PMP: The project management certification & relevance to data centers

Archana Nathan, Contributor

India has seen a large spurt in the number of Project Management Professional (PMP) certification holders. This is of significant pride to Project Management Institute (PMI), the certification body, which claims that the value of the project management certification

    Requires Free Membership to View

for IT managers has risen sharply. PMI claims that this is due to the success of tasks undertaken by PMP project management certification holders. For one, PMP holders are crucial to data centers where the principles of project management are used to launch, manage and execute projects. Now, how valid is this claim? Let's take a quick examination.

PMI is of the opinion that a data center manager is not only recognized for his skills and knowledge obtained during the vigorous credentialing process, but also for confirmed dedication to the profession, as well as his professional development. According to PMI, the project management certification equips data center professionals to become aware of the importance of nine knowledge areas and the 42 processes required for project execution.

The demands of a data center job calls for coping with constant changes in priority of projects, user department demands, technology changes and challenges during the project execution, along with funding and resource constraints. As an example of such challenges, Binu Chacko, the director of enterprise infrastructure and systems management at Fidelity Investments (and himself a certified project management professional), outlines data migration as a key challenge facing the data center team. The migration has to be smooth enough to ensure that users and applications don't come to a halt. It requires various aspects such as meticulous planning, identifying potential risks, developing risk mitigating plans, and engaging with all stakeholders.

Now, we could argue that there are MBA courses that speak of the same concepts and tools as that of the project management certification. In addition, several successful project managers have not necessarily gone through the project management certification's coursework, and yet handle projects efficiently. To this argument, Palani M, the senior manager for corporate quality at MMSH Holdings Inc, argues that a PMP credential offers assurance that the respective candidate has necessary qualifications and experience (before as well as after certification) to apply the appropriate concepts and tools for project management. Additionally, managers in the data center possess technical expertise, which if supplemented with the project management certification will drive performance levels. These aspects and qualities cannot be provided by the typical MBA curriculum.

Although PMP certification is considered "good enough" for data center managers, a school of thought considers PMI's Risk Management Professional (RMP) to be more suitable for the same job.

 Let's now take a look at the attributes required to become a PMP certification holder. Before completing the application process and passing the multiple choice examination, one needs to satisfy either of the following criteria. The first set of criteria calls for a secondary diploma (high school diploma or global equivalent), five years of project management experience (with at least 7,500 hours spent leading and directing project tasks), and 35 hours of project management education. The other option necessitates that applicants possess a four year degree (bachelors degree or global equivalent), three years of project management experience (with 4,500 hours spent leading and directing project tasks), and 35 hours of project management education. PMI further requires that the project management certification holder keeps his skills and experience up-to-date through the process of PMP re-certification every three years.

Now, although Chacko rates PMP certification as "good enough" for a data center manager, he recommends that PMI's Risk Management Professional (RMP) is more suitable for the same job. However, the merit in acquiringthe project management certification lies in the fact that PMP certified managers can use the same terminology, and understand tools used during the project lifecycle.

Nevertheless, acquiring a PMP credential does not necessarily mean the creation of an efficient project manager. Chacko calls it the gap between "knowing" and "doing".  Although the project management certification is essential for any enterprise distributed project, it is the execution, which counts.

From a recruiter's point of view, is the project management certification given preference over other qualifications, when it comes to data center job roles? According to Chacko, the PMP certification is essential, but not good enough. This is mainly so since candidates need process knowledge along with the project management certification, when it comes to the data center.

After hearing out both sides of the argument, we can evaluate PMP certification as a generic project management credential. But the conflict between ideas of what makes a good project manager for the data center cannot be solved through the project management certification process alone. It needs to be judged on the field as well.