Technical skills acquired through certification are not enough to guarantee professional advancement and project success.

There is no question that the knowledge gained by PMI, IIBA, ITIL, Agile and other technical training and certifications is of great value to both the professionals who receive them and the organizations where they are employed. As I am out working, teaching and speaking in the industry, I encourage people work diligently to attain these certifications, and to become active in the organizations that sponsor them.  

For example, if you’re working toward, or have already received a PMP, PMI-ACP, PMI-PBA or other PMI certification, you should consider joining your local PMI chapter. If you’ve receive an ECBA, CBALT or other IIBA certification, why not become involved in your local IIBA chapter?

I advise CIOs and other senior IT executives to support this involvement by their team members in the form of the time needed to participate, and membership fees. It helps expand their knowledge, build their professional networks, potentially generating hiring referrals, and it keeps them abreast of professional and industry trends. 

The ROI of Technical Certifications

Beyond the certifications themselves, the question is, “are the technical skills contained within these certifications enough to guarantee professional advancement and project success?”   

My belief is, “No they are not,” and the professional organizations who sponsor these certifications seem to agree. Two-thirds of The PMI Talent Triangle is soft skills based: “Leadership” and “Strategic and Business Management.” As an additional example, the IIBA BABOK contains several underlying soft skills competencies which support and enhance the practice of business analysis.

It has been my experience that soft skills - interpersonal communication, business knowledge and leadership abilities - are of great value in all activities and at all levels of IT. This is particularly true in client-facing roles, such as Program Manager and Business Analyst. 

At the individual contributor level, when working with teammates in IT, the following skills help facilitate team harmony and position the employee as a leader among his peers:

  • conflict resolution
  • influence
  • negotiation
  • constructive conversations
  • interpersonal communication

When working with internal clients, these previously mentioned skills have great value, especially if they are augmented by the following:

  • client service
  • consulting best practices
  • problem solving
  • change management

For first-line managers, project leaders and technical leads, add to the above list these soft skills:

  • teambuilding
  • delegation
  • motivation

Agile/Scrum-specific Soft Skills

By their nature, Agile/Scrum-driven projects require a high level of interpersonal communication, teamwork, problem solving, and decision making. Those in the key roles of Scrum Master and Product Owner require specialized skills including service leadership, negotiation, conflict resolution, and influence. These enhance their ability to organize their teams.

For Project Owners, skills in change management, strategic thinking and collaborative consulting help them work in stronger partnership with stakeholders and business users.

There are additional role-based and situational skills, such as how to lead a virtual team, that will enhance productivity, effectiveness and business value. 

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