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Project Management: A Continuing Education

Friday, September 16, 2016 - James Stanger - Here at CompTIA, I lead teams that manage our industry-leading certifications, as well as our continuing education program. I’ve been lucky to work with teams of deeply-talented people. Sometimes, we work on projects to introduce new certifications, such as the upcoming Cybersecurity Analyst (CSA+) certification. Other times, we are involved in projects to update existing certifications, such as A+, which we just updated this past December. None of these projects is as simple as you might think. No matter how “well-traveled” some of us might be in creating certifications, there are always new twists in the road.


Recently, two projects have kind of nicely converged in my life. First, we have been working to create some changes in our Continuing Education (CE) program. Specifically, we’re creating three new ways that individuals can renew their participation in the CE program. We already have a very successful program. But we felt it was time to introduce three new ways for individuals to participate more fully. These new ways are designed to match how people prefer to learn these days.


The first of these new options are the new recertification exams. The A+ recertification exam is already live. You’ll be seeing new exams for Network+, Security+, and others over the next several months. The second new option will involve having individuals read content that has been curated from around the Web. This content will help people learn more about new developments in essential technologies, such as the Internet of Things, or how Linux is used at the help desk. CE students will then be quizzed about their understanding of these new concepts and ideas. A third option involves a sophisticated learning engine that helps students focus on learning new concepts without having to repeat learning material that they already know. But I digress.


I won’t go into the details of these new CE options. My point in mentioning these CE changes is that in order to make them happen in a good way, we’ve had to engage in some pretty sophisticated project management. For example, to introduce these new options, we’re currently managing Web development and database contractors. We’re also in the throes of a project where we’re re-defining the user’s journey on our Web site. We’re also in the midst of managing pesky e-commerce issues, and are working with a new provider of sophisticated e-learning solutions. Finally, we’ve been defining a project that will help us more efficiently validate an individual’s exam credentials so that they can very easily verify their participation in the CE program.


For each of these projects, we’ve had to gather stakeholders, hold kick-off meetings, create Gantt charts, and work on change control. As you might expect, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all of these changes. Thankfully, I’m surrounded by team members who know their project management basics. But I’m even luckier for another reason: We’re also updating the Project+ certification right now. In fact, this is the second big project I’d like to tell you about.


The existing Project+ certification (PK0-003), has received many accolades over the years. It does a fine job at helping people become what I call “entry-level professional” project managers. Recently, GlobalKnowledge, a leading training company, has listed Project+ as a certification with considerable “staying power.” Tom’s ITPro has provided a nice list of industry-leading project management certifications.


Before I go any further, I also wanted to point out that for some years now, Project+ is designed for any individual who wants to validate their experience. It doesn’t just focus on how an IT worker creates a project. Project+ validates industry-standard skills for any project manager.


One of the truly unique things about Project+ is that it focuses on practical project management knowledge. It isn’t overly theoretical. It is also designed for people who are professionals, but are just starting out. We don’t require you to prove years of experience in order to earn your Project+ certification. Why?


Project managers from around the world have told us that it’s vital for us to create a robust certification that allows more people to start their project management journey. Yes, Project+ is challenging. But it’s not designed for the person who has 15 years of project management experience. It’s designed to be the first step in your professional career.


But, no profession stays still for very long. The advent of DevOps, for example, has caused project management professionals to re-evaluate how to apply fundamental concepts. Changes in approaches involving Agile  (and SCRUM), and waterfall have also swept the industry. So, over the past year, we’ve been executing a well-devised plan to introduce the fourth generation of Project+.


In fact, we have just announced that the Project+ beta is now available. You can learn more about the beta at the following page:


At the above URL, you can either take the existing Project+ certification, or take the new one. It’s your choice. This page allows you to download the objectives for the current exam (PK0-003), or for the upcoming fourth iteration of Project+. If you’re ready to certify now, you’ll have to take the 003 exam, because as of this writing we’re currently in the throes of creating the new one.


Thank goodness we’re working on this beta, because as I reviewed the new objectives, I discovered that they helped me keep things on track for our new CE program. The new Project+ objectives for the PK0-004 exam helped me stay on track in defining roles for people. For example, it helped me identify project coordinators and stakeholders. It helped me execute and develop project schedules more efficiently. When our IT department mentioned that they’re going with an Agile approach, I wasn’t lost in their terminology.


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