Posts tagged: project management news

Professional Project Managers

Close-up photograph of suit and tieAs I mentioned last time, the company that looks after PRINCE2 for the UK Government, the APM Group, has announced it will launch a new PRINCE2 qualification on 30th January (next Monday). This new qualification will be called PRINCE2 Professional.

I’ve written before about my mixed feelings about the attempts to professionalise project management (using ‘professionalise’ here in a precise manner, not as a proxy for ‘improve’) and this new qualification seems another step along the route.

I’m not convinced, however, that it makes much sense for this type of qualification to be coming from the APM Group. While there is a demand out there for a qualification that asserts it proves ‘competence’, that demand is already well served – both the Project Management Institute and the International Project Management Association (through its national member associations) provide global coverage of such qualifications.

The PRINCE2 qualifications were always something different, in that they aimed to measure knowledge of the methodology, and not experience or competence in project management. This means that APM Group are making a significant departure from the previous qualifications.

Naturally, this makes commercial sense for them, but does it also help project managers? On the one hand, an addition to the alphabet soup of possible qualifications is probably a bad thing, in that we will likely end up with yet more culture wars about which one is best. On the other hand, where PRINCE2 has been successful, it tends to push out the wider ranging PMP and IPMA Level C/B qualifications, so an acknowledgement, from the PRINCE2 world, that sometimes more than knowledge needs to be assessed could be a good thing.

In other words, I’m staying firmly on the fence on this one. I’ll be interested in what extra information we get when the qualification is launched, particularly around the pre-requisites before you can apply. If they end up merely replicating what is already needed for the PMI’s PMP, or the IPMA’s qualifications, I’ll be a little disappointed at what would then look like an unnecessary rehash of what is already available.

What do you think? Is a PRINCE2 qualification about competence a good thing? Or are there already enough choices for project managers in this area?

(Image courtesy of karsten.planz. Some rights reserved.)

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PRINCE2 Professional

PRINCE2 LogoPRINCE2 Practitioners now have an advanced qualification to aim for – and one that tests competence, not knowledge.

APMG-International announced last week that they would be launching a new PRINCE2 qualification at the end of January. PRINCE2 Professional is aimed at assessing the candidate’s ability to apply the PRINCE2 method. This is in contrast to the current PRINCE2 qualifications, which are purely about showing a candidate knows the methodology, its terms, and its processes.

PRINCE2 (PRojects IN Controlled Environments 2) is the de facto project management standard within the UK, and is used extensively in Western Europe and Australia. Recently, the Project Management Professional (PMP) qualification from the US-based Project Management Institute (PMI) has been making some inroads into these areas.

It’s clear that APMG-International are reacting to pressure from PRINCE2 Practitioners and industry for a qualification that is explicitly about competence. The PMP qualification is often cited as being more about competence as candidates must have a certain amount of project management experience before they can actually take the examinations.

It’s not clear what minimum experience level is required to take the PRINCE2 Professional assessment – the press release states that Accredited Training Organisations (i.e. who you will pay for the testing) will advise candidates on whether the qualification is for them. An early pilot of the assessment centre used three years of project management experience in the last five calendar years (so very similar to the PMP requirements).

Either way, it’s worth noting, for both PRINCE2 Professional and PMP, that having a certain level of experience doesn’t guarantee a certain level of competence.

More on this later in the week, I suspect.

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PRINCE2:2009 – Directing Guide

In this video, the lead author of the 2009 refresh of PRINCE2, Andy Murray, talks us through the new Directing guide for PRINCE2. This guide is aimed at project board / Executive level project members.

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PRINCE2:2009 – The Launch Event Video

The folks at Best Management Practice have now put up the footage from the PRINCE2:2009 launch event. Enjoy!

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PRINCE2:2009 – Now Launched!

The refresh of PRINCE2, the internationally used project management methodology, is now complete. The updated PRINCE2 was launched this Wednesday, the 16th of June. The event was streamed live from the Best Management Practice website, and the slides from the presentation are still available. (That page also says you can watch the footage of the event, but I’m getting nothing. Maybe later?)

It may be a bit geeky to be excited about the launch of an update to a project management methodology, but I am. I’ve always liked PRINCE2, no doubt because it was how I learned project management in the first place. But as I’ve moved from big, technical projects in a bureaucratic organisation to smaller, people-based projects in more relaxed organisations, I’ve seen a lot of people feel exasperated that PRINCE2 is too prescriptive, and obsessed with the paperwork rather than the project.

Now, I’ve always thought that was the sign of a poor project manager, not the fault of the methodology, which has always seemed to me to be a toolkit you can dip into as and when it is needed, not a mould you have to try and force every project to fit into. The great thing about this update is that it is much less prescriptive, and much more about the quality of what we produce, and lessons we can learn through the project.

In other words, the flexibility I thought was always there in PRINCE2 has been made much more obvious, and brought to the forefront of the methodology!

You can get more information on the latest version of PRINCE2 from Andy Murray, who was the lead author of the refresh. There’s a great post by Elizabeth Harrin on PM Tips about the launch of PRINCE2:2009, and she also has a video she made at the launch event (which includes the all-important look at the goodie bag!) on her own site, A Girl’s Guide to Project Management.

(Image courtesy of Port of San Diego. Some rights reserved.)

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PRINCE2:2009 – Examinations

Following on from the previous video on the PRINCE2:2009 refresh (New Publications), here is a video in which the PRINCE2 chief examiner, Emma Jones, explains the impact of the refresh on the examinations. The video is from Best Management Practice.

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PRINCE2:2009 – New Publications Explained

Following on from my post last week, Managing versus Directing: PRINCE2 2009, here is a video in which the Lead Author, Andy Murray, takes us through the two new publications that will be available. The video is from Best Management Practice.

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Managing versus Directing: PRINCE2 2009

As I mentioned last week, the PRINCE2 project management methodology is currently undergoing a ‘refresh’ to make sure it fits the requirements of the marketplace. The new version, PRINCE2 2009, will be released on 16th June.

One of the major changes has been to slim down the PRINCE2 manual… by splitting it into two. The new version will have two different volumes, Managing Projects Using PRINCE2 and Directing Projects Using PRINCE2.

As you will have guessed, the two volumes are aimed at different users. Those of us who are project managers will be interested in the Managing manual, while senior managers and executives who will be involved at the project board level will be interested in the Directing manual.

Now, in a way I can see the sense of this split. The current PRINCE2 manual does talk about the various responsibilities and duties that project board members need to be aware of, but much of this information is buried amongst the nitty gritty of applying the methodology as a project manager. I can certainly understand that senior staff simply aren’t going to plough through a manual like that.

Indeed, I still think one of the most important things I do as a project manager is to sit down with senior management involved with the project and explain exactly how they fit into the project world – including how they need to hold me to account!

So I can see this splitting of the manual going one of two ways. It is possible that the Directing manual will start to be seen as vital reading for executives. Because they are involved in projects, they will work to make sure they understand their responsibilities, duties, and powers, and we as project managers will gain the benefit of informed and aware executives.

Or, of course, it could be that executives won’t pay a blind bit of notice to the Directing manual – without any qualification (yet) based on it, they may just not waste their precious time reading a rather dry text. Which would leave us as project managers buying both manuals, just so that we can again sit down with our project board and brief them on what they need to do in the project…

Maybe it’s the incorrigible cynic in me, but I rather suspect the second scenario is more likely. But at least we’ll know exactly where to find the information for our briefings…

What do you think? Do you think I’m being too cynical? Can you see other advantages to this split? Let me know!

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PRINCE2 Evolution

Something big is going to happen with PRINCE2 very soon now. The old version is undergoing an update, or as those responsible call it, a “radical evolution”. And it looks like this could be very interesting.

PRINCE2 is often attacked for being overly bureaucratic, or too complicated, or needing too much documentation. This update, which will be release on 16th June 2009, is tackling these complaints head on.

The biggest change has to be the introduction of a set of seven principles for PRINCE2:

  • Business justification – A PRINCE2 project has continued business justification
  • Learn from experience – PRINCE2 project teams learn from previous experience (lessons are sought, recorded and acted upon throughout the life of the project)
  • Roles & responsibilities – A PRINCE2 project has defined and agreed roles and responsibilities with an organisation structure that engages the business, user and supplier stakeholder interests
  • Manage by stages – A PRINCE2 project is planned, monitored and controlled on a stage by stage basis
  • Manage by exception – A PRINCE2 project has defined tolerances for each project objective to establish limits of delegated authority
  • Product focus – A PRINCE2 project focuses on the definition and delivery of products, in particular their quality requirements
  • Tailor – PRINCE2 is tailored to suit the project’s size, environment,
    complexity, importance, capability and risk

This is an important development for PRINCE2. Not because the principles are new – they’re not. They’re the same principles that good PRINCE2 Practitioners have been using all along. But this is the first time that they have been set down and expressed as part of the methodology.

There is more information in Andy Murray’s presentation on the PRINCE2 update. Andy is the Lead Author for the update, and you can read more on the PRINCE2: 2009 Author Blog.

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Getting Better to Stay the Same?

So, the latest Standish Report is out. The figures in it are depressingly familiar. More projects are failing. Only about a third of projects are succeeding – on time, on budget, on scope.

Now, there are a lot of reasons to be dubious about the CHAOS report statistics. The categories are fairly vague, and don’t appear to look in any depth about whether (for example) a project being cancelled was a good project management decision or not. The methodology they have chosen for the study is unclear. So as an absolute measure, they’re not up to much.

But because the report has been produced for a number of years now, with, presumably, the same methodology, we can get some value from using them as a relative measure – are things getting worse, or are they getting better?

Well, in fact, the figures for project success seem to be holding roughly level over the past few years. There has been an improvement from the original report back in 1994, which suggested a success rate of 16%, but we seem to have been hovering around the 30% mark for many years now.

And this is worrying, considering the amount of effort that has gone into developing better and stronger project management methodologies, techniques, tools and so forth. Taken at face value, the CHAOS report would suggest that we needn’t have bothered!

That suggests a couple of possibilities. The first one is that as a group, project managers have simply got it wrong. Perhaps the tools we are using to manage projects, the methodologies and techniques, simply have no effect. All we have done is made our own lives harder, but at least we haven’t damaged the projects we work on.

I’m not really inclined to believe this possibility. (Though, of course, as a project manager, I have a vested interest in saying a methodology is needed…) The reason I’m not convinced is that the methodologies have been developed from the experiences of many project managers. They are finding new ideas that work for them in their projects – they are seeing an improvement in the project management process by using these techniques.

The other possibility is the one I am interested in. It’s loosely based on the Red Queen Hypothesis. What if project management is getting better, but projects are also getting more complicated? What if we’re running just to keep still?

Think about the IT projects you’ve been involved with over the years. Have they become more complicated? Have our ideas of what we can achieve become bigger? Do projects now pull in many more aspects of the business than they used to?

I’m not even entirely sure how you would test this idea. (Always a hallmark of a less than perfect hypothesis…) It would require some way of evaluating the complexity of a project against a baseline – a baseline that needs to stay steady as the world changes around it, and as new technologies may make some of the assumptions in the baseline wildly incorrect. Now that would be a study worth doing.

I genuinely don’t know. My personal feeling is that, yes, IT departments are willing to take on more complicated projects these days. But I’m wary of drawing a conclusion from my own, purely anecdotal, experience. Others may have had very different experiences.

But certainly when we think of how much more we can do with IT than we used to be able, of the added complexities of what it can achieve, there is a certain attraction to the Red Queen idea. But maybe it’s just wishful thinking and self-justification on the part of a project manager…

What do you think? Are we getting better? Are projects getting more complicated? Or have we just overloaded ourselves with methodologies we should dump? Let me know!

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