The title of a ‘Project Manager’ is one of those that anyone can claim they do, but realistically, actually performing the role of a project manager is different from simply calling yourself one. Whilst you are working at a company as long as you are delivering results the need for formally getting accreditation is not as great as when you are looking for a new opportunity in another company. Those companies that are advertising for Project Managers are looking for quick and effective ways of sorting through the multiple applications; to be able to differentiate between those people that just call themselves a project manager, and those that call themselves a project manager but are disciplined enough to work in a transparent, controlled and repeatable way. That is why for personal development every Project Manager should seriously consider aiming for accreditation in a project management methodology.
There are a number of different accreditations that you have to choose from
- Project Management Institute (PMI)
- Association of Project management (APM)
I work in the UK affiliate of an American company that were supportive in developing their project managers, In the US they tend to favour the PMI route, where as the PRINCE2 route tends to be more specific to the UK. I have gained my Project Management Professional (PMP) accreditation a couple of years ago but was interested in learning about PRINCE2 as it was a methodology that was being required on nearly all the Project management job adverts I would see in the UK market.
I recently passed both the PRINCE2 foundation and practitioner course with http://www.teampm.co.uk/ and thought that I would share my experiences of the course and any lessons learned I may have with you
So what is PRINCE2?
Well in the words of http://www.prince2.com
“PRINCE2 (PRojects IN Controlled Environments) is a process-based method for effective project management.
PRINCE2 is a de facto standard used extensively by the UK Government and is widely recognised and used in the private sector, both in the UK and internationally.”
In its simplest context, PRINCE2 project management methodology is divided into Processes and Themes.
PRINCE2 project management is fundamentally based around 7 Processes (which can be tailored to specific project environments)
- Starting up a Project
- Directing a Project
- Initiating a Project
- Controlling a Stage
- Managing Product Delivery
- Managing a Stage Boundary
- Closing a Project
PRINCE2 emphasises that there are 7 themes of project management that must be addressed continuously throughout the project lifecycle, and that by following those themes with each process then you will be undertaking the role of Project Manager in a professional manner.
- Business Case
There are 2 levels of PRINCE2 accreditation:
- PRINCE2 foundation (3 day course)
- PRINCE2 practitioner (2 day course)
If you prefer instructor led training you can either opt to do each course separately over several weeks or in the more intensive 1 week slot.
Foundation and practitioner course spread out courses vs the intensive course, which course approach to do?
2 courses spread over several weeks:
- The material is not difficult to learn but there is a lot of it, so spreading the courses out over several weeks spreads the learning out into more manageable chunks
- You can learn at your own pace
- Over the extended period of time, work is likely to get in the way of learning time
- If left too long you may find it difficult to remember all the material
The intensive 1 week course
- The materials learned in the foundation course will still be fresh in your mind for the practitioner
- Less likely to have external influences like work affecting your learning over the short period of time
- It is an intense timeline that you are working to, with new processes, themes to absorb into your thinking in such a short period of time
- There is a really big time commitment required in terms of pre-reading and nightly homework that needs to be carried out each night of the course in readiness for both exams
I opted for the 1 week intensive course which covered both the foundation and practitioner elements.
The Prince2 Foundation
The PRINCE2 Foundation course focuses on teaching the PRINCE2 principles and terminology but in the 3 days that the course spans the focus is more on getting you in a position to pass the exam rather than applying the material to real life project scenarios. The exam itself:
- 1 hour long
- Multi choice stand alone questions
- Closed book
- 75 questions (consisting of 5 trial questions that don’t contribute to your overall score)
- Need to get 35 questions or more to pass
How does the Controlling a Stage process support the manage by exception principle?
a) Specifying the products to be produced by a Team Manager
b) Agreeing tolerances with the Team Manager for the delivery of a Work Package
c) Triggering the Managing a Stage Boundary process when the end of a stage is approaching
d) Triggering the Closing a Project process at the end of the final stage
The PRINCE2 Practitioner
The PRINCE2 Practitioner course focuses on teaching the delegates to apply PRINCE2 to the running and managing of a project within an environment supporting PRINCE2. During the 2 days the course ran the majority of the time was spent completing previous exam papers and discussing the answers. The exam itself:
- 2.5 hours long
- Multi choice questions linked to a single business scenario (with additional information provided for certain questions)
- Open book (only allowed the accompanying course book into the exam)
- 9 questions each worth 12 marks
- Need to score 59 marks or more to pass (55%)
Sample question (worth 1 mark):
When creating the Project Plan, the Project Manager identified the new company logo as an external dependency. Is this an appropriate application of PRINCE2 for the project?
a) No, because the new company logo should be identified in the business Case as part of the reasons for undertaking the projects
b) No, because the new company logo should be identified in the project plan as an internal dependency
c) Yes, because the new company logo is required to produce the calendar and is being produced by another project
d) Yes, because the production of the new company logo will need to be controlled by the Project Manager
The course itself
On the course I attended there were 9 people in total from varying backgrounds, not everyone was a project manager, some had jobs that required a project management element and a couple wanted to get more familiar with the PRINCE2 methodology as they thought it would enhance their credentials as they had recently set up their own businesses. My observations were that the delegates with a project management background absorbed the course material about the about the same as the delegates without a project management background, but when it came to applying the themes and processes to a project scenario there was more of a clear divide.
One admission I would make about the course is that I was under the mistaken belief that the accreditation was one that you could achieve by ‘walking in off the street’ but I will put my hands up and say that is not the case, if you don’t put in the time in pre-work and homework during the course, you will find it very difficult to pass the exams, a fact backed up by the course results:
- Foundation course – all 9 delegates passed
- Practitioner course – only 4 out of 9 delegates passed
- The 1 week course is intense and draining, so pick a training location that is close (no more than 1 hr commuting time)
- Consider staying in a hotel or b&b during the course to avoid ‘domestic distractions’
- Actually do the course pre-reading (around 10hrs work)
- Actually do the daily homework (2 hrs work per night) as it will show you the areas you need to focus on in your revision
- If you are an experienced PM, don’t get bogged down in the terms that may be different to the ones you currently use and don’t challenge the material if you think the ‘real world’ is different to the course material, REMEMBER the exams are on the material and not how it is done in the company you work for
- Don’t expect the material to sink in if you passively read a chapter a few times, you have to really get engaged in the ‘what’ and ‘why’ the processes and themes are designed how they are
- Try and link it into your current way of conducting a project ie PRINCE2 refers to a Business case, in my company we use a ‘project charter’ they perform the same function
- You are a customer on this course, it is in your interest to speak up if there are elements of the topics that you don’t understand
- Have fun on the course and use it to increase your professional network
Does anyone else have any tips they would like to share?