Project Management Certification Not a Decisive Factor?

Software advice analyzed 200 current digital project management job postings and to their surprise found that only 20% of employers required or preferred candidates with a PM certification, but that 75% sought applicants with industry-specific technical skills. This suggests that companies looking for a DPM place a greater importance on relevant technical skills over that of traditional PM certifications. The appreciation of project management certifications among Swedish employers was studied by researchers at Linnaeus University, using data collected from job advertisements for ICT project managers during four years (2010-2013). Judged on how the advertisements were worded the result indicates surprisingly low interest from the employers’ side, which conflicts with the project management associations statements about the certifications’ indispensable value for successful projects.

The discussion about certification within project management is a hot topic on many LinkedIn groups. Traditionally, we had one single way of thinking of projects. Experimentation happens with long living teams that in an enterprise setting does not need a PM. At the same time Toyota’s Chief Engineer concept is making headway in Sweden, means that the PM is the most senior and skilled engineer that has worked as a line manger before allowed being a PM. I see either project managers (or management in general) that comes from the classic (i.e. engineering) hierarchies, missing focus on the soft skills and get caught up in technical details, or people getting PM roles by companies not truly knowing the profession (gives PMs also not knowing the profession). This is why I blog and get involved in the PM community. This need to shift so that we populate organizations with best possible value delivery professionals, and the Agile discussion with it.

Many companies and organizations in Sweden today still regard project managers as the lowest level, in practice administratively cohesive errand boys for “everything to do”. One need only look at the organization chart, where often all project managers are positioned low down, (or bottom) of the organization, with no clear career opportunities. As long as it looks like this, organizations will continue to lag behind in terms of the requirements for certification, since the PL role is not seen as a heavy role. But all of us who work in project world have a responsibility too. It is we who have to show the world that our field is really sprint branch leadership and the future of the most successful companies will be those with the most skilled project managers. One can also get the impression that certification’s only value if it can provide more jobs. But the rest of the value then? To further educate ourselves and give ourselves a better (mainly) theoretical base of information is the intrinsic value, even if employers are a few years behind in development when it comes to asking for it. All PMI certification require you to withhold the certification trough PDU’s, that you earn when attending courses and seminars. There are also local chapters in each country. PMI Sweden chapter provide local networks and the annual meeting “Passion for Projects”, where speakers from all over the world attend with the latest research and lessons learned within the management field. When it comes to project seen as the lowest level manager, points at the lack of knowledge on decision-making levels. There is also an important task for researchers in this context. Research should be able to do more and bring out results. We must be able to reach the decision makers at a high level with usable values. Maybe it would be good if different organizations worked together to highlight how, for example, a certification can be good for both the individual and the organization. One initiative in this direction is Projektnäring, a meeting oopportunityin Sweden for project professionals, unbound of organizations such as PMI or IPMA.

A family life example; Do you buy a certified BPA free plastic bottle to the kids, and let them drink certified organic milk? Do you want to know what you are buying and see the value in it, or do you want to take a chance?

Certified or not, the value of professionally delivered projects, balanced portfolios, and strategic programs, should be higher on the agenda.


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