Project Manager
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Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2 2009 Edition Manual
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The official PRINCE2 manual - essential to gaining your qualification.

What are PRINCE2 qualifications?

Are they worth having?

If you are looking for a job, particularly in the field of project management, you may have seen job advertisements or job descriptions that ask for PRINCE2 qualifications. This article looks at what PRINCE2 qualifications are and whether it is worth getting them.

PRINCE2 is a project management methodology promoted by the United Kingdom Government's Office for Government Commerce; so it's particularly likely that you will have seen jobs demanding PRINCE2 qualifications if you are based in the United Kingdom and looking at working in the public sector or on government related contracts.  However, according to the Office for Government Commerce PRINCE2 is used in more than 150 countries around the world and is reportedly growing in use. It is widely considered as the leading project management method with over 20,ooo organisations reportedly using it.

There are two PRINCE2 qualifications ; the PRINCE2 Foundation Certificate and the PRINCE2 Practitioner Certificate. There are numerous accredited training organisations who offer accredited courses preparing students for multiple selection examinations leading to the qualifications. There is typically a three-day foundation course followed by the option of a two-day practitioner course. They are best taken together but training providers differ in terms of the gap between the two. A short interval between the two courses is advisable because, whilst they are short they are intensive. You need preparation time outside the training sessions because a great deal of rote learning is involved.

It can be difficult to choose between the various providers because the content of the courses is essentially the same in that it consists of thoroughly familiarizing yourself with the Office for Government Commerce Publication,'Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2; which will usually be provided as part of the course.

They usually differ in terms of how the five days are structured, the quality and experience of the trainers and significantly by cost. It's definitely worth shopping around but on the other hand you want a trainer who is going to get you through the course. The best advice is to choose on personal recommendation from people who have done the course. Better still, choose on your employer's recommendation and, if you can, get your employer to pay. I'll explain this more fully below in the is Prince2 worth doing section.

PRINCE2 For Dummies
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Will PRINCE2 make you a good project manager?

The acronym PRINCE stands for Projects in a controlled environment. PRINCE2 training trains you how to manage a project delivered to PRINCE2 rules. The qualifications demonstrate that you know how to manage a PRINCE2 project. 

PRINCE2 training does not set out to teach you project management or to make you a better project manager and the trainers will not even pretend that it does. They are more likely to tell you that to get the most out of PRINCE2 training you already need to be involved with projects.

You will learn nothing from PRINCE2 training about how to manage projects. There is nothing in there about critical path analysis or other project management techniques that you may be familiar with. PRINCE2 training will not make you a good project manager because it will teach you nothing about the 'soft' skills you need to manage a project: how to inspire and motivate people and get them to do what needs to be done. PRINCE2 trains you how to deliver a PRINCE2 project; nothing more, nothing less.

The point about PRINCE2 is not to make individuals better project managers it is to deliver better projects by making sure that everyone involved is working to the same methodology. It is intended to provide a common language for large projects where there are people from a number of different organisations involved or from a number of different  professional disciplines.

Learning PRINCE2 methodology is like learning a language; almost literally. The focus is on learning precise words and definitions for different types of activity. The multiple choice examinations focus on minute differences of interpretation. They are more difficult than multiple choice sounds particularly given that they are open book too but the point of the exercise is for everyone to be thoroughly familiar with the manual and singing from the same hymn sheet.

So is PRINCE2 worth doing?

My advice is you should not rule it out all together but be aware what the qualification is and why you are taking it.

If your organisation manages to PRINCE2 methodology and offers you the opportunity to get the qualification grab it with both hands, especially if they are prepared to pay for you.

If it's a career choice and linked to getting a move somewhere else act more cautiously. Do some thorough research. Do employers in the sector you want to get into genuinely require this qualification? They may be asking for it just to narrow the field or because they aren't very familiar themselves with what the qualification represents.

It's worth doing some reading on PRINCE2, understanding the key principles and being able to talk about it. You can refer to PRINCE2 methodology in your CV without necessarily having the qualification.

On the other hand there are employers particularly working on government related IT projects who will expect PRINCE2 qualifications and have a genuine need for them. Show a willingness to undertake the qualification, even to pay your own way if necessary but don't commit yourself until you know this is what's needed.

The courses are demanding but they are short and readily accessible. So take the qualification when you know you will need it. If possible get your employer to pay for it because, in the short-term at least,  it will benefit the organisation more than it will you personally. 

So is PRINCE2 for you?

So by now you should be forming a view on whether PRINCE2 is for you?

The key point to get across is that there is little point in learning to manage the PRINCE2 way unless you either work or will potentially be working in a PRINCE2 environment. There are PRINCE2 principles that can be adapted to non-PRINCE2 projects but you can't do PRINCE2 on your own. 

If you want to learn how to manage projects, rather than to manage them then PRINCE2 way you would be better identifying some more general training around project management, learning the methodology used in your current organisation or just generally getting some experience of project management. PRINCE" is a whole organisation thing. Many managers and organisations think PRINCE2 is woefully over the top and far too bureaucratic to bother with and would prefer to point you to a local version or something more general.