Why become a project management professional?

Concerns of Project Managers

This & That

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Russ Choyce is president of Infotech Management, a firm providing organizational and skill development services based on PMI‘s PMBOK and PMP certification process. He has been engaged in project management since 1981 and is an active member of PMI. He currently serves on the Dallas PMI Chapter Executive Advisory Board and serves as founding president of the PMI Fort Worth Chapter.

Russ holds a BBA from the University of Miami, Florida, and an MBA from George Washington University. He is planning to take the PMP exam soon.

BACKGROUND

PMI introduced the Project Management Professional (PMP) Certification in 1984, establishing the only internationally recognized certification for project management. This was a hallmark event. It was the i-list formal recognition of project management as a professional endeavor.

The PMP Certification affirmed the need for standards and professional ethics. Its tenets are far-reaching. They represent more than an understanding of project management principles. They also represent a commitment to the profession, as measured by professional education, experience and service.

Creating standards meant establishing a standard project management vocabulary and a standard set of terms and definitions. This vocabulary now includes over 500 entries in PMI‘s PMBOK and has received widespread adoption by numerous companies.

More importantly, the introduction of the PMP Certification established a framework of generally accepted skills for those engaged in project management. This framework has extensive implications. It creates consistency, builds trust, establishes performance baselines and improves communication effectiveness. It also fosters more effective interdiscipline and interorganizational cooperation.

This standard framework established a basis for professional teaching standards and skill development. In brief, it has become the model for an emerging new profession. This model was made possible only through an intense combined involvement of practicing professionals and the academic community.

WHY HAS CERTIFICATION BECOME MORE IMPORTANT?

In a period of a declining economy and increased competitive pressure, companies search for more organizational effectiveness. Current corporate tendencies towards “rightsizing” and “squeezing” the organizational pyramid result in a renewed focus on seeking better ways of managing projects. Past scheduling disappointments and cost overruns serve as added catalysts to this trend.

Our fast-paced environment has generated a period of “fast-tracking” to run the maximum number of projects concurrently, and a period of “crashing schedules” to maximize resource utilization. Time is viewed as an increasingly valuable commodity. And the saving of time creates a competitive asset. However, this fast-paced environment is accompanied by high risk, with the likelihood of missed schedules increasing significantly.

The solution is in achieving greater organizational effectiveness, doing things right the first time, and an organizational structure that increases management's ability to respond quicker to this changing environment. This means a single point of control, and a larger span of control for top management. It also means greater empowerment at lower organizational levels and a shifting of gears to a more horizontally integrated organizational process.

This is the essence of successful project management.

However, accomplishing this vision assumes more than delegating authority. It assumes technical and interpersonal skill competence of everyone involved with the project management process.

THE ADDED VALUE

Many of these challenges are met through effective project management. Being PMP Certified is the recognition that these needs are being addressed. It represents achieving minimum levels of proficiency in eight generally recognized project management skills, including both technical and interpersonal skills. It means exhibiting the basic skills necessary to perform successfully in teams, operate horizontally, communicate with different disciplines, handle conflict and build trust to ensure a successful project implementation. It is the foundation for success in this new environment.

For those companies with external customers, being certified establishes credentials through the awareness that it represents of the project management process. It serves as a differentiation between project management providers, illustrating a commitment to the project management profession. Interestingly, there is an increasing frequency of PMP Certification becoming a requirement for responses to Requests For Proposals associated with project management services.

The need for certification is not new to some project management providers. Some have adopted their own internal proprietary certification process to establish their project management credentials. However, many of these companies are switching to the PMP Certification due to its internationally recognized acceptance.

For those companies engaged in project management for internal purposes, the PMP Certification represents a discipline and skills proficiency baseline. It becomes the project management yardstick for performance expectations. It is the answer to the question “How do you know what you can do if you cannot quantify it?" As such, PMP Certification is viewed a the building block for skill development, often being supplemented with training for specialized applications unique to specific industries.

Regardless of the corporate focus, certification serves three important purposes. It forms a basis for an internal career platform, it sets standards and quantifies skills.

PASSING THE PMP TEST

Passing the PMP Certification examination requires demonstrated minimum competency in eight areas. Six of these skills are technical, two are interpersonal.

The technical skills include Scope Management, Time Management, Cost Management, Quality Management, Contracts/Procurement Management and Risk Management. They represent the range of skills which maybe encountered during a project's life cycle. They enable the project participant to relate to differing disciplines, build trust, and minimize communications problems and misunderstandings.

Some of these skills add new dimensions to effective project management. Two examples are Risk Management and Contracts/Procurement Management. Risk Management has become increasingly recognized as a tool to value opportunities and evaluate project alternatives. This process becomes critical when determining the acceptability of risks based on the perceived project value. Risk Management integrates with Contracts/Procurement Management to develop approaches to sharing these risks through special contractual relationships, and thereby reduce the risk exposure.

PMP Certification Examination Applications and Certified PMPs

Figure 1. PMP Certification Examination Applications and Certified PMPs

Another area gaining prominence is Cost Management. Issues such as determining the net present value of funds, the internal rate of return, and other measurements, have become increasingly important as businesses focus more on cost containment, and the use of limited funds. In addition, earned value analysis, once confined to government projects, is becoming more prevalent in nongovernmental applications.

The two interpersonal and organizational skills are Communications Management and Human Resources Management. These skills tend to “round out” the project management process profile. They add the “humanfactor” to the project process. It has been too limiting in the past to be technically competent, but incapable of communicating with others who depend on that competence. Communications and Human Resources Management help to “break down” technical and organizational barriers which inhibit the project management process. They provide insight to ourselves, our personalities and our differences. They increase human understanding and open avenues to manage the ever present conflicts which accompany the changes introduced by the project management process.

INCREASING ACCEPTANCE

PMP Certification has evolved beyond a measurement for those engaged in project management. It is emerging as the standard threshold for many educational institutions and has become an integral part of the academic standards incorporated in George Washington University's Project Management Masters Degree Program. It has also become a prerequisite credential for those engaged in teaching project management in the Defense Systems Management, where the project management teaching staff is required to pass the PMP Certification examination to qualify for teaching project management subjects.

Growth in applications for the Certification examination has increased from 482 in December 1991 to 691 as of November 1992. Similar trends are observable with the recent PMI accreditation of the project management courses taught by the American Management Association.

A significant influence is the accelerating trend incorporate support of the PMP program. It has become integrated in the project management process for companies such as AT&T, NCR, Niagara Mohawk, Bechtel, and others.

SO “WHY BECOME A PMP?”

Perhaps because you want to extend your professionalism as a project manager. Or perhaps your company needs competent professionals to assist it as it becomes more horizontally integrated. Or, perhaps your company requires it. Or perhaps you recognize the value of investing in your profession and your future.

For whatever reason, the PMP Certification is not an end … it's just the beginning. img

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.

JANUARY 1993

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