CloseUp: Project Management
For IT professionals interested in making the move from individual contributor to manager, project management is a time-honored way to begin the transition. Often, more senior or energetic IT professionals may find that opportunities to manage projects are a great way to develop or improve their management skills, while trying a management role on for size.
Many IT professionals tend to think of project management as a specialty that centers primarily around software development, but this is not entirely accurate. Indeed, while managing development projects is an important focus for this discipline, there are plenty of other kinds of projects—including Web site development, large-scale upgrades or system migrations, end-user or client training on new systems and so forth—where project management skills may apply without involving any software development at all.
In general, project managers are people who may help to design or implement projects, but who are primarily responsible for planning and managing the various phases involved in executing a project and in maintaining its results for whatever lifecycle persists after initial design, test and deployment phases may occur. A good project manager is usually possessed of a good technical skill set, but also has excellent time- and people-management skills as well.
Many of the big certification portals don’t recognize “project management” as a category unto itself, but a bit of diligent digging soon reveals that numerous IT certifications related to project management are available. These include the following:
- A set of programs from the Project Management Institute (www.pmi.org) are among the best-known and most highly regarded project management credentials. PMI has an ongoing and active relationship with academia, whereby many courses available at local colleges and universities also serve as curriculum elements for various PMI certifications. The Project Management Professional (PMP) certification is the program’s anchor, but there is also an introductory credential called the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM), as well as more advanced add-ons to the PMP called Certificates of Added Qualification (CAQ) that target various specific industries or vertical markets, including automotive product development, IT networking and IT systems. For more information, explore the PMI Web site, starting at www.pmi.org/info/PDC_CertificationsOverview.asp?nav=0401.
- Global Knowledge offers its own Project Management Certification, which takes candidates through two courses and related exams. Topics covered include project skills such as planning, estimating, risk analysis and controlling a project, as well as people skills such as team-building, motivation, delegation, conflict resolution and coaching. For more information, see www.globalknowledge.com/training/certification_listing.asp?PageID=12&certid=207&country=United+States.
- CompTIA offers the IT Project+ certification, originally developed by the Gartner Institute, as an intermediate-level credential for IT professionals. Like its other counterparts on the list, the program seeks to identify individuals who are sufficiently competent to plan, implement and complete IT projects of just about any kind. This explains the program’s multiple focuses on knowledge of business practices and interpersonal skills as well as best practices and processes in project management. This credential involves only a single exam, for which various courses, courseware and preparation materials are available. For more information, visit www.comptia.org/certification/itproject/.
- Learning Tree offers its own Project Management Certified Professional program, as well as a more general IT Management Certified Professional program. Both programs involve three core courses and a single elective course, each with a related exam. There is considerable overlap between the requirements for both credentials, but the Project Management Certified Professional program puts more emphasis on project management topics, tools and technologies than the IT Management Certified Professional program. For more information on these programs, visit www.learningtree.com/us/cert/progs/7000.htm (project management) or www.learningtree.com/us/cert/progs/7027.htm (IT management).
All of these credentials do a good job of covering the subject matter, but not all of them offer similar levels of recognition. The CompTIA IT Project+ and PMI CAPM are both junior- or entry-level project management certifications, whereas the programs from Global Knowledge, Learning Tree and the PMI PMP are more intermediate- to senior-level credentials. Of the latter bunch of credentials, the PMP is indeed the best-known and best-recognized in the field at present. Also, because individuals can get trained by taking standard college-level courses in their areas, they may find the PMP cheaper to prepare for and obtain, since the other credentials require four- and five-day commercial classroom courses.
No matter which of these you decide to investigate further, you’ll soon learn that project management is both a worthwhile and well-recognized IT discipline, and a great stepping-stone for those interested in climbing the ladder from IT professional into IT project management or straight management jobs.
Ed Tittel is president of LANwrights Inc. and is contributing editor for Certification Magazine. Ed can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.