Is the PMP at the tail end of the hype cycle?
At a recent talk I gave for PMI-LA’s North LA county meetup, was on the dilemma of what to do after obtaining the PMP. As an instructor for their PMP prep course that’s held two times a year since 2007 and the wonderful students I have kept in touch with after the classes as well as PMs that I regularly work and network with, this seems to be a prevent problem. I plan to write more about this as well as speak at local groups on this topic.
But what I’d like to focus on is a section from my presentation where I discussed the proposition that the PMP’s rise and popularity may have peaked. I align this phenomenon to the well know Gartner’s “Technology Hype Cycle”:
This was created by Gartner in 1995 to visualize the adoption, rise and maturity of specific technologies. This is used to “characterize the over-enthusiasm or “hype” and subsequent disappointment that typically happens with the introduction of new technologies. Hype cycles also show how and when technologies move beyond the hype, offer practical benefits and become widely accepted.”
Here’s a brief explanation of the five phases outlined in the graphic:
- “Technology Trigger” — The first phase of a hype cycle is the “technology trigger” or breakthrough, product launch or other event that generates significant press and interest.
- “Peak of Inflated Expectations” — In the next phase, a frenzy of publicity typically generates over-enthusiasm and unrealistic expectations. There may be some successful applications of a technology, but there are typically more failures.
- “Trough of Disillusionment” — Technologies enter the “trough of disillusionment” because they fail to meet expectations and quickly become unfashionable. Consequently, the press usually abandons the topic and the technology.
- “Slope of Enlightenment” — Although the press may have stopped covering the technology, some businesses continue through the “slope of enlightenment” and experiment to understand the benefits and practical application of the technology.
- “Plateau of Productivity” — A technology reaches the “plateau of productivity” as the benefits of it become widely demonstrated and accepted. The technology becomes increasingly stable and evolves in second and third generations. The final height of the plateau varies according to whether the technology is broadly applicable or benefits only a niche market.
Before I move on to this discuss how this pertains to the PMP certification (and for that matter, to project management in general), another equally important and similar view comes from the “Technology Adoption Lifecycle” and business technology writer Geoffrey Moore’s famous notion of a technologies “crossing the chasm” in his book “Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling Disruptive Products to Mainstream Customers“, where a technologies goes from enthusiastic early adopters and crosses the chasm to the mainstream. Just think of Facebook’s rise from its humble beginnings with university students to now being used by pretty much everyone on the internet. Here’s a visual of this phenomenon:
So now to what all this means in regard to the PMP and my question whether it is has possibly peaked and on its way towards the end of the popularity cycle. Here’s a nice graphic displayed in PMI’s REP handbook:
This graph shows a tremendous growth of the PMP since its inception in 90’s. As I mentioned in my talk to PMI-LA’s North LA meetup, as of now the number of PMPs has grown to 494,594 as of October 2012, which indicates the popularity and people obtaining the certification is still growing. But if you overlay the graph with a curved line its starts to reveal something else:
No doubt it has crossed the chasm into main steam project management and is in fact pretty much the world’s most widely recognized and sought after certification in the project management world and I’d go so far as to say one of the most popular among all certifications especially right now in the IT field. A recent ZD Net survey of the top 5 IT certifications that will be in demand for 2013 places the PMP in 3rd place.
But what the graphic also illustrate is that the PMP’s momentum may be peaking. It is about right at the “peak of inflated expectations” from the Gartner hype cycle, to having the majority of the early adopters already certified or getting certifications in the near future. I am personally witnessing from actual colleagues and project managers I talk and network with to what I see posted on PM discussion boards on popular sites like LinkedIn, that there’s indications of “Trough of Disillusionment” outlined by Gartner where those who either obtained their PMPs to those who work with PMP certified PMs, where the quality of work expected from both ends are failing to meet the expectation set forth from it. Though this may be an anecdotal observation, I think its quite representative of the realities out there.
In addition, there has no doubt been a explosion of training providers offering boot camps, workshops and online courses with instruction all claiming to be able to allow you to “pass on your first try or your money back.” One of my pet peeves is that many (but not all) of these providers are all starting to look alike, provide low quality instruction and worse, instruct on the trite, banal, hackneyed and “watered down” project management practices and knowledge areas that is diminishing the spirit to which the PMP and the PMBOK to which it is applied.
What does this all mean? First of all, for those contemplating getting their PMP and who’s main profession is managing projects, you should still obtain it. It is all but a requirement (or “strongly” recommended) for many organizations. I have a free resource here that will help you. This post is part rant, a cautionary tale and a call to action that PM industry seems to be stagnating. Agile is still pretty hot, but it is showing signs that it may be peaking and is becoming a commodity as well.
What’s needed is innovation, creative destruction of PM dogmas and fresh perspectives so that the field keeps evolving and growing. For those on the frontier, its right about time for these to occur in the PM field!