Prince2 Certification Guide for Misguided #ProjectManagers

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Had I not made the mistake of accidentally deleting my Word doc file, this post would have gone live a week earlier. And gosh… I really put in some extra hours into it. Sadly, our team leader told us that we’re going to have to start again on the write-up because there’s no way to recover a deleted file that has also been emptied from the recycle bin.

Technically, there is a way to recover deleted data, but nTask does not have time to do all that. So, here I am, once again, writing the dreaded guide about Prince2 methodology and certification. Believe me, getting the Prince2 Foundation level certificate is not as hard as having to write the entire post again…

Sigh…

Prince2 Certification from Experts’ Point of View:

Let’s start with Colin Bentley this time. He has a book called: ‘Prince2 A Practical Handbook’. If you haven’t read it yet, give it a shot. It’ll be worth your time, especially if you are looking to start for the first time as an aspiring project manager. I call newbies, the misguided project managers because there are tons of certifications to choose from. Almost all of them seem equally attractive and by Jehovah’s beard, the prospects promise a heft payload in return! 

The only problem is that these certifications are not easy. Besides being time-consuming, you have to dole out a huge amount of cash to cover each and every tier of project management certifications individually. On top of that, there are no guarantees about passing the exam in the first attempt. You will have to take the tests again AFTER depositing the competent authority’s fee! Krrrchinngggg…..

Don’t worry, Uncle Fred from nTask is here to point you in the right direction. 

Colin Bentley put up a very interesting question about the dilemma of project management in his book. “Why do so many professionals say that they are project management, when (the truth is) what they are actually doing is firefighting?”

Bentley’s argument has a lot of weight in the context of Prince2 methodologies. PRINCE itself stands for Projects in Controlled Environment. It is usually the type of companies where the deadlines are tight, and the variables are tighter than ever. Everything is happening via a proper channel in a “controlled” environment. There is accountability factor too. In that context, getting a Prince2 certification of any level is not that hard as maintaining a positive Prince2 “expert” profile at your company.

What’s the Worst That Could Happen to a Prince2 Certified Project Manager?

prince 2 methodology, prince2 certification, prince2 methodologyAs an Agile project manager, I have seen, heard and experienced my fair share of horror stories. There is a minority of companies that either get or replace an existing project manager to recover the damages. Alternatively, the induction of this new guy could be because the company is failing to meet the deadline, and the people at the higher-ups are waiting to get the project done ASAP.

There is a small chance that the new project manager can mitigate the damage, but most of them fail alongside the entire project team. Now in the case of Prince2 project managers, there are tons of risk because of the strict work frame of the projects. Since everything is happening in a controlled environment, there is not a lot that a new Prince2 certified PM expert can do at that point. 

In such cases, we see the poor project manager aiming for disaster recovery tactics rather than making any progress. Believe me, these things happen more commonly than ever. The only reason such stories don’t make it public is because of the company’s ironclad policies. Besides, 99% of the companies never exhibit their weaknesses in fear of shame and embarrassment. 

What Is the Prince Methodology?

PRINCE, as I stated earlier, is the abbreviation for Projects in Controlled Environments. The standard first took off in the great UK, where the government wanted to try new project management methodologies at State and Academic Institutes level. Soon enough, the methods became famous since they yielded good results. 

After that, somewhere along the way, AXELOS jumped in. They are the main authority who “recognize” PRINCE certifications all over the U.S., U.K., etc. It means that once you have the Prince2 certification, AXELOS’ accreditation will grant you recognition across any part of the world where an organization is looking to hire Prince 2 experts.

The Prince2 Methodology Framework:

Some people call it the 7 golden principles of the PRINCE2 methodology. Regardless of the lingo, the key points that outline the Prince2 framework are stipulated below:

· The Project Needs to Have a Business Justification:

From the very start of the project to the very end, the project needs to have a justification. That means there is an accountability factor where upper management needs to see a return on investment. Likewise, risks have to be controlled and benefits have to outweigh the setbacks.

Newbies’ Guide to Scrum Project Management 101

· Teams Need to Evolve:

As part of the “controlled” environment aspect of the Prince2 methodology, the team needs to have a “lessons learned” log. This is to help them avoid the same mistakes. On that note, I can say that we apply this method in Agile project management through Scrum meetings. 

There are retrospective sessions at the end where team members can reflect on their performance as a whole. Also, you get to pinpoint the black sheep in the group; they are the people who are either lazy or don’t work their butt off during Sprints. 

· Roles and Responsibilities:

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This is an important aspect of Prince2 methodology for things to work. Team members need to know their roles alongside their respective responsibilities. Otherwise, there will be setbacks, drastic delays and a lot of confusion during follow-up collaboration meetings. 

You might have heard people using the “But I thought Mr. So n’ So was responsible for doing this task.” These are the kind of scenarios which PRINCE 2 certified project managers are trained to look for (among many other things). 

· Work is a Multistep Process:

Since I have been repeatedly mentioning Prince2 methodology variables in a controlled environment, work is also part of that entire philosophy. Whatever is the number of tasks, everything has to be done in a step-by-step approach. 

The Waterfall process can also be applied in Prince2 certification. More specifically, if we talk about the Agile field related Prince2 certifications, there are scenarios where the Waterfall approach is not only applicable but more feasible as compared to traditional processes. FYI, in case you didn’t know what Waterfall is, it is a multistep framework that outlines how work is supposed to be done.

On the same note, Waterfall is applicable to SDLC models.  

· Project Manager Bears More Responsibility:

This scenario is common because I think that a project manager is held responsible for almost everything during the lifetime of a project. Prince2 methodologies explicitly state that a project manager has to manage the team by exception. 

Usually what happens is that the board of directors, or anyone who’s in charge, determine the time, cost and other requirements of the project. Afterward, things are handed over to the project manager who is going to be held responsible for the day to day activities of the said project. The board only intervenes IF something unforeseen happens to the project etc. 

Meanwhile, it is considered the responsibility of the Prince2 certified project manager to keep the board informed frequently.  

· Controlled Focus:

Teams working in a Prince2 methodology work environment are expected to maintain their focus on meeting the requirements. At the same time, quality is to be maintained at a very high standard.  

· Leave a Small Window for Improvisation:

Depending on the work environment, you don’t have to implement the Prince2 certification and methodology principles to the letter. Adapt the method and try to identify those areas that leave room for changing things a little bit. 

Improvisation is sometimes one of the best reasons for meeting project deadlines on time – and that too with a very high standard of work output. 

Can You Tell Us About Prince 2 Qualifications?

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Prince2 has different levels of qualifications. In the beginning, when Prince2 exams were initiated, there were 3 levels of qualification. The first one was the Prince2 Foundation course, the second one was labeled: Practitioner and the third and final level was called: Prince2 professional.

However, these days, Prince2 Professional qualification is not available. AXELOS and other governing institutes decided that the test was too difficult and canceled it. Back in 2012, Prince2 Professionals were the talk of the town because the exam’s tenure spread over several days where the candidate had to stay at the facility as a resident. 

Therefore, right now, you only need to concern yourself with the following Prince2 Certification categories:

  • Prince2 Foundation: The basic level that entertains candidates with little to no knowledge of Prince2. Also, there are no pre-requisites, so it is best to start from the basic level and then move your way to the top.
  • Prince2 Practitioner: Only a select number of Prince2 Foundation certification experts make it to the Prince2 Practitioner level. Not only does the practitioner level demand a few prerequisites be fulfilled, but its exam is more complicated.

Don’t Worry, Prince2 Exams Have a Few Lax Policies:

There are various study options available for aspiring project managers. When I was preparing for Agile project management certification courses, I followed a lot of YouTube tutorials. Depending on the certification, there might be last years’ exams available online. These exams are called “dumps” – and they intend to train candidates preparing for current exam batch.

Beware because some websites only let you view or download these “exam dump” files for a small fee. Your best bet is to visit different forums dedicated to Prince2 certification courses and consult with people who have already taken the exam. They will share tips with you, some important resources and inform you about where to access practice exams. 

· Prince 2 Is An Open Book Exam:

Prince 2 certifications are sometimes an open book. It actually depends on the nature of the certification. On that note, the Prince 2 Foundation course is not open book. Therefore, there’s no need to bring the manual with you on the day of the exam.

I have known a few people to get caught out on Prince2 Foundation exam because they brought the Prince2 Manual with them. They were under the impression that the exam was open book, but the situation was quite the opposite on the contrary. 

But, if you are taking an open book exam, make sure that the key pages with most weightage are already bookmarked. Usually, there is a lot of pressure to go through all the MCQs during the Prince2 certification exam. Candidates keep skimming through the Prince2 manual in hopes of getting their answers, but they end up wasting time.

The good news is that all the answers are in the Prince2 Manual. Trust me; I have been there and while it may take some time to find the answer, it is always there. The problem with PM certifications is that most of the questions are asked in a confusing or convoluted manner. The answer might be in front of you in the said manual, but its form will be different. 

Especially if Prince2 exams questions are based on a case study, you will need to think before marking your answers. A consultation with Prince2 manual, if it’s an open book exam, will help a lot. You just need to look at the right places!

Beware of the Prince2 Practitioner Certification Exam!

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The practitioner exam uses more of a hands-on approach. Although you are not required to stay as a resident at the examination facility, the test will be tough. They are using a method called: Objective Testing. There are tons of MCQs in it, and the answers have sub answers to each situation. 

I have only known those few friends who actually applied their skills for the Prince2 methodology cases. You cannot learn all the answers by heart. The institute will evaluate you against your thinking level, ability to cope with different Prince2 cases and vice versa.

Your aim should be how you can apply your knowledge in different project-to-project based cases.

Good News for Agile Project Managers:

If you are an Agile project manager like me, you can apply for the Prince2 Agile Qualification. This certification is specifically created for people working in an Agile environment. I haven’t taken the exam yet, but I do plan to do so in a few weeks’ time. 

The fact that PRINCE is based on a controlled environment framework and Agile environment framework is completely different, this certification is going to be something interesting. You can have your Agile certificate and a Prince2 Agile Certificate at the same time.  

What Happens If I Fail In the Prince2 Certification Exam?

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Don’t worry, you won’t be the first one to fail the Prince2 certification exam. A lot of people don’t make it during their first attempt. However, I’d advise you to take practice exams beforehand to get a grip over everything. 

The only downside of failing these certifications is to resubmit the exam fee all over again. Secondly, even if you do complete your Prince2 Foundation and/or Prince2 Practitioner certification, you will have to re-register after 2 – 3 years’ time.

The reason for re-registering is that AXELOS keeps on updating the exam modules with the latest methodologies applied in the industry. This way, your experience remains updated. The exams are short for those who are re-registering because it is more of a refresher course.

Secondly, I think that re-registration is an opportunity for AXELOS to have repeat business with the same candidate over and over again. Education itself is a product, but I can’t argue here. That’s a discussion for another day. 

Let’s Recap:

  • Buy a couple of Prince2 Certification books. ‘Managing Successful Projects with Prince2’ is a good start. The title is available in the U.S. and the U.K. 
  • Don’t forget to get your copy of the latest edition of Prince2 Manual. It will help you during open book exams.
  • Always take practice examples by downloading free Prince2 Sample Exams from any reliable internet-based repository. 
  • Consult with other Prince2 experts at different online forums to avoid making silly mistakes.
  • You can prepare for Prince2 exams by enrolling in online classes at certified ATO websites. I’d advise against it because you can learn a lot by doing your own research. However, if cash is not an issue, go for it.

The most important thing is to apply your knowledge. Don’t grind through MCQs for the sake of getting a high score. Think about real-life industry cases and possible solutions to them. After all, when you will apply for a Prince2 Professional Project Manager job, they will always judge you based on your knowledge, decision making power and skills. 

If you are already a certified Prince2 methodology expert, don’t forget to share your experiences through the comments section below. We would love to enlighten our audience about the possible pitfalls and success stories in the PRINCE 2 field.

Good luck!

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