Blog Post Image

APM Chartered Project Professional revised guidance – key changes

John Bolton John Bolton

Published: 9th May 2023

The APM have just released their revised ChPP chartered status standard and guidance notes. As an organisation that supports many candidates through their Chartered Project Professional journey, we are working hard to update all our support material like our ChPP study guide, ChPP podcasts, ChPP e-learning and other material. We, therefore, thought it would be helpful to provide a bit of a review of the new one and hopefully give potential applicants a ’heads up’ on the Chartered Project Professional revised guidance and how to navigate the new standard.

Please remember that this new standard can only be used for applications from 29th September 2023. For applications already in progress (or for those intending to apply before September) in either of the remaining two tranches (19th May and 28th July) you will be doing so under the old standard and guidance.

There are a lot of positive improvements that have been made in the ChPP revised guidance. There are also other things (some good, others not so great) that remain unchanged from the original version. Overall, though, most of the changes have been for the better. The initial CHPP standard was launched about three years ago, along with the guidance notes that go along with it.

Good changes to the CHPP revised guidance

Let’s look at the good news first. The big change is that the split of mandatory and elective competences has changed quite markedly.

1.      Change to the split of mandatory and elective competences

Original standard: In the original standard there were 11 mandatory (of which applicants chose ten) and 15 electives, of which applicants chose just two. Under the new scheme this has been changed and the choice applicants have now is wider.

Revised 2023 Standard: The choice is now of seven competence areas, where 5 have a choice between 2 and then Risk and Issue Management plus Stakeholder Engagement and Communication Management.  Applicants should then choose five from the elective competences. The full list is:

Mandatory competences
Budgeting and cost control
Financial management
Change control
Conflict resolution
Governance arrangements
Integrated planning
Schedule management
Team management
Risk and issue management
Stakeholder engagement and communication management
Elective competences
Assurance Benefits management
Business case
Capability development
Contract management
Diversity and inclusion – New!
Life cycles – New!
Portfolio shaping
Quality management
Requirements management
Resource capacity planning
Resource management
Solutions development
Sustainability – New!
Transition management

There are three completely new competencies:

  • Diversity and Inclusion
  • Life Cycles
  • Sustainability

Two old ones have had significant name changes:

  • Asset allocation which has ‘morphed’ into Portfolio Shaping and
  • Consolidated Planning which has similarly adopted a new title of Integrated Planning

Both of these have retained primarily the same criteria as the old, but with substantial modifications. The good news is that the confusion and misunderstanding that proliferated with Consolidated Planning can be consigned to the bin – Hurrah!

Frameworks and Methodologies has been dropped altogether, presumably because of the high degree of overlap it had with the retained Governance arrangements. Some others have had minor changes made to their names presumably to make their purpose clearer, mirror the competence framework and to help re-position the competence statements therein. Most of the other names have been carried over from the previous version although most with considerable alterations made to their constituent indicators, but more of that below.

This new (mandatory / elective) split has a few quite significant advantages and, in some cases, will make the application process easier, but more importantly more accessible to the ‘non’ project manager roles, such as PMO, Estimators, Risk Analysts, Sponsors, etc. there is now far less focus on the old narrow and large band of mandatory competences.

Why are the new ones grouped in the way they are? Well, there can be a lot of speculation, but the effect the APM have had is to make the demands of the application less prescriptive and, as mentioned, more open to other role profiles. Most of them are reasonably understandable: Integrated Planning and Schedule Management are decent options to go together. A Project Manager may more obviously be able to demonstrate how they created, updated and maintained a project schedule (Gantt chart), whereas a Programme Manager may be able to relate more closely to a more high level and broad interpretation of an integrated plan, if they don’t have the necessary exposure to the lower level of detail of the former.

The only pairing that may appear a bit odd is offering Change Control and Conflict Resolution. These do not seem to be obvious bed fellows. The assumption is still the same though, in that, by providing more options an applicant who can demonstrate one and not the other is better served. Overall, the new structure is far better, it allows more flexibility and hopefully will not exclude applicants if they are not able to demonstrate the full range of all the (previous) competences.

2.      Lower score to pass

The second big change revealed in the Chartered Project Professional guidance notes is lost a bit in the detail. On page 19 of the guidance notes, right down the bottom on the right-hand side it says, “Technical Knowledge score 7 or more”. Now then, for anyone new to all of this it may seem like an innocuous statement, but to remind you the old version required a score of 8 for Technical Knowledge at interview. Bearing in mind only 4 areas are tested, and these can only score 0,1 or 2, the applicant had to score 2 for each of the four areas. This meant that if they missed just one mark, in one competence, in the interview, they would have failed. This to my mind was always an inappropriately high bar and I welcome the change. It doesn’t mean the interview has or will become easier, there is nothing to indicate that, but it does mean there is a lower score to pass.  

3.      Greater reference to the APM competence framework

Thirdly, there is a slightly greater reference to the APM competence framework, which underpins the guidance notes and the standard, but realistically does not add a huge amount by way of greater detail.

4.      Changes to the whole area of Ethics

The whole area of ethics has been changed, and in Appendix 3 of the guidance there is a clear list of criteria. The old standard required applicants to ‘meet the criteria’, but then none were published. This has been rectified for the better. To remind you, Ethics will come up at the interview. You have been warned whichever route applicants choose.

5.      Assessment criteria

Finally, we get to the assessment criteria themselves. These have obviously had a lot of work done on them, and for the better. The previous version had a lot of very wordy and sometimes unwieldy criteria, that were not as clear or meaningful as they could (and should) have been. Mostly these have now been re-written and re-structured and to my mind make a lot more sense. Some examples that I would mention particularly are around risk and issue management the split has become far clearer, as risks are different from issues (or so we are led to believe – discuss!), and so it makes eminent sense that this difference is reflected in the criteria. For example

Old guidanceNew guidance
PP1.1 continually identify risks and issues within a project PP1.1 Continually identified risks within a project.
PP1.2 create a risk management plan including potential impact and suitable responses.  PP1.2 Created a risk register including potential impact and suitable responses.
PP1.3 record issues, how they were resolved, and their implications to inform planning for future projects.  PP1.4 Capture and recorded issues, how they were resolved, and their implications to inform planning for future projects.
PP1.4 transfer, accept or avoid unresolved risks at the end of a project.  PP1.7 Transferred and/or formally closed unresolved risks at the end of a project or phase.
PP2.1 assess the probabilities and impacts of the risks within a project and plan their responses.  PP1.3 Assessed the probabilities and impacts of risks and planned their responses.
PP2.2 assess and plan responses to issues.  PP1.5 Reacted, assessed, and planned responses to issues.
PP2.3 implement responses to risks and issues including escalation, addressing any implications for the futurePP1.6 Implemented responses to risks and issues including escalation, recording lessons learned.

Applicants can also see how the tense has changed. These are Professional Practice, so applicants need to show how things were done (in the past), not how things are done now, or how it could be done (Technical Knowledge). Also, from the above, the role of the Risk Management Plan has been clarified, in fact dropped, and the more accurate reference to the risk register has become prominent. Hurrah!

Not so good changes to the CHPP revised guidance

Let’s look at what’s not so good…

1.      Critically analyse and critically evaluate

During the interview the assessors are expected to discuss 6 Professional Practice areas and 4 Technical Knowledge areas with applicants. To do so the Technical Knowledge areas have specific terms that are used in the guidance to steer applicants. Fortunately, they have dropped the ‘Discuss’, ‘Suggest’, ‘Analyse’ and ‘Evaluate’ terms from the previous version – Hurrah! BUT… they have still not clarified the terms they have retained in the Technical Knowledge criteria. They now only use the two:

  • Critically analyse and
  • Critically evaluate.

But have not defined what they mean. When we coach potential applicants, this is still an area that confuses everyone. At least now we have just the two, so hopefully the confusion will be less. I have attempted to clarify the purpose of these two terms and to go some way to interpret them below. 

Critically analyse

Here the applicant should describe the aspects of a thing (process, document, etc.) and be able to describe its detailed content, its relationship with other constituent parts (for example in a process). For example, this car has four wheels, five seats and is blue. It has four wheels as this makes it stable. This change control process has five steps which are… and be able to describe each step. It has these precise steps because… xyz. It is a factual, objective analysis without much by way of personal judgement or critique. 

Critically evaluate

Evaluate means ‘to place a value on’ so it requires an element of comparison (something cannot be judged against itself). This car is this big, that car is that big, this car is therefore bigger/smaller than that car. It then further requires the placing objective measures on one thing and then using those measures to compare and elaborate and to provide an element of objectivity (judgement, preference, etc.). The change control process on that project didn’t work very well because… xyx. I tried to use earned value, but it didn’t really work because… xyx and in future, I may choose to do it like this… xyx.

I know that there are other equally lucid descriptions of these terms, and some rebel against these (my) definitions and have their own. I don’t profess to know the precise answer here, but I have tried to research and synthesize these definitions as reasonably as possible and offer them up as a way of conceptualizing the differences between the two. This hopefully helps in the understanding of where these are coming from. In essence, critically analyse = objective analysis, critically evaluate = subjective opinion and judgement based on analysis.

2.      Numbering changes

The numbering of the various competences has changed and the somewhat arbitrary split between the PP1.n and the PP2.n has been removed. They could be rationalised further as: PP1, PP2, etc., but the APM have not seen fit to go that far. Small point, just a bit annoying.

3.      Competence framework considerations

The guidance points the applicant towards the competence framework for areas that they may want to consider when compiling their application. It is not altogether clear whether these items are a comprehensive list of things that MUST, or simply a list of things that COULD be used by an applicant in either a written and/or interview context. I guess if the applicant is stuck for what the criteria is all about then these items will provide a bit of a nudge.

Areas that have stayed more or less the same

There are still a range of services identified in the guidance to be offered by APM and applicants can clearly avail themselves of these.

1.      Application routes remain the same

The application routes are still the same (Route 1, 2 or 3) where recognised assessments can obviate the need to demonstrate professional practice or technical knowledge or both. Applicants will need to check the APM website for the latest position relating to these, as the list does occasionally have additions made to it. The interview process is still the same as is the split of Professional Practice and Technical Knowledge areas to be questioned with 6 of the former and 4 of the latter.

2.      Project experience remains the same

The demands of the project experience have also not radically changed and the items to be demonstrated for the written application are more or less the same and the criteria pretty much also unchanged, but they are now a lot clearer. For example, the old standard required that a project overview demonstrate: –

Multiple interdependent stakeholders possibly with competing interests. The words in italics have now been dropped, which is very welcome as they were completely meaningless in the context of an application (the stakeholders may possibly have, but they may possibly not have) competing interests. An adverb like this is open to interpretation either way. Anyway, all’s good here now.

In a similar vein, the word uncertainty has been dropped from the conflicting objectives criteria. Uncertainty is after all enveloped within the criteria relating to risk, it was confusing and unnecessary. So again, a change for the better.

So, again, all the rest is more or less the same, the application process (although there is a diagram on page 18 that makes no sense to me), is supposed to help potential applicants navigate the process. The words around who the standard is aimed at, how to apply, etc. have been carried over more or less unchanged as have the words around the interview process, the need for proposers, etc.

I hope this little precis of the ChPP revised guidance notes has helped you – potential ChPP applicants, please let me know how you get on…

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.