My first post on this subject (Should Product Managers have a PMP Certification?) generated a lot of discussion and some very good ideas that were new to me. Thanks to everyone who contributed.
Unfortunately, nearly all of the comments were left within various LinkedIn groups which limited the ability of people in other groups to participate. Whoops — not what I had in mind.
Therefore, I thought I would summarize the thoughts from all of these groups up to now to help facilitate the discussion. Apologies in advance for any editing mistakes I made and the names have been withheld to protect the innocent (or is that “the guilty”)…
Pragmatic Marketing Alumni Group
From Steve, a Global Product/ Project Management professional with a PMP
I got a PMP certification recently to understand what it involved and how it related to product management. It can’t hurt to get a PMP, but recognize that a PMP focuses on projects (schedule, budget, scope) , not products (technology, business, market).
The product management profession needs a certification program equivalent to that provided by PMI. PMI is 41 years old. It took over 17 years for PMI to create the first version of the PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge), the basis of the PMP certification. Over that time they helped to establish project management as a recognized profession and fueled a tremendous market for an entire army of project management training vendors that did not exist before PMI was founded.
Product Management needs its own Product Management and Marketing Body of Knowledge, its own certificate programs, and its own equivalent continuing education (PDU) program. I believe the nearest equivalent to PMI for product management is the AIPMM – the Association of International Product Management and Marketing
The AIPMM is only 12 years old but is following a track similar to PMI to make Product Management a recognized profession. I believe they can create an explosive demand for Product Management training programs that will significantly expand the market for training vendors like Pragmatic, Blackblot, Pivotal, etc. Thus, AIPMM is an enabler for these vendors, not a competitor.
I intend to become actively involved in AIPMM. I recommend you and anyone else interested in making Product Management a recognized profession do the same. You should check them out. (www.AIPMM.org).
Boston Product Management (BPMA) Group
From Steven, Author
Certification is not needed. BUT, product managers must know how to manage projects + tools, terminology, etc. Taking 2 days PMP training should be sufficient. However, nothing beats real experience. Try using project management techniques to plan and manage a product launch. Works wonders!
Product Management (LinkedPM) Group
From Yves, VP Business Development and Senior Product Manager
I was faced with the same dilemma. I appreciate you raising the question, as I would like to hear other product managers’ point of view on the topic.
The way I solved it for myself was by achieving the following two things:
First, I received the NPDP (New Product Development Professional) certification from PDMA (Product Development and Management Association: pdma.org) which focuses on Product Management while encompassing some aspects of project management.
Similarly to the PMP certification, (1) one must demonstrate a fair amount of on-the-job experience, (2) one must hold a bachelor’s or higher university degree, (3) and pass an exam (at the time I passed it, there were only 300 NPDP certified professionals worldwide).
Thereafter, in order to maintain the NPDP certification, ongoing activities are also required; Activities that are related to product management that is, not project management. This is where it makes more sense for us, product managers, as you do not have to be a full-time project manager to maintain your certification. You can focus on your product management profession.
Second, I also obtained a Master’s certificate in IT project Management from George Washington University. The core curriculum of the program addresses all ten areas of knowledge tested in PMI’s certification exam.
As you mentioned, when working for small companies, a product manager often ends up playing the role of project manager as well, which is why I think the second certification comes in handy. It also lasts for life. It is a nice credential to add to one’s curriculum.
Creative Product Managers Group
From Chirag, Product Manager
I agree with your view of PMP certification as a “nice-to-have”, and not as a “must-have” or a “should-have”.
280 Group: Product Management & Product Marketing
From Joe, VP Product Management
My recommendation is that Product Managers be aware of Program Management tasks and issues, but that PMP Certification is not required. I feel that you can learn about these tasks and issues without being certified. My gut feeling is that rather than getting certified, a Product Manager would be better off spending the time and effort developing market/problem analysis skills.
My unscientific crystal ball also tells me that if a Product Manager has an official PMP designation, that the company may be inclined make the Product Manager responsible for Program Management deliverables.
My experience is that Product Managers often fill a vacuum and perform Program Management functions. However, nothing comes for free. The time and effort required to make sure that resources are properly deployed and aligned often takes away from the Product Manager’s ability to analyze problems/market opportunities and then communicate the results of that analysis throughout the organization.
But in today’s market, the ability to multitask across a range of disciplines can differentiate you from the masses that respond to each Product Manager job posting. A PMP Certification is a shorthand way of letting resume screeners and hiring managers know that you have certain knowledge and skills.
So if you have the time and resources, I feel that a PMP Certification can help you get a Product Manager job, but that the certification itself isn’t necessary to be a good Product Manager.
From Bob, Product Management, Business Development, and Acquisition Integration
I agree with you both. PMP would be nice to have and could assist in landing a job. I have found myself often project managing as SOP.
From Avijeet, Principal Product Manager
I am PMP certified and would agree with Dean that it is difficult and time-consuming to get PMP certified. The certification just shows that the incumbent has a practical understanding of project management best practices. A product manager need not be PMP certified, but he or she should be able to understand what various project management plan/budget versus actual metrics mean and initiate necessary discussions at right time.
Although a product manager does not have authority to initiate or scrap a project, but he will definitely be held accountable, if he or she did not bring up the new initiatives and changes to current projects at right time. The knowledge of the math that goes behind knowing this right time would help a product manager to work with project managers much more smoothly and successfully.
In summary, PMP certification is not must, but knowledge of project management best practices would be a critical success factor for a product manager.
Internet Product Management Group
From Randy, Managing Director
I think you could think of it this way — What is the down side of getting a PMP when you are a product manager?
I don’t see one that I can think of. It adds to your value proposition and may help you land a job.
It seems these days that more and more companies due to the down turn are looking for Product Managers to also assume PM task.
I am a big believer in Face time with clients, but companies are at skin and bones to make a profit, so they think that is a good way to merge talents.
Another fact of the matter is a lot of management and people in general don’t truly understand the role of a Product manager, and seem to blend it with PM work all the time.
You could be right adding a PM might make you do more work, but in tough times be glad you are working that much.
From Craig, Principal Consultant
I am often asked to take on PM responsibilities to the detriment of my product management role. One disadvantage that you did not mention is the inherent conflict of interest between project and product management. The former needs to focus on meeting deadlines while the latter needs to focus on the customer and their needs. As a product manager at heart I find myself constantly balancing feature creep with meeting my timelines. That said, while I am an advocate of keeping these hats on different heads, it does make you more marketable in todays’ job climate to bring more value to your employer through versatility.
- Project management is a necessary part of being a good product manager and you can’t be effective without a good understanding of project management tools and techniques.
- Having a formalized project management certifications (PMP or similar) is a good way to demonstrate your project management proficiency, but is not a necessity to being a good product manager.
- Devoting too much time to project management can detract from your primary role as product manager — which could seriously impact your product and your company.
- Some employers seem to be unclear about the differences between project management and product management, or they try to save money by combining these two roles into a single position.
- It is certainly desirable to have a formal product management certification (of some type). And it would certainly help promote the distinction between project management and product management, as well as help advance the product management profession, if there was a well-recognized product management certification program that was utilized by many product managers.
Thanks to all who have contributed so far.
What do you think? Have we captured all of the key elements? Or are we missing something that you think is important?