— 31 August 2004 —

P to the MP

While my good friend Scrivs continues to talk about design when he said he was going to explore more project management topics (zing!), I thought I would talk about some PMing of my own.

Tomorrow night I start my first of 8 project management classes. At the end of the 8 weeks, I will take an exam, receive my certification in project management, and be able to add PMP after my name on business cards, email signatures, and all those autographs I give out on a daily basis.

Now, given then environment in which I work, I already know a lot about project management. So what does getting a PMP certification really provide?

First and foremost it is a recognition of knowledge (somewhat) and commitment (very much so). It shows that I take this seriously, that I have follow-through, and that I meet the minimum requirements to manage a project in a professional organization. The other good aspect is that the PMP is an internationally recognized certification. The Project Management Institute oversees this certification, and offers a lot of support and continuing education opportunities as well.

Can you get by in this crazy world without a PMP certification? Of course! I do it all the time. Granted, I am only managing the user requirements and design portion of the project, but the premise is the same. If I do become a PM, I will just manage more aspects.

What are those aspects? Well, I will write this now and see how well I do in my understanding as I go through the classes. A project manager has only 4 responsibilities on a project:

  1. Identify and allocate resources.
  2. Create and manage a schedule.
  3. Remove all roadblocks for the allocated resources.
  4. Offer professional development opportunities for those resources that request it.

One thing that is missing from my list above is bring the project in on time and on budget. I purposefully left that out of the list. I don’t think that is really the job or a project manager. I know many organizations make it the job of the PM to manage the project to a budget and to a specific time range, but in practise I do not think this is reasonable.

One of the first things a PM has to do, along with getting resources allocated, is to make sure that the right resources are allocated. And this requires and good understanding of the scope of a project. But I find that the scope of the project isn’t really set until after the requirements gathering portion of the project is coming to a close.

The sponsoring area of the project can tell you what they want done, but you never really know what you need to do until you gather requirements. Of course that are more constraints that come after, during the design and build portions, but I have never seen a scope well define at project initiation.

There are many reasons for this of course, but my guess is that this is really the status quo. I’d love to see projects broken in two: one to gather requirements (and possibly a feasibility study); one to design and build what the first project comes up with. But that isn’t how things work. Is it? I’d love to hear about it if you work in this kind of environment.

I do however think it is realistic to hold a PM accountable to bring a project in within a 30-day window after the schedule has been baselined (baselining means you’ve made your best guess on what it will take to complete the project and helps show how well you managed to that schedule), and only after all the requirements have been authorized.

I am looking forward to this for many reasons. It will be nice to do something different for a while. It will be nice to open up some opportunity by completing this certification process. It will be nice to follow up on the opportunities and make more money. If I eventually find my way into the manager ranks, I will look more closely at the offerings of the Design Management Institute.

I will be blogging the progress of the class, so hopefully I will have a post up every Friday recapping the class. Now if I can just find someone to watch Sagan whilst I am in class, everything should be peachy.

Update: No one to watch Sagan, so I will miss the first class. But I get to read 8 chapters of dry material on project management. So I guess there’s an upside for someone somewhere. :)

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