The following article was recently published by the Best Management Practice website which may help understand the key differences between PRINCE2 and PMBOK and the world-wide adoption of PRINCE2 Project Management.

10 March 2011

By the end of 2010 over 750,000 PRINCE2 examinations had been taken. Since it was first released, the method has become phenomenally successful for project professionals across the world, with around 2,250 examinations currently being taken every week. Firmly established in the UK, Australia and many European countries, worldwide take-up continues to gain momentum. This article sets out why PRINCE2 has expanded globally and why it is set to continue.

The original PRINCE, or Projects In Controlled Environments methodology, was launched in 1989 as a government specific methodology for project management. The success of this led to a major revision in 1996, by project management specialists and a review panel of 150 public and private sector organizations, which took PRINCE2 beyond the domain of government and created today’s generic best practice method.

Over the past six years, PRINCE2 has established itself as one of the most central and respected methods in the project management profession. Over 500,000 PRINCE2 examinations have been taken in Europe alone, and around 95,000 across the rest of the world, including North America, Australasia, Africa and the Middle East. The Global Alliance for Project Performance Standards (GAPPS) is a joint initiative of governments, professional associations, and corporations, working together to create performance-based frameworks for worldwide use. GAPPS aims to support globally recognized and transferable qualifications and has looked closely at PRINCE2 and what it offers the global project management community.

Alicia Aitken, Managing Director of Project Performance Group in Australia, is an active member of GAPPS and believes that PRINCE2 is uniquely valuable in what it offers. “PRINCE2 is different from other standards,” she reflects, “in that it gives us the tools to do project management in a really detailed way. It provides a complete ‘how to do it’ process.” Alicia is keen to clarify that PRINCE2 is not ‘a knowledge guide’; “It doesn’t so much tell you ‘what’ you need to know, as ‘how’ to do it” she continues. “PRINCE2 operates at a tactical level, providing templates for key processes that organizations can just pick up and use; all underpinned by one set of principles that define what good project management looks like.

This works really well in countries, or organizations, that are relatively new adopters of professional project management. They can gain access to an end-to-end process, with templates that they can use immediately. It’s a well tested and fully integrated model, all set and ready to go.”

These benefits are giving organizations instant competitive advantage worldwide and are clearly providing the momentum behind PRINCE2’s expansion. Today, it’s possible to sit the PRINCE2 Foundation examination in any one of 14 different languages, while the Practitioner examination is currently available in nine languages.

Richard Tucker is a management consultant in the US, with more than 20 years’ experience in IT project management and Federal capital investment management. Richard reveals that PRINCE2 is central to much of the advice he provides. “PRINCE2 provides terrific governance for projects,” he explains, “Other standards offer knowledge about the tools and techniques of project management, but PRINCE2 shows organizations how to work as a project team, and how to make decisions when things don’t go entirely to plan.”

In common with Alicia, Richard is keen to differentiate between PRINCE2 and the project management bodies of knowledge, such as PMBOK® Guide from Project Management Institute (PMI) in the US. “A Body of Knowledge will define the mechanics of project management,” he continues, “But PRINCE2 provides the guidelines on how to put it all together, identifying the roles and responsibilities for a complete and integrated project team.” Another element of the ‘completeness’ he perceives in PRINCE2 is “its reliance on the business case”. For Richard, “PRINCE2 ensures that all stakeholders are in agreement as to what the business case is and then it makes sure you refer back to this at regular intervals, to check that the project’s objectives and benefits are still valid.”

He recalls working with a large US government department and the value that PRINCE2 offered to that assignment. “They were working on $100M program and wanted to enhance the value of their integrated project teams. They had realised that they didn’t have a clear idea of the exact role of each individual and how they should work together to get the best value at each stage. They needed to do an analysis, looking at who the decision makers were for each activity to see if they could optimize the process.

“PRINCE2 provided a perfect model for this analysis. We posed specific elements of the method as questions i.e. ‘PRINCE2 suggests this – do we have a model to achieve it?’ These were all valid questions and sought out the detail that hadn’t yet been considered, giving the client a clear method for redefining their structure.” Using PRINCE2 as a reference in this way meant that this US government department was able to radically improve its process and its governance. “We gave them back a program that was ready to perform”, Richard concludes.

The US Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) saved $54M by improving the management accountability of their IT projects, with all VA information technology projects now being managed under its Program Management Accountability System (PMAS). The principle of PMAS is that all IT projects should deliver new functionality within six months and so projects are tied to established milestones and are closed down if they fail to deliver. Richard Tucker was working closely with VA over the period where PMAS was introduced and he observes how complementary PRINCE2 was and how it helped VA to achieve their objectives. The PMAS method provides the framework for establishing project controls. Richard comments, “PRINCE2 is able to fill in the blanks and provide the particulars beneath PMAS to create the right momentum for success.”

Project professionals have significant decisions to make as to which qualifications to work towards at different times over their careers. It is interesting to consider where PRINCE2 sits and the reasons why it continues to grow across the globe, operating alongside a variety of other standards.

Richard Pharro, CEO at APMG-International, the global examination institute for PRINCE2 qualifications, explains the trend; “PRINCE2 has proved itself to be a core method that works worldwide. When practitioners implement a new approach, they often use PRINCE2 in combination with other tools and techniques as it provides a comprehensive method which underpins the principles of good project management. PRINCE2 examinations are now being taken in over 150 different countries, and we expect this growth to continue.”

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