One of the most common topics of discussion on our project management community is candidates wanting feedback about answers they have given to sample questions for the APMP exam. Some of our candidates achieve very high 90% pass rates and one of the factors they attribute to their success rate is being able to work through, and receive feedback on, example questions.
So here are some example questions and possible answers:
Q: Explain five distinct benefits of a project office
Five distinct benefits of a project office are:
1. A benefit of the project office is the administrative support provided to project managers. This frees up the project manager’s time to focus on project delivery and progress. For example the project office can organise meetings, issue agendas and minutes, chase actions, thereby reducing the administrative workload of the project manager.
2. The project office may include experts with specialist knowledge. This is a benefit as it can help build organisational capability in a cost effective way by reducing external training costs. For example the project office can coach, mentor and provide guidance to staff on their areas of expertise, such as project tools like Microsoft Project.
3. A further benefit of the project office is helping ensure consistency of approach across all projects in the organisation. This is important as it increases continuity in project execution and reduces organisational risk. The project office can do this by defining, issuing and ensuring compliance with project standards, procedures and templates across the organisation.
4. The project office can provide a library or repository of project information. This is important as it helps facilitate a culture of continuous improvement and saves valuable time and effort researching information across the organisation. For example, information on estimates and actuals from previous projects can be easily accessed and lessons identified which can be embedded in to future project estimates.
5. The project office has access to information relating to all projects across the organisation. This enables the project office to take a helicopter view and can help to identify links and dependencies between projects. This is important as it facilitates improved project planning and helps reduce unexpected delays and risks in project delivery.
Q: Explain the concept of a matrix organisation and describe four advantages of such an approach.
A matrix organisation is a cross between a functional organisation and a project organisation structure. Staff report to their (functional) line manager on a day to day basis (for example, head of marketing, head of finance) and project managers draw staff resources from across the breadth of the organisation on an as and when basis. Project managers have authority over staff with regards project related responsibilities and tasks.
Four advantages of this approach are:
1. Flexibility and optimisation of staff resources.
Appropriate resources are assigned to the project on an as and when needs basis. Staff are released from the project when no longer required and can be shared across projects, both of which help minimise staff under-utilisation. This approach is particularly useful in smaller organisations which may not be big enough to warrant a dedicated programme management office.
2. Retention of organisational capability.
The functional line management ensures specialist skills are developed. As staff remain in the organisation beyond the life of the project, these specialist skills and knowledge are retained. Staff with project management experience are also retained, creating the opportunity for lessons learnt to be embedded within and across the organisation.
3. Staff motivation.
However, the increased variety of work available in a matrix organisation helps keep staff motivated and challenged. This also provides further opportunities for career development and can help improve staff retention. For example a technical member of staff can get the opportunity to work on projects for a number of different clients and/or sectors.
4. Recognition of project manager authority.
A matrix organisation recognises that project managers need to direct others. It is therefore a familiar concept for project managers to have authority over staff working on project activities. There is therefore potentially less confusion amongst the project team regarding decision making for the project.