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PMI Program Management Certification

Posted by manxp on January 1, 2007

In a quiet summer the PM world is buzzing with news of a new PMI certification. Moving beyond the territory of the PMP (Project Management Professional) the Program Management certification would be for those who are leading programs. The role of which is defined as:

  • Program managers are responsible and accountable for the coordinated management of multiple related projects directed toward strategic business and other organizational objectives. These programs contain complex activities that may span functions, organizations, geographic regions, and cultures. Program managers build credibility, establish rapport, and maintain communication with stakeholders at multiple levels, including those external to the organization.
  • Program managers define and initiate projects, and assign Project Managers to manage cost, schedule, and performance of component projects, while working to ensure the ultimate success and acceptance of the program. Program managers maintain continuous alignment of program scope with strategic business objectives, and make recommendations to modify the program to enhance effectiveness toward the business results or strategic intent. Program managers are responsible for determining and coordinating the sharing of resources among their constituent projects to the overall benefit of the program.
  • Program managers possess the knowledge and skills needed to be effective in both the project and business or government environments, and to make decisions that accomplish strategic objectives. In addition, the program manager should have advanced skills in finance, cross-cultural awareness, leadership, communication, influence, negotiation, and conflict resolution.

The certification process would be fairly similar to the current PMP process with an initial experience and education assessment and a multiple guess test. But the new twist is the third step:

“The third competence assessment occurs through a multi-rater assessment in which a team of raters that the candidate selects will be evaluating their competence in a work environment to perform germane tasks of a program manager as defined through the examination specification.”

OK PMI, now I’m even more confused. I can vaguely see the value of the PMP certification. It attests to a basic amount of training and experience. The CAPM is sort of like a spelling test. Both are targetted at job seekers it seems to me, and may have some attraction as a sort of outsourced Project Management skills assessment for organizations which are incapable of determining the relative skills of their own employees. I can see some value in that. But this new cert seems to be targetted at fairly high level people. If we make the very crude analogy that the PMP certification is the equivalent of other professional licensing such as Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or passing the Bar examination for lawyers, or professional registration as an Architect or Engineer, then what is the equivalent of the new Program Manager cert? It would be something like being promoted to partner or some other sort of job title.

In the professional organizations I’m familiar with, that sort of promotion is based on performance and experience, not on passing an examination. Program management is not just something that you come in at entry level and do. I’d be worried to work in an organization where program managers are selected based on whether they have or do not have this credential. It would mean that their means for evaluating competence are broken.

But with all of these sorts of things, the market sees things slightly different than I do, and they value the present certifications more highly than I do, so just watch this one take off. And of course watch as PMP’s start to scramble to get a few more initials printed on their business cards, and PMI pulls in another $1000 a piece and the Rita Mulcahy’s of the world buy a cheetah skin stole.


One Response to “PMI Program Management Certification”

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