7768352Services are a key factor in the success of project management software vendors.  With the trend towards certification how will clients know who has the skills they require?

I thought I’d spend some time talking about one of the most significant elements of technology deployment in the project management sector – services.  With numerous project management software vendors, the revenue from services outweighs the revenue from software sales.  Perhaps that’s a good thing.  After all, as I’ve written more than once, the difficulties in implementing enterprise project management software almost always has more to do with culture change than with feature implementation.

In virtually every enterprise-level implementation of project management software, a significant level of consulting-type services is required.  In some organizations, the skills to implement the selected system is available internally but in many cases, organizations look outside of themselves to find these skills.  The requirements can be extensive.  A consultant for the implementation of a project management system requires skills in business analysis, project management methodology, technology, finance, human resources and, of course the product or products being implemented.  These skills are rarely all found in a single person so you’re looking at a collection of resources required in order to successfully implement the project system in question.

Just as with any human resources search, one of the first questions to be asked deals with the qualifications of the consultant whether he be internal or external and herein lies a problem.

There really isn’t a hard and fast qualification that ensures that you have found the right person.  It’s not to say that there are no qualification measures around. In fact, there are perhaps too many.

We should start, of course with PMI.  The PMP certification is certainly popular in North America and even overseas but what exactly does it mean when you’ve got your PMP certification?  Well, that you passed the exam, of course, and that you were able to identify sufficient proof of project management experience in terms of points to qualify.  Yet, there are many people who have passed their PMP who do not feel qualified to manage a project of significant size or complexity.  Even for those who do feel confident enough to manage a project, having the PMP certification does not necessarily mean that they have any knowledge of enterprise project systems.  The other skills we mentioned above, business analysis, for example, might be completely absent in someone who had passed their PMP.

Ok then, what other standards are there?  ISO has the 10006 standard and you’ll find elements of project management in the 9000 and 14000 standards.  Yet, the ISO registration is not an individual qualification.  Being ISO registered indicates that you have established a stable process.  That’s great but doesn’t indicate how to select the proper resources to implement project management software.

There are other courses of study.  Many universities are now giving courses in project management.  I’ve sent several of my own staff on such courses to ensure that they understand the basic building blocks of the industry.  On occasion I’ve been fortunate enough to even lecture such students.  Yet, it is clear from just speaking to these students that their training in university alone does not prepare them for implementing project systems.

Many product vendors in the project management software industry have certification programs for the consultants who train and install their products.  Choosing one of these people is a good bet that they know the product being implemented and how to train you to use the features in it.  The problem is that such consultants are often light on the other perhaps more significant skills such as business analysis or HR.

Knowing just about the product itself or just about project management theory isn’t enough.  There has to be some perspective on the big picture.  Some firms have gone to the specialists in business re-engineering, the big accounting/consulting firms.  Consulting firms of all kinds can provide consultants with strengths in business analysis and finance but who might be not as strong in project management methodologies.

And if that all wasn’t enough, there are other certifications to deal with.  Microsoft has certifications in both its desktop Microsoft Project and its centralized Microsoft Project Server. Oracle has certifications in Oracle-Primavera not to mention Oracle Project. SAP has certification tests in its PS (Project Scheduler) module.

Most organizations won’t send all their technical staff for these types of training and certificates. After all, the training can’t be amortized for more than one client if you are doing it yourself. As a consequence, we end up with 3rd party consultants who carry these certificates. I carry a couple of them myself.

The sheer weight of the numbers of consultants who certify in products like Microsoft Project could overwhelm the numbers of experienced project managers who have focused on project management process or who simply have extensive experience in managing projects or implementing project systems.

For clients looking to bring in outside assistance, the plethora of certification programs now emerging has the potential to become more of a hindrance than a benefit.  Certainly any client looking to bring in experts from the outside would be well advised to spend the time required on due diligence of the experts’ credentials.  References of successfully completed projects will carry more weight than certification at least for the near future.

For those of us in associations like PMI however, the opportunity to be a leader in the field is significant.  PMI has worked hard to maintain its separation from any project management vendors. They are “agnostic” they claim. But, perhaps there is room for PMI to adopt many vendors instead of one and we could see closer ties between the methodology aspect of PMI and the technical aspects of the tools available to project managers over the coming months and years.  It’s an opportunity for strategic alliances in the future to ensure that the skills and lessons learned by project management professionals over time aren’t lost in the drive for easy to use project management tools.