Project Management Institute

Certification

the organizational implications

The phenomenal growth of interest in PMP certification poses new challenges and calls for new solutions.

James D. Klanke, PMP, Global Requirements Committee Chairman

When the PMP certification program was initiated in 1984, no one envisioned the exponential growth in PMP applications that would occur in the next decade. In consequence, the program was structured using volunteers to develop, administer, and evaluate the examinations and assess applicants’ credentials. While this arrangement worked quite well when the membership base was small, it has proven to be ineffective in meeting the needs of an ever-growing membership base.

With a current membership of 14,000 and an anticipated membership of 50,000 by the year 2000, the Certification organization is clearly understaffed to meet the demands of its members. It also lacks established channels through which associates and corporate sponsors can become more involved in the substantive certification issues.

For the past several years, members throughout the world have been discussing ways to enhance the program so that it can remain an internationally respected means of assessing the credentials of project managers. Among the most recurrent themes that have emerged from these discussions is the need for international affiliations, international standards, and advanced validation techniques.

To more adequately address these issues, PMI established an Integrated Project Team (IPT) at its 1994 Spring Council of Chapter Presidents/Board of Directors Meeting. The team, facilitated by Mike Katagiri, was given the mission of developing a five-year plan that would enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the certification program by at least 20 percent.

The team evaluated all aspects of the organization's certification program and assessed both strengths and weaknesses, and presented its recommendations at the spring meeting. As a follow-up to their evaluation, Certification Director David Frame requested at the 1994 Fall CCP/Board Meeting that another IPT be established to deal with the issue of “how to handle global certification.”

Because of the scope of the issues involved in establishing a comprehensive global certification program, the IPT requested that the CCP/Board grant the IPT a six-month evaluation period to properly address all the relevant issues regarding global certification. After receiving permission to proceed, the IPT set forth to develop a proposal for implementing a Global Certification Program capable of supporting the strategic plan and current program issues.

After four months of research, the Global Certification IPT arrived at the following conclusions:

  • The existing certification program, which was designed to handle a membership base of about 6,000 people, is incapable of adequately meeting the demands of the current membership base.
  • The current Certification organizational structure is inadequately staffed to handle the multitude of phone calls, submission of applications, proctoring assignments, and examination assessments.
  • The Certification organization currently provides insufficient study materials to potential associates.
  • Many members feel that they have too little input into the certification process.

Based on these findings, the Global Certification IPT concluded that the entire program would have to be re-engineered to adequately address the most salient issues.

Among the IPT’s recommendations were:

  • Replace volunteers with contract professionals in key areas of the certification program to enhance effectiveness and professionalism of the program.
  • Reexamine the major components of the exam development process including exam administration, question development, validation and reliability techniques, multi-lingual exam offerings, and exam presentation techniques.
  • Determine to what lengths PMI can successfully assist professional affiliates with the implementation of a certification program.
  • Reconsider the PMP qualification guidelines, revocation procedures, and recertification procedures.
  • Establish an organizational structure that is capable of supporting a minimum of 3,000 exams and 4,000 applications annually without sacrificing professional standards.
  • Develop channels for continuous improvement of the core program.

Organizational Implications

Utilizing its findings and recommendations, the Global Certification IPT mapped out a new organizational structure designed to support the five key management activities of the Global Certification Program. These activities include corporate support, public relations, study material development, effective administrative procedures, and exam development. What most concerned the IPT was making sure that the organizational chart was sufficiently flexible to reflect the inherent overlap in these activities. Additionally, the IPT wanted to make certain that the structure was defined in such a way to ensure that PMI could efficiently draw from the collective wisdom of its members, execute its responsibilities in a professional manner, respond to corporate trends and member concerns, and continue to evolve without becoming entangled in divisive turf wars.

With these thoughts in mind, the IPT proposed:

  • Creating four committees to administrate the Global Certification Program
  • Redefining the role of the Certification Committee
  • Reshaping the role of the Certification Director
  • Hiring a Certification Program Manager
  • Entering into a contract with a professional testing organization.

Global Certification Committees. The IPT's proposal to create four committees to administer the Global Certification Program was based on its belief that multiple committees would allow individual members to concentrate on those tasks most suited to their particular expertise and would function as an effective system of checks and balances to ensure that no action was taken without consideration of the long-term impacts on other components of the program. To this end, the IPT proposed establishment of the committees listed below.

Global Requirements Committee. The Global Requirements Committee would be responsible for examining the entire certification framework, including the purpose of the program, the required qualifications, the role of the exam, the role of certification, the need for recertification, and conditions for revocation of certification. It would also be responsible for development of an advanced PMP certificate program.

Global Conformance Committee. The Global Conformance Committee would be responsible for working with professional affiliates in implementing certification processes and establishing conformance procedures.

Exam Development Committee. The Exam Development Committee would be responsible for all activities involved with the exam process, including the development and validation of test and test items, preparation and administration of the exam, standardization of exam techniques, and development and maintenance of study materials.

Certification Administration Committee. The Certification Administration Committee would be responsible for all activities involved in the actual certification of a PMP, including the maintenance and development of compliance to requirements, application review, applicant notification, and other day-to-day certification issues.

Redefinition of the Certification Committee. Under the proposal advanced by the IPT, the Certification Committee, which would consist of representatives of the four committees, the Director of Certification, and several advisory members, would become a governing structure designed to implement policy and set direction for the Global Certification Program, submit budget requests, and support the strategic plan. It would report its activities to the PMI Executive Board of Directors.

Redefinition of the Role of the Director of Certification. Under the IPT proposal, the scope of the Director of Certification would be narrowed to establishing the overall direction of certification policy; conducting certification marketing efforts; undertaking international certification initiatives; and acting as the Global Certification chief spokesperson. In addition, the Director serve as chairperson for the Certification Committee and be the Certification champion to the Executive Board of Directors.

Hiring a Certification Program Manager. The IPT advocated hiring a Certification Program Manager who would have overall responsibility for coordinating the day-to-day operations of the certification effort. This individual would work with volunteers and professional exam developers to establish and maintain a dynamic body of exam questions; ensure the examination contents are valid and reliable; initiate efforts to develop and maintain adequate study material for exam preparation; and verify that all certification products have passed quality control prior to their distribution.

Professional Testing Organization. Under the proposals of the IPT, PMI would explore entering into a contract with a professional testing organization to outsource many of the activities associated with exam development and administration. These professionals would assist with question development and validity testing, conduct reliability testing and statistical analyses, and oversee test administration of the exam.

Executive BOD Action on the IPT Proposal

When the IPT presented its proposal to the PMI Executive Board of Directors in March of 1995, the Board accepted the bulk of the proposal, including the formation of the Global Certification Committees. The Board requested that the committees continue to refine the organizational structure, further clarify the roles and responsibilities of each of the component elements, and present a more comprehensive proposal to the Board in the fall of 1995.

Since that time, PMI has:

  • Hired Wendy Myers as Certification Program Manager
  • Appointed James D. Klanke, PMP, chair of the Global Requirements Committee
  • Appointed Page Carter, PMP, chair of the Exam Development Committee
  • Appointed Paul E. Lustig, PMP, chair of the Certification Administration Committee.

In addition, the committees have begun reviewing a proposal of exam development and test administration submitted by a professional testing agency, and the Certification Committee has continued to define the roles and responsibilities essential to the organization and to consider the steps that are required to progress to the next phase of the reengineering process. ∎

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI.

PM Network • October 1995

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