Hi there! If you’re aspiring to be a great Project Manager, one of the certifications you’d have in mind is the Project Management Professional (PMP).
But here’s a question for you: In this day and age – is the PMP overrated?
The PMP has, for many years, has been the calling card of many an experienced PM.
But now many people ask if Project Managers still need it or will they do fine without it?
Remember, you need to spend thousands of dollars in both time and money in order to get the requisite experience and pass the PMP exam.
If you spend all that effort and time, you’d want to make sure you get a solid Return-On-Investment (ROI) on your PMP endeavors.
In this article, we’ll take a look at 5 reasons why I think the PMP is overrated (and what other skill sets matter more in the market).
Before we delve into the reasons why the PMP is overrated these days, let’s try to understand how the PMP evolved.
The PMP came from a history of helping Project Managers manage large engineering projects.
This, against the background of large, Fortune 500 companies, where big politics and bureaucracy were part of the game.
The PMP would be useful in those contexts, because it lends structure (I’d say sometimes too much structure and frameworks) to what is organizational chaos.
But that was 10 years back!
In this day and age, there are new ways of working.
“Products”, not “Projects” are being launched by companies.
Almost everyone has started to embrace agile project delivery.
Businesses need their products delivered in days or months, not years.
Technology has also evolved to a state (think cloud-based, configurable software) where computing power is a given, and users can be handed a lot of power to construct their own software products, on or offline.
In short, this is a different world.
And one where, I sometimes think the traditional “PMP certification” will struggle with.
If I fast forward another ten years, heck … I’m not even sure things like “project portfolio management” or “project management processes” will still be used in corporations.
With the above being said, let’s delve into some detail exactly why I think the PMP is overrated these days.
Reason #1: You Work For A Smaller Organization
If you work for an organization that’s say less than 50 people, the PMP may not be so useful.
Let’s be honest here …
If you’re the Project Manager for a project that has only say 20 users, I’d say there’s no need for a PMP certification.
All the “Project Management Processes” that the PMP touts will be irrelevant!
In fact, I think they’ll cause more trouble than they’re worth.
The project management processes have a place in an organization where you have hundreds of stakeholders to manage.
Or you need structure, frameworks and documentation to demonstrate you’ve planned, scoped, signed off or otherwise meticulously tracked all manner of project elements.
But in a small firm, you’ll only be unnecessarily burdened by these things.
So, in short – for a smaller firm, the PMP is not so relevant.”
Reason #2: New Ways Of Working (Agile And Prototyping)
A second reason why I’d consider the PMP overrated is due to the way projects are now being delivered.
The ways in which technology projects are delivered today are very different from ten years ago.
Here’s the thing …
What is the one thing employers ask of IT projects these days?
Well, they ask for early business benefit delivery.
That’s something that a traditional, PMP-certified PM will have trouble delivering.
PMP is tuned towards large-scale, Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC), waterfall approaches to project delivery.
In this day and age, this doesn’t work.
We all know that SDLC projects take a VERY long time to deliver business benefits.
You code or configure a software product for months or years, and sometimes come up with something that the business user doesn’t even want!
So how do we get “early business benefit delivery”?
Those of you who understand agile, will know the answer is agile project delivery.
Fast-paced, “put the user and developers in a room” approach to software development.
In my opinion, the PMP certification has not yet evolved to cater to the new, agile ways of working.
So if you’re very much in an agile mode of working, the PMP may not make sense to you.
You’re better off searching for a “Certified Scrum Master” type of credential.
Reason #3: You Want To Do Business Strategy, Not Own Large IT Projects
Let’s be honest with ourselves here.
How many of you do “”IT project management””, but what you REALLY want to do is the “”sexy”” stuff like business strategy?
I see this everyday in my consulting life.
Because consultants there – they’re more prestigious and command higher salaries.
Or others want to join “Business Management” or “Corporate Strategy” roles in banks or insurance companies.
If you really want to do business strategy or business management, etc. then I say – DITCH the idea of a PMP!
It’ll only be a distraction and a waste of time and money.
Case Study. Let’s look at a case study – myself!
I was in an IT consulting firm for many years, then went to work for a bank. I had a degree in Engineering, then took a Financial Engineering degree.
But I always wanted to do “real business strategy”. Not IT projects. So did I go an study the PMP?
Well, heck … no.
I went on to do a MBA – because that will teach you the skill sets for business strategy, NOT the PMP.
So, be very clear what you ultimately want in your career path. And if the PMP does not align to that – don’t do it!”
Reason #4: You Have Very Little Background In Project Management
Those of you thinking of a PMP certification will know that the PMP requires project management expertise to be demonstrated by candidates.
Now, if you have very little expertise in project management, it may not make sense to pursue the PMP.
Think about it this way …
Accumulating project management expertise (e.g. by volunteering your time or finding opportunities in your firm) takes up a lot of time.
You need to find a suitable project and canvas support for your involvement.
Remember, you don’t have previous experience, so some folks will need to take you into the project on good faith.
Case Study. I remember a time in my career when I was in the same situation.
I didn’t have enough project management expertise and studying for the PMP and accumulating actual PM experience would take a long time.
So my thought process was: “Am I better off looking at alternative career development options?”
In the end, I decided on pursuing a Finance and MBA qualifications as I wanted to align myself more to industry and also business strategy.
In summary, you do need to take into consideration whether the time spent in accumulating project management experience and studying for the PMP really moves you towards your intended career path.
If not, ditch the PMP and find something that helps you in a better way!
Reason #5: You Like Designing And Creating Technology Solutions
I’ll be upfront with you.
I personally know a lot of technologists, programmers and IT architects who LOVE designing and creating technology solutions.
I mean, they have a fierce PASSION for these things.
BUT many of them choose to give up those IT careers because Project Management is deemed to command (1) better pay and (2) better prestige.
A lot of folks switch into project management for the wrong reasons.
Project Management is not for everyone.
I say search inside your heart.
If what you truly want to do is to programming, then do it!
If you love drawing up IT solution architectures, then go for it!
Invest yourself wholeheartedly into IT and technology skill sets like APIs, big data or cloud based architectures.
Ditch the PMP – it won’t be something that ignites the passion in you.
And besides, I can be the first to attest to you that technologists can get paid way better than a Project Manager these days.
Technologists are also better respected than they were in the past. And yes, they command more prestige, especially if you are a strong authority in your area of IT.
In summary, I’ll leave you with three takeaways.
First, the PMP is indeed overrated these days because times have changed.
The way the corporate world looks to deliver IT projects has changed.
Instead of traditional waterfall, large-scale projects, more and more firms look to agile and prototyping approaches.
These render the PMP less relevant. You’re better off taking courses in agile project delivery.
Second, if you’re not sure if project Management is really for you, I say have a hard think about what you want your career to be.
You can be a Business Analyst, IT Professional or play other interesting roles.
Project Management is not for everyone.
And once you’ve decided on what you truly want to do, you can then take the appropriate certifications you need.
And technologists can look at courses like these.
The key thing is not to think in silo. Just because others are taking the PMP does not mean you need to take it.
Read more about being a PM and you’ll begin to see if it’s really for you.
I hope the above has helped you understand the PMP a lot better and that it may indeed be overrated, especially if it’s not aligned to your ultimate career path.
Until next time, have fun learning about project management and the multitude of roles you can play in IT projects!