Project management certification is usually a key consideration for many businesses in selecting a project manager, however certification isn’t a guarantee of a good project manager.

But what is? The answer: it depends.


Gaining certification

Project managers undertake both a written examination (normally multiple choice) and in some cases an evidence-based examination of previous work they’ve performed. This is designed to test the project manager’s recall ability of best practice as well as their documentation and organisation skills.

Whilst very valuable from an organisational and theoretical perspective the examination process has its limitations. In particular certification provides no insight into whether the project manager is the right cultural fit for the organisation and it also it fails to adequately address the single most important skill of a project manager – communication.

Experience at the coalface

Be it stakeholder management or team leadership, a project manager will need to spend up to 90% of their time communicating and leading to be effective.

Quay’s experience has shown that more emphasis should be placed on stakeholder management skills and how the project manager fits with the organisation’s internal culture than the certification they have gained.

Whilst certification is useful, there is little substitute for the battle scars of a seasoned project manager who has solid experience dealing with the issues and communication requirements of managing the many layers within an array of projects.

Assess the expertise and demonstrated experience

If certification isn’t the only consideration, what else should be taken into account when selecting a PM for your project? At Quay, we look for demonstrated experience in:

Mature vs immature sponsor: The maturity of the project’s sponsor is an important factor in choosing the right project management expertise. An immature sponsor will need an experienced project manager who is very good at managing up to help guide them on how to be effective in their role.

Technical solutioning rather than managing: Our experience has show that technical domain specialists can become side-tracked into solutioning and lose sight of managing the project. It is therefore important they are first and foremost well rounded project managers.

Methodology: Are you implementing an agile, iterative or waterfall project? Make sure your Project Manager is competent in the approach to your project.

Application vs. Infrastructure: Is the project more weighted to one than the other and if so does the project manager have the required experience in the domain?

IT vs. Business Project Management: IT Project Managers understand the technology domain and its complexities but can be exposed on the business-centric projects where subject matter expertise and the ability to deal direct with the business is a key enabler of success.

PM making decisions rather than PM seeking decisions: Stakeholder decision-making is a vital component of successful project delivery. Your project is likely to hit trouble if your project manager is making the key project decisions instead of the right stakeholder.

Certification should be part of the process – not the deciding factor
Choosing a project manager with the appropriate skills for your project is an essential part of successful delivery.

As we have explored above, it is the experience that a project manager brings to a project that will determine how effectively they are able to bring stakeholders and team members on the project journey from scope to full implementation. Whilst beneficial certification alone is not enough to ensure you choose the best person to manage your projects.

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About Quay

Quay Consulting
Quay Consulting is a professional services business specialising in the project landscape, transforming strategy into fit-for-purpose delivery. Meet our team ...