Articles


Watermark Learning offers valuable industry articles on timely topics and issues affecting business analysts and project management professionals.

Want pointed and topical blogs on Business Analysis, Project Management, Business Process Management, and Influencing Skills? View our extensive blog section.

Articles are tagged with these icons to indicate subject matter, and are organized alphabetically:

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General Articles

Five Trends in Business Analysis, Project Management, and Agile for 2020


by Elizabeth Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, CSM, Andrea Brockmeier, PMP, CSM, PMI-ACP, PMI-PBA, BRMP, IIBA-AAC and Richard Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA

Since 2009, we have enjoyed reflecting on what’s happened the previous year in the world of projects and making predictions for the upcoming year. Here are some of the recent trend topics we have discussed …

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Agile & Scrum

Additional Agile and Scrum articles are available in our blog.

5 Excuses Why You Can’t Use Agile…and Why They’re Just Excuses


by Marsha Hughes, CSM, CBAP, PMP

During my 10+ years of doing agile and Scrum training and consulting, I’ve heard lots of excuses from people about why they can’t use the agile approach in their organization. Here they are…in no particular order:

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Agile is Not a Project Management Framework


by Vicki James, PMP, CBAP

I have the same thought each time I read an article or attend a workshop on “Agile Project Management.” Agile is not about project management. The title is “Manifesto for Agile Software Development.” The statement is “We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it.” Agile is a strategy for executing the product development of a project, not a project framework.

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Is The Business Analyst a Product Owner or Tester on Agile Projects?


by Elizabeth Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, CSM

There have been many articles lately about the role of the BA on Agile projects. Some postulate that the BA role is closest to the product owner. After all, it is often suggested, they reside with and represent the business. They are in the best position to be the final voice when defining and prioritizing requirements. Others believe that the key role for the BA on Agile projects relates to testing. Since they define the requirements, they should complete the appropriate testing processes to ensure the final solution meets the requirements. I believe that neither of these is a business analyst role. That's not to say that someone with the title of BA cannot play other roles as well. It's just that when they are playing these other roles, they are not doing business analysis work.

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Is Your Organization Agile Ready?


by Elizabeth Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, CSM

For years we've been getting questions from Agile seminar participants about how to apply Scrum to "real life." As though these methods are "good in theory, but not at my company!" Some organizations may not be ready to adopt Agile methods completely, so we encourage people to take an organizational readiness self-assessment to see where they are in their Agile growth.

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Words Matter: Using the Right Agile Terminology


by Mike Stuedemann, CST, CSM, CSPO, PMI-ACP, PMP

As the Agile movement has become mainstream, common vocabulary associated with the philosophy has also become mainstream. However, as more and more people use these words, their meaning appears to occasionally drift. This is a common occurrence in movements like Agile as people co-op terms to appear in alignment with a philosophy without actually changing their approach and progressing beyond their prior beliefs.

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Business Analysis

Additional Business Analysis articles are available in our blog.

101+ of the Most Effective Questions You Can Ask to Elicit Requirements and Uncover Expectations


by Elizabeth Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, CSM and Richard Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA

When eliciting requirements and uncovering expectations for a project, much of the challenge stems from learning what the business needs from the new product being built. Often times, we may not even know the right questions to ask to get started, much less get into enough depth to discover all the important needs of stakeholders. This handy guide is a summary to help you get started with your questions and to help ensure you've asked the important before and during a project.

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BABOK Version 3 vs. Version 2—Taming the New Guide


by Richard Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA and Elizabeth Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, CSM

The IIBA® has produced an important update to its definitive Business Analysis Body of Knowledge, the BABOK® Guide. Released in April 2015, the BABOK Guide includes major upgrades, ranging from the BA Core Concept ModelTM (BACCM), to changes to most Knowledge Areas, the addition of 16 new techniques, and the addition of an all-new section containing five perspectives on Business Analysis.

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Constrain Your Way to Better Data Definitions


by Richard Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA

Whatever the scope or size of a project, it is likely that you'll have to deal with generating new data. This article takes a look at how to define data requirements to ensure the right data is collected and reported.

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Data Modeling—Just Don't Show Me Any Crows' Feet!

(Part 1 Data Modeling Overview)


by Elizabeth Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, CSM and Richard Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA

This is the second in our series of requirements modeling. In this article we dive into data modeling, one of the core model types. We start here because data requirements are an important foundation for most information technology projects. If you are a business analyst and not doing data modeling today, you should be able to at least read them to validate requirements against what a data modeler has created.

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The Courage to Scribe, Part 1


by Elizabeth Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, CSM

The IIBA® has produced an important update to its definitive Business Analysis Body of Knowledge, the BABOK® Guide. Released in April 2015, the BABOK Guide includes major upgrades, ranging from the BA Core Concept ModelTM (BACCM), to changes to most Knowledge Areas, the addition of 16 new techniques, and the addition of an all-new section containing five perspectives on Business Analysis.

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The Courage to Scribe, Part 2


by Elizabeth Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, CSM

In Part 1 I discussed the role of the scribe, how the scribe and facilitator work together, and some of the critical skills that effective scribes need to turn the chaos of random discussions into the structure needed to develop the solution. In Part 2 I will explore why organizations need courageous scribes.

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The Courage to Scribe: 42's Trusted Advisor


by Elizabeth Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, CSM

Recently I saw the movie "42," based on the true story of Jackie Robinson, who in 1947 bravely fought custom, bigotry, and violent hostility to become the first African American to play major league baseball. As I watched the movie, I was equally taken with the story of Robinson's "scribe," Wendell Smith. From the beginning, Smith establishes his role not only as “scribe,” but also as trusted advisor.

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Demystifying Use Case Modeling


by Elizabeth Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, CSM and Richard Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA

We all know how difficult it is to achieve project success without complete product requirements. Yet gathering complete requirements without exhausting the project schedule and budget remains elusive on many projects. In this article we will provide tips for gathering hidden requirements quickly.

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Gathering Requirements: Go Away Please!


by Elizabeth Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, CSM and Richard Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA

Requirements elicitation requires building relationships and trust among project stakeholders. When trust is absent, the requirements elicitation process will take longer, be incomplete, and lead to lower morale. Although building relationships takes time and effort, it can actually shorten project time and result in improved project performance.

This article was originally published as part of the PMI® Global Congress North America Proceedings, Toronto, Canada.

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How CBAP® Helps You Become a Better Consultant


by Brian Hunt, CBAP

My introduction to business analysis and process improvement was over twenty years ago when, as an electronics engineer in a GE plant, I received training in the Workout™ process improvement methodology. Since then, my knowledge and understanding has steadily increased as I learn how to analyze and improve business processes in the simplest and most sustainable way. When I found the IIBA a couple of years ago, I realized that the skills, experience and knowledge required by a Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP®) broadly described the point I had reached in my career.

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Kicking The Hornet's Nest


by Elizabeth Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, CSM

I have kicked a few hornet's nests in my career. Some of these nests were full of angry hornets and some full of non-aggressive bumblebees. However, every instance reinforced the importance of doing the right thing for the organization, even if it meant getting stung.

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Parallax Effect on Requirements


by Richard Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA and Elizabeth Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, CSM

Have you ever gazed out at the stars and found it too difficult to focus on a particular one? Scientists call this the parallax effect. Too often, the same phenomenon occurs in projects—business analysts tend to focus on too few methods to elicit and analyze requirements.

In this article, we provide strategies to overcoming the parallax effect. We provide techniques you can use immediately to better define requirements so that problems may be solved efficiently.

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Projects Without Borders: Gathering Requirements on a Multicultural Project


by Elizabeth Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, CSM and Richard Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA

One of the most difficult tasks project managers and business analysts face is obtaining customer requirements. When the project includes multi-cultural stakeholders, particularly if they comprise a virtual team working in geographically dispersed areas, the job becomes much harder. As the world gets "flatter" and the need for collaboration beyond political borders becomes the norm, the ability for project professionals to bridge cultural gaps will become a necessary skill set. This article provides tips and techniques for project teams to do just that.

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Seven Steps to Passing the CBAP® or CCBA® Exam: A Foolproof Plan


by Richard Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA and Elizabeth Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, CSM

For people dedicated to the field of business analysis, CBAP® certification is becoming the "gold standard" of the profession. Undoubtedly, many of you are either thinking about becoming certified or have already started the process. This article summarizes the CBAP® program, and how business analysts can create a foolproof plan to obtain their certification. This article provides 7 crucial steps for your plan and several tips on how to execute these steps successfully to become certified.

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Top 10 Mistakes to Avoid when Earning your CBAP® or CCBA®


by Richard Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA

I’ve been helping people obtain their CBAP® since 2007, and I’ve seen a number of approaches. Most have been successful I’m happy to say. A few others have not been, either because candidates stressed out or were underprepared. The individuals were understandably disappointed. This article is a summary of the top mistakes people have made in working towards their CBAP® or CCBA®, including my own experience with the CBAP® and PMP®.

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The Ultimate Guide to CBAP Certification FAQs


by Richard Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA

Watermark Learning holds monthly IIBA Certification chat sessions, and we get great questions each time. This extensive guide is compiled of many of the questions received over several months, compiled into five sections ranging from study tips to the application and exam.

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Using Storyboards to Get the Big Picture


by Marsha Hughes, CBAP, PMP, CSM

A shortcoming of written requirements in any format (user stories, use cases, SRS, etc.) is that it is often difficult to visualize the process described or proposed by the requirements. This article details how to use storyboards to better define requirements and processes for more effective project flow.

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Why Don't Use Cases Just Go Away? Part 1: Use Case Diagrams


by Elizabeth Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, CSM and Richard Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA

Use case models have been around for decades. Long after Information Engineering was all the rage and through object-oriented analysis and design they hung around. They threatened to disappear when Agile methods gained popularity, but here they are. Discussed, dissected, blogged about—why don’t they just go away?!

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Business Process Management

Additional Business Process Management articles are available in our blog.


Business Process Improvement: Which Approach is Best for Your Organization?


by Kirk J Gould, CBPP

Six Sigma, The Theory of Constraints, Lean, The Toyota Production System, Process Based Management, Business Process Management, Customer Focused Improvement, Value Added, Kaizen, Taylor, Deming, Welch,...which one do you follow? This article peels back the mystery and addresses the all-important question: how do you choose the right approach to attack the business problems you face today?

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No Matter What You Call It, It's Still About Managing Processes


by Sara Braziller, CIRM, CPIM and Michael Sherer

What is being addressed today as Business Process Management (BPM) has gone under the guise of many things over the years. It was known as just-in-time manufacturing in the 1980s. In the 90s it was repackaged as re-engineering, then as Lean, Six Sigma and Value Stream Mapping. While all of these methodologies tend to focus on vertical, or functional process improvements, today’s BPM is about looking at organizations horizontally to improve the whole. It is about delivering well-orchestrated value to customers, and efficiency and profitability to the organization. When the whole business is in sync, both customer and stakeholder value is maximized.

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To Understand Business Processes, Just Use Your Loaf


by Brian Hunt, CBAP

Many recruiters call for specific domain experience when they want help in process redesign. But, whether your product is life insurance, cakes or motorbikes, the principles of business process are the same: you want a defined output from a set of inputs, and you want that output to be provided at consistent time, cost and quality. To do that, you need a designed and managed process.

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Influencing Skills

Additional Leadership and Influencing Skills articles are available in our blog.

Avoiding Conflict Between the PM and BA, Part I


by Elizabeth Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, CSM

What are the roles of the Project Manager (PM) and the Business Analyst (BA) in the early stages of a project? The two bodies of knowledge, the BABOK® Guide 2.0 and A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowlede (PMBOK® Guide)-Fourth Edition each allude to work being done at the beginning of the project so it is not surprising that conflict between these two roles can arise.

This article details how to avoid conflict between the PM and BA to ensure a successful project outcome.

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Avoiding Conflict Between the PM and BA, Part II


by Elizabeth Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, CSM

What are the roles of the Project Manager (PM) and the Business Analyst (BA) in the early stages of a project? In part 2 of this article, Elizabeth provides some great advice on how project managers and business analysts can work more efficiently and effectively.

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Barriers to Influencing


by Elizabeth Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, CSM, and Richard Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA

In our article, "The Influencing Formula," we discussed our concept of the "formula" to help become influential. There are three main components, namely trust, preparation, and courage. A formula sounds as if it may be an easy thing, but of course it is not. We also know that we should do the right thing for our projects, our business units, and our organization. So what's stopping us?

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Be Satisfied With What I Give You–It's Better Than What You Asked For


by Elizabeth Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, CSM

My husband and I usually stay in hotels on vacation and sometimes our expectations, those unspecified requirements, are not met. This article deals with two aspects of unmet expectations: unwanted features and making changes.

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Creating Bulletproof Business Cases


by Richard Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, and Elizabeth Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, CSM

Too often we've heard people tell us that their projects, which are intended to help the business solve its problems, continue to cause "pain" or fail to address the issues they were designed to solve. Projects are often justified or initiated by the need for a solution, and this usually means either no business case was created or an insufficient business case was created. Inadequate or non-existent business cases can result in unclear project scope. Building a "bulletproof" business case helps ensure that your project moves along smoothly and solves the problems that it was intended to solve.

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Cultural Intelligence


by Elizabeth Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, CSM

There are many different types of 'intelligence'. Components of intelligence can include such things as: understanding, learning, use of language, creativity, emotion, etc. Today, the focus seems to be on cultural intelligence. In this article we look at how being more culturally aware and courteous can enhance productivity and build relationships.

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Gather Trust Then Requirements


by Elizabeth Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, CSM and Richard Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA

This article shows practical ways of building trust between project teams and stakeholders in order to achieve better project success.

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The Influencing Formula


by Elizabeth Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, CSM, and Richard Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA

We often get asked, "How can we get stakeholders to attend our meetings?" or "How can we get stakeholders' buy-in on the project?" These are complex questions, and the simple answer is that we can’t. As business analysts (BAs) and project managers (PMs) we can’t get anyone to do anything, but we can certainly influence them so that they want to. Similarly, we hear other BAs complaining that they are given a solution and don’t believe that they can step back and take the time to understand the business need. We're told, "I can't speak up when my sponsor sets the direction of the project" or "In our organization, they shoot the messenger." How can we effectively influence when we have no authority to do so?

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Influencing Without Authority: Rev Up Your Internal Consulting Skills: Part 1 (Why Don't We Have More influence)


by Elizabeth Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, CSM, and Richard Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA

How often have you met with business clients to plan a project or elicit their requirements only to have them provide you with their solution? And because they have already given their solution, they can't understand why you want to spend any time shaping the product or defining their requirements! Or, perhaps your sponsor or business clients are at the opposite end of the spectrum. They may be overly busy, stressed-out, and distracted, and again don't have time to define their real needs, or to articulate their detailed requirements.

This two-part article addresses these common quandaries by making a case for a consultative approach to better provide internal clients what they truly need and want. The framework is straightforward, yet reduces the amount of time you hear these dreaded words from clients: "Oh, darn, you gave me what I asked for!" It offers tips on how to respectfully question key stakeholders about their real needs and provides recommendations that best meet their business objectives. All in all, the benefits of this approach are to reduce the amount of rework on projects, improving client satisfaction, and saving time and money.

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Influencing Without Authority: Rev Up Your Internal Consulting Skills: Part 2 (Overcome the Barriers—Start Influencing!)


by Elizabeth Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, CSM, and Richard Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA

In part 1 of this article, we explored several barriers that prevent project professionals—Project Managers and Business Analysts—from influencing without having the authority. We listed four main factors that we've seen and exist in virtually every organization: lack of positional authority, lack of sponsor support, unclear roles and responsibilities, and other factors such as company culture, product complexity, time pressures, etc.

Now we're ready to explore some ways that help overcome these barriers. They revolve around the theme of project professionals acting as consultants, whether you are an internal or external one. We both worked as internal consultants early in our careers. It taught us the value and power that comes from a consultative approach. Your clients will thank you for using it because it helps solve business problems and get things done.

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Is There a Personality Profile for the PM and BA


by Elizabeth Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, CSM and Richard Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA

Are there certain personality traits that Project Managers (PM) and Business Analysts (BA) share? During a presentation on the topic of BA and PM roles, we were asked this question. In this article we share some of the audience responses and delve into each of these traits in more detail.

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It's Not Like Selling Pots or Pans... Or is It? A New Way of Selling Project Management to Senior Management


by Elizabeth Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, CSM, and Richard Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA

Project management professionals often find themselves in situations where they have to sell things to decision makers. It might be selling a project, or a new function such as Project Management Office. By understanding critical success factors, sales "knowledge areas," and a repeatable process, we increase our chances of success.

This article was originally published as part of the PMI® Global Congress Asia Pacific Proceedings, Bangkok, Thailand.

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Oh No, You Gave Me What I Asked For!


by Elizabeth Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, CSM, and Richard Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA

Project professionals—specifically project managers and business analysts—realize that no matter how well projects are executed, projects still fail when customer requirements are not clearly defined and customer expectations are not met.

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Tips and Tricks for Facilitating Conflict Resolution


by Elizabeth Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, CSM

We all know that conflict is a difference of opinion and therefore neutral—neither good nor bad, Right? But try telling that to a project manager or business analyst embroiled in conflict. Conflict can threaten to destroy the team and sabotage efforts to elicit requirements. But it doesn't have to. Having a strong, neutral facilitator and a process for conflict resolution can reduce tensions and bring about a positive outcome.

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Virtual World Communications


by Andrea Brockmeier, PMP, CSM, PMI-ACP, PMI-PBA

Cell phones, laptops, PDAs...these devices have distracted, disrupted or otherwise negated the impact of meetings and interfered with work focus. This article discusses some relevant research about technology and its impact on communication and productivity.

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Project Management

Additional Project Management articles are available in our blog.

5 Rules for Project Success


by Elizabeth Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, CSM

This article provides 5 rules for successful projects, based on Kids' Rules of World Cup Soccer.

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10 Critical Steps to Creating a Project Plan


by Elizabeth Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, CSM and Richard Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA

One of the critical factors for project success is having a well-developed project plan. This article provides a 10-step approach for how to create an effective project plan. It also provides a roadmap for project managers to follow and explores why it should be the project manager's primary communications and control tool throughout the project.

We're proud to note: This article continues to be the most viewed article on the Project Times website, with more than 818,000 views as of May 2016!

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Achieve Project Success with Sponsorship and Clear Vision


by Elizabeth Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, CSM and Richard Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA

Here is a brief article that identifies five major factors leading to project success.

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Foundational Concepts for Project Management and Business Analysis


by Elizabeth Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, CSM and Richard Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA

We use certain terms every day without thinking of their meaning, or perhaps use them with an incomplete or even incorrect understanding. This month we invite you to take a moment to clarify some basic concepts of business analysis and project management. This article looks at some foundational terms and their distinctions. You may be surprised by what you learn.

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Managing Small Projects: The Critical Steps


by Elizabeth Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, CSM and Richard Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA

If you think that executing a small project does not require advance planning, think again. This article endorses the planning process and outlines five important steps for successfully managing small projects.

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Top 5 Causes of Scope Creep...and What to do About Them


by Richard Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, and Elizabeth Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, CSM

Scope creep is a dreaded thing that can happen on any project, and it can waste money, decrease satisfaction, and not provide the expected project value. Most projects seem to suffer from it, and both project teams and stakeholders are consistently frustrated by it. Why does an effective means of controlling scope seem to continually elude us?

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