A Guide to PRINCE2 Project Management Certification

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Why do people aspire to PRINCE2 certification? In a 2016 survey, skills development was the most popular response, with career progression coming a very close second. While some job roles or organisations state PRINCE2 certification as a requirement, these responses came much lower in the survey results.

The survey highlights that for most respondents, the decision to achieve certification was proactive. That’s not surprising; good project managers are very proactive people. Today’s project challenges demand it.

Here we look at why the PRINCE2 methodology is increasingly relevant in project management and the options available to individuals who wish to improve their skills and career prospects.

Why is PRINCE2 so Important?

Business leaders are demanding more from project managers. Executing a successful project means not only hitting a delivery deadline, but doing so efficiently, managing cost and risk. The PRINCE2 qualification brings a strong methodology involving planning, control and governance.

Every project is different, but there is one common factor. Resources are always at a premium and must be justified. PRINCE2 is scalable and flexible and is the world’s most widely adopted project management method. Moreover, the methodology ensures that investment is continually realigned with business objectives, satisfying the demands of the project sponsor.

Stakeholders matter. The project must satisfy the expectations of internal stakeholders, business partners and customers. PRINCE2 pays close attention to roles and responsibilities, ensuring that stakeholders’ interests are represented and that participants collaborate effectively.

There are 4 certifications available, PRINCE2 Foundation, PRINCE2 Practitioner and PRINCE2 Agile (Foundation and Practitioner)

PRINCE2 Foundation

The foundation level qualification ensures that an individual knows and understands PRINCE2 in order to work as part of a project management team. Delegates learn the 7 principles for managing projects:

  • Continued business justification
  • Learn from experience
  • Defined roles and responsibilities
  • Manage by stages
  • Manage by exception
  • Focus on projects
  • Tailor to suit the project

PRINCE2 defines themes. These are functional categories for the project manager to define and draw upon:

  • Business Case – defining the costs, benefits, risks and timescale
  • Organisation – the overall project plan and responsibility as well as the approach to communications
  • Quality management approach and acceptance criteria
  • Plans, such as Work Breakdown Structure and schedule
  • The risk management approach and a register of risks
  • Change control approach – the policies and procedures used to manage change on the project
  • Progress reporting, either time-driven or event-driven

Distinct and clear processes are required at each stage of a project: start-up, directing, initiating, controlling a stage, managing product delivery, managing a stage boundary and closing the project.

The training syllabus has been significantly updated to reflect PRINCE2 2017, emphasising scalability and flexibility. Delegates will learn and understand the PRINCE2 methodology:

  • The 6 variables of project performance: timescale, cost, quality, scope, benefit and risk
  • PRINCE2 principles, themes and processes
  • Business justification: outputs, outcomes, benefits and dis-benefits
  • Roles and responsibilities for defined participants including project board, change authority, executive and project manager

Training is typically run over 3 days. There is a 1-hour exam at the end using multiple-choice questions in a closed-book environment.

PRINCE2 Practitioner

The practitioner level is an advanced qualification, giving the individual the knowledge and understanding to manage projects in different scenarios and environments. Delegates learn how to apply and tailor PRINCE2 to projects and (with support) should be able to start applying the methodology to manage real projects.

Rather than simply learning and recalling information, delegates must demonstrate their ability to analyse and apply the PRINCE2 principles and themes in the context of real project situations:

  • Analyse how the PRINCE2 principles are applied
  • Apply each of the PRINCE2 themes and assess whether the approach is both effective and fit-for-purpose
  • Carry out each of the project processes and assess whether they are effective and fit-for-purpose

Delegates must have passed the PRINCE2 Foundation qualification or another recognised certificate. Training typically lasts 2 days. There is a 2.1/2 hour exam using objective testing in an open book environment, using the official Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2 2017.

PRINCE2 Agile Foundation and Practitioner

PRINCE2 Agile training blends the PRINCE2 with Agile project management methodology and approaches. This allows the project manager to apply PRINCE2 methodology to projects with evolving and changing requirements, giving additional reassurance to senior management and stakeholders.

Delegates learn the PRINCE2 governance requirements alongside Agile concepts. Training includes various Agile techniques such as Scrum, Kanban and Lean Start-up.

The two certifications are typically run in a single 4-day course. There are 2 exams:

  • PRINCE2 Agile Foundation is a 1-hour objective test using multiple-choice questions in a closed-book environment
  • PRINCE2 Agile Practitioner is a 2.1/2 hour objective test in open book conditions, using the PRINCE2 Agile Guidance manual.

Skills development or career progression

Whatever the reasons for engaging in PRINCE2 project management certification, delegates can be confident that the training and qualification will enable them to run successful projects and tailor the methodology to suit a wide range of project characteristics.

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Sources: [for internal use only]

[1] https://www.axelos.com/CMSPages/GetFile.aspx?guid=3c8f9353-f970-4880-9566-0edb3ea9fc78

[2] https://www.axelos.com/best-practice-solutions/prince2

[3] https://www.axelos.com/store/book/managing-successful-projects-with-prince2-2017

[4] https://www.axelos.com/store/book/prince2-agile