PMI Standards - How Would You Do It?
Situation: You know how to please most of the PMs some of the time.
If you think about it, PMI has a pretty tough job on their hands. Every time they create a new standard, they have to build something that:
- works with the PMBOK (really alignment across all of their standards)
- adheres to a rather complicated set of rules set out by ANSI
- is general enough to be applied across every functional area of an organization.
- is validated by a volunteer consensus-based process. (a pretty tough screen)
- gets them closer to achieving the mission outlined on their web site
Some standards, like the Standard for Portfolio Management have been accused of being uneven and of failing to address the needs of specific functional areas, like IT. However, the focus is really to "
I think we all "get" that PMI is well intentioned in the approach they are taking. I also know that that it's much easier to be an armchair quarterback and poke holes in something that already exists. However, there are a lot of smart people out there and sometimes the best ideas come from unexpected sources. So with that in mind, I have two questions for you.
1. Is the mission above the right one for PMI's standards organization?
2. If it is, is there a way to improve the approach they take to developing standards?
Situation: You’re looking for new and interesting ways to earn PDUs
PMI has created a new type of learning module that helps you learn about very specific areas within Project Management, testing your understanding of the material with a short quiz at the end of the exercise. Here are some examples of topics addressed.
PMI Publication Quizzes are based on PMI-published articles and papers available at the PMI.org Marketplace. Customers purchase the quiz together with one or two related articles and papers. Credential holders will read the article(s) and then complete a short quiz to earn PDUs. PMI volunteers work in conjunction with the PMI Professional Development Group to create the quizzes. Recently we spoke with Brian Weiss, Vice President of Product Management at PMI to get a better understanding of what these quizzes are and how you can best use them as a part of your continuing PM education efforts.
Q. Who came up with the idea to create this offering? What was the impetus behind it?
This idea, like many of the ideas that become products or services at PMI®, was introduced by one of our staff members. We encourage our employees to be diligent about creating opportunities that support our members and credential holders. Because we have nearly 500,000 members and credential holders in more than 185 countries around the world, we are always looking for new and creative ways to reach out to these individuals and support their continuing education.
The Publications Quizzes program was designed to provide a convenient and affordable way for credential holders to earn the last few remaining Professional Development Units (PDUs) that are needed to maintain their credential.
Q. Can you tell us a bit about where this fits within the spectrum of options that PMPs have to maintain their certification? When and how are these quizzes best utilized?
The Publication Quizzes program complements our other PDU-generating programs. They can be used to augment the total PDUs needed to attain a credential – for PMP®, a total of 60 PDUs is needed and for our other credentials (excluding CAPM), a total of 30 PDUs is needed. If, for example, a credential holder realizes he needs a few more credits to reach his target PDUs, the PMI® Publication Quizzes provide him with an opportunity to conveniently earn those remaining credits.
We also recognize there are members and credential holders in regions of the world without an abundance of Registered Education Providers from which they can earn PDUs. The PMI® Publications Quizzes program offers these individuals an easily accessible way to earn some of their required PDUs.
Q. Does the availability of this offering change how PDUs will be recognized for self study? In other words, a PMP has historically been able to just invest time reading articles and earn PDUs that way (versus reading, then taking a quiz as they do here). Will that option continue to exist?
Yes, the option to earn PDUs by reading a book or article will continue to exist. For those activities, the PDUs are recorded as Category 2 – Self Directed Learning (2-SDL). In this category, a maximum of 15 PDUs that can be earned per cycle. PDUs earned from Publication Quizzes are recorded as Category 3. In this category, no more than one third of the total credential requirements may be earned per cycle through Publication Quizzes. For example, PMP® credential holders can earn a maximum of 20 PDUs from PMI Publication Quizzes, while other credential holders can earn a maximum of 10 PDUs.
Q. Does PMI plan to do the same thing with other media (beyond articles), such as webinars or podasts?
We are always seeking opportunities to provide the best tools to our members and credential holders, and this program was designed with the ability to expand content and platforms used for the quizzes. We can include webinars and podcasts, but can also look to books, such as those in the PMI® Bookstore and content found on the PMI® Virtual Communities’ web pages.
Q. According to the web site, just about anyone can take the quizzes (PMI members, non-member credential holders and non-credential holders). How do you envision non-credential holders using the quizzes?
The over-arching purpose of the program is to provide an educational opportunity for practitioners to increase their knowledge of project management. As with any sound educational program, a testing of what was learned serves to reinforce learning and build confidence for the learner. Non-credential holders or those interested in obtaining their credentials are also permitted to use the quizzes to test and increase their knowledge.
Q. Tell us a little about what’s next for PMI in terms of new offerings.
As mentioned earlier, we continue to expand our offerings and provide additional member value. One major area of focus has been on developing our virtual learning offerings – ranging from beginners to advanced practitioners. In that vein, we recently launched the Virtual Communities Project (VCP) initiative, which provides an opportunity for members, and the greater project management community, to network and exchange knowledge and ideas. PMI’s virtual communities have search capability across PMI.org and feature blogs, forums and wikis, which are updated on a regular basis, to create the ultimate project management collaborative community. We have received overwhelmingly positive feedback about this initiative and will continue to enrich and expand content within these communities.
Through our global program SeminarsWorld®, we also provide an opportunity for our members to gain real-world experiences via live workshops. We will continue to add new programs in that arena, as well as create new courses for our eSeminarsWorld program. In the future, we will expand our offerings to include courses that feature simulation exercises and discussion threads, which offer yet another way to engage participants and increase learning and retention.
| Situation: You're on the hunt for great PM learning deals.|
The bright spots in this economy are coming in the form of great deals from leading providers. Two weeks ago, I told you about ESI’s awesome $500K scholarship program for unemployed PMs where they are giving away enough training to get hundreds of folks certified at zero cost.
This week I’d like to call your attention to the MS Project Conference
Think of it this way. If you are planning to upgrade your MS Project software anyway, you might as well buy it here and improve your skills for free. However you think about it, it’s a great deal.
In the interest of disclosure, Microsoft is one of our advertisers and we are sponsoring this conference. However, this is (of course) something I’d write about either way.
| Situation: You want to turn your jobless stretch into a huge gain.|
I'm always skeptical about training 'scholarships'. So when the folks at ESI brought their program to my attention, I was thinking "here we go again...". After closer examination however, I think this program is pretty cool - and very generous.
Here are the basics of the program:
“Despite the current economy, project management as a profession is expected to grow substantially in the next few years with an increasing demand worldwide in such project-intensive industries as manufacturing, pharmaceutical, construction and IT,” said John Elsey, President & CEO, ESI. “This program will allow professionals to keep up their skills in the industry to take advantage of these leading economic opportunities.”
There are a few questions we thought you would want answers to right away. John was kind enough to answer them below...
Q. Are the candidates selected based on any criteria other than being unemployed? Or is it first come first served for people who are jobless? (if there are additional criteria, what’s the best way to get selected?)
John: We wanted to help as many people as possible with ESI’s $500,000 Stand Out Scholarship; keeping the qualification and application process easy was vital in achieving that objective. So as long as someone is unemployed, can show proof of unemployment, and is a US citizen or permanent resident, they are qualified for the scholarship. Awards are issued on a first come, first served basis when the completed application and backup documentation (found at www.esi-intl.com/scholarship <http://www.esi-intl.com/scholarship> ) is emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or faxed to (703) 558-2261. The only other consideration is that there is space available in the class they’ve selected; if a class is full we’ll work with them to try to find an alternative.
Q. What are the most popular classes in the project management curriculum? In the business analysis curriculum?
John: We offer more than 30 courses in our Project Management and Business Analysis. curricula, from entry level to advanced training. These are all eligible under the ESI SOS program. While our program’s core courses are generally the most popular, the relevancy of the course based on the individual’s experience and skill gap is the most important factor to consider when selecting an appropriate course or program. Many of our courses are offered in the public classroom, e-Training and instructor-led Virtual Classroom formats.
Q. How many more courses beyond the three would someone have to take to get an Associates or Masters through the program?
John: With just three courses total someone can earn an Associate’s Certificate in Project Management from ESI and our academic partner The George Washington University. Since people can apply for and take up to three courses with SOS funds, they have the opportunity to quickly and inexpensively earn an impressive certificate which they can add to their resume. Students can earn a Professional Certificate in Business Analysis with a total of just five classes. Or a Master’s Certificate in Project Management with a total of seven courses. Plus, GW will award advanced standing toward its Master of Science in Project Management to those who earn a GW/ESI project management Master’s Certificate and meet other requirements. Our Course Counselors are available to help students determine the best courses to achieve their learning and career objectives.
| Situation: You want to know what the new PMP and PRINCE2 certs are doing for us.|
I've seen many, many postings about how the PMP test has changed, but not much on how the certification is changing what it means to be a project management professional (lower case). We recently spoke with Joseph R. Czarnecki, PMP, Senior Advisor, ESI International, on this topic. He's a very seasoned trainer with a lot of expertise in this area and I think its a topic that we all care about. So, I'd love to hear your take on the answers he offers below.
Q. We all know the PMBOK and PMP certification have changed, but how do you see those changes affecting the type of Project Manager that people will now see as certified? What do you think PMI intended with each element of the changes? Do you think the results align with those intentions?
A: Let’s look at where it appears that PMI is headed with their PMP credential – where it has changed recently, then we will look at the PMBOK® Guide changes. Finally, we will discuss how these are viewed in the organizations that I have taken pleasure in working with.
First, I believe that PMI is working toward a family of credentials that will bear proof that the individual owner of the credential is, in fact, qualified in knowledge, skill, and ability.
I look to the recent growth of PMI and the PMP to help give a glimpse of where the profession is headed. As of June 2009, PMI reported having more than 300,000 members and more than 336,000 PMPs and close to 8,000 CAPMs. To be sure, their relatively new certifications in risk management, scheduling, and program management are also growing. That is a year-over-year growth of about 20%, since 1975. So from past performance, PMI is making an impression on just how people see certified project managers.
Over the last few years, PMI has changed the PMP Credential to make it more of a consistently measurable and applied standard in two ways. First, PMI continues to work with an outside organization that designs standardized examinations to improve the quality of the questions on the examinations; specifically, they have included many more scenario-based questions which test the application of knowledge, rather than knowledge itself. This helps ensure the exam questions are a direct indicator of what PMI is trying to measure by that question. Secondly, PMI has increased the number of audits for those applying to the credential; current estimates are that PMI audits 15% of the candidates. These changes will help modify the perception of the PMP credential from that of just an exam-based credential to one that includes demonstrable skill in the discipline as well. And it shows that the nature of the credential is changing to more of a skill, or application, based credential and away from a purely knowledge-based examination.
So, I do think that the changes, along with the interim steps that they are taking, are in line with where they want the credentials to grow.
The recent changes in the PMBOK® Guide actually make the book much more user friendly. It is a good guide to the body of knowledge about project management and, this time, a better read overall.
But to the question regarding the changes in the PMBOK® Guide and the PMP Certification itself and how they will impact how the certified project manager is seen in the bigger picture. I feel that the changes that they have made as far back as 2004 and then here with the 2008 update have been done with forethought to firmly establish project management as a formal profession, as opposed to a job. The PMP credential has become more of a standard by which project managers are going to be measured, and will become a baseline requirement for various organizations in the future – from organizations that require at least one PMP on the project when they release a major procurement to organizations that use the PMP as one element of their own internal certification process.
For an example of another type of credential that is further along a similar evolution path than the PMP, look at how the MBA started out as a college degree that became the ‘gold-standard’ of business. In the early days of the MBA, it was considered “special” for you to have the MBA degree conferred upon you, but today it has changed to being more of a requirement than something truly special.
This is what will become of the PMP Credential – not that it will lose its glamour and prestige, but that it will become the baseline upon which all project managers will be expected to perform, before they take on a project. The PMP is still a sound way for helping to identify those that have the knowledge and skill sufficient to lead a successful project. It is a way of ensuring that the individual knows about the tools, techniques, and processes to manage projects successfully.
Q. Next month a new version of PRINCE2 is being released in the UK that significantly shortens the standard (http://www.docstoc.com/docs/7115588/Next-Generation-Prince2-2009--Will-Become-Available-in-July). Some say PMI should consider doing the same. How do you feel about that?
A. First, I want to say that there is a very fundamental difference between PMBOK® Guide and PRINCE2®. PRINCE2® is a process-based approach for project management; it has a series of processes which cover all of the activities on a project from start up to close out. It tells you what to do when on a project. PRINCE2® is a method for managing projects. It helps you identify who should be involved and what they will be responsible for. It provides a set of processes to execute and explains what information a project manager should be gathering along the way.
PMI’s PMBOK® Guide is a work-based approach for project management and is not a method; and it says so in the publication itself. It is a “guide” to the larger universe of project management knowledge that currently exists. It is a compendium of what is known about project management. Like PRINCE2®, it is a collection of processes. But unlike PRINCE2®, the PMBOK® Guide suggests to the user that the processes are iterative in nature and therefore are not listed in a definitive series. It is not a prescriptive approach to managing a project. PMI gives you recommendations and “best practices” but doesn’t tell you exactly “what to do and when”.
So, the PMBOK® Guide could be seen as providing the theory and best practices to project management where PRINCE2® could be seen as one set of tools to deliver project management. In my experience, with a little effort, the two work well together – PMBOK® Guide with the guidance, and PRINCE2® with the how – the tools and timing.
Now to the question, should PMI shorten the PMBOK® Guide? No, I don’t think so, actually I think it will continue to grow over the years as more and more is expected of the project manager. For example, our client base is very interested in improving the business, or soft, skills of project managers. There’s actually very little in the PMBOK® Guide as regards this set of skills. Perhaps in the future there will be more in-depth treatment in this area.
Q. Overall, what do you feel the changes in both standards say about how the profession is changing?
A: I remember in the late 1990s the wide-ranging discussion about whether being a project manager was a job or a profession. Now, more than10 years later, it is clear to me that PMI has been successful in moving that argument forward and has done a significant amount in making project management so much more than a job – they have helped to establish project management as a profession; but they have done it in concert with the many corporations and organizations that we at ESI have worked with for the past 28 years.
As the data clearly show, the profession is growing at an impressive rate. The changes to the credential show that PMI continues to support and advance a measurable, repeatable, and valid baseline against which project managers will be measured.
Q. What changes to the profession and standards do you see coming in the future?
A: As regards to the profession, it is apparent that the influence of certification and standards is having a profound effect on the development of project managers around the world. This trend will continue. In fact, PMI reports that 1.2 million project management job openings occur annually; yet, the supply of project managers is not keeping pace. With 30% of PMI membership due to retire in the next decade, organizations need to be constantly training and developing their staff. That development will only promote the benefits of certification and standard development.
PMI, as well as other professional project management associations, such as IPMA and APM, will continue to refine current standards, as well as introduce new ones, as the need requires. For example, I predict that other standards in the areas of program and portfolio management will become necessary for project managers to understand and use. In other words, there will be a more complete integration of project, program, and portfolio management. In the short term, I believe the changes to the PMBOK® Guide and other standards will be driven more by the research PMI is doing in the practice standards that they are working on rather than some large change in the profession itself.
I also think that there will be more continued discussions on how the various Project Management Organizations around the world can and do support each other. I don’t think they will go away as each has its own merit – but I think there will be discussion at a high-level about how they relate and support each other.
Joseph R. Czarnecki, PMP, Senior Advisor, ESI International, works with ESI's European and global clients to leverage ESI's expertise and resources to maximize client investments in improving the performance of project management and business analyst professionals and operations. Joe has been with ESI for over a decade and during that time has played a key role in the development and refinement of a majority of ESI’s courses as well as developed several highly tailored project management course suites for ESI’s global clients. www.esi-intl.com