March 2014
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Feature Articles

Small Team, Big Challenges

By Vimal Kumar Khanna

Managing small teams presents unique challenges immensely different from the challenges in managing large teams. This article suggests techniques to address these challenges based on the experiences of global leading software organisations such as Novell, Cabletron, QLogic, Atheros and Mindteck.

Motivating the Team

Members from small teams may have limited challenges or growth opportunities, which can lead to a lack of motivation. Here are some of the constraints and potential solutions:

1. Companies have strict policies on the percentage of team members who can be rated high, to maintain a “bell-curve” in the organisation (e.g., if only 15 percent of team members can be rated “A,” then in a 6-member team only one can be rated “A”). This limit is quite constraining especially when a team has many star performers.

2. Instead of forcing the “bell-curve” on individual teams, spread it across multiple small teams. For instance, form a 30-member virtual team from five 6-member teams. In performance rating meetings, team managers can then present their cases to the VP of engineering to select the top five members among these teams for “A” rating. Since the VP is aware of each team’s relative performance, he or she can ascertain which teams have more high performers. More members of those teams can then be rated “A.”

3. As large teams have multiple hierarchies, only senior members have interface with external entities such as the product manager and customers. In a small team, you can motivate the team by including relevant members in meetings with these external entities when their module is discussed. As young team members interact with customers, they can understand their requirements and learn how to convert them into new features for the product. They also get to interact with the product manager, which helps them understand product strategies. This exposure trains them on tasks that engineers with their experience usually do not handle, and prepares them for future major responsibilities and gets them excited about their work.

4. In small teams, there is never enough manpower for available tasks. Convert this constraint into an opportunity by assigning multiple varied tasks to each team member. It will make each member learn and apply multiple technologies and techniques, an opportunity a small module in large project may not provide. The challenge of executing varied tasks can keep team members motivated.

Mitigating Attrition Impact

Attrition has a more severe impact on small teams than on large teams. These following techniques can help to prevent or mitigate attrition impact:

1.  Avoid choosing team members who are related
For instance, if the team has a husband–wife combination, it is likely that both will leave together when one leaves the organisation.

2.  Groom backups for team members
Large teams have the luxury of having additional resources who are assigned as backups. Unfortunately, small teams are constrained of resources and cannot plan for backups within the team. Work in tandem with the manager of a large team in the organisation to earmark a resource within his or her team as a backup. Regularly involve this resource in project functions so that he or she is aware of the project. Hence, if a member of a small team leaves, the resource may be able to join as his or her replacement.

However, if the company itself is small, you will not be able to depend on another team for backups. Instead, outsource some project tasks to a services company. Hence, the services company’s resource will act as your backup.

Multiple Roles for Managers

As managers leading small teams typically have a low workload, they are generally assigned additional responsibilities such as being an individual contributor (i.e., developer/tester) within the team or managing additional projects. However, these options do not optimise the manager’s expertise because of the following reasons:

  • The manager is a senior resource. If he or she works as an individual contributor, his or her expertise is therefore underutilised.
  • The manager has gathered deep knowledge of technical and business domains of the project he or she is managing. If assigned to manage an additional project, his or her expertise of his or her current project is not being aptly utilised.

Hence, you may consider assigning the manager additional roles that are directly related to his or her project. Possible roles in product and services companies are:

Product Companies Services Companies
  • Product Management: Become a product manager for his or her product development project — study competing products, gather new requirements from customers and suggest new features for the product.

  • Customised Solutions: Customers sometimes want end-to-end managed solutions instead of adopting only the core product. Play the role of gathering customer inputs and suggesting customised solutions around the product.

  • Architect: Become the architect for his or her product.
  • Business Development: Manager has deep expertise in technology/business domains of his or her services project. Become the “business development manager” for these domains to win new projects by convincing other customers having similar requirements.

  • Architect:  Become the architect for his or her services project.

While managing small teams can be complex, converting the constraints into meaningful challenges can help to motivate team members and keep them intact, as well as benefit the organisation and potentially mitigate attrition.

Vimal Kumar Khanna is founder and managing director of mCalibre Technologies. He has over 28 years of experience in the software industry. Listed in “Marquis Who’s Who in the World,” he is also among 30 select experts worldwide on the IEEE Communications (pub. New York) Editorial Board (honorary position, since 1999).

The author presented “Managing Small Teams — Look beyond Process Simplificationat the PMI India National Conference, India on 27–28 September 2013 and this paper is an abridged version of that presentation.

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Dealing with Difficult People

By Lynda Bourne, DPM, PMP

Your ability to contribute to a project team depends a lot on your ability to relate to people — your team members, stakeholders and managers. While positive and supportive relationships can propel you to success, dysfunctional relationships can destroy you.

If you mismanage a dysfunctional relationship with a difficult person, the fallout will affect your productivity and, quite possibly, the fate of your project.

The first step is to identify whether you are in a toxic professional relationship. Here are some signs to look for in the other person; he or she:

  1. Suppresses your talent and limits your opportunities for advancement
  2. Twists circumstances and conversations to his or her benefit
  3. Punishes you for a mistake rather than helps you correct it
  4. Reminds you constantly or publicly of a disappointing experience or unmet expectation
  5. Takes credit or withholds recognition for new ideas and extra effort
  6. Focuses solely on meeting his or her goals and does so at your expense
  7. Fails to respect your needs for personal space and time

To successfully manage difficult people, you need to set boundaries that encourage mutual respect and keep the focus on productivity. Boundaries remind people of what is acceptable to you and what is reasonable to expect from you, and prevent difficult people from taking up too much of your time and energy. Failure to set these boundaries simply allows a toxic relationship to develop.

Establishing boundaries is not easy, however. Difficult people don't like boundaries. They want to shift responsibilities according to their mood and create work environments that mirror their personal environments.

Here are some ways you can set boundaries:

  1. Manage your time. Set a limit on the amount of time you spend beyond the hours needed to complete the project work. For example, you should politely but firmly decline an invitation to an external meeting.
  2. Express yourself. Reveal aspects of your personality that reinforce your values. Sometimes it is a matter of letting people in a little bit to help keep your boundaries intact. If aggressive behaviour offends you, say so (in a firm, but non-aggressive way), but you also need to consistently act in an assertive (rather than aggressive) way.  
  3. Build your reputation, and do it carefully and consistently. Everyone plays a role at work. Your co-workers should know what you stand for and what to expect from you. Then, do not waiver. Authenticity is the key — behave in the way you expect others to treat you.
  4. Change the conversation. Stay focused on the project and away from nonproductive behaviour.  Avoid gossip, criticism and other negative conversations by simply stating: "I don't really have time to discuss that just now, but I really do need your input on this project issue." If the attack is on you personally, ask to "take the conversation off line and focus on this important project matter now."

Effective relationship management is not for the faint-hearted. But when you know how to handle difficult relationships appropriately, you'll be in a much stronger position to achieve your objectives and succeed.

How do you manage difficult people? What advice would you give for establishing boundaries?

This article was first published on 6 December 2013 on the Voices on Project Management blog.

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Over the Top

At one point or another, every project manager faces the budget overrun. Whether due to a change in scope, a design flaw or inadequate procurement, project costs can increase — or even skyrocket. We asked practitioners:

What are your immediate steps when you find out the project is over budget?

Gather the Group 
“I would first gather my project team together to draw up possible solutions and the pros and cons for each. Next, I would present to the sponsor, incorporate any feedback and have the sponsor meet with the stakeholders for the key decision on which solution to undertake.”

—Matt Tremmel, PMP, senior manager, programme and portfolio management, financial services technology firm BondDesk Group LLC, Rochester, Michigan, USA

Look for Backup 
“It helps to have a remediation plan before the project starts. If you have a stakeholder registry, you already know the expectations of the most influential stakeholders.

If you go over budget, gather your earned value analysis and baseline cost estimating, and ask for a one-on-one with your project sponsor. Anticipate questions and prepare sound explanations.

Present the project sponsor and project owner, if they’re different people, with alternatives based on those expectations. In the end, what to do is their decision, but it’s your responsibility to advise them well.”

—Efrain A. Flores, PMP, project manager, Office of Courts Administration, Puerto Rico Government, San Juan, Puerto Rico

Move On 
“When you’re already over budget, that’s money spent and gone. Hiding or pointing fingers is not good for the project’s health. Start by informing the project sponsor. The team strategy should now be to look forward and determine if and how the overrun will impact project completion.

Ask yourself: What new risks have developed due to the overrun? With the help of the team, review the remaining part of the project and think of ways it can be completed with the new scope, cost and schedule. Gather the facts (like where the overrun originated), update the plan with the new budget and present it to the change control board or the entity in charge of approving project changes. Once you’ve agreed with the project sponsor on the new project baseline, regroup the team.”

—Israr Shaikh, PMI-RMP, PMP, project director, Middle East and Africa, shared services centre
Re: Sources Middle East and Africa, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Open Up Communication 
“It is a core responsibility of the project manager to convey the true situation, not what the client wants to hear. The project manager needs to realise that if the as-is situation is not communicated, it could have dire consequences for downstream projects, systems and functions. I am straightforward with clients. Faced with budget overruns, I honestly outline the options of either increasing the budget or shifting certain aspects of the scope to the next phase.”

—Uday Gupta, PMP, SAP BI head/IBS Asia Pacific BI manager, KPMG Global Services, a division of PMI Global Executive Council member KPMG International, Gurgaon, India

Do the Shuffle 
“Quickly identify what tasks or parts of your project you can suppress or delay to a later stage. Then, validate the scope change with stakeholders and update your project documents.”

—Sylvain Costy, PMP, CIO, digital printing enterprise Electrogeloz, Paris, France

This article was first published in the October 2013 issue of PM Network®.

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Earn PDUs at the Upcoming 2014 PMI Asia Pacific Regional Events!

PMI is excited to announce that the Asia Pacific Regional Events programme will continue in 2014. There are 11 professional events across the Asia Pacific region planned this year to bring you opportunities to continue developing your project management skills.
Your participation in these events are sure to benefit you with:

  • Sharpened project management knowledge
  • Valuable insights from renowned experts and industry leaders
  • New collaborations with fellow project management practitioners from the region
  • Greater awareness of cultural influences on project management
  • Professional development units (PDUs) to maintain your PMI certification(s) and/or credential(s)

Mark your calendars and start planning your learning journey!

Date Event Location
15–16 May PMI South Korea Chapter Conference 2014 Seoul, South Korea
12–13 July PMI Japan Forum 2014 Tokyo, Japan
14–15 August PMI Sri Lanka Regional Project Management Conference Colombo, Sri Lanka
3–5 September PMI New Zealand National Conference 2014 Christchurch, New Zealand
8–10 September PMI Australia National Conference 2014 Melbourne, Australia
9–10 September PMI SymEx 2014 Palembang, Indonesia
11–13 September PMI India National Conference 2014 Hyderabad, India
20–21 September PMI China Congress Shanghai, China
October (Date to be determined) PMI Singapore Regional Symposium 2014 Singapore
8 November PMI HK Congress 2014 Hong Kong
22–23 November 2014 PMI Taiwan International Congress TaiChung, Taiwan

Visit the Asia Pacific Regional events page on for updates, as well as the Asia Pacific Calendar section in upcoming issues of the PMI Asia Pacific e-Link.

For enquiries, please contact:

PMI Customer Care in Asia Pacific (outside of India): Email / +65 6496 5500
PMI Customer Care in India: Email / +91 124 4517 140

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Project Highlights

People-oriented Schemes Stressed in Bhubaneswar, India

The State Government of Bhubaneswar wanted that people-oriented schemes and projects be taken up by the Centre.

Gupta stressed the importance of improved project management capabilities and application of better project management practices in all the three sectors of Central and State Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) and the private sector. The PSUs execute a large number of projects.

Read more

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Young New York Engineer Helps 4 World Trade Center Stand Tall

In a city that builds and opens a new skyscraper almost every week, a certain ribbon-cutting ceremony held at a new office tower in lower Manhattan on November 13 was noteworthy. For this wasn't just any office tower, but the 1.8 million-square-foot 4 World Trade Center and it was the first to open its doors and receive its certificate of occupancy on the new 16-acre World Trade Center complex. Standing at 978 feet tall, the tower will later this year become the new headquarters site of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Throughout the construction of 4 World Trade Center, Tyler Troast, P.E., M.ASCE, a project manager with the Tishman Construction Corporation, has taken on numerous responsibilities, from supervising subcontractors to managing logistics of the daily construction. When he was first hired, he was responsible for supervising the construction of 4 World Trade Center's foundations, which included rock anchors, strip footings, spread footing, caissons and pile caps. As construction progressed, he transitioned into managing the superstructure steel contract, including 23,000 tons of structural steel, along with the superstructure concrete contract of over 100,000 cubic yards of concrete.

Read more

PM Port helps you keep in touch with your profession through PMI’s online global news service powered by LexisNexis.

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In the News

Initiative Will Help You Navigate Complexity

Elements of complexity have always existed in projects and programmes. Some of the most significant achievements in the field of project management and throughout history have been marked by complexity. Tasks such as constructing large buildings, creating urban infrastructure systems or space travel are highly complex and rely on project management for their success.

The challenge today is that the elements of complexity have been amplified by the pace of technological change, the global business environment and the fact that risks can be bigger when projects and programmes go wrong. Compound this reality with the pitfalls of human behaviour, system behaviour, ambiguity and a global marketplace and suddenly the project environment is highly complex with a lot of money at stake.

How organisations anticipate, comprehend and navigate complexity determines their successes and failures.

To address the need for more resources on the topic of complexity, PMI has launched a comprehensive programme that will include market research, content development, professional development opportunities and the publication of a practice guide. All of these are designed to help practitioners and organisations understand and navigate complexity using principles, tools and techniques referenced in A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) and other foundational standards.

No Special Skills Needed
As a practitioner, you do not need a special skill set to manage complex projects. Whether large or small, most projects and programmes have some degree of complexity. The foundational principles in PMI’s standards are relevant, applicable and useful for the successful navigation of complexity in projects and programmes.

PMI’s research on complexity found that project manager experience is the attribute that high-performing organisations say is the most likely to foster successful completion of highly complex projects (57 percent of respondents, compared with 22 percent reporting project manager natural aptitude and 16 percent reporting project manager formal education and training).

Establishing the Vision
Navigating complex projects requires project managers who are able to establish the vision, mission and expected outcomes in a way that is broad enough to be complete, yet simple enough to understand, according to research conducted with PMI’s Global Executive Council. It also requires the skill to align the project team to that vision.

PMI’s Pulse of the Profession® In-Depth Report: Navigating Complexity listed the most important skills project managers can acquire to successfully navigate highly complex projects as negotiation, persuasion and collaboration, as well as the experience and skill set to deal with ambiguity. According to the report, high performers focus on capabilities within these three areas to successfully navigate highly complex projects:

  • Creating a culture of project and programme management with engaged project sponsors
  • Assessing and developing talent with a focus on fostering leadership skills
  • Communicating effectively with all stakeholder groups

Flexible Mindset
PMI believes that the key to navigating complexity is the ability to first recognise elements that contribute to complexity and then to adopt a flexible mindset for adapting to changes and unpredictability, while applying appropriate tools and techniques and engaging stakeholders through meaningful dialogues.

PMI’s focus is on providing the resources and knowledge that our members can use to excel in their careers. By providing them with the tools to navigate complexity, PMI is leading them to more successful outcomes and making PMI membership an invaluable resource.

One resource now available is Navigating Complexity: A Practice Guide. This practice guide provides guidance to organisations and practitioners at all levels of experience on how to manage programmes and projects impacted by complexity. It is currently available free online for a limited time at

The print version will be available for sale early this month. The practice guide is a companion to information provided in PMI’s four foundational standards, including the PMBOK® Guide.

The guide includes:

  • Essential organisational considerations when dealing with complexity to realise portfolio strategic initiatives;
  • A practical view of categorising complexity and understanding its causes;
  • An easy-to-use complexity assessment; and
  • Useful practices, complexity scenarios and guidance to transform insights into actions and manage the effects of complexity through an action plan.
PMI’s practice guides are created based on the consensus of the developing committee’s subject matter experts, rather than an exposure draft process. However, practice guides may be introduced later as potential standards. If so, they will be subjected to PMI’s documented process for the development of full consensus standards.

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PMI’s 2014 Pulse of the Profession® Informs Successful Actions — Customer Influence is a Key to Strategic Initiatives

PMI’s new Pulse of the Profession® report reveals that now is the time for organisations to focus on improving project, programme and portfolio management and its alignment to strategy.

The power of tech-savvy, informed customers will increase the importance of organisational agility and points to the need for additional strategic initiatives.

The Pulse research reports that 11 percent of every dollar spent on projects is lost. There are many ways organisations can improve their performance to reduce this risk of loss. And given the fast-changing marketplace and the slowly improving economy, now is the time to act.

Companies realise they should be performing better, but there still is a large gap between the desired state and the present state. The majority of projects (58 percent) are not highly aligned to organisational strategy. Nearly one half (44 percent) of strategic initiatives are unsuccessful. Only 15 percent of organisations report high agility.

People, Processes and Outcomes
PMI’s Pulse study finds that in order to increase success, organisations should focus on:

  • People (developing talent and practices for developing talent; effective knowledge transfer; managing employees through organisational change; ensuring that executive sponsors are in place to help drive organisational change);
  • Processes (standardising and maturing project, programme and portfolio management practices); and
  • Outcomes (ensuring that a project’s outcome produces the projected benefits claimed by the business case). Given the state of today’s markets, high performers are more likely than low performers to be effective at change management, successfully moving the organisation from the current to the desired future state and actively involving executive sponsors. Additionally, high performers are better at talent management, having ongoing training and formal processes to develop and mature their people.

The Pulse report distinguishes high performers versus low performers by combining the results of three key indicators:

  • Percentage of projects completed on time in the past 12 months
  • Percentage of projects completed within budget in the past 12 months and
  • Percentage of projects successfully meeting the original goals and business intent of the project.

High performers are those organisations that have 80 percent or more of their projects achieving all three measures. Low performers have 60 percent or fewer of their projects achieving all three measures.

The report also shows that high performers are significantly more likely than low performers to understand the value of project management; have a project management office; have standardised practices in place; and have high project, programme and portfolio management maturity.

Regarding benefits realisation, high performers effectively identify, measure and communicate the intended benefits of their projects and programmes. Organisations highly mature in benefits realisation average 73 percent of their strategic initiatives meeting goals and business intent, compared with 44 percent for organisations with low maturity in benefits realisation.

The bottom line is that high performers report twice as many successful strategic initiatives as low performers, and they lose 12 times less money on failed projects.

Additionally, high performers are three times as likely as low performers (31 percent versus 9 percent) to have high levels of organisational agility. They are in a better position to adapt when new strategic initiatives are needed to address shifts in consumer demands and expectations that ultimately shape strategy.

The message of this Pulse research for organisations is that now is the time to focus on people, processes and outcomes. The economy is improving; consumers have become a key part of the executive suite’s agenda. This report suggests that focusing strategically on these three areas will lead to more successful strategic initiatives.

Visit to download the report.

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PMI Family Grows Again

PMI has acquired and, two of the largest online resources for project managers and professionals. For more than a decade, both websites have provided project managers with access to a broad range of tools and templates, PMO events and one of the most vibrant and diverse global online communities for professionals in project management.

“The combination of PMI,, and brings greater opportunities to the 51 million people around the globe who are engaged in the management of projects. Together, we will deliver access to more resources, better tools, larger networks and broader perspectives,” said Ricardo Triana, PMP, Chair, PMI Board of Directors.

This collaboration will leverage the broad content creation capability of and with PMI’s global reach to deliver enhanced knowledge sharing and networking capabilities to project, programme and portfolio managers worldwide. was designed to help project managers meet their day-to-day challenges —getting them “unstuck,” saving time and keeping them from reinventing the wheel. The goal of has been to engage and collaborate with the project management community and bring fresh thinking to the forefront while building bridges to techniques that have stood the test of time.

“We couldn’t be more excited to be part of the PMI family,” said Dave Garrett, CEO of Gantthead, which operates “PMI recognises the tremendous value that comes from encouraging an open environment for the sharing of knowledge. And now through our combined efforts, we will have many more tools and resources to make that happen.”

Content and points of view on and will continue to remain impartial. Both sites will continue to focus on generating content through use of industry experts and facilitating global networking and knowledge sharing among practitioners at all levels, across all regions and industries.

Details of this acquisition will be available in PMI’s 2013 Annual Report.

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Title: Organizational Survival — Profitable Strategies for a Sustainable Future
Author(s): Gregory Balestrero and Nathalie Udo
PMI Member Price: US$34.20
Description: Balestrero and Udo present a compelling argument for sustainability being essential to any business strategy going forward. Illustrating how successful companies around the globe are already deliberately changing — including Coca-Cola, BMW, BASF, and Walmart — the authors take you step by step through the processes of developing a new strategy, or altering an existing one, to integrate sustainability into core business goals.

Title: Mastering IT Project Management: Best Practices, Tools and Techniques
Author(s): Murali Chemuturi
PMI Member Price: US$66.45
Description: Today, setting up IT infrastructure involves not just the preparation of the data centre, but also the entire organisation by providing Internet connectivity to customers, vendors and company executives on the move. Mastering IT Project Management is the first book to detail how to create IT infrastructure rather than simply describe how to manage the IT function or software development. This unique and comprehensive reference covers all aspects needed to successfully manage this type of project in an organisation.

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You're in Good Company


There are 78,568 members in the PMI Asia Pacific region as of January 2014, representing 17.4 percent of the total PMI membership.


Certifications and Credentials

There are 204,083 credential and certification holders in the PMI Asia Pacific region as of January 2014, representing 32 percent of the total number of PMI credential and certification holders.

PMP® : 199,074
CAPM® : 3,357
PgMP® : 123
PMI-SP® : 157
PMI-RMP® : 426
PMI-ACP® : 946

Add another PMI Credential or Certification to your name!

Welcome New R.E.P.s in Asia Pacific:

There are currently 339 R.E.P. organisations enrolled in the PMI R.E.P. Programme in the Asia Pacific region.

Registered Education Providers (R.E.P.s) are organisations approved by PMI to offer project management training for professional development units (PDUs) to maintain your PMI certifications and credentials.

View the R.E.P. web pages on to learn more about R.E.P.s or log in to the new CCR System to find a provider of project management education activities and products in your country.


Need a Project Management Consulting Firm?

Project management consulting firms can help you drive improvements in your business performance, and the PMI Consultant Registry is an easy way to find them.

A complimentary resource, the registry lists detailed contact information and provides information about each consultant’s offerings, saving you valuable time. You can search by geographic location, view case studies listed by area of expertise or industry, learn more about their competencies, and contact them for more information.

Meet and exceed your business objectives with the PMI Consultant Registry — your one-stop resource to find the project, programme or portfolio management consulting firm that’s perfect for your organisation.

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Asia Pacific Calendar

If you are organising a PMI event in the Asia Pacific region and would like us to list it in the e-Link, please contact SoHyun Kang.

15–16 May
PMI South Korea Chapter Conference 2014

12–13 July
PMI Japan Forum 2014

14–15 August
PMI Sri Lanka Regional Project Management Conference

3–5 September
PMI New Zealand National Conference 2014

8–10 September
PMI Australia National Conference 2014

9–10 September
PMI SymEx 2014

11–13 September
PMI India National Conference 2014

20–21 September
PMI China Congress

October (Date to be determined)
PMI Singapore Regional Symposium 2014

8 November
PMI HK Congress 2014

22–23 November
2014 PMI Taiwan International Congress

PMI's certification and credential programme is an internationally recognised, globally accredited programme that is transferable between methodologies, standards and industries. The programme applies valid and reliable ways to assess competence and is designed by project managers for project managers

All candidates for Project Management Professional
(PMP)®, Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)®, Program Management Professional
(PgMP)®, PMI Scheduling Professional (PMI-SP)®, PMI Risk Management Professional (PMI-RMP)® and PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® must first meet specific educational and experience requirements and then pass an examination.

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Asia Pacific Regional Service Centre

Contact the PMI Asia Pacific Regional Service Centre at:

Email: (preferred method)

Telephone: +65 6496 5501
Fax: +65 6496 5599

The Asia Pacific Service Centre is open Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., Singapore time (GMT +8).

The Asia Pacific Service Centre will be closed on the following dates due to public holidays in Singapore:

18 April – Good Friday
1 May – Labour Day

Check out our social media page

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For a comprehensive list of PMI marks, contact the PMI Legal Department.