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Broader Horizons

PMI's new credential opens up a vista of new opportunities for program managers by demonstrating versatility and solid multi-tasking skills.

by Kevin Orfield

For more than two decades, PMI's Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification has helped thousands of project managers advance their careers. Soon, program managers will get the same boost.

PMI is developing a new credential for program managers that will establish a level of competence based on knowledge, skills, capabilities and job experience. The market-recognized credential will demonstrate a program manager's ability to coordinate the management of multiple projects and related resources toward common strategic objectives.

"The program manager role has become more and more prevalent in the industry, but until now, these professionals have not had a way to distinguish themselves," says Patti Harter, PMP, manager, career management projects at PMI. "The new credential will establish rigorous requirements and a clear context to recognize the accomplishments and competence of people managing programs."

A Distinct Role
PMI's credentialing strategy is to define and build global consensus on the different roles related to project management. As a result, the new program management credential certifies more advanced knowledge than the PMP credential, which is appropriate for project managers who perform their duties under general supervision and are responsible for all aspects of a project. The program management credential, on the other hand, is geared toward someone who, under minimal supervision, possesses the knowledge and experience to make decisions that advance strategic objectives and make recommendations to modify programs to more effectively achieve these objectives.

This distinction is subtle but significant—not all PMP holders will be qualified to apply for the program manager credential—and many may not even desire to pursue the certification, depending on their career goals.

In addition, applicants for the program management credential do not need to be PMP certificate holders. In fact, Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM®) certificants may apply if they meet the eligibility requirements, which will be released shortly. Applicants for the new credential should have been practicing program management for several years, so the credential is not appropriate for PMP holders who have just begun expanding their program management capabilities. The new credential will aid practitioners who already have grown their career skills from project into program management capacities.

Candidates will be evaluated through a variety of methods:

  • An initial assessment. Completed during the application process by a panel of program managers who determine eligibility by reviewing the candidate's work experience.
  • A multiple-choice exam. Requires the candidate to apply his or her knowledge to a variety of situations and scenarios.
  • A final multi-rater assessment. A panel selected by the candidate evaluates his or her competence in a work environment.

Credential Advantages
The credential will give program managers increased visibility within their organizations, says Bob Perry, Millarville, Alberta, Canada-based chairman of the program manager credential committee and member of PMI's Certification Governance Council. "PMI's new credential provides thousands of program managers around the world with the opportunity to increase their knowledge, receive recognition for their abilities and advance their careers," he says.

  Pedro Ribeiro, PMP
Pedro Ribeiro, PMP
The new program management credential also will help organizations identify individuals who can help them realize strategic objectives. "More often than not, brilliant strategies are not effectively executed due to program and project implementation failures," says Pedro Ribeiro, PMP, consultant and trainer in strategy and project management, TheProjectOffice, São Paulo, Brazil. "The new program management certification from PMI undoubtedly will not only increase the market value of program managers, but will be a welcome addition to corporations' overall war chests for effective strategy implementation."

  Jerry Ball, PMP
Jerry Ball, PMP
For this reason, the new credential also will be an opportunity for program managers to solidify their skills and demonstrate them to potential employers. "The PMP certification is now widely referenced in the process of selecting project managers," says Jerry Ball, PMP, consulting project manager, Entity Group, Wellington, New Zealand. "The new program management credential may in time play a comparable role in selecting program managers."

For updates and further information on the program management credential, visit the Certification Program section of www.pmi.org.

Role Definitions
Program Manager vs. Project Manager
Program Manager Role
• Under minimal supervision, responsible for coordinated management of multiple related projects and ongoing operations directed toward a common objective.
• Directs project managers to monitor cost, schedule and technical performance of component projects and operations, while working to ensure the ultimate success of the program.
• Demonstrates sufficient knowledge and experience to make decisions that advance strategic objectives and make recommendations to modify programs to more effectively achieve these objectives.
Project Manager Role
• Responsible—under general supervision—for all aspects of the project for the life of the project.
• Leads and directs cross-functional teams to deliver projects within the constraints of schedule, budget and resources.
• Demonstrates knowledge and experience to appropriately apply a methodology to projects that have reasonably well-defined project requirements and deliverables.

Kevin Orfield is a Milwaukee, Wis., USA-based freelance writer who has written on a variety business topics for numerous publications and companies.

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