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PRINCE2 is no PMP

There’s a post over at PM Student by Dr Paul Giammalvo comparing project management certifications. I have some more to say about this article later, but I just wanted to put out a quick post about how the PRINCE2 qualifications score in this.

Full disclosure: I hold a PRINCE2 Practitioner qualification.

The PRINCE2 Practitioner qualification scores a lowly 78. (Click through to the article for information on how the scores were assigned.) Compare that to PMI’s PMP qualification which scores 9624. That’s quite a difference. The main reason for the difference is the lack of any pre-qualification training, education or experience requirements to take the PRINCE2 exams.

At first sight, it would look like PRINCE2 Practitioner is an appalling qualification to get, practically worthless. But I think that would be completely wrong.

The problem is that the author is comparing apples with oranges. It’s fairly simple – these are quotes taken from the relevant webpages for each qualification:

“Globally recognized and demanded, the PMP® demonstrates that you have the experience, education and competency to successfully lead and direct projects.”

PMI PMP Credential

“The Practitioner examination assesses whether a candidate could apply PRINCE2 to running and managing a non-complex project within an environment supporting PRINCE2.”

APMG-International PRINCE2 Certification leaflet

Put simply, the PMP qualification aims to say “We certify that this person is a competent project manager”. The PRINCE2 Practitioner qualification aims to say “We certify that this project manager can apply PRINCE2”.

It’s an important difference. Certainly when I received PRINCE2 training, it was after I had worked on projects for a number of years. The trainers explicitly started the course by saying the exam does not test your knowledge or skill in project management, but your knowledge of how to apply PRINCE2 to your project management.

PRINCE2 is a methodology, and doesn’t aim to be everything a project manager could ever need to know – as the OGC PRINCE2 website says:

“PRINCE2 does not cover all aspects of project management.  Areas such as leadership and people management skills, detailed coverage of project management tools and techniques are well covered by other existing and proven methods and are therefore excluded from PRINCE2.”

So of course there isn’t a pre-requisite amount of experience or training you must have before taking the PRINCE2 exams – because the PRINCE2 qualification isn’t certifying your competency in those areas, and it doesn’t claim to. It is specifically about whether you are able to apply PRINCE2 to a project.

(In general I’d say there is an assumption you will have a certain amount of project management experience, but certainly it isn’t mandated.)

That’s not to say that PRINCE2 Practitioner hasn’t come to be seen as a proxy for project management expertise – it has, particularly in the UK. But I think that’s mainly because there hasn’t been a ‘professional body’ in the UK attempting to impose a defined set of standards as to what a competent project manager is, whereas there has been a significant amount of work put into improving the PRINCE2 methodology, and popularising its use. Because of its near ubiquity, the market has come to see PRINCE2 as a measurement of project management competency, but the organisations behind it never claimed that for it.

In essence, in many places, being a competent and experienced project manager is correlated with having a PRINCE2 Practitioner qualification, but is not caused by it.

Does this mean we should all rush off and get PMP, and ignore PRINCE2? Well, no. PRINCE2 is, as I’ve said, a methodology. It provides a common set of standards, taxonomy, processes and so forth. It is, in a way, like the protocols used on computer networks – it allows interconnections, and for components, um, people, to be dropped into a new situation and still know the language. There is something akin to a network effect here – the advantages of speaking the same language as everyone else are enormous. It’s something you must be able to do to have any chance of succeeding.

What does that mean? Well, for ‘general’ project management (if there is such a thing), if you’re in a country where PRINCE2 isn’t particularly popular or dominant, especially the US, then yes, plan to gain the PMP qualification eventually. If PRINCE2 is popular in your country, look to gain the Practitioner qualification, but be aware your experience of projects is what will help you get a job, not the qualification.

As I said, I have more I want to talk about regarding this comparison article, and I’ll do that in a later post.

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