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Why ISO 21500 Can’t Replace the PMP Certificates?

However, there are many recognized certifications bodies that certify the project managers e.g. PMI, IPMA, and PRINCE2. The companies wants to be sure that their projects run with the highest level of quality and with the best project management knowledge and know-how. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) had released in 2012 the first informative standard (ISO 21500) that focus on project management methodologies. However, some debates are periodically popping up with the common question that is this ISO 21500 designed to replace other project management certificates.

In this article we covered some introduction about ISO 21500, why it developed and how it aligned/different with other project management certificates (the PMP certificates set as an example)    

ISO 21500 introduction, Simply the ISO 21500 is an international standard that provides a generic guidance on project management, ISO 21500 technical committee started in 2007 and released in 2012. The ISO 21500:2012 is a guidance document, therefore, it is not proposed to be used for certification purpose. 

Why ISO 21500 was founded?

The ISO 21500 was founded for two main reasons, Firstly, the new ISO 21500 will be the Key reference for the project management practices development profession. By the way, the PMI confirmed this fact in last project management body of knowledge (PMBOK) edition (5th edition that issued at 2013), an edition that shared with similar ISO structure with little bit difference I some processes (less than 5%). Similarly, the IPMA Competency Baseline (4th edition that issued at 2014) already tends to follow the same ISO 21500 direction. In some details, the ISO technical committee (ISO/PC 236) was formed in 2007, they were directly deal with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), an institute that responsible for reviewing and approving the four standards that used PMI materials. In addition, The IPMA was involved (as category A liaison) and contributed to the first ISO 21500 edition.

Secondly, the ISO 21500 also designed to align with other standards, such as, ISO plans for this standard (21500) to be the first in a family of project management standards. ISO also designed this standard to align with other, related standards such as Quality management systems − Guidelines for quality management in projects (ISO 10006:2003) and Risk management – Principles and guidelines (ISO 31000:2009).

How ISO 21500 align and difference with PMP certificate?

Definitely, the PMBOK Guide content designed to be applicable for most project types most of the time.  The PMBOK described 47 processes spread out in to 10 knowledge area.  Each process having inputs, tools, techniques and outputs.

The ISO 21500 is an informative standard, it looks like the PMBOK Guide but without tools and techniques. There are 10 “subject groups” that reflect the 10 PMI “knowledge areas”. The 10 subject groups contain 40 processes, and each process also belongs to one of five process groups.

Conversely, the PMP and ISO 21500 are showing some differences in the project constraints, the ISO 21500 demonstrates the project constraints with: “scope, quality, schedule, resources and cost”, whereas, the PMP limited the project constrains with the factors that limiting the project execution only. Additionally, the PMBOK Guide clearly focus on the “project manager” and what she/he should do, whereas the ISO 21500 provides an internationally agreed project management terminology which maybe comply with any recognized project management approach.

From naming perspectives, we get slightly different between PMBOK Guide and ISO 21500. The changes are stored in “Change Log” as named by PMBOK Guide or “Change Register” as named by ISO 21500, similarly, the project closed with final “Project closure documents” as named by PMBOK Guide or “Project closure report” as defined in ISO 21500.

The conclusion is that, the ISO 21500 defines a generic guidance against which project management methodologies are followed, it focuses on the project methodologies not on the project manager/team responsibilities. The ISO 21500 has no tools nor techniques to be implemented, only guidelines to comply organization in the project management domain. 

Further reading: (ISO 21500 Guidance on Project Management: A Pocket Guide)

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