PMP Certification is irrelevant!

In a recent study(1) by Deborah H. Stevenson, Jo Ann Starkweather, called 'PM critical competency index: IT execs prefer soft skills', the authors come to an interesting observation regarding the value placed on PMP certification by IT management executives:

"PMP certification is irrelevant as a core project management competencies or characteristics as valued by IT managers [US..] nationwide."

The study was conducted in two phases. Phase one was the establish a list of common project manager characteristics that IT recruiters look for in potential candidates for hire. They did by sending out a survey to 375 IT recruiters. The survey was first validated for content consistency by interviewing the author's industry contacts. As a result of the survey they established the Project Manager hiring criteria Index

 

Project Manager hiring criteria Index

Ability to communicate

at multiple levels

Ability to deal with

ambiguity and change

Ability to escalate

Attitude

Cultural fit

Education

Experience

Leadership

Length of prior engagements

Past team size

PMP certification

Technical expertise

Verbal skills

Work history

Written skills

 

Once the criteria were established they sent out a 32-item questionnaire to over 3200 IT mangers and executives. They asked them to indicate on 7-point Likert scale the relative importance of each of the 15 criteria.

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

Extremely

Unimportant

Unimportant

Somewhat Unimportant

Irrelevant

Somewhat Important

Important

Extremely

Importan

 

The results show clearly that IT managers and executives rate soft, interpersonal skills highest.

The top three Extremely important rated criteria

Ability to communicate at multiple levels

76.6%

Leadership

74.0%

Ability to deal with ambiguity and change

50.0%

 

Not only that, there is a clear demarcation between the first 6 competencies and the rest as can be seen in the table below. An other remarkable finding was that not generic communication skill but the ability to communicate at multiple levels was ranked highest with leadership competencies.

 

Competency

Important” + “Extremely Important” percentages

Leadership

94.8

Ability to communicate at multiple level

93.5

Verbal skills

87.2

Written skills

87.1

Attitude

85.3

Ability to deal with ambiguity and change

82.9

Work history

68.9

Experience

67.1

Ability to escalate

66.3

Cultural fit

57.2

Technical expertise

46.1

Education

37.7

Length of prior engagements

23.0

Past team size

18.0

PMP certification

15.4

 

The authors also found that there is a difference between the ranking of competencies between independent IT recruiters and IT managers. Interestingly the IT recruiters found training and education the most valued criteria while IT managers ranked those as only marginally important. More than 50% of the recruiters valued certification as important where the IT managers ranked it as irrelevant.

Although the study did not look at project success in relation to these competencies, it can be argued that these IT-managers and executives know what they need/want in a project manager. The negative amongst you may say that still a lot of projects fail because these managers don't value what is really important. First of all, this notion of massive numbers of projects failing is anecdotal at best. Secondly, it all depends on your definition of success and failing.

Bottom line is that project management certification is not as important for IT-managers and executives as many would like it to be. And we tend to agree with them.

As we always say:

“A fool with a tool is still a fool. Worse, a dangerous fool”

We can now add to that:

“ A fool with an PMP is still a fool, but luckily not likely to be hired!”

And that is a good thing!


1) Deborah H. Stevenson, Jo Ann Starkweather, PM critical competency index: IT execs prefer soft skills, International Journal of Project Management, Volume 28, Issue 7, October 2010, Pages 663-671