Thursday, 15 May 2014

The 5W-How on Earning the PfMP

"What is portfolio management? I hear you say...Basically, making sure you are doing as much of the right stuff as you can – and demonstrating that you are doing it." - Steve Butler

Who, What, When, Where, Why and How of the Portfolio Management Professional certification process from Steve Butler, PMP

Project portfolio management is an emerging practice which most people acknowledge is going to be a key topic throughout 2014 and beyond. The PMI’s Portfolio Management Professional (PfMP) qualification is now live, and with nearly 1,000 people already going through the application process it is already proving popular – so for this session we thought we would give a bit more explanation as to how and why to apply, and what the process is.


The requirements for even being able to apply for the PfMP are strict – and necessarily so, since portfolio management is focussed on the more advanced concepts of aligning the investment in PPM and operational activity with a corporate (or in some cases departmental) strategy. So you need to know what you’re doing and be able to show you know what you’re doing! The credential is aimed at the seasoned practitioner, so applicants need to possess four to seven years of CONCURRENT project portfolio management experience, and at least eight to ten years of general business experience.

  - Establishing a governance model;
  - Defining and/or modifying portfolio processes, and;
  - Procedures to ensure effective governance, or;
  - Maybe even where you have determined portfolio management standards, protocols, policies, rules, and best practices in order to establish consistent portfolio management practices.
* - Years of concurrent project portfolio management experience means just that: years managing portfolios. means, as an example: if you managed a portfolio for two years, and then managed a different portfolio for three years but the final year of the first portfolio and the first year of the second portfolio overlap – that means you have four years concurrent experience rather than five).


The whole process is involved, and lays out in two stages. First is an evaluation of the application, followed by a formal exam, as follows:
PfMP Requirements and Pre-Requisites

ALSO: ALL applicants must have a minimum of 8 years (96 months) of professional business experience.
The application form is complicated, and you will be required to list your experience (both portfolio management and business, separately), so it will take you a while. In detailing your portfolio management experience, it is vital you give specific examples of what you have done and how you have done it and who you have done it to, under the five headings for each of the five domains of portfolio management as follows:

Strategic Alignment – This is an analysis of your experience in aligning a portfolio to specific strategic goals. You should focus on such things as identify prioritization criteria, rank strategic priorities, identifying various portfolio scenarios by reviewing documentation (business cases/proposals, using business planning analysis techniques – and so on).
Governance – This is where you list your experience in ensuring a portfolio is effectively managed, or in securing authorisation for executing a portfolio. Think about areas such as:
What’s more, perhaps you have experience of creating a portfolio management plan to ensure effective and efficient portfolio management. There is a lot to it.
Performance Management – Managing the performance of a portfolio to ensure it runs as efficiently as possible is another domain that you will need to show evidence of your experience in. Here, the panel will be looking for details such as evidence of you collecting and consolidating key performance metrics, or maybe in managing portfolio changes using change management techniques. Perhaps you’ve analysed and conducted the allocation/reallocation of resources (e.g., people, tools, materials, technology, facilities and financials), or monitored the performance of a portfolio’s performance on an ongoing basic. All with specific examples, of course.
Risk – Always crucial. Here, the panel will be looking for evidence of specific portfolio level risk management (not programme and not project level – there is a big difference!). Think about your experience in things like determining the acceptable level of risk for a portfolio, or maybe performing a dependency analysis. Perhaps you have developed a portfolio-level risk register or had to create a common understanding and stakeholder ownership of portfolio risks (often a challenge!).
Communications – last but not least, you will need to describe your experience in engaging with stakeholders to make sure there expectations are met, or developing the communications strategy for a portfolio. Engage stakeholders, through oral and written communication, to ensure awareness and foster support for the success of the portfolio roadmap. Think about how you maintained your communication strategy and plan, or how you made sure what you were telling your stakeholders was accurate, consistent, and complete….again with specific examples.
Remember: you could very well be audited on this information, so don’t tell porkies as you’ll be wasting your time and that of others. Also: your application will be reviewed by a panel of experts so try not to bluff; you’ll be found out. If you have not got the relevant experience, you will fall short at the final step, as you’ll fail the exam anyway. It is that tough. You will need to sit the exam before the date you are given when you complete the application and it is accepted by the panel. From that point forward, you usually have a year. Do know that you won’t have to pay a fee until after you have successfully applied.

Good luck – go for it!

This blog post was originally published at the PM-Partners blog, 23rd January 2014.

Steve Butler is Head of Delivery at p3m global. He was a Co-author of the PMI Standard for Portfolio Management, 3rd Edition, and has been a key contributor to other recent PMI publications, including OPM3, 3rd Ed., and Software Extension to the PMBOK® Guide Fifth Edition, earning special distinction as the only co-author based in the UK. Join the PMI Portfolio Management debate on our LinkedIn Group page - hosted by Steve - today.