Jump to Content/Skip Navigation


Project management learning and development is so much more than taking a technical based project management training course once in a blue moon. From the enquiries we have received over the years, it is obvious that many project management professionals do take their development seriously but sometimes just need a little advice or guidance on what is best for the next steps in their careers.

Arras launched its own Training Directory earlier this month aimed at; 

  • Offering explanations of all types of training available, right down to the certifications and courses so popular today,
  • Feature training providers that offer popular courses and bespoke courses in a wide variety of project management topics
  • Helping project management professionals make informed decisions about how they choose to spend their training and development budgets

For this month's edition of Project Management Tipoffs, we've handed editorial content over to the trainers who've jumped on board in full-embrace of the goals of the Training Directory.

Have a look through current, popular and timely areas of learning and development in the project management field, and find out more about the training market from the members of the new Project Management Training Directory from Arras People. This year, 2011, we want the project management community to think about a "Year of the Professional" and ask themselves, am I moving in the right direction with my career development this year?


Is the PMO a Training Centre?

Words: Cornelis Vonk, ESI International

In the latest edition of The State of the PMO 2010 (.pdf) that is compiled by our PMI colleague J. Kent Crawford PMP®, it is stated that PMOs are increasingly responsible for training and development functions:

  • 75% are responsible for PM coaching and mentoring
  • 63% are responsible for PM training curriculum development and coordination
  • 58% are responsible for providing the training.
  • 54% have a training programme in place.

This is, according to the report, a major reason why PMOs are considered to have improved their capability and accountability compared to result of previous reports.

The type of training is mixed over the different stages of maturity of a PMO; a mature PMO provides less training on basic skills and the use of project management software, and more on advanced skills and leadership.

It would therefore be useful to continue to focus on training programmes for the project management community in the PMOs you are responsible for. Also, because a mere half of the PMO staff is PMP® and on average only 8 days per year are dedicated to project management training.

As PMOs become more and more responsible for project management training, they also are also going to be asked to give guidance as how to measure the business value of such training. Many PMOs are designing measurement programmes that can demonstrate the link between the gain in project management competency to business outcomes as time-to-market, saved opportunity costs related to the on-time delivery, etc. Only if data is available on performance of projects before and after the training effort, the result of these measurements will make sense.

The following model from Donald Kirkpatrick and Jack Phillips, can help to evaluate training. They suggest to measure at 5 levels:

  • Level 1: Reactions (the "smiley" sheet)
    • Did participants like the training they received?
  • Level 2: Learning
    • Are participants confident that they have learned something from the training programme?
  • Level 3: Behaviour/Application
    • Are participants able to apply what they learned in the training programme back on the job?
  • Level 4: Results/Business Impact
    • Did the training show improvement in efficiencies, productivity, profits, costs, reduced turnover?
  • Level 5: ROI
    • Did the training programme show a positive ROI?

The picture at the top of the page illustrates the above and comes from the publications.

The first 2 or 3 levels are relative easy to implement, if not already in operation. In trying to get to grips with level 4 and 5, when measuring the value of improved project management competency, is a project in itself.

Level 4 from the above model attempts to look at the business results that accrued because of the training. Kirkpatrick gives the following guidelines that can be useful to get started on this measurement:

  • Use a control group if practical
  • Allow time for results to be achieved
  • Measure both before and after the programme, if practical
  • Repeat the measurement at appropriate time
  • Consider costs versus benefits
  • Be satisfied with evidence if proof not possible

Level 5 from Phillips measures the dollar value impact of training. He provides the following guidelines:

  • Use a control group, if practical
  • Allow time for results to be achieved
  • Determine the direct costs of the training
  • Measure a productivity or performance before the training
  • Measure productivity or performance after the training
  • Measure the productivity or performance increase
  • Translate the increase into a dollar value benefit
  • Subtract the dollar value benefit from the cost of training
  • Calculate the ROI

Dr. Phillips has created an ROI Methodology™ that can help PMOs to measure the ROI on organisational learning. This methodology is illustrated at right and also is published by them.

As said, measuring the benefits of project management training is a project in itself. But if you cannot afford another project, just measuring the cycle time of projects and reduce that with a few percent, can demonstrate that the project management training has paid for itself.

And a very last point, as you prepare your 2011 budget, you can suggest a level 4 or level 5 project, as well as considering performing competency assessments to find out what the areas are where training is most needed.

Cornelis Vonk of ESI has taught project management and has assisted more than 300 candidates in their preparation for the Project Management Professional (PMP®) exam since 1998. In 2002,  the former programme manager and "change agent" for IT mergers with several leading corporations was the project manager of the 5th European Project Management Conference held in Cannes. Certified as a PMP®, Cornelius is a founding member of the France-Sud chapter. He received the PMI® 2002 Distinguished Contribution Award.

Time for Project Managers to Stand Up and Be Counted

The time has come for accountability amongst project managers.


As we enter 2011, many project managers face uncertain times ahead. Those in the public sector are unsure what the budget cuts will mean and many in the private sector worry about the impact deficit reduction will have on their projects.

Nevertheless, there are some positive signs: project management has become more professional, and with that professional status comes an increased expectation that project managers will deliver. Sir Peter Gershon set the challenge at the Association for Project Management conference when he said, "the association’s time has come, and the only question is whether it can and will rise to the occasion?" He expects project managers to stand up and be counted, and believes they should be using fit-for-purpose tools and strong governance to eliminate the root causes of project failure whilst increasing efficiency. This is both a challenge and opportunity. The opportunity is for "professional project managers to be associated with the maximum chance of project success".

There is an ongoing development of professional project management, which is closely linked to the APM launch of the Registered Project Professional in March 2011. It has been created to set a new professional standard for project managers, based on competence, capability and, most importantly, a proven ability to deliver complex projects. The success of this new standard, in differentiating professional project managers, will be critical to the development of the APM as the true home for project management. But in a recession, will individuals and organisations continue to invest time and effort in growing their project management capability, or will they focus on the short-term demands to cut spending on people development?

A recent survey by The Chartered Management Institute (CMI) is urging managers to embrace the concept of 'training on a shoestring', in light of its research that found 43 per cent of managers expect training budgets to be cut in 2011. CMI chief executive Ruth Spellman says businesses cannot afford to lose another 12 months of training and development in 2011. "Our worry is that by failing to offer adequate opportunities for personal development, bosses risk losing top talent, deepening the already low levels of employee engagement and creating skills shortages at a time when UK plc most needs a skilled workforce to help steer it towards recovery," she said.

This is especially important in project delivery, as research demonstrates that the competence of the people in the project team is one of the most important success factors in the ability of the project to deliver its success criteria. "Business leaders will need to embrace the concept of training on a shoestring in 2011," said Spellman. "They need to consider alternative ways to continue to develop the skills of their staff, or risk failing to put them in the best possible position to take advantage of the upturn when it comes.

"What businesses need is a cost-effective way of continuing to offer training that can be accessed quickly and easily, as and when support is required."

The past three years has seen an exponential growth of social media, blogging and the use of smart phone apps. New media is now being used as an extremely cost effective and high quality way of delivering project management training. Part of this trend has been the Parallel Learning System from Parallel Project Training. Since its launch in January 2010, this new way to learn project management has seen exponential growth, with 38,000 podcast downloads and over 800 APMP study guides sold, this new approach has delivered both significant cost savings but also a higher quality learning experience.

"We are always exploring new ways to develop project managers. Our latest project has been to publish our pre-course material on YouTube. The feedback to the pilots has been extremely positive with a couple of hundred downloads already," said Paul Naybour, Business Development Director at Parallel Project Training.

"The key to this new approach is maintaining integration between the different parts of the learning system," said John Bolton, Programme Development Director. "The online media has to be compatible with the study guide, e-learning package, podcasts and classroom workshops".

Parallel Project Training is not the only organisation investing in new and innovative ways of using mobile technology to develop project management capability - the market for distance and mobile learning is developing rapidly, with a number of providers launching products in this area in 2010. These new approaches to project management development certainly offer significant cost saving over the traditional five-day classroom course. It will be interesting to see how this trend develops over the next few years, as organisations start to seek better value from their limited project management development budgets

Trainingjournal.com - Almost Half of Managers Fear Further Training Budgets Cuts in 2011

Microsoft PowerPoint - The 2008 People Deliver Projects Survey Report (pdf)

Image courtesy Inha Leex Hale and re-used with permission.

Ten Top Tips for Delivering Successful Projects

Tensions within a project team will rise if the project falls off track.

Words: Trevor Mirams, REDTRAY Ltd.

It has always been important to deliver projects on time and on budget, but these days there is no margin for error. Discover how to achieve project success with these top ten tips...

1. Use tried and trusted methods: Follow standardised practices to maximise productivity, minimise redundancies and improve consistency. PRINCE2® for example, is a tried and tested, recognised method for project management. It means project team members will be able to hit the ground running as they will already be familiar with the terminology and processes, saving valuable time on the project and ensuring ease of communication amongst the project team and key stakeholders.

2. Know your target: How can you hit a target if you don’t know what it looks like? The best way to achieve your objectives is to produce a concise ‘project product description’ so that you have a clear vision of the end goal. This description should include measurable acceptance criteria that have been agreed upon by key stakeholders and, crucially, the project sponsor. Never lose sight of your target as long as the project lasts.

3. Accept change is a reality: A successful Project Manager will tackle change head-on rather than avoiding it. Change Management is an integral part of any successful project. Management of change means you have to think quickly on your feet - change should be justified, its impact assessed and as a result, an appropriate response proposed.

4. Keep stakeholders engaged: Anybody that has an interest in the project at all is a stakeholder; don’t underestimate the power of keeping all stakeholders engaged, regardless of their relationship to the project. Remember communication is a two way channel. Communication will help reduce stakeholder resistance to change and help manage expectations.

5. Risk; don’t take your eye off the ball: Realise and accept that risk management is unfortunately an ongoing, everyday part of a Project Manager’s role. Always build a risk management strategy into your project plan and communicate potential risks to all team members. Anything that could have an impact on your objectives requires attention – ignore at your peril.

6. Monitor progress regularly and frequently: Meeting project deadlines is challenging and the best way to stay on track is to frequently monitor progress against the plans. This way you will be in a position to apply controlling action at the earliest opportunity if progress is not as expected.

7. Delegate, delegate, delegate: It’s tempting as the Project Manager to get heavily involved in the actual specialist work of the project and not leave enough time for your own management activities. Remember that your principle role is as the Project Manager and you need to maintain a bigger picture perspective at all times.

8. Quality is key: All project deliverables need to meet success criteria; therefore, quality control is an integral part of any project. Build sufficient time for quality control into your project time-line so that you have an opportunity to iron out wrinkles before project implementation. Prioritising quality control will pay particular dividends in stakeholder satisfaction.

9. Don't hide the truth: As the project manager, you are charged with keeping the project on an even keel, within your boundaries of authority. As soon as it looks likely to deviate beyond those boundaries, don't keep it to yourself and assume that you can recover it. Escalate to Senior Management immediately and you'll receive their support for your recommendations. Senior Management does NOT like unpleasant surprises at a later date!

10. Learn from every project: Evaluate each project and turn it into a valuable learning experience. Lessons learned will lead to continuous improvement and impact both the success of your career and that of future projects.


Video from ChangeQuest: "Project Management Communication"

'The Project Manager's Story' illustrates why projects so often go wrong, and offers hints on how to keep our projects on track for success.

ChangeQuest offers a powerful base of traditional project management skills, blended with a deep understanding of the behavioural issues associated with communication and the management of change. Through our training and coaching programmes, organisations and individuals can work towards the delivery of more effective change, on a consistent basis.


Principal Consultant Ranjit Sidhu of ChangeQuest, who oversaw the content in this video, is an experienced trainer, facilitator, and project management consultant with over 20 years' experience gained on global projects spanning Europe, North America and Africa. Her credentials include being an accredited trainer for the Change Management Practitioner qualification; a PRINCE2® and Agile Project Management accredited trainer; a coach and certified trainer of NLP; and an Assessor for the APM Practitioner.

The Benefits of Pragmatic Agile Project Management

The RADTAC Pragmatic Agile Model accounts for a variety of factors in advocating a blend of frameworks.


"Pragmatic Agile" is the evaluation and transition to Agile best practices, alongside the current methods, systems and practices of a business, rather than a carte-blanche replacement of the existing – and potentially valuable – processes and methods that exist within an enterprise.

It is RADTAC's approach to transforming project management practices that is "pragmatic" rather than "prescriptive".

Pragmatic Agile enables a business to adapt and evolve their methods and practices to a position where Agile may be applied as appropriate to the specific needs, personnel and culture of the business environment, and for a Pragmatic Agile project delivery framework to be agreed and introduced to the project, programme or enterprise.

Back in 2001, the Agile Alliance formalised the Agile Manifesto that encapsulates the guiding principles of 'Agile' methods. 10 years on, and Agile practices and frameworks have evolved considerably, through trial, practise and application. No longer are “Scrum” and other Agile frameworks the new kids on the block and now, for the first time, we are truly seeing a move towards Enterprise-wide Agile implementation. With this comes the requirement for everyone involved in project and program management to understand and consider the value of Agile to their organisation and as part of their own Continuous Professional Development.

With experience across the full suite of Lean and Agile frameworks, RADTAC has developed a pragmatic approach to the application of these methods across a wide range of businesses. This article outlines the case for this Pragmatic Agile approach.

Agile Expansion
RADTAC believes that the case for Agile is now proven. Agile has escaped the confines of the technical community from whence it originated, and is now on the business agenda of all forward-looking companies.

The challenge now is how to successfully expand Lean and Agile into this wider business community – and to do this so as to deliver on the promise of improved project delivery – in terms of time, cost and quality.

To do this, the wider business community, including project management professionals in particular, needs to understand and embrace Agile. They also need, however, to understand the practical considerations and complexities of these new approaches; and the very real challenges that those working in traditional environments face when trying to utilise them. Against this ever-changing background, today’s project management professional needs to understand how to apply Agile approaches effectively.

The Case for Pragmatic Agile
Agile methods have evolved and now include many approaches – Scrum, Extreme Programming, Lean and Kanban, the Open Unified Process and DSDM to name but a few – each embracing the principals of the Agile Manifesto and each being "similar but different".

Being "similar but different" has caused some confusion for organisations when considering a move towards Agile, with individual suppliers and consultants each prescribing their preferred Agile method.

To sidestep this confusion and avoid any pre-selected preference, from the very beginning RADTAC took the pragmatic view that the appropriate Agile methods should be selected in discussion with the client’s business, and will work best when introduced alongside the existing practices of the business, rather than used to replace those practices in a single transformation step. In essence evolution and not revolution, working with the business to deliver change that is sustainable, not just implemented when the consultants are on site.

This approach enables the client and the business to adapt and evolve to a position where Agile may be applied as appropriate to the needs, personnel and culture of their specific environment.

RADTAC describes this unique approach as "Pragmatic Agile" – an approach that applies practices that are Pragmatic and not Dogmatic; Progressive and not Prescriptive.

No Assumptions
With Pragmatic Agile, we recognise that Agile methods may not be appropriate in every circumstance, and that not all client Business and Project Managers may be open to the idea of using Agile for the delivery of their projects.

Pragmatic Agile makes no assumptions as to the best delivery method for a project, but enables and encourages clients to discuss, select and apply those Agile and traditional best practices that will deliver to the specific environment of their business.

Uniquely, Pragmatic Agile also recognises that the client may require, or need, to continue with traditional project delivery methods alongside contemporary Agile project methods – perhaps for the maintenance of legacy systems themselves. Pragmatic Agile allows for this practical inevitability, without compromising Agile project delivery.

‘Pragmatic Agile’ does not mandate usage of one particular agile approach to the exclusion of all others; it does not encourage ‘method wars’. Rather, it recommends a practical blend of agile frameworks that work together in today’s organisational environment, integrated into the current practices that work. Once this baseline is established, the whole programme or organisation delivery capability can be evolved together.

This is illustrated in the RADTAC Pragmatic Agile Model.

RADTAC Pragmatic Agile Model
The RADTAC Pragmatic Agile model integrates an appropriate framework of Agile and non-Agile methods, either proprietary or in house (if they work then continue to use them) to optimise delivery, and with the appropriate elements of each method applied - pragmatically and dynamically.

It is generally recognised that Agile can enable individual development teams to deliver high-quality, effective products. However, the co-ordination and management of turning those developments into projects and delivering the benefits expected from an integrated programme / portfolio of change remains costly and difficult – without the pragmatic application of Agile Project Management.

So, to deliver the promise of Agile to the entire project and therefore to the business, the industry needs a Pragmatic Agile framework that includes appropriate best practices for both Project Management and software development: practices that together provide the Agile delivery focus, enable the control and integration of the full Agile and non-agile deliveries, and enable the project to deliver co-ordinated benefits to the business.

In essence we need to establish the ‘glue’ to bond “best practice” delivery and management methods together, to meet the requirements of the client business, and to enable Agile and non-Agile elements and/or projects to co-exist, to interrelate – and to deliver value.

Pragmatic Agile is the 'glue', and can be delivered through common Agile frameworks such as Scrum, eXtreme programming, Lean, Kanban, DSDM or the Open Unified Process.

The case for Agile methods is proven, having evolved through practice over the last fifteen or more years - from the definition of approaches such as XP and DSDM in the mid-'90's, creation of the Agile Alliance in 2001 and the Scrum Alliance in 2004 through the emergence of Lean and Kanban to the APMG’s new Agile Project Management certification in 2010.

By their very nature, Agile methods will continue to evolve, and such evolution should be embraced as an opportunity for improvements and further benefits.

Many large corporate organisations have trialled Agile approaches; with too many concluding that Agile either does not suit their existing practices and procedures or that it is just too difficult to implement in a single step, or large environment.

Therefore to remedy this, the route to the successful transition to Agile – and the recognition of the significant benefits that may be achieved through such a transition – needs to take account of existing systems, methods and priorities, to include them where appropriate and to avoid unnecessary large, single steps.

Pragmatic Agile enables any organisation to begin a low-risk transition towards Agile and the significant benefits that Agile can deliver.


Some Key Considerations When Selecting a Training Provider

Belts are tightening on training budgets.


It is clear that for the next few years, there’s going to be a real tightening of belts across all industry sectors as the public sector deal with imposed austerity measures and the private sector struggle in a challenging economic environment. All organisations are naturally looking at ways to cut costs and improve efficiency, whilst at the same time maintaining appropriate levels of output and quality.

One of the areas that can sometimes come under scrutiny in an economic downturn is training. Budgets are often cut altogether, or at least reduced as organisations identify an easy short term cost saving.

However, with the economic challenges ahead, there is likely to be an increase in business change initiatives as organisations introduce new or different ways of working. Therefore, employing individuals who are competent in performing a Project role is critical to bringing about those changes successfully. Whilst there can be a temptation to cut training budgets, now more than ever organisations should invest in making sure their people have the adequate skills and knowledge to perform their role competently. Equally, with an uncertain job market, individuals need to ensure that they are appropriately skilled as well as professionally qualified to maximise their marketability.

What both organisations and individuals need to do is take a smarter approach to training to ensure they get the maximum return on their investment. Below are a few questions that are worth considering before embarking on a training commitment:

Is the purpose to gain accreditation or to increase competency?
When a training course includes an exam-based qualification, e.g. PRINCE2, it is invariably the case that a significant proportion of the course duration will be devoted to learning how to pass the exam. If, however, the objective is to increase skills and competency, then it’s worth looking at non-exam based courses where there isn’t an exam-passing agenda. The course duration is then fully geared around skills and knowledge that can be applied in the real world and it can actually mean that a 3 or 4-day course can cover more content that can be useful in the workplace than a 5 day exam-based course.

Which training venue should we use?
Most training companies will offer their own training venue or provide a trainer to deliver the course at the customer’s premises. For the client, it tends to be more cost effective if the training happens at the client’s premises, as there are no overheads that need factoring into the price.

What about the skills of the trainer?
Some training companies use ‘trained trainers’ who have never actually worked in the area in which they’re teaching. It’s certainly worth checking with your training provider that whoever is delivering the course has some real experience that they can bring to the event.

What will the learning environment be like?
Courses that are on a training company’s public schedule can involve large numbers of delegates, which undoubtedly dilutes the learning experience as group discussion and individual interaction is much more stifled. It’s worth checking beforehand what the maximum delegate numbers are for a course to ensure it’s at a level that individuals will feel comfortable with.

Will there be any practical exercises?
It’s important that delegates do get the opportunity to work through some practical exercises so that they have a go at using tools and techniques that they’ve learnt during the course. This in turn will lead to an increase in confidence when they apply their learning in the real business environment. It’s worth establishing the extent of any practical exercises, how they are facilitated and their business relevance.

What level is the training aimed at?
Most project management courses are naturally aimed at Project Managers. But what about all the many other project roles, such as Project Support, Team Members, and Project Board Members, that can easily be forgotten about? It’s important that delegates are broadly at the same level of experience or performing similar roles to avoid unintended intimidation by more experienced delegates. It also helps to ensure that the course content is at the appropriate level of detail.

Training is an important part of individual and team development. If it’s delivered by the right person, in the right way, in the right environment, and is geared around meeting a clear training objective, then there can be a real benefit to both the individual and organisation. Training should remain a key focus within any business but what is important is making sure that there is a real return in terms of added value and tangible benefits. Some training companies will work with you after the event to see what productivity gains have been achieved and help identify additional knowledge gaps.

As we move through the next few years, hopefully there will remain a commitment to training, but also that both organisations and individuals choose their training services carefully to ensure they give their business change initiatives the best possible chance of completing successfully.


Image courtesy rasdourian and re-used with permission.

Certifications for Project Managers and the Importance of PMI

The right skills/training in your background can be of great assistance to a career in project management.

It is critical in any industry to ensure you have the relevant and up to date skills and knowledge in order to be successful. If you are looking to get into the Project Management industry for the first time or a seasoned professional looking to progress your career, the best way to demonstrate your skills is to gain a globally recognised certification.

Professional certifications are an important step in career development, and recognise qualified and competent individuals. Gaining a certification gives you a competitive edge, and the recognition you deserve to excel in your career. Now, more than ever, employers are specifically requesting certifications as a pre-requisite before hiring, as they demonstrate proficiency in tasks specific to particular job roles. From an employers’ perspective when looking to hire someone, the decision is made so much easier if that person has the relevant certification for the job role. In today's labour market, you'll often not even get to interview stage without one.

When deciding if certification is right for you, Kathryn James from the Learning People says you should consider the following questions:

  • Are you new to the project management industry and looking to kick-start your career?
  • Have you been working in the project management industry for a number of years and want to progress your career?
  • Would you like to earn more money and have greater job security?
  • Are you considering switching jobs and want to make the best impression possible?
  • Does your employer require you to stay current with the latest industry developments?
  • Are you the kind of person who likes to be the best at what you do?

If your answer is yes to any of these questions then a project management certification may be exactly what you need.

The next step is to choose the right certification for you. There is a range to choose from, and which is the right one for you will depend on a number of factors. It’s important to do your research and speak to people with experience in the different project management certifications that are available.

The global leader in project management certifications is the Project Management Institute (PMI). The PMI offers certifications for those just starting out in the industry, as well as for those who have been working as a project manager for a number of years. But what do PMI qualifications mean to the project manager in the UK? Taken from pieces within PMI.org and our own website,

PMI is the world’s leading not-for-profit membership association for the project management profession, with more than half a million members and credential holders in 185 countries. Their worldwide advocacy for project management is supported by globally-recognised standards and credentials, an extensive research program, and professional development opportunities.

PMI was the first organisation to offer a credential specifically for project managers, and their certification program remains the global standard. Developed by practitioners for practitioners and representing a diverse global audience, PMI certifications give you a technical and financial edge.

PMI credentials...

- Are flexible- PMI certifications are not based on one specific methodology, so they’re flexible and adaptable. You can easily transfer them between industries, market segments and geographic locations.

- Keep you up-to-date- PMI continually conducts in-depth studies to ensure that their credentials actually reflect the current skills, knowledge and best practices you need to succeed.

- Encourage professional growth- You never have to worry about a PMI certification becoming obsolete. The certification maintenance program requires you to earn professional development units (PDUs), which encourage you to continually develop your skills and stay current as the profession changes.

- Help you get ahead- PMI certification offers financial benefits - the Project Management Professional (PMP®) credential increases your salary by up to 10% (according to the PMI Salary Survey - Sixth Edition, 2009) and helps you stand out and better market yourself to prospective employers.

The great news is that these certifications are open to anyone - so no matter what your personal circumstance or work experience, getting a project management certification is achievable. Once you have one, a world of opportunities can open up!


A Trainer's View of Worldwide Certification and You

A view of the PM certifications and training


Call me a cynic but I believe that a lot of project management training is low value. Perhaps I've an unconventional view: 1,000 words won’t take you long to decide if there is any value for you in my opinions and approach. The unconventional dimension includes the fact that my training materials are available for free download to individuals using them for personal development.

As a project management consultant and trainer of project managers I hold the PMP, IPMA-D, PRINCE2®, M_o_R® and CGEIT qualifications. I was a PRINCE2® examiner when it was essay-based and taught a variety of PM-related topics. It has been my experience when achieving these badges myself and subsequently teaching exam-crams that project management qualification-oriented training in particular is often very thin on real-world value.

Must-Have Badges
Of course in the contract market exam-crams give a must-have badge: lack of a badge, particularly PRINCE2® in the UK, is an agency filter for CVs into the WPB*. However the skills a non-exam event provides are the job-keeper, stress-reducer and rate-enhancer.

* - Waste Paper Bin

Purpose of PM Qualifications
All entry-level PM qualifications provide the same challenge: “show that you know the vocabulary and framework in our book”. That way, two similarly qualified individuals can discuss how to adapt the framework to a specific project.

Having an opinion in these exams is generally a bad idea; it is about "what do we say", not "what do you think". Higher level qualifications demand the lower as entry criteria and do expect opinion via dissertation or viva.

Which Qualifications Might Help
A mix of some facts and my highly subjective view is:

PMP [from the Project Management Institute (PMI): www.pmi.org] is globally recognised. In some circumstances, organisations like the US Department of Defence, and industries like oil and gas insist on sub-contractor staff holding it.

PMP is only available to those with an auditable history of 5 years project involvement (3 years with a Degree) – not hard for anyone involved in non-routine roles to demonstrate. The exam is a long, tough and subtle multiple choice test of your knowledge of “A Guide to The Project Management Body of Knowledge”. Questions require the “best” answer from several correct answers. Exam entry criteria include 35 hours training. Realistically, you won’t pass without ‘schooling’ in how to approach the questions and lots of practice. There are some good exam-prep books out there.

There is a lower-level PMI exam called CAPM – I’ve never heard it mentioned in any industry context I’ve worked in.

APMP (or the IPMA-D qualification from www.apm.org.uk). The APMP syllabus is arguably the best for the real world. The exam does not require experience, but leads to higher level qualifications that do. APMP is not mandated anywhere I know of (e.g. the UK's largest budget holders: the NHS and Ministry of Defence do not insist sub-contractor staff is APMP qualified). I've never had it specified as a must while PRINCE2® and PMP frequently are.

It strikes me as a Betamax solution – technically better but losing the volume battle. A less commercial asset to you. Of course APM would (and the UK defence industry might) refute that. It is just my impression as a consultant and trainer across engineering, oil and gas, defence, pharmaceuticals, banking and finance. I’ve worked in Baku- Azerbaijan, Rome and many other places where the recognised badge is PMP. Outside the UK it seems to be squeezed by PMP and in the UK by PRINCE2®.

The APMP syllabus, body of knowledge and a sample of the three-hour written exam are freely downloadable from their web site.

Comparing PMP to APMP is unfair. My observation is that recruitment agency awareness and industry penetration seem to equate them. Knowledge and experience-wise, the comparison should be CAPM to APMP and PMP with APM’s APM-PQ (Practitioner Qualification). APM-PQ leads to APM membership and APM are to be the UK’s professional chartering organisation.

PRINCE2® is a funny one. For any UK-based PM job in the general commercial world, it is almost a ‘must-have’ to avoid being filtered out by the agencies before the interview stage. But it also seems to be universally ridiculed as a tool that is NOT to be used in reality (including in the public sector!)

P2 is a CONTROL regime that sits on top of the capabilities PMI and APM describe. P2 assumes you already know how to plan a project, track progress, and manage staff and procurement. These topics are largely omitted from the manual and thus from the exam and thus absent from exam-cram training: there are courses out there that aim to bring P2 into practical application in the real world, mine included. The best course along those lines hammers home what the practitioner truly wants and needs. By contrast, an exam context course rarely provides it.

I know of only one ATO other than mine that say clearly that to be usable P2 training must be extended beyond the manual and this isn’t possible in an exam-cram week. However, when extended, then P2 plus insights from either PMI or APM is the bee’s knees.

There are many 'Accredited Training Organisations' (ATOs) like mine licensed to run P2 exams. We all find that industry demands 'a certificate in a week'. You should be wary of a couple of things:

1) As is reflected in the theme of this article, I suggest the certificate is the training’s target not actual PM competence;

2) When faced with a claimed 100% pass rates ask yourself what you are not being told – e.g. “Is there an elimination test mid-way through your course to protect their statistics?” I only have 90-something % success rates - that’s because some course attendees don't put the effort in. Anyone with 80% plus pass rates is giving what the "average" attendee needs to pass.

Ultimately, taking the P2 exam requires no real-world experience. Taken without real experience or a grounding in the omitted and assumed techniques will not equip you to run projects, although it will allow you to avoid agency filtering.

If your focus is general commercial or public sector you need PRINCE2®. Just don’t expect mainstream exam-cram training to equip you to know how to run projects if you don’t already. If you do, find a suitable trainer and then do the open exams. If you look overseas or to a global sector like oil and gas, then realistically PMP is the only recognised benchmark. Finally if big-bucks is your target, research becoming a trader with Goldman Sachs!


PRINCE2® is a trademark of the Office of Government Commerce in the UK and other countries.

Building a Project and Programme Management Profession

The professional approach is but one way in which project managers can show how serious they are about professionalism.

Projects have been used to deliver change for centuries and yet project failures still prevail today. There are many reasons; people still resist change, sponsors of change don’t understand their role, estimates are wild guesses and often project management is viewed as a job that people do alongside their 'day job'.

If projects are to be taken seriously, there is a compelling need for project management to be treated as a profession in the same way that accounting or engineering are. Training provides the first few stepping stones in developing a firm foundation for a project management career. Practitioners then acquire further skills, experience and confidence as they deliver programmes and projects. 

Organisations not only need a combination of training, competency frameworks and a career structure to create a project management profession but they must also cultivate a culture that welcomes projects and managers who embrace change. When people oppose change there is a far greater burden placed on the project manager to deal with this and in turn deliver successful projects.

Project Managers have to be excellent communicators, resilient yet diplomatic and collaborate with those impacted by change to reach a solution. Advanced training or developing these softer skills through mentoring and coaching programmes is just one way to increase the professionalism of a project manager.

Best practice project management methods, processes and tools are all areas which can help combat project failure levels. Ensuring "fit for purpose" methods for example, there are some excellent examples of best practice methodologies from PRINCE2® (PRojects IN a Controlled Environment) and MSP (Managing Successful Programmes). However, processes for managing projects and decision making work best when they fit with the organisation’s own business structure and culture. Having the flexibility to adjust project management processes for different levels of risk and complexity in projects is crucial if they are to be well used.

Project managers also need to have good quality information in time to make decisions about their projects. A strong commercial focus and a good grasp of the business outcomes and the benefits of their projects are key aspects of improving the business performance.

These skill sets are crucial to the modern project manager’s arsenal. The killer combination of project management theory with the softer skills required to manage the people aspects and the business acumen to successfully deliver projects in, what is often complex and political environments. 

It is important then that the provider an individual or company chooses as their training partner must combine these elements. Building a professional project management organisation must include practical development, training, coaching and continual support to build a sustainable, mature and successful project management practice. Packaged correctly, the approach can strengthen the business performance of projects and help to embed the profession of project management within an organisation.

The drive to improve project management standards is ongoing however project management has become a core competency and fixed feature for many organisations. Project management should be treated as a profession and as with many professions; continual learning, development and getting better at what we do will pay dividends as we see project success rates increase.  

Project Management Training Directory Sponsors

Project Management Jobs

PPM Careers Clinics

The Project Management Careers Clinic from Arras People is a 30 minute one-on-one consultation with project management practitioners looking for careers advice.

The careers clinic can be accessed by anyone looking for help and advice in these areas:

  • Facing redundancy
  • Just started looking for a new job
  • Creating a better CV
  • Long term unemployment
  • Looking to get into project management?
  • Looking to make a career switch?
  • Frustrated with your job search?
  • Need to understand the job market?
  • Need advice on project management training?
  • Need career development guidance?

Prefer a face-to-face appointment? Find out how to book

Project Management Job Portal