The value and importance of the PMP certification is a hotly debated topic within the project management community. One end of the spectrum vigorously defends the credential as the defining standard for competence, whereas the other end views it as a meaningless exercise signifying nothing more than rote memorization. Many fall somewhere in the middle, seeing it as a necessary evil that hopefully yields some advantage to their marketability.
Adding fuel to the debate are the results of a research study published in the Project Management Journal, February 2011. “PMP Certification as a Core Competency: Necessary But Not Sufficient” reports the results of a study conducted by Jo Ann Starkweather and Deborah H. Stevenson of Northwestern University’s Department of Information Systems & Technology.
The study reports the valuation of the PMP certification by IT Recruiters and corporate IT Executives, as well as a statistical evaluation of the PMP as an indicator of project success.
Valuation of the PMP: Of the 15 core competencies surveyed, the PMP certification was ranked #11 by IT recruiters, and #15 by IT Executives (that’s right—dead last!) Shown below are percentages of IT Executives rating of “Important” or “Extremely Important” for each competency.
1. Leadership 95%
2. Ability to Communicate at Multiple Levels 94%
3. Verbal Skills 87%
4. Written Skills 87%
5. Attitude 85%
6. Ability to Deal With Ambiguity and Change 83%
7. Work History 69%
8. Experience 67%
9. Ability to Escalate 66%
10. Cultural Fit 57%
11. Technical Expertise 46%
12. Education 38%
13. Length of Prior Engagements 23%
14. Past Team Size 18%
15. PMP Certification 15%
PMP as Indicator of Project Success: There was no statistically significant difference in the reported success rates for projects led by certified vs. non-certified project managers when considered across 5 Success Criteria:
- Cost/Within Budget
- On Schedule
- Quality/Met Technical Specifications
- Quality/Met Client Business Requirements
- Client/User Satisfaction
So What Does It Mean?
In the words of the study leaders, “Clearly, mastery of the project management body of knowledge is an important asset in the preparation of professional project managers. An understanding of the methodology is essential to the appropriate conduct of project management. However, based on the narrative explanations offered by both IT Recruiters and Executives, their emphasis on soft skills such as the ability to communicate at multiple levels, and the tacit knowledge of knowing when to exercise leadership and how to do this effectively are critical to eventual project success.”
So it would seem that we as a community must address the gap that currently exists in our curriculum and training when it comes to leadership and soft skills. Furthermore, recruiters must use more screening techniques to evaluate soft skills and leadership abilities when considering candidates for project management roles. As the value of project management has evolved from tactical to strategic in organizations, so must our perspective on the core competencies for success.