Defining a Certification Program: Where to Certify?

PM Certification commentary by William Duncan, IPMA-USA Certification Director.

There are three aspects of “where” that all have to do with marketing considerations.

The first aspect is, of course, geographic coverage: local, national, international, or global? The broader the coverage, the greater the expense. In addition, trying to offer a product or service globally also requires knowledge of local customs and languages. On the other hand, operating in only one country limits you to organizations that also operate only in your country. At IPMA-USA, we think we have the best of both worlds through our membership in IPMA and use of IPMA’s Four Level Certification program. IPMA provides the basic structure and relies on its National Member Associations to tailor the program to local needs. This way, IPMA-USA and PMCert can focus on what is needed and useful in the good ol’ U.S. of A. while still providing a credential that is recognized and valued around the world.

The second aspect of “where” also addresses geographic coverage, but on a more micro scale: do we offer assessment interviews in just a few cities and make our candidates travel to us? Or do we attempt to to provide local assessors in all major cities? The travel-to-us model has worked well among IPMA’s European members with their relatively small countries. In the USA, we have opted for the latter approach and are busy recruiting qualified assessors throughout the USA. Our plan is to have at least two assessors within a one-hour drive of 90% of the US population.

The final aspect of “where” has to do with industry emphasis. Focusing on just a few market sectors would mean lower costs and a simpler product. For example, there would be no need to address the fact that the oil and gas industry uses the term “contingency reserve” to describe what the aerospace and defense industry call “management reserve.” However, project management is used in pretty much every field of endeavor from medicine to construction to software development. It is as vital to success in the public sector as it is to success in the private sector. And one of IPMA-USA’s organizational objectives is to address the societal impact of poor project management, so we decided that we would not limit ourselves: our certification program is open to all industries and application areas despite the challenges that choice creates.

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