Issah How long have you been practicing Project/Program management?


I have been practicing project and program management for the past 13 years , the last 6 years I have been more into program and portfolio management. Program Management is the natural career progression  for any practicing career project management professional. Early in 2007 I earned my PMP, Ghana and our ‘big brothers’ Nigeria  had  few PMPs then. Apart from practicing project and program management in the corporate world, I have also been involved in trainings for institutions and had several consulting engagements on a part time with companies in Ghana. I assisted several individuals to write and pass the PMP exam since 2007.

What motivated you to pursue PgMP?.

Program management is the next level after project management. Personally I thought having a program management knowledge and certification differentiated me from the over 400,000 PMPs in the world. The PgMP Certification recognizes gives one an international recognition and credibility on  knowledge  and skills of managing multiple related projects.

At the time I earned my PgMP  in 2010  I was among the first 500 in the world and of course the first person within Central , East and West Africa. I read some publications in  the Nigerian papers  of someone earning  PgMP. The numbers are still few worldwide anyway.

The benefits of the knowledge acquired and being certified are  numerous and cannot at all be quantified. For me it  added value to my career and allows me to speak more as an authority in the area of using best practices to manage programs. The process of acquiring the certification is more rigorous and laborious than the PMP. The standard for Program Management gives a detail perspective on program Governance, stakeholder and benefit management  as well as the life cycle of the program which are critical knowledge areas for managing multiple related projects that are targeted towards a strategic goal.

Have the PMI guidelines for implementing projects helped you and your organisation?.

The PMI guides and especially the PMBOK Guide is a world standard and has been a useful guide in managing projects. Many confuse the guides as methodologies but indeed they are guidelines for managing projects. Personally a continuous use of the PMBOK guide has helped me in putting some logical structure and plan in whatever I do.

My Organisation uses Prince2 method which I am also certified. The two are not competing but complementary if applied properly. However I have always advised that people start with the PMBOK Guide which teaches the real use of tools and techniques required of a project manager. I use the PMBOK Guide for training entry level  project managers in my organisation.

Any Significant differences between managing programs and projects in the real world?.

Thereare quite significant differences in managing programs from a project. You need to have practiced as a project manager and have years of experience to become a programs manager. Programs are simply a group of multiple related projects managed in a harmonized manner to achieve benefits and control that would have not been possible from managing the projects individually. From the PMI definition a big project does not qualify as a program..

In the real world Program managers are responsible for  providing  leadership to project managers, providing the enabling environment for the project managers to achieve and deliver on their deliverables.

The scope of programs are larger and have more strategic implications as compared to the scope of projects. Whilst in projects you are just focused on getting the job done, as a program manager you are more focused on alignment of projects to strategic goals.

The program manager is responsible for communicating the big picture of the organisation and ensures that all projects have strategic alignment to strategy. In summary the role of the program manager is a bigger responsibility in organisations and certainly the next career step for project managers.

Any Challenges in managing projects and Programs the PMI way?.

The PMI guide continues to evolve with constant reviews being released as versions making it very relevant standard for all times. The standard for program management is still  new, evolving and maturing.

My concern with the PMBOK Guide is the little emphasis on the Business Case which is basically an input for the Project Charter. The Business Case gives the financial justification for the project, Not only should it just be an input for the charter but should be reviewed regularly to ascertain the viability of the project. The guide is very silent on these reviews..

One area also that needs emphasis is the need to have a guide on how to go about  environmental issues as practioners. It should not be left to just ethics and regulatory bodies. Projects indeed contribute a lot to the environmental issues of this world and we can not ignore it as practioners. In the developing world regulatory bodies are weak to enforce standards as such a guide to provide to project managers would be very useful.

What can PMI do bring value to its members?.

Not sure how often we have had visits from the Global PMI executives. I know there have been some visits from the Executives to places like India where they have interacted with stakeholders and  governments. We need these executives to visit the local chapters and help strengthen the good work that is being done by the local chapter.

Having such visit from PMI  would give Ccedibility to the chapters chapters in the eyes of the government and institutions.

The chapter should envision  having a say in public projects and have members sit on boards on large public sector projects. In this way we can influence the use of best practices in the implementation of public sector projects.

Advise for members?.

Members should continually enhance their knowledge in project management  through trainings, workshops or conferences. The field is very dynamic and things are changing and one needs to be abreast with new technologies , methods and tools to remain competitive and abreast.

We should aim to be seen globally by joining forums and groups and contributing and sharing ideas.

Personal Profile of Mr. Issah Abdul-Wahab

A versatile professional with strong strategic change management, portfolio, program and project management skills. Expert in translating and communicating business strategy and new technological concepts to all levels of management and staff

Considerable local and international experience leading Supply Chain, Information Technology, ERP Systems Deployment, Process Improvement – S&OP and New Product Development.

A project management consultant and trainer who has over the years trained several individuals to gain PMI certifications in West Africa.

The first PMI certified program manager in West Africa.

Currently the Regional Head of New Product Development - Africa, PZ Cussons.

Positions held in the past:

  • Head - Information Technology and Systems, PZ Cussons Ghana
  • IT Manager, Ghana Agro-Food Company Limited
  • Senior IT Coordinator, Nestle Ghana Limited.