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Project management at the crossroads

Adeline Teoh ed.
April 10, 2012

I remember getting my provisional driver’s licence at age 17. I was in my final year of high school and although I’d been eligible to sit the practical test for several months, my parents made me wait until after the trial Higher School Certificate exams. On the last day of term I skipped sport and sat the test, nervous about my two weaknesses: parallel parking and hill starts.

“Turn left,” said the examiner. I indicated and pulled out of the parking lot safely. “Now do a parallel park behind Miss Silver Mercedes over there.” The Mercedes survived, my instructor’s car survived and at the end of 30 harrowing minutes I became a (provisionally) licensed driver of New South Wales.

As a society we use licensing as a mark of competency, yet as any day on the road will attest, we sometimes question whether the licensing process has really weeded out the people who can’t drive. This is just one of the problems facing project management today: how do we know that someone with the role title ‘project manager’ can really manage a project? In many cases it’s a matter of ‘it takes one to know one’ as the more mature project-managed organisations tend to set their own standards for what staff should be able to do in project management positions.

Project management is now at the crossroads with this issue. There are other standards as well, of course. Professional bodies such as Engineers Australia have official registers for engineers. Project management associations like the national peak body Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM) and the global Project Management Institute (PMI) have their own certifications for the practice.

Unlike driving in other states, or even other countries—I won’t amuse you with anecdotes of teaching myself to drive on the right in the USA—these certifications are not always transferable, which may pose a problem for the movement of project managers across different organisations. If a role asks for a project manager with PMP qualifications (PMI’s Project Management Professional certification), but the individual has CPPM (AIPM’s Certified Practising Project Manager certification), which for all intents and purposes is its equivalent, then there is an extra step to explain that the qualification is comparable.

The team at PM Oracles, comprising Gareth Byatt, Gary Hamilton, and Jeff Hodgkinson, cover all this and more in the article ‘Should project managers be professionally licensed?‘ I hope you’ll take the time to read it and let us know your thoughts.

And just to let you know, I became excellent at reverse and parallel parking over years of residing at a house with an unusually shaped driveway, proving that practice does make perfect. But we’ll leave continuing professional development for another time.

Adeline Teoh ed.
Adeline Teoh is the editor of She has more than a decade of publishing experience in the fields of business and education, and has specialised in writing about project management since 2007.
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