Project Management

by Alan Harpham, Tony Kippenberger, Graham Bosman

What else do I need to know about?

We hope you find this topic useful. But project management is a big subject and you may find some additional information helpful:

What project management qualifications are there?

The growing professionalism, as more and more organisations realise that what they need in today’s environment is good project management capabilities, has led to an increase in the number of qualifications available and therefore to some confusion in the marketplace. The following are some of the choices:

Association for Project Managemet

The Association for Project Management is a British based organisation and a national member of the IPMA.  It offers a number of qualifications including the APMP (APM Professional) and the Certificated Project Manager.  It publishes its own Body of Knowledge as well as other guides including project governance.

International Project Management Association (IPMA)

The International Project Management Association (IPMA) is an umbrella organisation with some 40 national representative bodies spread across Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas (including Egypt, Iran and Kuwait). The IPMA has developed something known as the IPMA International Competence Baseline (ICB), which is the basis for its four-level certification system.

However, each member association is responsible for developing and managing its own project management qualification and competence programme and for establishing its own bodies for certification, with the IPMA – through its Certification Validation Management Board – only coordinating and harmonising the various qualifications of the member associations.

This causes some confusion in the marketplace, because some associations – for example, the UK’s Association for Project Management – offer qualifications that are not part of IPMA’s ICB and also require candidates to study their own Body of Knowledge (the APM BoK). Meanwhile, in the United States, the IPMA national association – the American Society for the Advancement of Project Management – has its own National Competence Baseline which is explicitly not a Body of Knowledge. There are also significant gaps in the IPMA system – for example, Australia and South Africa have thriving Project Management Associations which have no relationship with IPMA.

The Project Management Institute (PMI)

The Project Management Institute, based in the USA, has its own Body of Knowledge ‘A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide)’ which is the central part of its quite separate qualifications programme. Established over 40 years ago, PMI now has more than 260,000 members in over 171 countries. It also claims over 250 Chapters (branches) in more than 70 countries worldwide, including Chapters in Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Despite this, however, PMI retains a strong US focus, with around 70 per cent of its membership living and working in North America.

Other sources

What this wide variety of different qualifications, and others, such as those recently developed by the Project Management Association of Japan, has done is to create competition between rival institutions and associations and a plethora of alternative qualifications.

As a result, GAPPS – the Global Alliance for Project Performance Standards has been formed and is working to develop useable international standards for the future. As GAPPS points out, ‘as project management has become a more widely used management approach, both public and private sector entities have become interested in standards that describe levels of acceptable workplace performance. Many of these entities operate across national boundaries and are thus interested in standards and qualifications that are transferable. Governments, concerned with ensuring an internationally competitive workforce, and individuals, desiring greater mobility, are also interested in the mutual recognition and transferability of qualifications.’

A qualification and a methodology

However, there is an alternative to these possible routes to an improved project management capability. The Bodies of Knowledge are repositories that attempt to document and standardise generally-accepted project management information and practices and describe the key areas of knowledge required to manage projects. What they do not, and cannot do, is provide a tried-and-tested methodology for running a project. A medical analogy would be the difference between a textbook that describes how the brain works and a well-established neuroscience operating procedure.

In the 1980s, the UK government was very concerned at the poor level of successful IT project management in UK government departments and the wider public sector. It therefore sought to establish a scaleable and repeatable methodology, which was launched as PRINCE – PRojects IN a Controlled Environment – in 1989. So successful was this methodology that it was revised in 1996 (and renamed PRINCE2) to provide a methodology for any form or size of project (including outside the IT field). In the same year, it became an examinable qualification – at Foundation and Practitioner levels.

Now owned by the UK’s Office of Government Commerce (OGC), it is copyright protected but free to use. This has resulted in it becoming what many consider to be the de facto international project management standard methodology. OGC have made sure that there is only one training accreditor and one examination institute worldwide (the APM Group), so standardisation is guaranteed.

It should be noted that while PRINCE2 originated with the UK government, several other governments are now recommending its use: the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany and New Zealand, for example. Significantly, it has also been adopted by the United Nations Development Programme as part of their global framework for managing projects.

It is important to know that the OGC has subsequently launched two further and closely-related methodologies – Managing Successful Programmes (MSP) and Management of Risk (M_o_R). Both of these are also now teachable and examinable and provide a set of Best Practice guidance that complements PRINCE2’s project management methodology. The OGC also owns ITIL and has appointed the APM Group as the accreditation body for ITIL internationally since 2006. See www.best-management-practice.com/officialsite.asp.

Programme management

Programme management is the management of a series of related projects with a common strategic aim and is one link between strategic change and projects. Both the OGC and PMI publish standards and have qualifications for Programme Management and the APM is developing work in this area.

Portfolio management

Portfolio management is the management of an organisation’s investment in programmes and projects to bring about strategic change and enable the organisation to compete effectively and efficiently in its changing markets and environment. As such, it involves converting the strategic aim of the organisation into a portfolio of programmes and projects to deliver the benefits necessary. Both OGC and PMI have published work on Portfolio Management.

Programme and project management are the sole disciplines that can assist in an orderly and managed implementation of strategy and strategic change.

Project capability as competitive advantage

All organisations are involved in change – standing still is seldom, if ever, an option. In order to exist, most organisations have to manage the status quo and they must manage change in order to maintain competitive advantage. In most organisations, the latter is both more difficult and more important for the future of the organisation. There is increasing evidence that organisations are seeing project management capability as a competitive advantage that is difficult to emulate or copy.

Benchmarking and maturity models

Benchmarking is when two or more organisations agree to meet and discuss the way they do things and make comparisons and thence possible changes to the way they do things. This usually involves looking at management processes and procedures.

Benchmarks are actual recorded measurements (metrics) that it is hoped can be compared within (inter) and across (intra) organisations. To do this, organisations usually join a network (or club) that agrees to maintain common metrics for comparison. Sadly, few – if any – project management networks keep metrics covering the on-cost of programme and project management, nor metrics on the successful completion of projects or programmes that can be directly compared across organisational boundaries.

There are many maturity models around for portfolio, programme and project management that can be used to judge how ‘mature’ or experienced an organisation is. The Project Management Institute, based in the US, operates OPM3TM, and the UK’s Office of Government Commerce operates its ‘P3M3’ model.