Ever failed at a project because you didn't understand how to manage it? A new GartnerInstitute program wants to teach you a better way.

Closing the IT-Business Gap

Ever failed at a project because you didn't understand how to manage it? A new GartnerInstitute program wants to teach you a better way.

Despite the current labor drought for qualified IT professionals, you must demonstrate more than mere technical prowess in order to advance through the ranks of an organization. Technologists often face glass ceilings within their companies unless they can demonstrate a firm mastery of both the business and technical skills needed to help the organization accomplish its business goals.

Quite often companies use project management to gracefully segue a high-potential candidate from a purely technical role into management. On one hand, the short-term nature of projects may be an attractive proving ground for determining whether someone has the skills desired in a management candidate; on the other hand, the close ties between accomplishing business objectives and large-scale IT projects could expose the organization to a tremendous risk if the project should fail. According to GartnerGroup research, 51 percent of all IT projects exceed 200 percent of the planned budget. So the disastrous effects of a large project’s failure on the company’s bottom line become readily apparent.

Of course, other industries often have problems involving incomplete work breakdown structures that contribute to project failure. But GartnerGroup’s research indicates that the high failure rates found among IT projects are due to poor project management skills among those put in charge. Another bit of Gartner research: Nearly 30 percent of all IT projects are never successfully completed. If these failures are attributed to a lack of skill and knowledge regarding formal project management techniques, clearly companies must do something to reduce their exposure to such risks.

Reducing the Risk of Failure

Following on the success of IT-related certification programs, GartnerInstitute offers the Gartner Certified Associate (GCA) credential in Project Management. This certification allows candidates to prove proficiency in the core competencies associated with formal project management techniques. By training employees who are entering into formal projects, companies can reduce the risks associated with project failure due to poor project management skills.

While the American Management Association and the Project Management Institute (PMI) offer many courses on formal project management skills, GartnerInstitute has specifically tailored its certification to the needs of the IT profession. One key difference: The courseware focuses on helping the part-time project manager do his or her job better; project management isn’t the candidate’s primary focus.

Taking the time to master the core competencies in project management should be prerequisite knowledge for anyone involved in delivering a successful project—from the project manager all the way down to project support resources.

Have you ever considered attaining PMI’s Project Management Professional (PMP) certification? If you can’t meet PMI’s experience requirements due to the lack of a college degree or only part-time involvement in project work, Gartner’s certification track could be just the ticket to prove your knowledge of the core project management competencies.

Certification Offerings

GartnerInstitute currently offers two certifications in project management: the Gartner Certified Associate (GCA) and the Gartner Certified Professional (GCP). To obtain the GCA, you must pass a single exam on the core competencies of project management. After passing this test, you can choose to simply remain a GCA, add a specialization in either e-business or enterprise resource planning, or take the “E-Challenge” to obtain Gartner’s premier certification, the GCP. Expected to be available by the time you read this, the E-Challenge is described as an eight-week project simulation that you can manage via the Web to help assure that you’re able to put theory into practice.

Test Your Project Management Skills
1. Your project is about to enter the execution phase, and you wish to discover which aspects of the project could be modified to help improve the project’s outcome. When should this be done?
  1. You should never modify the project plan once the execution phase has been entered.
  2. Throughout the project lifecycle.
  3. Upon discovery of a task that will not be completed successfully.
  4. At the beginning of the project.

2. Which two of the following should be included in a project requirements document?

  1. Usability requirements
  2. Assignment of tasks
  3. Resource training requirements
  4. Functional requirements

3. When establishing a time estimate for a project, which two are the most important factors to consider?

  1. Resource training
  2. Time estimates to complete each task
  3. Resource availability
  4. The resource’s ability to delivery quality deliverables

4. Why should a Project Manager define a formal change control process?

  1. Eliminates scope creep for superficial changes
  2. Helps identify risks and resolutions before implementation
  3. Allows the Project Manager to decline unnecessary changes
  4. Helps increase the project schedule

5. Which formula allows you to calculate the Earned Value for a project?

  1. Budgeted Cost of Work Performed/Actual Cost of Work Performed
  2. Budgeted Cost of Work Performed/Budgeted Cost of Work Scheduled
  3. Earned value is simply the Budgeted Cost of Work Performed
  4. Earned value is the original amount budgeted for a single task or group of tasks.

Answers at the end of this article.

First Steps

To help establish the scope of work required to obtain the GCA, the following is a list of exam objectives and the approximate breakdown of questions in each section that will appear on the exam:

Scope Definition, 27%

  • Identify and define high-level business-related requirements, outcomes, and criteria for success.
  • Identify stakeholders’ low-level needs and expectations including boundaries for project budget, duration, and risk.
  • Define manager role/authority.
  • Create a scope document that accurately represents the project size and specifics.
  • Build stakeholder consensus and obtain written approval from stakeholders.

Preliminary planning/project planning, 39%

  • Project management plan.
  • Requirements analysis.
  • Risk management.
  • Budget.
  • Schedule.
  • Work Breakdown Structure (WBS).
  • Estimation.
  • Communication plan.
  • Project plan including a close out phase.

Execution, 29%

  • Project and issue tracking.
  • Change control.
  • Quality management.
  • Team management.
  • Resource management.

Closure, 5%

  • Lessons learned.

Your path to better project management skills begins by attending GartnerInstitute’s IT Project Management Core Capabilities course. This class is highly interactive—it’s presented in a format where a problem is described, the class formulates an answer, the GartnerGroup research is presented, and then further discussion ensues. In addition to classroom lecture and interactive participation, the Core Capabilities class uses many exercises to ensure that theory is quickly applied to practice.

In a room full of experienced project managers, the highly interactive nature of the course provides tremendous potential for learning well beyond the scope of the courseware through discussion of individual situational experiences. Training providers currently offer courses in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, Australia, and New Zealand. Check www.prometric.com/
to find a provider in your area.

Those who attend the Core Capabilities class receive a free license for an online test-prep software package from MeasureUp, Inc. (www.measureup.com). Taking the time to run through the practice questions will inevitably increase your chances of obtaining a passing score on the real exam. If you want to check out the questions without taking the class first, MeasureUp will sell you online access to a bank of 50 questions for six months for $15.

Despite the value of the Gartner course for increasing your project management skills, the list price of $3,250 may be cost-prohibitive if you work for yourself or a smaller firm. At the time of this writing, no third-party resources specifically focus on helping a candidate self-study for the GCA; however, because the certification is based on formal project management techniques, you may be able to use resources from PMI for self-study.

By carefully studying PMI’s Project Management Body of Knowledge, you’ll likely have more than enough knowledge required for the exam if you’ve previously been responsible for a formally managed project.

Judgment Day

Once you’ve decided on a date to take the examination, contact Sylvan Prometric to schedule your test. The IT Project Management Core Capabilities exam (test 3G0-101) costs $150 at the time of registration. Even if you usually finish certification exams with plenty of time left over, be sure to plan for a full two hours out of your day to tackle this one—you’ll likely need it to read through the questions and choose the best answers.

On exam day, be sure to bring the usual two forms of signature ID to the examination site. Once in the testing room, you’ll be presented with an 84-question multiple-choice exam, for which you’ll be allotted 120 minutes to select the best answers for all items. To achieve a passing score, you must answer at least 63 percent of all questions correctly. While this may seem a rather low pass mark for a certification, keep in mind that for many questions, the majority of answers presented are correct, however, you must select those that are most correct for the given questions. If you have difficulty with these question types, expect to have great difficulties with the Core Capabilities test; the majority of items used this format.

You’ll receive your final score when you complete the test. Within 30 days of passing the exam, GartnerInstitute should send you a certificate that proves you’ve accomplished all the requirements to become a Gartner Certified Associate. If you fail the test, you can retake it anytime you wish. GartnerInstitute doesn’t mandate any interval between attempts. Of course, it costs you an additional $150 for each effort.

Additional Information
These resources can help put your project management skills on track:

Answers: 1. b, 2. a,d; 3. b, c; 4. a, b; 5. c

The GCA certification expires after two years; that means you’ll have to retest in order to assure that you still have the required project management knowledge close at hand.

In today’s marketplace, there’s clearly a need for us technologists to take an increased role in understanding business requirements. Whether you run large IT projects yourself or serve as a resource on a project, Gartner’s Certified Associate credential will help you add greater value to your career and the organization you work for by proving your ability to apply formal project management techniques.


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