What is CAPM®?
The Peter Principle states that “In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence”. This is not a cynical observation. In hierarchical organizations, good performance is rewarded by promotion. Unfortunately, the characteristics that make someone effective at a certain level are no guarantee that the person will succeed at the next level up. So, eventually, you get to a point where your skills and temperament are not suited to the role and promotions stop coming.
To prevent this happening, it is wise to look ahead and to prepare yourself for life at the next level. This is a problem for hands-on workers, whose next move is into a front-line management role, such as project manager. Unless your company is very accommodating and will allow you the time and provide the training to support your move, it is very likely that you will struggle in your early attempts at project management.
So how do you prepare to become an effective project manager? You will probably encounter the Project Management Institute (PMI) early in your searches and be attracted to the Project Management Professional (PMP®) accreditation. With nearly half a million people having passed the PMP® exam and obtained PMP® certification, this looks like the way to go. However, the PMP® requires that you have a track record of 4,500 hours project management experience before you can even be considered, so you find yourself immediately in the Catch 22 of needing to learn the role in order to perform successfully, but cannot get to learn the role because you have not been performing the role.
The PMI is aware of this situation and has created its Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM®) qualification to allow people with little or no project management experience to put a foot on the ladder and to gain the fundamental knowledge essential to a productive career in project management. To be acceptable for this, you do not even need a third-level qualification – finishing second-level will do. However, you must either demonstrate 1,500 hours of project management experience or attend at least 23 hours contact hours of project management education. Training courses, such as Velopi’s three-day Certified Associate in Project Management offering, will fit the bill exactly.
The training centres on the PMI’s Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBoK®). This will introduce the student to the principles of project management as well as detailing the ten knowledge areas that comprise the bulk of the body of knowledge. Students will learn that project management is the integration of scope (what the project needs to achieve), time (how long have we got to do it), cost (how much can we spend), quality (how reliable will the finished product be), human resources (how do we organize the people who do the work), communication (how do we make sure everyone is kept up to date on project progress), risk (what could go wrong and what will we do if it does), procurement (how can we outsource parts of the work) and stakeholder management (keeping all parties satisfied during the project).
The goal of any PMI qualification is to demonstrate the knowledge needed to be an effective project manager. However, it is not until you actually go out there and manage a project that you will be able to see if the project manager role is for you. However, by taking the time to study the PMBoK® and to learn the basic principles, you have given yourself the opportunity to begin your project management career with your eyes open. Even if you choose not to advance to a project manager position, achieving the CAPM® credential will allow you become more effective in your existing role. For instance, an appreciation of the importance of realistic estimates will encourage you to pay more attention to your own work and, when the boss comes to you asking when you will be able to complete a particular task, you will be able to furnish optimistic, most-likely and pessimistic estimates. Similarly, you will be able to report your progress in terms of planned versus actual and you will appreciate the need to be constantly on the lookout for emerging risks.
We are forever being told that we need to move up the value chain. Ironically, the value chain is actually a horizontal concept! To advance your career, you need to move out towards the ends of the value chain – i.e. you need to get closer to the customer. Whether you decide to move towards the sales people and help out in technical requirements collection or move towards field service – installing the products in customer sites, the CAPM® training will support your work. Project Scope Management will pinpoint the tools needed to elicit requirements and trace these requirements through the project to the finished product. Knowledge of quality and stakeholder management will smooth any installation task. In fact, installations are often mini-projects in themselves, with the goal of getting people and equipment to the site on time. There can be risks associated with foreign customs officials and the warranties on the shipped products. Knowing how to plan these and how to communicate your progress will enhance your chances of success.
Having completed your three-day course, you need to apply for the CAPM® exam. Unfortunately, the PMI Registered Education Provider (e.g. Velopi) cannot administer the CAPM® exam itself. The exam will have to be taken in an official pro-metric centre, namely the one in Barrow Street, Dublin. The CAPM® exam can also be taken in Cork.
This is an extremely secure facility which is quite intimidating. Once installed at an official terminal, you will have three hours to answer 150 questions relating to the PMBoK®. Having submitted your answers, the result will be given within a few minutes. So at least you will be spared the nerve-wracking wait that goes with school or college exams.
In summary, if you are part of a project team and want to advance to a project manager role or even if you have no ambitions to be a manager, but want to understand how projects work and how you can be more effective in a project environment, then you should seriously consider the CAPM® accreditation. Three days with a Registered Education Provider, like Velopi, will ensure that a promotion to project manager will certainly not put you at your level of incompetence!
By Velopi Seamus Collins