Project management certification

the history

Concerns of Project Managers

The History

Francis M. Webster, Jr.


Project No. 31. Project Management Standards – Director: [David] Morton, Project Manager: Matt Parry (Toronto Chapter); Objectives to develop project management standards, ethics and accreditation.

So reads the first report (PMQ, June 1981, p. 2) of what might have seemed a routine project team assignment. It was instigated at the suggestion of Matthew H. Parry, who had served as chairman (1977-78), president (1976), and vice president-functional operations (1974-75). This was no lightweight effort. Indeed, only two years later they issued their report in the August 1983 Special Report issue of the PMQ, titled Ethics, Standards, Accreditation (commonly referred to as the ESA Report).

In the “From the Special Issue Editor's Desk” in that issue, the following paragraph summarizes the report:

The ESA Project has proposed a Code of Ethics for project Management, which is included in this Special Report. A proposed set of topic areas which would constitute the framework for the unique body of project management knowledge-critical to the recognition of a project management profession—is also presented … The set of topic areas may may serve as the basis for developing minimum standards for entry into the field, a task being worked on by the PMI Certification Committee, chaired by Dr. M. Dean Martin … The set of topics may also serve to guide the development of the first nationally accredited Master of Science in Project Management Degree program … All in all, the work of the ESA Ptoject presented in this Special Report is likely to be a key development in the movement of the project management field to a project management profession.

Those last words, indeed, have proven to be prophetic. Articles elsewhere in this issue present the facts about the growth in acceptance and importance of the Project Management Professional Certification Program. An important concept was enunciated in that report which often gets lost in rhetoric. It was recognized that the body of knowledge of project management would be continually evolving as the theory and practice of the area are defined and refined.

There was much to be done between concept and reality. Baseline concepts of the content and character of PM were identified. Six areas of knowledge were identified: Human Resources Management, Cost Management, Time Management, Communication Management, Scope Management, and Quality Management. Twenty-six persons are listed as contributors to the ESA Report. Seven specific motions were presented to the PMI Board of Directors for adoption. Thus, the wheels were set in motion.


The August 1986 Special Issue of the Project Management Journal presents a detail report on the development of the first Project Management Body of Knowledge, or PMBOK, under the direction of R. Max Wideman. There were in excess of 50 individuals identified as contributors to this effort and many more participated in the manifold discussions that were an integral part of the process. In his “Message from the President,” Brian Fletcher stated:

Not surprizingly, all sections of the report are not equally well advanced. Nonetheless, the work published in this report represents a significant step forward in this ongoing process of developing of our Body of Knowledge. Further work by the committees, together with an influx of new task force members, would no doubt serve to add to and modify the work already done. The Board of Directors, however believes that it is sufficiently advanced and that an appropriate point has been reached in its progress for the membership-at-large to examine and to comment on each section.

Discussions were held at PMI ‘86 and written suggestions were received until December 1, 1986. The revised draft was approved by the PMI Board of Directors at its meeting on March 28, 1987, to be effective September 1, 1987. It was this product that has been the basis for the development of the Project Management Professional Certification Program to date. Contract/Procurement had been added at the time of the August 1986 report and Risk Management was added prior to approval by the PMI Board.


The first report of the Certification Committee, chaired by M. Dean Martin, appeared in the December 1983 PMQ. It noted that 86 percent of PMI members surveyed “favored some type of certification program.” A promised detail report was published in the March 1984 PMJ, “The Project Management Professional (PMP) Program: Certifying Project Managers.” It detailed the process for becoming certified and identified the three areas in which points could be earned towards certification: education, experience, and service. The first certification examination was held October 6, 1984, at PMI ‘86 in Philadelphia. Fifty-six individuals took the exam and 43 passed to become the first Project Management Professionals (PMPs). Note that more than ten times that number sat for one administration of the exam in 1994, less than ten years after the first exam.


Since that time, others have become involved in both the standards process and the certification program. Alan Stretton served as Director of Standards and contributed deep insight to the analysis of the original PMBOK document, identifying inconsistencies and potential improvements. Alan passed the responsibility on to William R. Duncan, who has toiled intently for the last couple of years to incorporate the changes suggested by an even larger group of participants. Besides resolving inconsistencies of the original document, this new revision, which members received with their September PMJ and PMNETwork, provides the WBS identification of the knowledge areas, but they are enhanced with the flow process concept of the relationships between elements of the PMBOK.

Concurrently, Dr. J. Davidson Frame succeeded Dr. M. Dean Martin as Director of Certification. David details the activities of the Certification Committee in an article elsewhere in this issue.


Much has been accomplished since Matt Parry first volunteered to lead an effort to professionalize project management. Often, this progress has come too slowly for many. Some have complained about the merits of the original document. As an observer of the process, all performed by volunteers, sometimes at the expense of their own personal business or persons, it has been a truly amazing effort. Those less directly involved can hardly appreciate the negotiating, the compromising, the writing and rewriting, the editing, and the sweating that has brought the PMBOK and the PMP Certification Program to their current state. You are urged to take time to thank and congratulate all those who have taken part in the effort on a job well done.

Now, it is time to move on to the embellishment of the PMBOK document with special supplements and to bring even more rigor to the certification process. It will take the efforts and intellect of many to truly lead project management into the future.

PMNETwork • November 1994



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