Advancing your career: the new Portfolio Management Professional credential
PMI have launched a new credential recently: the Portfolio Management Professional (PfMP)SM. The pilot finished in February and at the moment you can’t sit the exam while they review the feedback from that, but you can still apply and it won’t be long before exam dates can be booked.
Credentials in general are a good way to advance your career. This one demonstrates your experience in managing organizational portfolios and could enhance your chances of getting a pay rise. Anything that means your bosses recognise that you are doing a good job and are professional in the way you go about it improves your standing at work (or if your company doesn’t value that sort of thing, help you find a company that will). PMI’s literature claims it helps make you more marketable so you may find employers starting to ask about this credential if you are going for PMO and strategic level jobs.
So, as this month is all about Portfolio Management on projectmanagement.com, I thought I’d explore the PfMP a bit more.
Is it for you?
It won’t be for the majority of people. It’s aimed at people who are responsible for portfolio management in their companies. PMI define a portfolio as:
“a collection of programs, projects and/or operations managed as a group. The components of a portfolio may not necessarily be interdependent or even related—but they are managed together as a group to achieve strategic objectives.”
You can see that this will only relate to a few people in your business, or one particular team. It’s a strategic, high level job rather than a hands-on project management job, although you don’t have to have the job title of Portfolio Manager to be eligible to apply.
What are the pre-requisites?
As with the other PMI credentials, you’ll need to meet certain criteria before you can apply. You’ll need a high school diploma or equivalent with at least 7 years of portfolio management experience in the last 15 years. Or 4 years’ experience if you have a bachelor’s degree or equivalent.
Then you’ll need to demonstrate 8 years of professional business experience. As PMI say that one of the roles of the Portfolio Manager is to establish and guide the selection, prioritization, balancing, and termination processes for portfolio components to ensure alignment with organizational strategy you’ll have to show that you’ve been working at a senior level in your firm.
What’s involved in the application process?
Your application will be reviewed by a panel of expert volunteers who are also portfolio managers. This bit takes around 4 weeks. Then there’s the exam. You’ll have to take the exam within a year of passing the panel review. It’s a multiple choice computer-based exam, so if you have taken any other PMI credentials you will be familiar with the format.
Will it help my career?
Who can say? Only you can answer that question.
On one hand, it’s a new credential so until there is a critical mass of portfolio managers holding it employers may struggle to recognise its worth.
On the other hand, getting it in the early days will set you apart from the rest of the field when you apply for new jobs.
As with any credential, having it shows that you have demonstrable skills and experience and the commitment to the profession to study for and sit an exam. I think it’s too early to tell if candidates with the PfMP credential will earn more than others in the same role but from past experience and the salary surveys from PMI it’s probably likely that they will in time.
Credentials and certificates are an investment, and it is always worth talking to your manager about whether he or she will fund your application and exam fees, or even give you time off work as study leave. They may say that they won’t fund it but you might be pleasantly surprised! I’m looking forward to watching this credential as it evolves and more people take it: as PMI are positioning themselves and project management as a strategic thing this fits well with their current focus (or at least that is how it looks from the outside).
Has anyone got any experience of PfMP credential process or the pilot? Let us know your thoughts on it in the comments.
What’s your USP?
One way to distinguish yourself from the other project managers in the department is to think about how good your grasp is of project finances. This is often an area where project managers have weaker skills because not all projects require them to balance lots of books and sometimes big projects even have financial analysts assigned to them so they don’t have to worry about working out the detail themselves.
So if you want to set yourself apart and develop a USP (unique selling point – something that makes you different from everyone else), building your project financial skills is a great start. You can then demonstrate how much value you add by being able to explain the project financials to your C-suite stakeholders.
Show you have a grasp on project finances
When asked, you should be able to talk knowledgeably about your project’s budget and whether or not you are on track. If you don’t have the figures to hand and you’ve been caught in the corridor by an exec who wants to know, explain that you don’t want to tell them the wrong thing and that you’ll check when you are back at your desk. Then follow up and email them the right figures as soon as you can. Of course, if pushed, you can always give a ballpark figure.
Show you understand the business case
Ideally, when you discuss your project with C-suite stakeholders (or anyone else, for that matter), you should be able to demonstrate that you have an understanding of the financials of the business case. If the project is going to deliver some kind of return on investment, then you should understand how that is going to be calculated. If there are other financial benefits, make sure you understand those and how the project deliverables and the work the team is doing will actually end up generating cash when the project is complete.
Work with your finance team
Get to know your finance department! They are a source of lots of useful information so find out what help they can offer you and make use of them! Even if they don’t have the staff to be able to dedicate lots of time to your project they can often help with ad hoc queries especially when it comes to things like invoice processing, year end processes and accruals.
Be aware of context that your project is working in. For example, is the company under some financial strains or is there pressure to spend a certain amount of the department budget before the end of the year?
Also make sure that you understand the financial terms that you are likely to hear when it comes to company budgets – ROI, IRR, payback period and so on. Check out my videos on these subjects if you need a refresher.
Think big picture
How does your project fit into your programme and the business strategy overall? This will also help set you apart as in my experience many project managers don’t have the ability to think about the bigger picture overall and focus very much on their own projects and getting those done (although this is changing). Being able to see the big picture is a further way to demonstrate your value to the C-suite and to set yourself apart from your fellow project managers.
Showing that you have a grasp on your project finances and how this affects the project and the company overall brings a touch of reality to business case, and helps you explain your project’s contribution to your team members as well. Make your business savvy the way you distinguish yourself from the competition at the top level – it really can set you apart in the quest for a new job or for recognition in what you do.
I was on a course recently and all my pre-course reading came on a Kindle. When I asked the instructors about it, they said it was because people travelling to courses were fed up with coming and going with huge heavy folders of paper. New technologies have changed how we choose to do many things, and training courses are no exception. I caught up with John Roberts, Director at change consultancy myProteus, about how training providers are adapting.
John, how do you think models of training are changing and why?
A key finding from the CIPD 2012 Learning and Talent Development surveyrevealed that traditional learning methods are considered amongst the least effective ways to up-skill employees but, in the absence of anything else, they tend to dominate most learning and development programmes.
With the acceleration in economic uncertainty, organisations are keen to invest in the professional development of their people but can ill afford to provide costly face-to-face training for all. Increasingly organisations are looking for a more flexible solution that embeds learning and delivers an ongoing sustainable improvement in performance.
To satisfy this need, it is imperative that models of training change to appropriately reflect different learning styles, embrace technology, be practical, enable self-help on an ongoing basis, embed best practice and facilitate real skills transfer.
I see that companies are moving towards online learning. A product from your company, myProteus, provides online support – tell me more about that.
Technology has clearly caused a sea change in the delivery of both learning models and project management tools and techniques, and has been instrumental in developing the myProteus offering. myProteus is a modular online self-help portal which is replete with project and programme management best practice, cutting-edge know how, and diagnostic self-help tools. It is designed for anyone involved with change, not just the project management professionals.
Built upon the power of self-learning and customisation, it is more focused on the ‘how do I…’ of projects rather than the ‘what is…’
Not only does it provide the basics you would expect but it also makes available practical items and insights that can make a real difference to an organisation, its projects and its people.
Self-help ‘training’ is an interesting option. I image that helps project managers be more productive and spend less time (and money) on finding the answer?
Projects are, without a doubt, getting harder. In fact, a recent survey we conducted revealed that 55% of projects are demonstrating more complex characteristics than those traditionally delivered in the past.
This acceleration in complexity often means that organisations are embarking on projects of unprecedented size and scale, but using traditional training approaches which are unlikely to result in success.
Self-help products, like ours, help project managers be more effective by:
Anything that helps project managers be more effective saves money. How else can the model of self-training benefit a company’s bottom line?
It allows corporates to achieve a level of project maturity and performance faster and cheaper than would be the norm. Typical corporate benefits include:
We believe such bold approaches – demystifying project management and empowering employees throughout an organisation with the knowledge and skills required to manage projects effectively – hold the keys to making sustainable change truly achievable.
About The Expert:
John Roberts is a director at myProteus, a change consultancy that has recently launched a mobile app for project managers and an app for project sponsors which contain market-leading insights built around the top ten themes identified by both project managers and sponsors in a survey.
I have done two training courses recently: the P3O certification course and Maximising IT/IS Team Effectiveness with Villanova University. The experience led me to consider what you need to take into account when choosing a project management course provider. And this is what I concluded:
Can you find out who is the course tutor? Look them up on LinkedIn, on Gantthead or on their own website. Do they have credibility? Do they have experience in the industry? Have other people written nice things about them?
2. Other delegates
You won’t be able to find out the names of the people attending the course with you, but you can find out the types of clients that the course provider serves. For example, and ISEB project management course is likely to attract IT project managers. A course run by the Impact Factory is likely to attract people in different industries, perhaps with a more creative outlook.
The course provider may have a list of previous clients on their website, or testimonials from people who have attended courses with them in the past. The job titles and companies of these people can tell you a lot about the sort of delegates who will potentially be on the course with you.
You need to factor in travel costs. Attending a course far away from the office could be good as it minimises distractions. Staying in a hotel also means that you have time in the evenings to focus on your class homework. However, staying away is more expensive and this will either be factored in to the course costs or into your own expenses for attending.
4. Pre-course work
What pre-course work is made available to delegates? What format is this in? A course provider who offers a range of materials is good. Do you get an e-course or e-book? Is there a CD-ROM of course materials you can browse before the course? During the course you will probably receive handouts and worksheets, so find out if the company provides a binder and a copy of all the class slides for you as well.
Finally, consider what is included in the cost of attending. For certification courses like P3O or PRINCE2, is a copy of the manual included – and is it a paper one or an electronic copy? A physical copy is better, especially if you are taking an open book exam where you can take in your annotated manual. Materials aside, consider what extras are included to make your studying experience more bearable. Does the venue provide lunch? Will they offer you slices of cake mid-afternoon, like Maven? These extras may not be important to you, in which case you can opt for a vendor that provides fewer extras and charges less.
It is always a gamble to use a new project management course provider for the first time, but you can reduce some of the risk by making sure that you have done your homework before handing over your cash. As for your homework during the course – I can’t help you with that...