Should Product Managers have a PMP Certification? — Part 2

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.

AND

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.

My Conclusions:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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?

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7 Responses to Should Product Managers have a PMP Certification? — Part 2

  1. Lisa Wolter says:

    As a new PMP trying to figure out where my career path is headed, this was really helpful. Please keep posting these types of blogs.

  2. Darla Fausto says:

    Someone I work with visits your blog quite often and recommended it to me to read as well. The writing style is excellent and the content is interesting. Thanks for the insight you provide the readers!

    • David Fulton says:

      Darla,
      Thank you for the kind words. I try to write things that interest me and hope that they interest others. It’s very nice to hear that I may have succeeded in some small way.
      Just remember that a blog is intended to be a two-way conversation. So keep those cards and letters coming.
      -dave-

  3. I certainly agree with the observations made by so many others on this topic. One obvious thing not mentioned is the familiarity with and reputation of the two types of certifications (Project Management vs. Product Management).

    The PMI simply has been out there longer, and has a well-respected reputation for certifying trained PMP professionals. Project Management is much more than just project scheduling. Companies do take seriously the research that shows proper project management greatly improves the chance of a project’s success and therefore the company’s success. Hence their PM job postings often require PMP certification.

    The Product Management methodology and the certification process (whether via AIPMM or others) are not as mature, not as well understood, and almost never requested in job postings. I am certain this will change over time as our methodology becomes established & standardized, and our profession becomes better understood & respected; but it is not there yet. WE know the value of a Product Manager in ensuring product success, but THEY do not.

    I feel that it benefits a Product Manager to hold dual PM and PdM certs, for the following two reasons:
    1) It benefits Product Managers to know what a Project Manager does. Both are necessary and must work together to create a successful product.
    2) It benefits Product Managers to show others that they take their professional role very seriously and are committed to product success thru proven methodologies, not “shoot-from-the-hip” actions. One day, I hope the Product Manager professional certification will be an essential PdM credential, as PMP certification is for PMs, and CPA is for Accountants.

  4. Brett Safron says:

    If I had my way, every manager level and above person in my company would have a PMP certification, regardless of area of expertise within the company (and no, I do not work for the PMI or even think that their methodology is any better or worse than the thousands out there).

    The fundamentals of project management are applicable in so many different ways. Recognition and understanding of the value and purpose of project management only helps everyone’s understanding of what should transpire for projects to be successful. It motivates people to think about more than just their role in the process, but rather the entire process and dependencies throughout it. I encourage all my product managers to get PMP certification even before product management certification.

    Like stated by everyone above, it definitely helps in the job hunting process, as more and more opportunities out there prefer a PMP but overall, it helps a professional better organize and manage their responsibilities. I would definitely take a second look at any resume that came in with a PMP designation or other project management methodology versus one without.

    • David Fulton says:

      Brett,
      Very interesting perspective. One quick question — Have any of your Product Managers had any difficulty meeting the work experience requirement for the PMP certification with their Product Management experience?
      -dave-

  5. This post was mentioned on Twitter by Richard Hawkesford.

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