IPMA and PMI certification differences

There are a various standards and methods in regards to project management. Trying to grasp them all at the same time can make one’s head spin. Particularly due to their different vocabulary covering basically the same things.

For instance, there are the two well known project management certification paths and associated methodologies by PMI and by the IPMA. Their principles are very similar – at least from what I’ve seen so far – but they differ in wording.

PMI’s definition of project management is separated into different knowledge areas:

Project Integration Management: defining the charter and scope statement plus a viable project plan; monitoring and controlling project work

Project Scope Management: creation and planning, protection and fulfillment of project scope, includes creation of work breakdown structure (WBS)

Project Time Management: definition of activities, their properties and how they fit into the project schedule; prioritize and put them into order, define how long they take and decide how long the project will take

Project Cost Management: planning, estimating, budgeting and control of costs; remember the iron triangle: bound to time and quality and scope

Project Quality Management: planning and controlling quality in a project

Project Human Resource Management: staffing or more general staff acquisition and team development (this alone could fill a book)

Project Communication Management: details about how to communicate in the project; defining repetitive communication and outline escalation channels, etc.

Project Risk Management: assessment of risk; planning, analysis, monitoring and control of risk

Project Procurement Management: make or buy decisions; procurements and contract management

It’s a beautiful structure which gives guidance and is easy to understand. IPMA’s competence baseline document (download here or a German version here) in comparison splits into different competence areas:

Technical competence: the foundation of project management procedures like requirements management, risk management, controlling and so on

Behavioral competence: soft skills required for project management; attitudes and inter-personal relationships between project members

Contextual competence: anything relating to the context of projects – the relationship between the project manager and the overall organization and management

From what I’ve read so far, the ICB looks a lot like a glossary of terms outlining all the important project management terms – from startup and writing a charter to project closure (or close-out as it is called in the ICB). It’s a good read but it will not give you any practical advice since this is one of the things the ICB is defined not to be: it is not meant to be a cookbook full of recipes but instead lay the foundation that any organization may pick up to develop into its actual project management implementation. A whole chapter is dedicated to the certification and re-certification procedure. I highly recommend it to anyone considering joining the IPMA or PMI.

A particular nice feature of the ICB is, that the IPMA clearly permits national chapters to add up to 10 percent in content and methods for nation-specific details when building a national competence baseline (NCB).

Overall I think that both programs – IPMA’s and PMI’s – work well even if combined. IPMA’s ICB is certainly more theoretical while PMI’s PMBOK sides more on the practical toolset side – even if just a tiny bit (e.g. by taking into account procedures like EVA and more practical applications in regards to risk management and scheduling).

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