they should clearly document roles and responsibilities from the project outset, including creating and issuing a RACI matrix. There should also be a clear set of success criteria and KPIs, so that the team understand what success looks like and what they will be measured on.

    Being seen as an expert in your field and having others seek your opinion is a key source of self-esteem and motivation. A project manager should ensure that they understand individuals’ competencies within their team, to allocate tasks appropriately and should pro-actively seek advice and support from the appropriate subject matter expert within the team. In this way team members will be satisfied that they have been involved and consulted in appropriate discussions and decisions. The project manager should also provide feedback, including praise and encouragement.

    Individuals are empowered and motivated when they are given responsibility and accountability. A project manager should ensure they delegate responsibility for tasks to competent team members. Delegating appropriately can also help build an individual’s confidence. For example the project manager could delegate responsibility for budget reporting or training provision.

    Individuals tend to get complacent and bored, which will lead to de-motivation, if they are not kept challenged. A project manager can seek to motivate the team by giving people new challenges as the project matures. This does not necessarily need to be accompanied by monetary reward. For example, a team member could be made a workstream lead or asked to manage the relationship with a specific group of stakeholders.

    Personal growth
    Individuals are motivated through personal growth and fulfilment. This can be achieved through learning new skills or building new networks. A project manager could motivate the team members by providing training in new techniques or subjects to aid their personal development. For example individuals could be trained on Microsoft Project or in negotiation skills, if relevant to their role.

    Q. Explain the concept of teamwork and explain four team or social roles, including how they contribute to an effective team.

    The term teamwork refers to a group of individuals working in collaboration or so-operation to achieve a common goal. This is an important concept for a project manager who will not be able to perform all the roles and tasks on a project themselves, but will need to manage a multi-disciplinary team to achieve the project objectives.

    In order to build an effective team Belbin suggested that eight key roles were required and hence a project manager should consider these roles when selecting team members. Four of these roles are:

    A ‘plant’ is a highly creative and innovative individual who is a strong problem solver, thinking ‘outside of the box’. They may appear distant to other team members at times. An effective team will need a ‘plant’ to help devise innovative solutions to problems encountered.

    Team worker
    A ‘team worker’ is a person who focuses on ensuring everyone in the team is happy and comfortable. They will want to ensure consensus and will focus a lot of their time on people issues. The team worker will be useful in helping the team gel, to resolve interpersonal conflicts within the team and moving the team from the ‘storming’ to the more productive ‘norming’ team development stage.

    This role is about dotting the ‘I’s and crossing the ‘Ts’. This type of individual has great attention to detail and is therefore likely to ensure detailed planning and quality of the end deliverable. This individual will therefore help ensure customer and stakeholder satisfaction. They will be useful in planning the project, scheduling tasks and configuration management.

    The implementer role is about delivery. They get things done. This type of person has an eye for the practical and a common sense approach. They will help ensure the team keeps progressing towards its goals and overcomes any obstacles along the way.

    many thx

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