Passing the #PMP Exam—Memorizing the Processes (Step 5: Tools & Techniques—Scope Knowledge Area)

 1. Introduction

In the last series of posts on memorizing the processes, I went from memorizing the processes themselves to memorizing their order by use of flashcards. In this next series of posts, we move onto step 5, which is memorizing the TOOLS & TECHNIQUES associated with each process. In order to breakdown the memorizing into more bite-site chunks, I am going to break down this topic into 9 posts, one on each knowledge area.

 Theoretically, this would mean starting with chapter 4, which is the Integration Knowledge Area, but in practicality, it would be better to cover that chapter last, because it integrates all of the other processes together. So, I’ll skip to chapter 5 of the PMBOK® Guide, which covers the Scope Knowledge Area.


Here’s a description of the five processes that are included in the Scope Knowledge Area.



Process Description Tools & Techniques
5.1 Collect Requirements Defining and documenting stakeholders’ needs to meet the project objectives. 1. Interviews

2. Focus groups

3. Facilitated workshops

4. Group creativity techniques

5. Group decision making techniques

6. Questionnaires and surveys

7. Observations

8. Surveys


5.2 Define Scope Developing a detailed description of the project and product. 1. Expert judgment

2. Product analysis

3. Alternatives identification

4. Facilitated workshops


5.3 Create WBS Subdivides project deliverables and project work into smaller, more manageable components. 1. Decomposition
5.4 Verify Scope Formalizing acceptance of the project deliverables with the customer. 1. Inspection
5. 5 Control Scope Monitoring status of the project and product scope and managing changes to the scope baseline. 1. Variance analysis

Let’s take a look at the tools & techniques for each of the 5 processes in the Scope Knowledge Area.

5.1 COLLECT REQUIREMENTS (Initiating Process)

5.1.1 Interviews

One-on-one discussions with stakeholders and subject matter experts to define features and functions of the project deliverables.

5.1.2 Focus Groups

This is a sort of “group interview” technique similar to that of the “Interviews” technique just discussed, but this allows interaction between the stakeholders and subject matter experts. The purpose is to learn about expectations and attitudes about the project’s proposed product, service, or result.

5.1.3 Facilitated Workshops

These are focused sessions which bring stakeholders together from different functional areas to define cross-functional requirements and reconcile stakeholder differences.

Example 1: Joint Application Development or JAD is used in the software development industry. Users and development team are brought together to improve software development.

Example 2: Quality Function Deployment (QFD) collects customers’ needs, or the Voice of the Customer (VOC) and presents them to product development team in order for them to be prioritized and achieved.

In both cases, the purpose is to look beyond any stakeholder differences and focus on the customer or user’s needs, which are paramount for developing a successful product that people will want to buy.

5.1.4 Group Creativity Techniques

  • Brainstorming

    An “open mode” of thinking is encouraged for people to come up with ideas for project and product requirements.

  • Nominal group technique = brainstorming + voting

    After ideas are generated in the brainstorming session, the group then ranks or prioritizes the most useful ideas for further brainstorming. The trick here is to move the group from the “open mode” of brainstorming to the “critical mode” of ranking or voting without destroying the openness of the process, i.e., discouraging people from coming up with ideas that are original.

  • Delphi Technique

    This is when subject matter experts are asked separately regarding the project and/or product requirements.

  • Idea/mind mapping = brainstorming + mapping

    The ideas that are come up with in the brainstorming session are consolidated to reflect which points they have in common and how they differ.

  • Affinity diagram = idea/mind mapping with large number of ideas

    Large numbers of ideas are sorted into groups for review and analysis of each group.

As you can see from the diagram, Delphi Technique is a technique by itself because it is asking a group of experts by correspondence on a one-to-one basis. It only collects the responses as a group and discusses them.

For the other four, brainstorming is at the heart of all of them. If you add voting to brainstorming, you get the nominal group technique. If you add mapping to brainstorming, you get the idea/mind mapping technique. The affinity diagram is a large-scale version of the idea/mind mapping technique.

5.1.5 Group Decision Making Techniques

The methods of reaching a group decision are:

5.1.6 Questionnaires and Surveys

Used with a large number of respondents (hence no time for interviews as in 5.1.1).

5.1.7 Observations

Observation, also called job shadowing, observes closely how people actually use the product in order to uncover any difficulties they may be having. The new product is designed to help eliminate these difficulties.

5.1.8 Prototypes

Here you produce a working model of the expected product, so stakeholders can experiment with it. This can be done as a kind of progressive elaboration as demonstrated below:

5.2 DEFINE SCOPE (Planning Process)

5.2.1 Expert Judgment

Since you are now trying to produce a detailed description of the project or product, you need to ask experts. These can be internal to your organization or that of the customer, or they can be members of industry and technical associations or industry groups.

5.2.2 Product Analysis

If the end result of your project is a product, then you can use a generally accepted method to take the high-level product description and translate it into tangible deliverables.

5.2.3 Alternatives Identification

This is when you try to generate different approaches to execute and perform the work of the project. This will reduce the risk on a product, because if one approach fails, you’ve already developed alternatives to get to the same result.

5.2.4 Facilitated Workshops

These are focused sessions similar to the ones used in process 5.1 COLLECT REQUIREMENTS, which bring stakeholders together from different functional areas in this case to take the high-level product description and translate it into tangible deliverables. This can be used in conjunction with 5.2.2 where an engineering analysis is done there, and then the implications of the design for various functional areas are worked out in the workshops.

5.3 CREATE WBS (Planning Process)

5.3.1 Decomposition

The techniques of decomposition means subdividing the project scope and project deliverables into smaller, more manageable components to the level of work packages. Here’s how the project is broken down through the decomposition process.

a. Programs are groups of related projects.

b. Projects can sometimes be broken down into distinct phases.

c. Major deliverables are first identified within each phase.

d. That work which can be outsourced to a contractor is referred to as a subproject.

e. Deliverables are broken down from the major deliverables.


Continuing along the breakdown process:

f. Once deliverables are identified, for large-scale projects planning packages are identified which are basically fill-in-the blank packages for work that has not yet been identified, but will be in the course of progressive elaboration.

g. A control account is a summary level in WBS one level above a work package. Once a group of work packages under a control account are completed, some sort of monitoring & controlling activity is done here to make sure the project is proceeding according to plan.

h. Work package is the lowest level in a work breakdown structure which both defines specific deliverables and those resources (people, equipment, etc.) assigned to complete the work.

i. The work package consists of a list of activities, which can be further broken down into …

j. Tasks, but this is sometimes a confusing term because some companies have tasks at a higher level than activities. In any case, the PMBOK® Guide relies on work packages being the lowest level of WBS which consists of a list of activities. That’s all you need to know at least for the purpose of the exam.

5.4 VERIFY SCOPE (Monitoring & Controlling Process)

5.4.1 Inspection

This one is easy to remember if you remember the purpose of the process. You take your deliverable, and then inspect it with regards to the requirements and product acceptance criteria already established.

If the deliverable is acceptable, then it is shown to the customer or sponsor to be formally approved of or rejected.

5.5 CONTROL SCOPE (Monitoring & Controlling Process)

5.5.1 Variance Analysis

This means checking the project performance and measuring it to assess how much it differs or varies (hence the name of the technique) from the original scope baseline.

The results of this analysis then determine whether you can continue the project as is, or whether you need to make a change request to bring the project back towards the baseline.

3. Conclusion

The purpose of focusing on the tools & techniques is to get you into understanding in more specific detail HOW the process is done. Also, understanding the tools & techniques prepares you for knowing what the inputs and outputs are to the processes, because it will be pretty obvious for the most part when you learn the inputs and outputs how they are to be used in conjunction with the tools and techniques.

This concludes the discussion of those tools and techniques used in the 5 processes in the SCOPE knowledge area. Tomorrow’s post will cover those 6 processes in the TIME knowledge area.

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