Why Project Management Certification?

Auther: Bassam Samman, PMP, PSP, EVP | CMCS CEO and Founder

No one can deny the growing global trend among project managers and team members in attaining professional project management certification. Actually, the forecast is that this trend will increase and will cover new industries that project management is not a critical skill. The question is why, and why now?

Well the answer stems from the fact that many of the project centric organizations are becoming fully aware of the fact that selecting and delivering projects successfully is a strategic objective for their organizations and in particular nowadays when funds are becoming scarce. Those organizations have found that they cannot afford not to invest in building the environments that will support successful project delivery. Those environments require adopting best practices policies and procedures for managing projects, having the right tools for sharing project information and having the qualified project team members to implement those processes and deliver projects successfully.

For many years, organizations have assumed that project management skills can be acquired by practice. So someone who has managed more projects should be better than someone who has managed lesser projects. This is an assumption that although could be true sometimes but for sure is not always the case especially when the demand for delivering projects in a more efficient manner is on the increase. Actually, this assumption can be viewed as a risk where the impact of having the unqualified project manager could be disastrous to the project success. The likelihood, even if it was on the low side, would result in a risk exposure that no project sponsor should accept if he or she is concerned about their project success.

So what treatment actions can an organization undertake to treat this risk in a way that they can still capitalize on the many years of experience as a project manager but reduce the risk of having an unqualified project manager? One of those treatment actions is professional project management certification.

We have to accept the fact that many project managers have become project managers by mere accident. We would rarely find a university graduate who has graduated as a project manager. Organizations tend to promote their experienced staff, although some staff looks into it as a demotion, into the role of project managers. They are given this new role that they have not received any formal education on and what knowledge it requires. To the contrary, we are in an indirect way asking those new project managers to manage projects in the way they best think will fit the purpose. In a way, we are asking those project managers to learn project management by trial and error. Now few might succeed but many others will fail.

Organizations who understand that projects are one of the most risky investments they would undertake to achieve their growth and success, will never accept taking that high exposure risk without a proper response action to reduce their possible failure threats. One of those risk response actions that organizations across the globe have found to be active in reducing this exposure is professional project management certification.

Professional certifications provide project managers and other team members with the best practices knowledge that they need to practice during their project life cycle. Those certifications will explain what needs to be done for initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling, and closing out phases of a project. They will explain the processes that need to be done at each phase and what should be delivered when those processes are done. Those certifications will help in creating a common language that can be used by project team members regardless of their education or experience background by providing the terminologies and acronyms used in project life cycle as well as the performance indicators that are used to communicate project health. In other words, it ensures that we are all reading from the same book.

The concept of using professional certification to “read from the book” is becoming nowadays very popular among large organizations in the Middle East region where we are finding some organizations not only insisting that for those who have the role of project managers that they must be certified but requesting all parties that will be involved in delivering a project to attend a training that will give them the principles of project management and what to expect.

The increased value of professional project management certifications has led many professional institutes such as the Project Management Institute (PMI) among many others in offering different types of related certifications that covers area of program management, earned value, risk management, planning and scheduling, cost estimating and management, project management office, business analysis among many others. For each one of those certifications, a body of knowledge that is based on best practices in delivering the objectives of the certification has been developed. This will enable those who are seeking professional certification to learn those knowledge areas and then apply for the certification. 

Of course, professional project management certification alone will not make successful project managers. No one can argue the importance of practicing project management but what we need to be sure of is that our project managers are practicing the correct project management processes and not what they assume to be correct for the project. This is true for any profession and project management should be no exception.

In addition, successful project managers need to posses the right personal skills needed for the project management role. Skills such as communication, motivation, negotiation, problem solving, influencing, team building, stress management among many others are a must for a successful project manager.

In summary, if an organization is looking to build a team of project managers whom they can entrust in delivering in their project investments, those organizations need to be sure that their project team have acquired the correct project management knowledge, have the right personal skills needed for a project manager and have the ability to deliver the project management knowledge successfully which is acquired by practice.