How leveraging project management certifications can bring about exciting culture change Featured

8:01pm EDT November 30, 2011
How leveraging project management certifications can bring about exciting culture change

When you think of project management, you tend to think of massive IT implementations, construction projects or enterprise-wide endeavors. Or, you think of meetings, bureaucracy and headaches. But truthfully, almost any change you implement in your professional life can be broken down as a project. The Project Management Institute’s definition of a project is “a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result.”

“Through the use of project management techniques, companies have found a new and exciting culture change that can drive project and organizational success,” says Ed Siurek, director of Quality for Corporate College.

Many Fortune 500 companies have successfully incorporated this methodology into their way of doing business. But how can every organization take advantage of this opportunity? The key to understanding what is necessary and how to achieve those goals may lie in providing project management certification opportunities for employees.

Smart Business spoke with Siurek about project management and the importance of certification.

Why do projects fail?

The Bull Survey (1998) was conducted to understand how and why IT companies in the UK had project failure. It showed three primary causes: breakdown in communication (57 percent), lack of planning (39 percent), and poor quality control (35 percent) as the primary reasons. Given that most companies think they do these things well, it gives reason for pause. How can we do these things better and what are we doing wrong?  The secret may lie in what we think project management really is. Companies typically rely on individuals rather than methodology. If everyone is not on the same page as the project manager though, problems can and often do arise.

What are the benefits of formal project management?

It is process based and allows everyone to work from the same philosophy. Creating organizational standards, templates and procedures helps increase productivity, communication and employee understanding of the task at hand. Most employees involved in a project know what needs to be done but too often the lack of control and ability to manage all project details can be overwhelming. Using a formal approach keeps everyone on the project team on the same page and moving in the same direction. They know each step of the process and the expectations, and it forces everyone to think about risk and unforeseen obstacles. Planning for these obstacles can keep them from becoming project derailments.

Why is certification so important?

Certification in project management is not for everyone. It takes training, experience and using proven methodology to be successful. The certification process requires not only up-front training, but documentation of past experience, testing and continuing education.  Those that gain certification understand the importance and have the skill set to drive all aspects of a project to successful completion.

Certification to any of the project management standards is a great opportunity. Individuals can apply the skills learned across most industries and professions. It is a methodology that is highly valued by employers because of its success rate and discipline.

How does a certification impact your business?

Assigning a certified project manager to a project helps minimize risk. Projects are managed in a highly effective and efficient manner that produces on schedule, on specification and on budget results. Project managers understand that not every variable can be accounted for in a project, but they have learned how to manage and mitigate those risks before they become larger problems. Success in projects typically yields higher return on investments (ROI) and a better end product.

There is also a cultural benefit to providing a consistent approach. Employees understand their responsibilities and spend less time away from daily tasks while still being able to focus on the project. Highly engaged employees and successful projects will both contribute to a better working environment and higher returns for any organization.

What about the cultural aspect of project management?

When projects work properly and employees see success, confidence grows in the methodology. They begin to incorporate some of the tools into their work. Everyone wants to succeed, so what better way to do it than by using something that is proven? Soon, it becomes a way of doing business. Not only does this create commonality in practices in the company, but it also makes projects more successful. Project management can influence many aspects of an organization. Take, for example, a customer complaint. Using project management methodology, the complaint can be taken, evaluated and processed in a systematic manner. The reason for the complaint may lead to other projects to correct the product, process or system. The initial documentation from the first project will help to ease each subsequent project.

Who needs to get certified in an organization, and what certifications should they seek?

Certification is available ranging from the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) to the Project Management Professional (PMP). Which certification is best for a particular employee? It depends on that individual’s experience. Experienced project managers will seek a PMP credential while those just entering the work force will seek the CAPM. Both provide valuable insight and training and can be assets to any project team and organization. As CAPMs continue to progress and gain experience, they can take on more responsibility and more complex projects. Ultimately, this leads to seasoned project managers. Once the CAPM has gained the necessary experience, they can gain further certification by means of the PMP.

Ed Siurek is director of Quality for Corporate College. Reach him at (216) 987-2838 or Edward.Siurek@tri-c.edu.