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I’m a Consultant, Should I Get My PMP?

pauldanek Blog, Project Management, Transformation

The Project Management Professional or “PMP” certification offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI) is the most common and widely recognized project management certification available today. According to the May 2017 issue of PMIToday magazine, there were 761,905 certified PMPs as of March 31, 2017. PMI offers several other certifications as well, including the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM), a more junior certification, and the PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP). In total, PMI boasts over 484,524 members, possessing over 800,000 certifications (yes, that math seems odd to me too).

The holy bible of the PMI world is the Project Management Book of Knowledge, or “PMBOK”. (Yes, like we consultants, PMI loves their acronyms.) The first PMBOK was published in 1987, and has evolved ever since to incorporate the latest and greatest thought in the space.

One of the key concepts in PMI are the five “process groups” of the project management life cycle:

  1. Initiating
  2. Planning
  3. Executing
  4. Monitoring & Controlling
  5. Closing

Typical professional services consulting engagements, largely waterfall in nature with a fixed timeline, map fairly well to the PMP world and its concepts (though many consultants’ view of the project management life cycle may only span Executing and Monitoring & Controlling).

Here are some of the most critical concepts I learned from my exposure to the PMBOK:

  • Various project management models (waterfall, agile, etc.)
  • Key roles and responsibilities on a typical project
  • The various methods to estimate a project
  • Various methods to capture requirements
  • How project scope is defined, controlled, and the ramifications of scope creep
  • The various methods to measure a project’s progress towards completion, including work (and budget) remaining

Does that mean that as a consultant, you should earn your PMP?

In my opinion, not necessarily. There is no doubt that anyone, particularly a newer consultant, would become a stronger consultant by preparing for, and attaining his or her PMP. Doing so would expose them to myriad concepts that will inevitably come up in their consulting careers. However, there are several considerations I recommend anyone consider before undertaking the PMP certification:

  1. Do you really want to be a project manager?

    1. Wanting to gain a baseline understanding of project management concepts is one thing; wanting to become a pure project manager is another. The PMP certification is extensive, and is better suited for the latter individual.
  2. Do you have the pre-requisite project management experience?

    1. PMI has strict experience requirements before you can even sit for the PMP. For example, if you have a 4-year degree, there are two separate requirements: volume of work (4,500 hours) and duration spent working in that realm (3 calendar years). If you are a newer consultant, like I was when I first considered the PMP, this simply may not be feasible.
  3. Are you prepared to maintain your credential?

    1. The PMP has specific requirements to maintain the credential. Sixty “Professional Development Units” or “PDUs” are required every three years to maintain your credential. These can be a combination of work experience, self-guided learning, etc., but take time to maintain.
  4. Does your firm or industry look favorably on the certification?

    1. Here’s the bottom line: I’ve worked extremely strong PMPs, and also with some that were arguably quite weak. The same goes for non-PMP Project managers. It’s no different than any other certification, degree, or title. Being “book smart” doesn’t necessarily make someone real-world smart. Thus, earning and maintaining your PMP should have more tangible benefits, such as a financial bonus or higher standing or recognition in your industry or organization. Otherwise, self-study or a more basic project management certification may suffice.

The CAPM

Which, brings me back  to the Certified Associate in Project Management certification. Like the PMP, the CAPM has the PMBOK as its bible. Like the PMP, it exposes candidates to key project management concepts they will encounter in their career.

Think of the CAPM as the PMP-light. Fewer eligibility requirements, less prep/study time, less expensive, and no maintenance requirements. Quite simply put, it provides the foundation that every consultant should possess, and is likely a better fit for most consultants than the full-blown PMP.

It’s where I started, before I had the necessary PM experience for the PMP. In my opinion, completing  the CAPM increased my domain knowledge exponentially; whereas later obtaining my PMP did so incrementally.

That’s why I recommend the CAPM to anyone that joins our firm that isn’t 100% focused on project management. It may be all the project management knowledge you may ever need, and if not, it provides a solid foundation for the more advanced PMP certification.

About Paul Danek

Paul Danek is a Director in Statera’s Salesforce CRM Practice. He possesses certifications in Salesforce.com (Admin & Service Cloud), Apttus Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM) and Project Management (PMP). When he’s not working Paul enjoys Crossfit, road cycling, and hiking the Colorado foothills with his wife, Ashleigh and Rottweiler, Arizona.