Jun 3, 2011

Project Management Professional (PMP)

I've been preparing for the Project Management Institute's PMP certification exam. Although I had scanned the PMBOK in the past, this preparation has forced me to do some deep thinking about the PM processes and related methodologies like the CMMI, Scrum, and Lean Six Sigma.

Since the PMP is industry neutral, I expected little attention to many of the processes I thought unique to software. My first discovery was that these processes (things like configuration management and requirements management) were heavily emphasized.

With the CMMI, if you do things straight out of the model, you're assured a successful SCAMPI appraisal. The PMP is different in several ways (besides of course that it's a personal certification):
  1. There's no assurance that a complete mastery of the PMBOK will result in success on the exam. PMI expects PMPs will have a level of wisdom, experience, and judgment that goes well beyond the PMBOK, and warns that questions on the exam may derive from many other non-PMI sources.
  2. The exam demands a deep understanding of, and experience in, project management. Many gray areas are covered that would thwart a novice PM or "poser".
  3. Even after becoming certified, you can easily have your certification stripped. The PMI's standards of conduct require, beyond the usual ethical behavior, that members (i.e. PMPs) report to them a PMP who doesn't have the required experience or competence. And they put teeth in that: Awareness of, and failure to report to the PMI, can result in having your own certification stripped!
For me, it's the need for deep understanding that has driven me to a much more thoughtful review of the underlying principles of project management than ever before. This, in turn, has lead me to much richer development as a project manager than I ever expected. I understand much more of the interconnectedness of PM and project activities, and of the why behind them.

I've been a software process engineer for years, but preparing for this exam has caused me to see that models such as CMMI must be integrated with disciplined project management to really achieve it's goals. In fact, I would say that if a organization was weak in process, their first step should be to require all of their PMs to maintain a PMP certification. It's inevitable then that a focus on improvement will follow, and aforementioned methodologies I will achieve their potential, and be applied for the right reasons!

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