What is PRINCE2, ITIL, PMP and IPMA?
A 1-hour introduction to different project and service management frameworks

What hides behind acronyms such as Prince2, PMP or ITIL – which you probably come across frequently if you work in a business environment – is the topic of this session. The IT world is packed with acronyms and certifications and it is something that customers often set as a requirement when hiring external consultants. While this can make sense to a certain extent, many certifications are heavily commercialized and therefore often quite easy to get, which means that they are not a real indicator of top competence. 

In our opinion, unexperienced consultant buyers overemphasize the importance of these certifications. This is because it is very easy to assess whether the consultant is certified or not and without having any knowledge within the field yourself.  

However, it is seldom the certification that determines the success of the project, but instead how skilled and well-fitted the consultant is for the project. 

It is valuable to know that there are big differences in how hard it is to achieve some of these: e.g. with PMP and IPMA, taking the certification also requires documented experience in the field of project management, while a Prince2 or ITIL certification can be taken by a pure novice. So, by knowing the focus and criteria of theses project management certifications, you can already evaluate the value of a certificate more precisely.  

With all this being said, we still think certifications are useful; they ensure a common language and methodology and give theoretical knowledge that can enhance the consultant’s ability to deal with complex projects in a professional and efficient manner. Hence, certifications can provide business value to customers. The best consultants often take a range of certifications simply because it has their interest. 

Now let’s take a closer look at some of the most popular project management certifications and the frameworks they present. 

PRINCE2 (PRojects IN Controlled Environments) 

PRINCE2 is the project management method most widely used by our customers. It sounds almost too simple, but a key benefit that we see of using PRINCE2 is that it limits the risk of having projects in the organisation that are kept alive without the required business justification. 

In some organisations, the PRINCE2 implementation causes trouble, often because the processes become way to bureaucratic. This is often caused by the fact that the people implementing the Prince2 method have not fitted it well enough to the organisation. PRINCE2 newcomers sometimes get overexcited with the method and want to implement it in full scale immediately – without paying attention to the actual organisational context. This is wrong. PRINCE2 must be fitted to the organisation and it is much better to start too small than too big. Actually, it is one of the 7 mandatory principles in PRINCE2 that it is to be tailored to the project environment.

The PRINCE 2 certification is found in two levels: A Foundation and a Practitioner level. For consultants that are working in organisations using the PRINCE2 framework, we see the certification as an advantage. However, the certification is quite commercial and easy to achieve, so we don’t perceive it as a real proof of competence in itself. It is much more important that the project manager is highly skilled and has a strong track record. 

Below is an introduction to the PRINCE2 method, which will also walk you through the 7 principles, 7 themes and 7 processes that PRINCE2 is based on. 

Let’s just get these 3×7 PRINCE2 principles at a glance: 

The 7 principles in PRINCE2: 

  1. Continued Business Justification 
  2. Learn from Experience 
  3. Defined Roles and Responsibilities 
  4. Manage by Stages 
  5. Manage by Exception 
  6. Focus on Products 
  7. Tailor to Suit the Project Environment 

The 7 themes in PRINCE2: 

  1. Business case 
  2. Organisation 
  3. Quality 
  4. Plans 
  5. Risk 
  6. Change 
  7. Progress 

The 7 processes in PRINCE2: 

  1. Starting up a Project 
  2. Initiating a Project 
  3. Directing a Project 
  4. Controlling a Stage 
  5. Managing Product Delivery 
  6. Managing a Stage Boundary 
  7. Closing a Project 

 

ITIL – Best practice processes in the IT organisation 

ITIL is basically a very well described library of best practise processes related to IT. In our opinion, it is biased more against the IT operation and maintenance than on development and innovation. This is seen (even in the full ITIL expert curriculum) where e.g. agile development processes are almost not even mentioned, even though they are a substantial part of the core processes in the IT departments of most of our customers.
However, the processes in ITIL do cover the entire IT lifecycle and consist of 5 core parts: 

  • ITIL Service Strategy 
  • ITIL Service Design 
  • ITIL Service Transition 
  • ITIL Service Operation 
  • ITIL Continual Service Improvement 

The most common certification is ITIL Foundation which can basically be achieved after 2-3 days of preparation. Similar to PRINCE2 Foundation, ITIL Foundation is fairly easy to get. For the same reason, it is nice add-on, but it is very far from indicating that the consultant holding the certification is an expert in driving business value through ITIL processes.  

A higher certification level is the “ITIL Expert”. This certification is fairly hard to get and requires 6 independent exams. However, we would always prefer a skilled consultant with a top track record and the ITIL Foundation exam over a medium consultant with the ITIL Expert certification. (As an example, Soren Rosenmeier, International CEO of Right People Group, has taken the ITIL Expert exam out of interest, but has no substantial practical service management experience and would hence not be the best candidate to pick for such a project.)
 

Most often, our customers start by implementing incident and problem management processes. An “incident” is an interruption in the service (often reported to the helpdesk by a user) and a “problem” is the underlying cause (so one problem can cause many incidents).  

Check out the below video to get an overview of ITIL: 

Project, Program and Portfolio – what does it mean in your organization 

The terms project, program and portfolio can be used quite differently in different organisations. The video below gives a good description of the standard definitions, but it is obviously important to clarify how the terms are used in the specific organisation one is working in to avoid misunderstandings. 

PMP (from PMI) 

PMP is very focused on the execution of project management and is originally from the USA. The certification is medium hard to get, and very often we find consultants with the PMI certification to be really good. As always, the certification itself is not enough to qualify for a project, but we do consider it an indicator of competence. 

PMP is very focused on how to execute the individual project, whereas PRINCE2 can be considered more of an overall framework which the organisation uses to execute projects in a “controlled” manner. 

IPMA 

IPMA is like PMP focused on the execution of project management and it is divided into four certification levels (IPMA Level D, IPMA Level C, IPMA Level B, IPMA Level A). Here you can read shortly about the 4 levels: 

In order to get the certification, among other things, you have to document a certain experience. Naturally, the higher the level, the more experience you have to document. 

For independent consultants, we see quite a gap between level C and level B, as the requirements for getting IPMA level B are high. So, if a project manager holds IPMA level A or IPMA Level B it indicates that he/she is qualified. But as always: the track record is more important and we need to see a good match both in personality and experience to the specific project. 

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What is Right People Group University

Read the short story here.

About Right People University

At Right People Group we are convinced that understanding our customers’ needs is essential to be able to deliver the perfect contractor for a task. Therefore, we constantly work on improving our capabilities to understand both the business objectives and the technical aspects of our customers’ projects. Since we work with a wide range of industries and technologies, this is an ongoing learning process.
Right People Group University is an initiative that supports this learning in a structured way. Once a week, the newest members of the Right People team gather for a study session focused on one specific topic. What you see above is the curriculum for one such session – “What is PRINCE2, ITIL, PMP and IPMA?”.

We launched this series to get new employees up to speed quickly but thought that others might find our study plan useful too. Obviously, you cannot learn everything about PRINCE2, ITIL, PMP and IPMA in one hour, but it can give you a starting point and an overview which will facilitate further learning in the field.
Feel free to join the Right People Group University by following our sessions here on the blog and please post your questions and comments below.