I am looking to take the PMP exam in a year or so, and see that one of the requirements is "at least three years of project management experience, with 4,500 hours leading and directing projects." What sort of documentation is required for the 4,500 hours, and does anyone have any good recommendations on tracking project participation to this end? I figure it would be better to start documenting now then trying to remember 3 years of projects a year from now.
Documentation required is pretty scant on the 4500 hours. They will ask you to break the hours down into five process areas (initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling, and closing) and then into various process activities.
I wouldn't worry too much about it. I'm a software developer by experience, so I had to scrounge various projects to get my 4500 hours. I was also audited, so I know that they accepted my experience.
Once you enter your hours, if you get audited, you will get a letter to sign for each project, from the manager of that project (or co-worker, or subordinate). It will say "XYZ said they worked on this project for these many hours (by process area): ... do you agree with this? (Yes/No) and any other comments?" So no real documentation is necessary; as long as you are honest, your experience is valid.
Also, for tracking, I would do it in a spreadsheet; list projects and an approximate number of hours spent on each project. That makes it easier to subdivide into the process areas and processes later; you can "budget" those hours until they add up to approximately the same amount.
By the way, PMI really wants just project work experience, whether leadership or not. I passed the audit, and I had projects like:
Most of your hours will probably fall into the execution area; that's probably what they expect.
When you fill out the experience portion of the PMP Application, you will be asked to provide the total number of hours you spent "leading and directing", i.e. managing the project and what percentage of that time was spent on various activities in each Process Area, organized by the process groups. It is time consuming. Since I wasn't as forward thinking as you, I ended up asking my company financial admin staff to print me a report of every project I had billed for the last 5 years. Fortunately, we are typically pretty good about setting up charge numbers for various activities on a project, so the translation from charge numbers to PMBOK process area.
Also this way, if I was audited, I already had the source material I could use as justification.
http://www.projectsmart.co.uk/docs/pmp-application.xls is a slightly dated version of the type of template you could maintain if you wanted to get a leg up.
Not every project you document needs to cover every process group, but the sum total of all your experience needs to cover all the PMBOK processes. At least that's how it was in 2009 when I documented my experience.
My interpretation of leading and directing is that you don't have to be designated as "the PM", but you do need to have been performing some sort of leadership activity on the project. On a software project, perhaps you were the software lead, which gave you experience executing, etc.
The bottom line is that you need to be comfortable with yourself - if you have made every effort to honestly document your management experience & have records to back up your claim in case of an audit, you'll be fine.
An aspect of the work experience documentation that is often confusing for people has to do with overlapping projects. Here’s the simplest way I’ve found to explain it:
PMI is looking for two things regarding work experience on the application: a number of unique months and a total number of hours of leading and directing. Earlier posts handled the leading and directing issue so I'll skip it here.... The required quantity of months and hours depend on whether someone has a Bachelor's degree or equivalent but the two categories remain.
Let's assume someone has a Bachelor's degree. For the PMP application, they need to demonstrate at least 36 unique months of working on projects and a total of at least 4,500 hours.
Let's say Project A went from January - October 2012, for a total of 1,200 hours. Project B went from July - December 2012 for a total of 800 hours. How does this get reported on an application?
Project A would count as 10 months toward the 36 unique months. The months of July-October cannot be double-counted so Project B does not get credit for those months.
However, the total hours for those two projects do count. So the totals for those two projects on the application are 12 unique months and 2,000 hours. They get to count the overlapping hours but not the months.
NOTE: PMI assumes a 40 hour week so someone could not be full-time on Project A during August and full-time on Project B at the same time.
Keep your time registration entries. These should be enough evidence to fulfill this requirement. If they are too high level, for instance if you cannot distinguish between project management processes and product development processes on a particular project, you will have to make an assumption. To prepare for a possible audit, you could ask your boss to agree up front with the assumptions you have made about how you've spent your time on these projects.
Even though the language on the PMI website say
My believe is that by leading they mean be involved in one of the process groups, including being a team member in a project. I am almost sure I took this from Rita's book, but I will double-check this today.
In essence you need to be part of the projects for 4,500 hours. It will be good that you document your time based on the 5 process groups.