Are PMI certifications considered in the construction industry?

A recent post on ProjectManagement.com posed this question “PMI CERTIFICATION IN CONSTRUCTION IS IT A REQUIREMENT?” This topic has generated interesting discussion. To read the various views please visit the post.

What we share below is part of our views on the subject that we shared on the original post and including here; modified.

The focus of the question is on PMI and PMI certifications

Definition

PMI and others use the term construction projects to refer to projects that include the construction of a facility. Technically, these are capital projects and the use of the term “construction”, a phase in the project life cycle of such projects is misleading.

Therefore, we will use the term capital project and these are projects by development companies or organizations, which we call project owners. These projects typically have project life cycles consisting of a few phases or stages, such as Concept, Assessment, Selection, Feasibility, Basic Design, Preliminary Engineering, Engineering, Construction, Commissioning and Start-up, and finally closing.

The PMI Factors for Lack of Interest in the Capital Projects Industry

In our views, PMI has ignored this field.

Maybe they tried to break it for the purpose of certification but without adding value or success. On the contrary, the results have been declining interest.

Here are a few examples of why the lack of interest. Just a disclaimer, this is based on our professional opinion and not based on formal research.

Since 2000 or 2003, it took PMI about 14 years to revise the construction extension to the PMBOK Guide. It is worth mentioning that during this period:

  1. PMI has developed the Program and Portfolio management standards and revised them 3 times; they just released the 4th edition of these guides. These are concepts used in IT and general business and not so much in construction.
  2. The push on certifications for these concepts (PgMP and PtMP), which are not used in capital projects. We might use Project Director but not Program Managers; often. Even when we use the term Program it is on a different scale than the PMI World.
  3. They also introduced Agile and PBA certifications. These are certifications that do not mean much or anything for us in the capital projects industry. 
  4. On the other hands, there are no certifications or emphasis on topics related to capital projects, such as cost engineering or value management. 
  5. PMI tried with the PMI-SP but the AACE PSP certification is better established so PMI could not do much here and I believe with time PMI will cancel this certificate.
  6. Further, the concept of PMT (a must in capital projects) have been diminished and almost disappeared in recent editions, even in the 6th edition. (see image below)
  7. The view in the PMBOK Guide or better says the perception, that the PM does everything, no mention of estimating, cost control, planning, scheduling, or other roles that are essential on capital projects.
  8. Project Management Team, typical structure for capital projectsYears ago, when we had SIGs (Special Interest Groups), we had an Oil, Gas, & Petroleum (OGP) SIG and a SIG for Engineering and Construction; those were sidelined and disappeared.
  9. The college of performance management, which is generic but close to the capital project industry was also dismantled and taken over by PMI.

Non-PMI Factors

Now, away from PMI, the construction and capital project industries, wants engineers.

True that engineers are not trained as project managers or in project management in universities (maybe some have one course), but they learn on the job. In project owners organizations, engineers are hired to be estimators, planners, cost engineers, cost control and schedule control engineers, field engineers, project and resident engineers, etc.

All of these positions lead to specializing in one of these topics or the person grow into Construction Manager, Engineering Manager, or Services Manager (Project Support and Control).

Next level, the person could grow into a project manager position, senior project manager, and even project director. In other words, to get to hold the title Project Manager, a person will likely end up with a minimum of 10 years of hardcore experience before achieving this title.

In other words, this is an industry that believes in learning by doing, “learn in the trenches”, learn on the job. 

Is there an interest in certification?

Sure there might be.

This industry cares about certification but maybe not PMI. For example, I think there are construction & contractors certifications. Professional engineering registrations is a must for those handling engineering duties and to be a Professional Engineer is a tough process.

Also, AACE with Cost and Schedule certifications are closer to the capital projects world. Same for SAVE, and even IPMA in many countries is still keeping the doors open whereas PMI indirectly is closing the doors. 

The above is mostly the views in relation to the companies in this industry. So their management does not care for PMI certifications; UNLESS their clients ask for it.

However, individuals in this industry might pursue these certifications hoping that their management recognize it but many still do not.

Internal “Certifications”

It is also worthwhile to mention that some organizations in the capital project industry have internal “certifications”, or maybe I should say recognition status. I recently had someone in class that came from a large EPC company and they had an internal process for recognizing project professionals. Years ago, when I was with Exxon Chemical, we also had a Project Professional program and that would require a minimum of 10 years experience and after completing assignments in different project management roles.

By the way, at that time, I wanted to join PMI but my company would not support it. However, they supported us to join AACE, International.

Closing Comments

One final comment, although the sixth edition of the PMBOK Guide has many good things, it has some bad additions as well. Adding Agile in the guide and in every knowledge area is another nail (or a bunch of nails) in PMI coffin in the capital project industry. I have written many posts on how Agile does not work in the capital project industry. We use LEAN and have been for years. Many general agile practices came from the capital projects industry and Agilists are claiming them as their own, which is not correct.

We can use agile in capital projects (as in agility) but we cannot use Agile the way it is portrayed by Agilists.

I would love to hear elaborations and counterpoints from our readers. Please take a moment to share your thoughts.