Is the PMP at the tail end of the hype cycle?

projectation's picture

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] 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 “water downed” project management practices and knowledge areas that is diminishing the spirit to which the PMP and the PMBOK to which it is applied...
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!
To read more about this:
Don Kim


Don't see why there ought to be a creative destruction of PM dogmas when there are no PM dogmas to begin with. For one thing, the PMP certification is not based on dogmas from the PMBok handed by PMI [dogma defined as "set of principles laid down by an authority as absolutely true"]. The PMBok is a standard and guide "established and evolved from the recognized [best] practices of project management practioners."  As all PMPs and PMP aspirants alike are welll aware of -- the knowledge, skills, tools and techniques embodied in the PMBok are not meant to be applied uniformly to all projects but can enhance the chances of success over many projects; the PM applies best judgment as well as organizational, influencing and leadership skills. 

Also, the PMBok and PMI/PMP global community is constantly growing and innovating:  the PMBok isn't set in stone but refreshed every two years or so with the involvement of PMPs around the world, there is active participation and discussion at PMI/PMP practice communities among all PMPs.

I agree that there is a proliferation of PMP training providers but training content does not, in any way water down the content or substance of the PMBok and the PMP exam. These trainers do not dictate nor write the content or substance of the PMBok and the PMP exam. [Correct term for diminish is "watered-down" not water-downed]. Training quality is subject to assessment from and caveat for PMP aspirant -- that is, a low quality training and or lack of adequate preparation equates to failing the PMP exam. 

Regarding the PMP hype -- there are good and bad project managers [certified or not] just as much as there are good and bad projects [this isn't a perfect world after all].  It isn't really a question of hype, it's a question of relevance.  The PMP certification IS relevant as long as there are projects to manage.  It is as much a symbol of accomplishment -- it is no small feat to prepare for a grueling 4-hour exam [similar content cannot be found anywhere except at PMI's unpublished databank]. 

projectation's picture

First off, thanks for the spell check on "water downed" (that was an embrassing mistake ).  I excerpted it from a longer blog post and I usually don't spell check those like I do formal articles.

As far as your assessment, while I don't find anything wrong with it, I wasn't talking about the PMBOK or the PMP having any dogmas.  The PMBOK is a straight up standard and BOK and the PMP is just an exam to test your competency of PMBOK knowledge and other general PM topics.

My problem is more with the dogmatic beliefs around the perception of the PMP, which is large part due to its immense popularity and the fact that it starting to sound repetitive and dull.  The training providers are following suit.

Plus to think about that it is starting to peak in popularity and what that entails.  There used to be a time when having it differentiated you as a PM, but that is starting to no longer be the case.  What are some of the next moves?

And I admit it was a bit of a rant as well.  Thanks for you thoughtful and detailed reply.

Don Kim

Thanks for your clarification.  I get it that you meant perception of the PMP as a certification that should set a project manager apart from others that are non-certified.  For one thing, dogma/dogmatic are heavy words to modify perception -- it's as if you want to debunk any esteem [or sense of achievement] for the PMP certification/PMP holder.

On another note, your overall tone seems to imply that 1- PMP certification is more like a fad [peaking popularity/going downhill] and not a real academic/professional endeavor, 2- the proliferation of and quality of training providers diminish the popularity of the PMP certification [training provider quality has no correlation to content and substance of PMBok and PMP exam], 3- the PMP is JUST an exam on PMBok competency and other general PM topics [knowledge areas such as risk, procurement, etc. aren't topics, they truly are knowledge areas]. 

It seems that you made sweeping generalizations to the effect of down-grading and disparaging the PMP certification, PMI certification standards and PMP holders [quality of project managers who are PMP-certified].  By all appearances, your views contradict the fact that you are PMP-certified, the PMP certification requires education/training and # hours of project management experience.  I have to say [and I'm sure many PMP-certified project managers who have managed projects big and small will agree], the PMP isn't just an exam.  And even if it were just an exam, one can actually practice project management studying for it since it requires discipline and thorough logical understanding of the processes combined with real-life experience.  Fact is, the PMP exam isn't a [certificate] paper mill.  Not everyone can hack it. 

I apologize for responding to your clarification. 



Hi Halle,

I totally agree with your viewpoints. Not everyone is eligible to sit for exam. Application process itself demands significant project management experience.

Of course PMP actual questions are very tough and needs solid project management experience to crack them. Claims are made by several simulators stating that the questions are close to actual exam. However it a myth.

Project manager can be successful with Domain Expertise + PMP credential. Eventhough project management skills are generic in nature, Domain expertise is critical for project success.

Ex:- A  Engineer with PMP credential may not emerge successful in handling New Drug development project as he/she lacks Drug R & D domain expertise.


projectation's picture

In my previous post titled “Is the PMP at the tail end of the hype cycle?”, I never claim my data points prove anything, but the conjecture I think is still a legitimate conclusion that in terms of the “faddish” growth factor of the PMP that it is starting to peak. I probably should have titled the article and post “Is the fad of the PMP at the tail end of the cycle” or something similar and people would not be so focused on it being an attack on the PMP which it never was. I post this response as a rebuttal to many of the responses I received on sites like LinkedIn and PMZilla.

From this fad perspective, my concern and annoyance is that you have PMP trainers, advocates and project managers who hold sacred their hard earned PMP designations to position it as THE indicator of project management competency, skills and knowledge when that’s really not the case. On the other end of the spectrum, you have a plethora of PMP boot camps that promote the idea of going through a memory pump and dump scheme that guarantees you to pass the exam or your money back. These courses will typically promote the idea to “suspend” your real world experience of the project management and just follow the “PMBOK” or “PMI” way and use memory tips and tricks to pass the exam. But once you pass you are out of the gate and can append the PMP designation to your name and make much higher salaries. I don’t think this sets a good precedent.

In my view, what this has created is the situation at hand where these two contradictory yet misinformed and inflated claims to rise to a fever pitch. What it has created is a situation in the PM community that is bereft of original ideas and deep knowledge of PM principles and practices that the PMP is suppose to exemplify.

So has the “faddishness” of the PMP peaked? Good or bad?

Originally posted on and no need to appologize as I welcome your thoughtful feedback.

Don Kim

With all due respect, what's your beef?

a) Folks who got pmp-certified not up to your utopian sense of project manager/project management or b) pmp trainers, boot camps, online courses. 

Seriously, you seem to be attacking everything about the pmp certification.  What's in it for you?  If you are so high-minded, why not take your "cause" to PMI?  If you truly want to make a positive change [instead of your own labelled ranting and negative tone], get nominated to a PMI/PMP board or lead a global community practice on change.  Forums like PMZilla are for support, share ideas and in many ways, advance project management, not for ranting and disparaging.

First, the pmp certification requires pm experience to be eligible to take the exam.  Second, everybody understands [except you perhaps] that the PMBok is a standard/guide of best pratices culled from PMPs across the world.  The exam is not exactly memorization -- you can read through all the 'lessons learned' thread here at PMZilla and other forums and everyone [except you perhaps] say memorization was/is not necessary since the exam is more of best judgement, logic and common sense. 

Any certification isn't a fad subject to peaks and downhill rides.  People swarming review/training camps to get certified as CPA [certified public accountant], CFA or any other certification or boards like medicine for doctors or law for lawyers do not diminish both the value and esteem of the certification(s).  

There is no fever pitch except your negative attacks.  No wonder there is absolutely no one on your side. 



projectation's picture

We seem to be saying kind of the same things, but the manner I am saying them seem to rub you the wrong way (and perhaps others).  It is a very interesting study on how people take written communications in a electronic forum such as this one.  If we were sitting in a room or discussing this in a conference call, the outcome would be probably different... or maybe not! 

In any event, to one of your points, I actually am a board member for a local PMI chapter and have been teaching both as a volunteer and commercially, the PMP exam since 2007.  Not to toot my horn too much, but I've always approached instructing on how to pass the PMP from the perspective of both the PMBOK (which is the meat of the exam) and general PM principles (which comprise about 20% of the rest of the exam: people reading this realize that the exam is not just based on the PMBOK!), from an integrated logical whole that's directly applicable to how they will manage projects in the real world (In fact, I'm in the process of writing a PMP prep guide as a pure ebook that will have a strong interactive online component to take advantage of a more blended approach for the new 5th edition).

Doing it in this manner has really allowed it to "sink" in and the majority of my students have not had to resort to memory tricks.  Furthermore, I get messages from them long after they took the classes and remark how they are still applying the principles and methods of approach I instructed.

Just want to set the record straight from my background.  I'm actually a big advocate of the PMBOK as a standard and what this represents to the PMP.  But I'm not a religious zealot of PMI, PMP or the PMBOK and will articulate the flaws, ugly trends or other warts I see as I see them.  Sometimes they are from a more rational, conciliatory and balanced perspective, sometimes they more impassioned boardering on a rant.  But I try never to personally attack any individual directly, but may indirectly call out things I see that no doubt involve people who are part of that "attack" such as some PMP trainers, etc.

I'm not here to get people to take my side, but am a very big advodate of project management and write and speak on the topic both professionally and on volunteer venues like this and some agree, some disagree and some get offended!  My goal though is to provoke thought and dialog.

Nevertheless, I do appreciate you taking the time out to reply and I've experienced growth from it.


Don Kim

Don't think we've been saying "kind of the same things" in several of your posts that reflect disparagement of PMI's certification process, quality of PMP-certified folks, attack on PMP trainers/courses.  For the most part, you assumed a heavy-handed and negative tone that evokes a narrow-minded mindset with the following generalizations:

1- PMP certification is a fad/hype that is peaking/going downhill [it's not a popularity contest but an academic/professional certification]

2-PMBok is a pile of general topics [knowledge areas, not topics -- enable a well-rounded, effective PM]

3- PMP is just an exam, mostly memorization hammered by mindless trainers [it's actually a test of best judgement, logic and common sense along with real-life PM experience; aspirants and PMs alike use many other project management reference and study materials such as those posted at the PMI site as well as here at PMZilla]

Not taking your rants personally.  However, one can only wonder how you were certified as your views do not reflect PMP eligibility, you've pretty much crossed every line in PMI's code of professional conduct.  Your posts demonstrate all the undesirable and destructive qualities of a PM/not a PM -- alienate everyone and attack everything that isn't up to your standards since there wasn't much about weighing options/pick best option, fitting communication, managing stakeholders/forum readers diplomatically, solving problems or offering solutions to perceived hackneyed training, understanding of other/different ideas, concepts and training methodologies.

PMZilla is a forum where many find not only positive support but insights in project management.  I think that your posts are more disconcerting than encouraging.  All that said however, makes for good exposure for aspirants on how to be a really good PM as well as lessons learned on communication.

No big deal.

Sanjay Kumar's picture

Great information, thanks for sharing but MBBS can be applied after passing the MBBS, then what is bad in the PMP.