PMI Certification: Ensuring Project Success

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In today’s quickly changing and complex business climate, organizations have to find ways to increase efficiency and decrease costs. Facing heightened competition and complexity in their operations, organizations have leveraged virtual processes and supporting technology to complete more work in less time by operating globally distributed teams. However, the elimination of many of the technology constraints previously imposed by sheer physical distance between team members has brought other challenges—namely, the need to manage a distributed workforce spanning continents, cultures and languages.

At a time when businesses increasingly compete on a global stage, an emerging dilemma is how to maintain overseas operations, vendors and personnel while mitigating risk and keeping an eye on the bottom line. Many organizations have found the answer in project management.

Project management is the unique organizational competency to effectively manage projects to achieve the organization’s strategic goals for competitive advantage. By helping organizations focus the resources required to create or drive results, including time, money, people and materials, project management enables clear direction, adaptability, effective communications and commitment to quality deliverables within teams. Finding individuals with this broad range of expertise is challenging, which is why project management skills are highly valued in today’s workforce. As organizations and individuals recognize the value of project management, certifications in this space are becoming increasingly valuable.

The Value of Certification
The value of project management certification has increased because business leaders understand the benefits a professional project manager brings, including an improved ability to execute and deliver strategic initiatives on time, on budget, with minimal risk and ensured quality. In fact, in a global survey of senior corporate executives commissioned in 2004 by the Project Management Institute (PMI), 92 percent of respondents agreed that “utilizing professional project managers is an effective way to ensure success,” and 73 percent said they currently employ professional project managers. Within the IT industry, 100 percent of executives surveyed believe that utilizing professional project managers leads to the successful completion of projects. Several high-profile undertakings have realized success through their use of professional project managers, including the Salt Lake City 2002 Winter Olympics, the Mars Pathfinder Mission and Project Phoenix (the rebuilding of the Pentagon after the Sept. 11 attacks.)

While work experience helps build these qualities and encourages professional growth, there is another option for individuals who recognize the value of project management. Individuals can differentiate themselves from their peers not only by demonstrating their abilities through their contributions on projects, but also by gaining professional credentials. Obtaining a professional credential helps provide a distinct advantage in accessing new opportunities and increases visibility in team-oriented environments. Additionally, many organizations require that certified project managers be assigned to projects. As the demand for skilled project team members continues to increase, the benefits of credentials are evident.

Project Management Professional
Multiple studies suggest that certification has been instrumental in advancing the careers of project management practitioners. The Certifications Pay Index completed in 2003 by Foote Partners indicated that project management certifications such as the Project Management Professional (PMP) showed the greatest growth in premium pay among professional technology certifications during the previous two years. In CertMag’s 2004 Salary Survey (www.certmag.com/salaries), respondents who held PMI certification earned one of the top five average salaries, at $89,630.

Among professional certifications for project management, PMI’s PMP credential has been successful in lending credibility and career growth potential to experienced project management practitioners. More than 112,000 certified PMPs provide services in more than 120 countries. Though the PMP is the project management credential of choice across a vast array of industries and companies, the growth of the project management profession has led PMI to expand its credentialing program to accommodate the career development needs of project team members, entry-level project managers and students studying project management. With this in mind, PMI introduced a revised version of its Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) credential at the end of 2004.

Certified Associate in Project Management
The CAPM expands a market-recognized credentialing program and is designed to recognize individuals based on their understanding of fundamental project management knowledge. Its purpose is to build credibility in the direct benefits achieved through project management by improving the knowledge of not only the project manager, but also of the project team members themselves, thereby increasing the chance of project success. With the CAPM, individuals will enhance their ability to contribute to project success through demonstrated knowledge of project management processes and terminology that would otherwise take years to acquire. Obtaining the CAPM credential can benefit a wide range of team players who want to demonstrate clear direction to their work by developing the enviable qualities of effective communications and commitment to efficient delivery. As a result, the CAPM can help individuals gain a foundation in a highly sought-after professional knowledge base and will help expand opportunities in their careers.

In pursuit of the CAPM credential, candidates become familiar with the processes and terminology as set forth in “A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide), Third Edition,” which is recognized as the de-facto global standard by the project management community. As a standard, it identifies and describes project management knowledge or practices that are applicable to projects. The PMBOK Guide is the recognized reference source for anyone interested in the project management profession, and should be used to gain an understanding of project management knowledge that is tested in the CAPM examination.

The CAPM examination is comprised of 150 questions in a multiple-choice format with a three-hour time limit. The exam tests one’s knowledge of accepted project management processes, tools and techniques, and establishes a common knowledge base of the profession’s concepts, terms and phrases. To be eligible to take the exam, candidates must provide documentation of a high school diploma or global equivalent and at least 1,500 hours of work on a project team or 23 contact hours of formal education in project management. Contact hours are defined as the amount of time a candidate spends receiving instruction in project management in five groups (initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and controlling, and closing). These contact hours include any class, seminar, on-the-job training, online training or distance-learning classes whose objectives are directly related to project management.

For more information on educational and experiential requirements, as well as the CAPM handbook and application form, go to www.pmi.org/info/PDC_CAPM.asp.

Denny Smith, Ph.D., is manager of the certification program at the Project Management Institute (PMI), managing exam development, and the maintenance and administration of PMI’s credentials. He can be reached

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