Need for PM Training & Certifications

Traditional learning model

Despite the fact that here is a lot of buzz in business about importance of project management skills in resources aligned in delivery of projects, the trend of formally trained individuals is quite small or insignificant. Few years before (when PMP or Prince2 credentials were not as sought after as today) professionals as well as organizations did not feel the need to have formal training for PM professionals. Rather it was more likely that these resources gained ‘hands on’ knowledge and skills while performing the jobs in their day today work life & going through company’s existing processes, procedures in use and learning from mistakes made in the live environment. It is quite obvious that many learned the tricks & techniques with historical tried and tested ‘trial & error’ method possibly unknowingly at the organization’s expense!

PM Training becoming mainstream

It is also evident that due to lack of structure and infancy of the discipline the failure rate of projects were higher that what they might be today. make no mistakes, I am not suggesting that improved success rates of projects today compared to a decade earlier is primarily or solely due to acceptance of formal training and certifications of professionals in the industry, the must have been other factors at play as well such as improved tools and better awareness and knowledge around techniques and off course increased level of maturity of the performing organization. Over the years awareness about value of formal Project Management training has been recognized by the industry and this reflected in the fact that now there are large numbers of training schools/colleges offering variety of training programs for varying levels of needs.

What drives people for credential

Even with much greater emphasis on requirement for industry recognized credentials, the key aim of individual for gaining PMP, Prince2 or similar badges is more to do for financial benefits & due to peer or organization pressure rather to really gain additional subject and process knowledge for practical application purposes. I do believe that going through the process of preparation for the certification does help in the way that individual gains basic level of subject knowledge and terminologies, which in itself has remarkable value.

Why Skill disparity still remains

What actually is used in day today practice is mostly to do with framework established by the performing organizations which depends again on the level of maturity the organization is working. So what it means is that even though 2 individuals with same level of experience and industry recognized credentials may have quite different level of expertise in Project Management knowledge area due to the exposure and practical use will defer based on the adopted practices by their organizations. Credentials & formal training in professional fields act as minimum level of knowledge/skill expected by the Industry from project management professional, this is still an excellent value, given this is what expected out of these programs.

Shyam VermaPMP, ITIL v3
IT Project & Program Delivery Professional
LinkedIn:spverma. Twitter: Shammy11
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Increasing Value of Project Management Office

The PMO does not necessarily  manage projects, so in many organizations the PMO does not have a direct project connection or it is indirect. Hence, the value proposition for a PMO can be less tangible and more subjective. A centralized PMO makes great sense to ensure that all project managers have a core set of project management skills, common processes and templates.

The PMO also acts as the owner of the project management approach and supports project managers to utilize common project management practices, procedures and process templates. In addition, the PMO will serve as a place for providing organizational view of the status of all projects and can report on the improvements being made to project outcome over time.

Although PMOs can be established to provide a narrow or broad set of services, this list includes many of the common responsibilities a full PMO would perform.The key value of a  project management office includes:

  •     Optimizes delivery cycle time due to better insight in to delivery processes
  •     Optimizes delivery costs by pruning to non value added activities
  •     Improves quality of project deliverables in mid to long run
  •     Early identification and proactive management of project issues and risks
  •     Fosters sound project management best practices
  •     Better containment and management of project scope & risks
  •     More opportunities to leverage and reuse historical project knowledge
  •     Improves accuracy of estimates by applying standard organization baselines
  •     Better communication with clients and stakeholders
  •     Improves perceptions of your organization by your clients
  •     Improves people and resource management ensuring optimized uses of scarce resources
  •     Reduces time to get up to speed on new projects by applying client specific tailored processes

At an industry level, a PMO is increasingly being seen as an important component required to the  success of projects, and hence, major contributor to the future success of the entire organization. At a more operational level, the value provided by a PMO is indispensable.

Shyam Verma, PMP, ITIL-F
Program & portfolio Mgnt professional
LinkedIn:spverma. Twitter: Shammy1

Should Project management be outsourced?

Should you outsource your project management or keep it under your own people would not be a straight answer since the decision would depend on a number of . A “project” can be viewed as an external deliverable to the enterprise or at times project is viewed more as a core strategic activity within the enterprise. If more strategic than outsourcing would be second option!

Project Management particularly in sunrise industries e.g. IT/Telecommunication is fast emerging  as a professional discipline. Over the last decade there has been considerable awareness in firms and organization to dedicate skilled & qualified people into the role instead of someone who happens to be available to coordinate. This is a welcome trend, however again organizations who do not have a governance body or core skills in PM can look for independent PM professionals or PM consulting firms who may fill the gaps.

I feel that one of the main reasons for failing projects is that the supplier side of the project also does the PM. This is also described in the PRINCE2 approach: customer and supplier have opposite Business Cases. Generally more a project spends, the happier the supplier. Cost of the customer is basically turn over for the supplier. So it is difficult to expect a supplier PM to keep the project (financially) under control unless it is a fixed bid project. Hence there is a strong case for an independent PM to manage enterprise critical project/programs where owner does not have a matured PMO organization.

Generally, the supplier who also happens to provide project Management would be more concerned for meeting what is ASKED FOR rather strategic objectives (if not asked for). Pre dominantly PM is assumed to be supplier responsibility & project fail often more due to gap in priorities of supplier and customer.

And yes, it is the customer responsibility to ensure that stated goals of the projects are well documented and measurable. If that is not done supplier cannot be held accountable for him the project is Successful if it delivers what was Asked For even if it was a waste of money for customer.

Having led several enterprise level projects myself, I found that lot many times customers themselves do not have a deep clarity on strategic goals of the project they want to initiate & not wonder as project progresses their goals too keep changing resulting in significant time delays, and more budget than planned. On top of it, once project is delivered, the usage & adoption challenges remain.Especially in IT projects, it not very uncommon scenario! Who do you think is to blame here? What kind of customer satisfaction ratings can be expected in such projects!

in case a consulting vendor is entrusted to manage end to end project, he is more likely to have a say in team with some influence from client. If he is to manage an existing team from vendor it might be some time before optimum results can be expected.

We see cases where project types changing mid way in large projects. May be it’s nice to have a T&M project type for pilot projects to understand project dynamics of a large longer term project! It would also help establish credibility of appointed Consulting PM org.

One more interesting issue that doesn’t get noticed is that management of project is more or less considered ‘free’ service by most buyers, may be that’s the reason suppliers have no option but to do it themselves! Also PM is applicable to wide range of industries, in fact many old economy sectors have more sophisticated PM practices while PM practices in IT are still evolving.

Well…no doubt an outsider would take time & would need money (internal PM is a cost too!) however, an outsider is most likely to be impartial & more focused on outcome in addition to bringing in top level skill set and proven domain experience.

With an appropriately organized project board, yes, project management can be outsourced. However the PM needs to be well versed in the sponsoring customers business / technical skill set and needs to have a strategic vision and fit. So if I was responsible for a project, the outsourcing decision should be based on finding the PM with the right (business!) skill set.

One thing that surprises me lot is that its not uncommon to have two different perspective from supplier Vs customer definition of project success. A logical conclusion should be to rate the vendor poorly on which the project failed and re-shuffle the Pre-qualified suppliers. Still, why don’t we see that many supplier churns in particularly large size projects! Customers seem to go back to same suppliers time and again despite having different views on success of completed projects. I know several large vendors in IT and capital goods sector who got repeat business despite average or below average ratings! But then that is another thing to ponder on! 🙂

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