The tasks that project managers perform deal with exact figures, percentages and dollar amounts. They determine, for instance, how much of a project's budget has been spent to a certain point in time and what portion of the project remains to be done. From that calculation, the project manager determines whether the initiative is behind or ahead of schedule -- or right on target.
The irony is that a good deal of the justification for PMI certification is common sense. There are tangible numbers, of course. "The benefit of project management is that more projects deliver the results that management wanted from them," wrote author and project manager Bonnie Biafore in response to emailed questions from IT Business Edge. "That could be decreased cost, increased profit, increased productivity, faster delivery, reduced errors. That means that each organization will have its own set of metrics that measure the benefits of project management (and the certification of project managers). In other words, project management is justified by achieving business objectives, and that varies by organization and project."
Subtle Advantages to Certifications
There is another and more subtle dimension to the justification issue to which both the organization and the candidate must pay attention. There are many rationales -- such as relationship building and "soft" skills such as how to get the most out of team members – that are benefits of certification but are harder to pin down. The questions, such as whether the employee should spend his or her money on certification, whether the organization should pay for all or part of the training and give the employee the time off, simply can't be answered with the same pinpoint accuracy of whether a particular project is obeying or blowing up the budget.
The value of PMI certification is more intuitive – and worth the price, according Bob McGannon, an experienced project manager and the co-founder and director of Intelligent Disobedience Leadership. "The way I look at it is that when you look at cost of projects and those that get delayed or fail, if organizations pay 2 or 3 percent more because they invest in education for project manager, that far exceeds the cost to get them trained."
Organizations in which more than 35 percent of project managers held PMI certifications scored consistently higher in each category than organizations in which 11 percent to 35 percent were certified. Likewise, the 11 percent to 35 percent tier performed better than organizations with 10 percent or less holding certs. In three of the four categories, the range between the highest and lowest achieving group and those that failed was 8 percent, with the higher percentage belonging to the group holding PMI certification. The exception was in failed projects. In that category, only 2 percent fewer projects failed with the lower percentage of certified project managers than those with higher percentage.
As with any comprehensive education, whether it was worthwhile or not cannot be determined for years, if ever. "Similar to measuring success for some projects, proof of certification benefits isn’t immediate," Biafore wrote. "That requires ongoing tracking and measurement of project results.
There could be an interesting and subtle side benefit to companies that opt to proactive support the cert process, Biafore wrote. "Interestingly, companies that haven’t tracked results in the past might take steps to improve performance when they see what their results are. In other words, trying to justify certification could make them realize that they need to up their project management game."
Of course, PMI certification and the training and test taking preparation that leads to it result in more highly trained and capable project managers. As with any training endeavor, PMI certification candidates also learn informally from the network of teachers and fellow candidates with whom they come in contact during the training process.
Business More Project-Based
PMI suggests that business operations increasingly are project-based, and Biafore agrees. This, obviously, increases the demand for project managers and makes certification more valuable both to organizations and project managers. This means that demand for project managers will increase to keep pace. "As the field of project management continues to mature globally, it’s only natural that the demand for well-qualified and skilled project managers increases," PMI noted in unattributed comments sent to IT Business Edge in response to emailed questions. "For example, when we conducted our Project Management Job Growth and Talent Gap study in 2012, we found that in 2010 there were roughly 36 million project management jobs in the 11 countries we studied. We estimated that PM jobs would increase to 52 million by 2020."
The study was conducted again in 2016 and it was found that the earlier estimates were too conservative. It found that there were 66 million project management jobs by early 2017. The organization now predicts that there will be 88 million such jobs by 2027. "The demand for project management talent is far outpacing the supply of qualified practitioners," PMI told IT Business Edge. "This shortage poses a risk for organizations that need talent to implement their strategies, drive change and deliver innovation. In fact, the shortage could result in a potential loss of some UD$208 billion in GDP in the 11 countries we studied."
The bottom line is that insiders suggest that certification works for both the organization and for the person being certified. The latter, of course, gets to upgrade his or her resume, gain new tools for getting jobs done and make more money. The organization gets a better prepared project manager and insight into its processes. As time goes on, organizations that are resistant to supporting certification simply may not get as highly qualified personnel as those that are.
Certification is becoming more the norm over time, McGannon said. "There are more certified people today than 10 years ago and the number of types of certification is expanding. I think it has become more perhaps not a universal expectation but more a mainstream expectation. I think there are some old crusty war-wounded project managers that don’t have certification, but they can get jobs because they are war tested and have seen difficulties and worked through them."
Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.