Beyond Project management certification


I recently flip through a few employers’ career sites out of curiosity for what they expect from a PM candidate for their projects. Some of these companies were top level IT consulting and Outsourcing firms while some others were in retail and manufacturing domains. What I found was on expected lines or nothing new: more and more firms now believe a PM certification is more desirable in the candidates. While few years back it was a preferred criterion, now this is more of a default qualification!

While we know that merely passing the PMI exam is not the only thing employers are looking for, it does give them a sense of assurance of the basic understanding of the discipline in the candidate. As importance of project management grew up to ensure success of project initiatives during last decade due to emergence larger and more complex projects fueled by greater rate of technology adoption and globalization, more and more IT Directors/managers across the globe preferred to entrust their projects to experience and trained PMs. As per Standish group’s latest report as many as two third of them regarded these credentials ‘desirable” while more than one third felt this to be mandatory for the prospective PMs. This is higher than 10 percentages from the 2005 figures.

Being myself a project manager and programme manager, I feel having a certification really helps PMs in two ways. One, it instantly establishes your credibility and evokes respect from the stakeholders. Second, it opens more professional opportunities for them including prospects of higher pay! For the employers, though it brings them a sense of assurance having a capable hand on their project, though it need not translate in the anticipated project success. The reason being, each project has unique circumstances and product. There are cases of failed projects despite having some of the best project managers working on them. These projects failed due to reasons normally not under PM controls e.g. change in technology, lack of resources and change of client requirements/priorities.

As an example: several projects that saw budgetary cut back in 2009 are tottering at the verge of failure, delayed closure or sizable cost run up making them un-viable. Also there is no guarantee that conceptual knowledge gained by certified PM from Certification/Training is actually used in the project or not. Project success is a combination of multiple factors contributed equally by the individual and organization. As mentioned in my earlier article, even organization culture can have a deeper effect on project success. Typically the first person to get blamed for the failure is project manager, however an organization with low process maturity may not command higher project success rate despite having certified project managers because PM as an individual will have to follow the established processes and will have lesser influence on the organization processes.

One more thing that I want to emphasize is that even for the certified Project managers, it is not the end of learning. Actually they should bear more responsibility to bring best practices in their projects and mentor juniors e.g. project leads to imbibe these practices. In another word, is that PMs should strive for spending more time in self learning and passing on the knowledge to the organization. In fact, PMI makes it a qualifying requirement to engage in ongoing learning & knowledge imparting process to be re-certify after 3 years. Not doing that can lead to certification expiry

Shyam Verma, PMP, ITIL
Program & portfolio mgnt professional
LinkedIn:spverma. Twitter:Shammy11

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