A History of PMI & Its Role in Project Management


Every trade has its trade association, an organization that represents the industry and offers training or networking. Project management is no different.

The Project Management Institute (PMI) is a nonprofit organization for those working in project management across the globe. If you have even a passing interest in the field, then you’ve bumped up against PMI. After all, it does have millions of members throughout the world.

As an organization, it offers training and certification in project management, and it reports regularly on industry trends. The Project Management Institute also sets the standard for ethics in the field. Given its vast influence, it’s important to have a basic understanding of PMI and its history.

Quick Facts About PMI

The PMI footprint is huge. The organization serves over 2.9 million professionals in the industry and has over 500,000 members in 208 locations around the world, with 300 chapters and 10,000 volunteers.

It researches, educates, develops industry standards, publishes a journal, hosts conferences and offers globally recognized project management certifications.

The Project Management Institute periodically updates its A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, which is informed by industry volunteers and recognized by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

A History of PMI

But where did PMI start? What are the roots that uphold this giant in project management? It goes back to the 1960s when project management became a discipline in aerospace, construction and defense industries. It was from these industries that the PMI seed was planted.

In 1969, in Philadelphia, Jim Snyder, of Smith, Kline & French Laboratories, and Gordon Davis, of the Georgia Institute of Technology, were having dinner and decided there was a need for an organization that offered project managers a forum to share information and discuss their industry.

Later that year, the first formal meeting of the burgeoning organization took place at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. Afterward, articles of incorporation were filed in Pennsylvania and signed by the five founders of PMI.

The Goals & Standards of PMI

The nonprofit outlined its goals in 1975: “Foster recognition of the need for professionalism in project management; provide a forum for the free exchange of project management challenges, solutions and applications; coordinate industrial and academic research efforts; develop common terminology and techniques to improve communications; provide an interface between users and suppliers of hardware and software systems, and to provide guidelines for instruction and career development in the field of project management.”

Around that same time, PMI devoted some of its resources to developing standards for the industry. This was done through a Professional Liaison Committee, which worked with the Technology, Research Policy and Education Committees. It also worked with the American National Standards Committee and Europe’s International Project Management Association. By 1980, those efforts were standardized into project management procedures and approaches. By 1996, PMI produced the first Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK).

During the 1990s, PMI tripled its membership to 90,000 in 120 countries, under the leadership of then-president Virgil R. Carter. Following Carter, Gregory Balestrero directed PMI for a decade, starting in 2002. Currently, Mark Langley is the president of PMI.

PMI Founders

  • James R. Snyder: Founder, fellow and past volunteer executive director, president and chairman of the board, Snyder is currently a member of the Board of Directors of the PMI Education Foundation, Treasurer of the Delaware Valley Chapter and the Editorial Review Board. He was awarded PMI Man of the Year and is an Honorary Life Member. He was the project manager for the construction of PMI’s World Headquarters in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania.
  • Eric Jenett, PMP: Jenett was the first to gain Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. He’s also a PMI fellow and was president of the organization in 1971, chairman in 1972 and its secretary from 1975 to 1976. A founding member of the Houston Chapter, in 1975, he was honored for his distinguished contribution to PMI.
  • Gordon Davis, Ph.D.: Davis helped coordinate PMI’s early engagement with academic partners and was a former vice president. He was also a former PMI College of Scheduling board of directors. He has received nearly all the honors bestowed by the organization.
  • E.A. “Ned” Engman: As the national representative of CPM Marketing for the automation company McDonnell, he sent letters in 1968 inviting people to become part of the organization that would become PMI.
  • Susan Gallagher: A project manager, she was part of that first meeting of what would become PMI in Atlanta, and has served as treasurer, vice-president of technical services and director, as well as a presenter of articles in annual meetings. She played an essential role in the conception of PMI Seminars and Symposiums in 1977.


PMI developed a certification program to acknowledge skills and experience in project management. The Project Management Professional (PMP) was launched in 1984 and has since become an industry standard. In 2007, PMP was accredited by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), and as of July 2018, over 876,000 people hold this certification.

PMI certification requires that a person meet domain experience levels, educational levels or both to apply. To qualify a candidate must have three years of project management experience, 4,500 hours of leading and directing projects and 35 hours of project management education with a four-year degree.

If the candidate has a secondary degree, as in a high school diploma, associate degree or equivalent, then they need to have five years of project management experience, 7,500 hours of leading and directing projects and 35 hours of project management education.

To earn PMP certification, there is a 200-question, multiple-choice test that requires reviewing the PMP handbook which covers important project management topics such as project documentation, methodologies and techniques. Candidates can look at exam content online and get familiar with sample questions. There are also formal study courses offered by PMI chapters or accredited Registered Education Providers (REPs). Self-study books published by REPs and other reputable training organizations are also available. Additionally, it’s crucial to know A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide).

Other Types of Certification Besides PMP

PMP is but one of many certifications that are offered by PMI. There is a Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM), which is an entry-level certification that requires less project experience than PMP to qualify.

There are also credentials available in Program Management Professional (PgMP), Portfolio Management Professional (PfMP), PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP), PMI Risk Management Professional (PMI-RMP), PMI Scheduling Professional (PMI-SP) and PMI Professional in Business Analysis (PMI-PBA).

Looking for ideas for your Project Management Dissertation?

There’s also a certification as an OPM3 Professional, standing for Organizational Project Management Maturity Model, which is a best-practice standard for assessing and developing capabilities in executing strategy in projects through portfolio management, program management and project management.

Ethics in Project Management

PMI understands that a project manager is a decision-maker, and by making decisions they are impacting people, resources and environments. Therefore, their choices are not strictly business-oriented but often bleed into the ethical territory. Decisions like these can lead to dilemmas and even risks, which can leave a project manager puzzled over the right course of action. This becomes especially problematic when project managers find themselves at odds with stakeholders.

PMI attempts to wade into these ethical waters and offers some direction with its Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct and ethical decision-making framework. They have many articles, papers and webinars on the subject. The organization also offers an ethics complaint and review process as a resource to project managers. A PMI Ethics Member Advisory Group member can be contacted with questions, concerns or ideas.

PMI Events

As with most trade organizations, PMI produces a series of events for the industry. The PMI EMEA Congress 2019 takes place in mid-May in Dublin, Ireland. Over three days, there are keynote speeches, global perspectives on project management and an opportunity to network with peers in the industry.

There are also regional SeminarsWorld events given throughout the year that provide in-depth multi-day training on a specific topic. They offer practical applications and real-life solutions from experienced experts in a small group setting with hands-on instruction and individualized attention.

A Mega SeminarsWorld is like the above only with a larger selection of popular SeminarsWorld courses and featuring morning keynote speeches and organized receptions.

The organization also produces the PMI Global Conference, which attracts thousands of project management professionals from all over the world. It’s a three-day event of diversified education that covers all practices, approaches and tools in the industry. There are keynote speeches and curated breakout sessions to leading solutions and networking opportunities.

The PMO Symposium is a place to exchange best practices and new insights into the strategies and practices in project management. It also provides networking opportunities and workshops. The event is made for leaders and executives who deal with a portfolio of projects, programs and initiatives.

PMI Awards

The organization awards professionals in the industry who exhibit passion, talent and expertise in their field. Some of these awards include the PMI Fellows Award, which is the most prestigious individual award given by PMI, which recognizes service to the organization and profession.

The PMI Eric Jenett Project Management Excellence Award recognizes people who make an outstanding contribution to project management through leadership, technical project management and strategic and business management acumen.

The PMI Young Professional Award is for young project management individuals who are making a significant impact in advancing project management within an organization, advancing knowledge and understanding of project management, and showing outstanding PMI standards, practices and ethics.

There are also awards for projects, such as the PMI Project of the Year, PMI Project Excellence Award and the PMO of the Year Award.

PMI Resources

One of the founding principles of PMI is to offer resources for project management professionals. There are many, such as certification and training programs and the various events they produce, but they also have an online site.

ProjectManagement.com is a knowledge portal offering project managers a place to create and explore articles and participate in a diverse community.  There are virtual research sessions, known as the PMchallenge, to help you hone your project management knowledge and skills and, when you answer correctly, it’s reflected on your profile.

The site also has tools to help you with categories such as Agile, application lifecycle management, budgeting and forecasting, change management and more. There are also sections to help with career development, project management standards, project management in academia and assistance for new practitioners.

There are webinars on popular topics such as project planning, scheduling and reporting available on the site, both live and on-demand. They also present PDU qualifying activities that, for PMI members, can be directly reported to PMI towards remaining up-to-date on the certification.

That, templates and a rich library of industry-related articles, make PMI online a great resource and one more aspect of how this organization gives back to the industry that has given so much to them.

PMI is a great resource, one that in congress with ProjectManager is a winning hand for any project manager. Both sites provide a wealth of useful information on the industry and its practices. ProjectManager also offers a project management tool with features such as a real-time dashboard and online Gantt charts to help you take knowledge and apply it practically to your project. See how it can help your career today by taking this free 30-day trial.