Posts tagged: qualifications

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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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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