Project Management Institute

A household name


by SUSAN LADIKA * photo illustration by FREDRIK BRODÉN

Just four years ago, the Project Management Institute had some 67,000 members, about three-quarters of them in the United States. Since the millennium, worldwide membership has boomed, topping 130,000 by April 2004, with nearly one-third living outside the United States.

As the project management career path becomes more firmly entrenched in the international workforce, PMI sees globalization as key to keeping pace with the demands of a global economy. The soaring growth of PMI membership outside of the United States—nearly quadrupling in just four years—can be attributed to three forces.

First is the change in the global marketplace—multinational companies looking for a competitive edge invest in their project management competency. “The PMI Board of Directors is very cognizant of how economic conditions have changed, how we've gone from separate regions and national economies, and how it's evolved to a global economy,” says James McGeehan, PMI's public relations specialist. Many more projects are global in nature, whether that is the project team, the funding or the resources used. At the same time, resources are more limited and there are fewer people to do what has to be done.


There is a need to establish similar ways of working around the globe.

—RENE VIELVOIJE, President of the PMI Netherlands Chapter

Second is the influence of multinational companies' reach around the world. Leading companies want to ensure they achieve success consistently and speak the same project language. A mature project management process means quicker time to market, transparent information and fewer misunderstandings. “Within my own company, there is a need to establish similar ways of working around the globe,” says Rene Vielvoije, president of the PMI Netherlands Chapter, who works for EDS. “That's one of the things that should really drive PMI.”

And finally, is the growing realization that project management methodology is the best way to finish consistently on time, within budget and to specifications. Project managers make the best leaders because they know how to direct both processes and people, so it's no longer unusual to hear of a project manager who has reached the executive suite.


To further the understanding of the project management profession, PMI leaders have developed an advocacy program that sends the institute's CEO, Greg Balestrero, on the road to meet with corporate leaders and business editors and reporters. The aim is to raise awareness “of the value of project management and make them understand that when project management is integrated into the strategic plan of their organization, the results that they get are considerably better than would otherwise be the case,” Mr. McGeehan says.

Case studies play a central role in the advocacy program. The Phoenix Project (the one-year rebuilding of the Pentagon after the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks), for instance, the European Union's euro conversion and the construction of the new Denver International Airport illustrate the successes of the profession to those who might not be so familiar with project management.

A survey also is under way to try to measure the perceptions of project management among top decision-makers at leading corporations. The survey has been completed in the United States, and now is being circulated in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and Asia Pacific regions.




PMI's regional service centers enable the Institute to provide the same level of assistance to all of its members, regardless of language or time zone. In June 2003, the Europe, Middle East, Africa (EMEA) Service Centre opened in Brussels, Belgium (+32-2-743-1573), and a new Asia Pacific Centre will open in January 2005.

As PMI's global operations continue to flourish, a particular region may need more than one service center, says James McGeehan, PMI's public relations specialist. “It's another example of how we're trying to reach out and come in closer contact with our members.”

The opening of regional service centers also acknowledges the cultural differences represented by PMI's thousands of members. For project managers, “the basic tools don't change all that much from region to region,” Mr. McGeehan says. “It's the traditions and cultures and protocols that vary from country to country and region to region.”

Recognizing those differences and establishing regional service centers are important for members like Rene Vielvoije, president of the PMI Netherlands Chapter, which split off from the Benelux chapter four years ago.

“There is more of a belief that this is a global organization instead of just a U.S.-based organization with some chapters abroad. It's important to have a local face of PMI,” Mr. Vielvoije says. By setting up the regional service centers, project managers from various nations have the opportunity to talk to Institute staff within their own time zone and sometimes in their own language.

For the future, Mr. Vielvoije would like to see the chapters spread across Europe pull together more. Doing so “would benefit them as a whole,” he says.



The evolution of chapters and specific interest groups (SIGs) also has been significant for the organization's development, says Allan Mills, Region 5 component mentor volunteer. The first chapters were formed in 1974 in Houston, Texas, USA, and in Northern and Southern California. The first non-U.S. chapter was chartered in São Paulo, Brazil, six years later. As of April 2004, PMI had chartered 227 chapters and 37 potential chapters worldwide.

PMI chartered its first SIG in 1994, PMI Project Earth. A decade later, it had 33 chartered SIGs and two potential SIGs. Before moving to Washington, D.C., USA, recently, Mr. Mills was president of the North Carolina chapter, where three local interest groups were active in the areas of information systems, pharmacy and the project management office. As the Region 5 Component Mentor, Mr. Mills is one of more than a dozen volunteer component mentors who work with PMI to support component leader development and operations.


Having the local interest groups in place gives members another way to share interests and network.

—ALLAN MILLS, Region 5 Component Mentor Volunteer

Because SIGs are virtual, their members typically meet at one of four PMI global congresses. Because SIGs offer their members opportunities to engage in subject-matter specific dialogue through face-to-face interactions at chapter events, there is a natural synergy between the components. Mr. Mills believes collaboration between chapters and SIGs will help draw more people to PMI. The virtual nature of SIGs and the more frequent face-to-face meetings of local interest groups should further unify the membership, Mr. Mills says. Having the local interest groups in place gives members another way to share interests and network.

Shakir Zuberi, who helped to start the Columbia River Basin chapter in 1994, credits PMI with granting “a lot of freedom to do what we want to do to serve the members of our chapter.”


Thirty-five years ago, PMI's founders—Gordon Davis, Ned Engman, Eric Jenett, Susan Gallagher and Jim Snyder—wanted to exchange information on planning and scheduling, Mr. Snyder recalls. The goals were education, exchange of information and professional development.

Although groups such as the American Management Association and the Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering already existed, project management was a new concept. “We either coined the name or came awfully close,” Mr. Snyder says.

Certification was one of the founders' key concerns as they sought a means to measure true professionalism in the field. That “set the tone and direction the organization has taken,” Mr. Snyder says. The first Project Management Professional (PMP®) certification test was administered in 1984.

In the mid-seventies, much of the focus was on construction management. Over the years that industry base has expanded to cover everything from pharmaceuticals to aerospace and financial services. Today, those in the computer, software and IT fields comprise the largest share of PMI members, with more than 20,000 represented in each area.

By the end of the 1970s, PMI had 2,000 members worldwide. Today, PMI boasts more than 137,000 members, and that number continues to climb exponentially, as project managers recognize the myriad benefits the Institute offers.

And he foresees continued growth in the coming years. Although global forces may be spurring growth, long-term health will come from the fact that, at PMI “people want to give back,” he says. “I think this is a very healthy sign for the organization.” images

Susan Ladika is a freelance writer based in Tampa, Fla., USA. She has written for publications such as The Wall Street Journal-Europe, The Economist and Workforce Management.



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.



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