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Project, Planning

Project Management

An Employer’s Guide to PRINCE2 Certification

How would you hire a project manager? How would you word the job description and what would you look for when filtering CVs? For a business looking to recruit its first project manager, the answers are not obvious. It’s particularly challenging for a small or medium-sized business with little experience of project management techniques.

A related question: your business analyst has asked about promotion into a project management role. They would like you to recommend a formal training course and fund it. What course should you suggest? Should you pay for the training (and their time away from work) in order to build their skills? Might you be shooting yourself in the foot by improving their CV?

Both questions require you to think about the types of projects your business undertakes. However, as a start point, it’s worth considering a respected project management methodology such as PRINCE2. It’s an excellent choice when filtering CVs as well as for mentoring an existing employee into a project manager role.

Here we look at what’s involved in PRINCE2 training and certification and why it’s a good choice. Spoiler alert: the answer to that second question should be yes (depending on the person). A trained project manager is an asset to the business, a return on investment.

What is PRINCE2?

PRINCE2 is a project management methodology, a coordinated set of processes and principles used to manage a project. The methodology was initially developed as a means of controlling large and complex projects that frequently overran or exceeded their budget. 

Its success in defence and infrastructure projects led to widespread use across other industries. This required PRINCE2 to be scalable; to bring the benefits of method and structure to smaller projects. The PRINCE2 2017 update focuses on its road-tested principles and themes, but with practical guidance on applying them in real-life projects and tailoring them to the organisation’s needs.

Principles and themes

PRINCE2 defines 7 principles of project management:

  1. Continued business justification: the project must be desirable considering the costs, benefits and risks. It must be viable and it must be achievable. 
  2. Learn from experience: the methodology encourages the project manager and the team to learn lessons during the project, from both successes and mistakes.
  3. Defined roles and responsibilities: every person involved in the project must understand how they fit in.
  4. Manage by stages: the project must be broken down into at least two stages, with a go/no go before commencing the next stage.
  5. Manage by exception: senior managers retain high-level control but only need to become involved if the project breaks a tolerance, for example, time or cost. 
  6. Focus on products: identifying the products to be delivered reduces the risk of scope creep (functionality added during the project without change control) and improves client satisfaction.
  7. Tailor to suit the project: the methodology supports the project manager in applying common sense to the project while retaining the PRINCE2 approach. Projects can be tailored based upon aspects such as their geography, culture and complexity.

What is the value of a PRINCE certification? 

PRINCE2 is a formal methodology based upon structure and control. It was developed in order to achieve goals and create deliverables systematically. Organisations and project managers need confidence in delivering the correct scope and quality, on time and in budget. The sheer number and variation of successful PRINCE2 projects gives them this confidence.

PRINCE2 is an internationally recognised qualification. PRINCE2 practitioner certification identifies a project management professional; someone who is qualified to work on projects worldwide in a variety of industries.

PRINCE2 qualifications can count towards your PMP certification while also having value of their own, making them rare amongst professional certifications.

It’s a safe bet when recruiting for a permanent or contract project manager or project support person. 

What about compliance?

In today’s highly regulated industries it’s not just about delivering a project on time. Very often, the organisation must also adhere to regulatory or compliance standards such as GDPR, ISO and SOX. 

PRINCE2 is strong in processes, roles and responsibilities. It fits neatly alongside an organisation’s quality management system (QMS) and supports both internal and external audits. 

What’s involved in certification?

There are two levels of training and certification: PRINCE2 Foundation and PRINCE2 Practitioner.

PRINCE2 Foundation is an entry-level course. It gives delegates a good grounding in the methodology and frameworks. It is suitable for both a potential project manager as well as project support staff. Passing the certification will allow a delegate to work as part of a project management team.

PRINCE2 Practitioner is an advanced level course, it requires passing the Foundation level. It is suitable for a project manager looking to extend their awareness and understanding of PRINCE2, ready to manage real-world projects. 

For delegates looking to fast-track their training, a combined Foundation and Practitioner course is also available.

Hiring a project manager needs to start with methodology. A CV that highlights PRINCE2 certification is a great start. Even better is a list of projects delivered using the PRINCE2 methodology.

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