When looking at career goals, a project management qualification can make all the difference and is a fantastic CV enhancer. You may already be in the in the project management industry or you may be managing projects within your role, either way it is a huge benefit. We are here today to review some of the simple questions posed by our delegates when considering a project management qualification.

What is project management?

To answer this question, we need to start with the basics and answer the question ‘what is a project?’ As defined by PRINCE2® project management is as follows:

“A temporary organisation that’s created for the purpose of delivering one or more business products according to an agreed Business Case”. (AXELOS: Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2®: 2017 Edition).

 

What does this mean?… a group of people taking an idea and creating products which the business can use.

If it doesn’t come under the below descriptions, then it isn’t really a project…

Change - Projects are the means by which we introduce change to the business.

Temporary - Projects are not permanent initiatives. They have a defined or targeted start and end.

Cross‐functional - A project involves a team of people (who possibly would never usually be working together) with different skills working together (on a temporary basis)

Unique - Each project will be unique in some way: a different team, a different customer, a different location, a different time.

Uncertain – All of these factors will introduce threats and opportunities that are not considered ‘business as usual’ Projects are ‘riskier’– because we are going into unknown territory, we haven’t done anything quite like this before.

Project management is the process of executing the project (including planning, initiating, producing, delivering and closing) business initiatives according to all the above.

What Project Management courses are there… and which one should I choose?

There is no straight answer to this question, but project management approaches broadly come under either one of two types of approach two and sometimes a combination of the two.

The waterfall approach

This is the more traditional project management approach that was originally used and developed for use in large IT projects and now is usually called a waterfall approach.  The term ‘waterfall’ comes from the fact that the project is a linear progression from start through to finish – there isn’t any going back and adjusting things.  There are a few project management methods which exemplify this approach but probably the most commonly recognised is PRINCE2®.

The PRINCE2® approach started out as a UK-government method to manage the various IT ‘projects’ undertaken under its command.  This meant that the structure of the project could be monitored and controlled at all stages and that continued viability of the project could be maintained at all times. It has now become the standard which the government mandates to manage its projects and many large and small scale organisations have used it as the go-to project management approach.

Each project takes place in distinct and established stages. In the waterfall approach, each stage will need to be completed before the next one can begin.  The stages allow the Project Executive to keep an eye on the project and ensure that it remains on-track and relevant to the business.  This style of management provides a higher level of bureaucracy, documentation, oversight and traceability than the agile approaches.

According to Arras People 2018, PRINCE2® Practitioners can earn approx. £52k per annum.

Agile project management

Reactive and flexible, Agile project management has its roots in software development where it is essential to ‘be responsive’ to customer needs. Probably this is because it is only by ‘demonstrating’ a prototype, that the customer can get a feel of the result, and then suggest changes or adaptions.  It achieves this responsiveness by frequent, continuous and cyclical delivery (in Scrum Agile these delivery cycles are known as ‘sprints’). The project and the final product can therefore change and adapt to the needs of the customer and is not restricted by the parameters put into place before the project began. This way, the project begins to deliver from very early on in the process.  SCRUM breaks the development down into manageable ‘chunks’, with each ‘chunk’ given a finite timeframe in which to deliver.  Kanban practices seeks to control the amount of ‘work-in-progress’, so that the development teams are not overloaded by the rest of the organisation and can deliver the outputs quickly and steadily.  Both latter two approaches are light on documentation but strong on delivery.

There are many types of courses that cover an agile approach to project management and all of them incorporate the general values of the Agile Manifesto which are:

  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
  • Individuals and interaction over process and tools.
  • Responding to change over following a structured plan.
  • Prototyping/working solutions over comprehensive documentation.

This style of management allows the project team greater flexibility in their approach to the final solution.  This in turn allows the development team to ‘brain-storm’ ideas in order to create the best results.

Some of the best project management courses in the UK for those wishing to embark on an agile project management career is APMG’s AgilePM, Certified Scrum Alliance and Kanban.

Can you practice agile and waterfall at the same time?

Both of these types of approach have their pros and cons and some courses have been developed in an aim to create the best of both worlds. PRINCE2 Agile® Project Management covers the best of both worlds and marries the flexibility and responsiveness of agile approaches such as Kanban and Scrum with the governance of PRINCE2®. But the best approach for you as an individual will be dependant on the needs, culture and management practices of the organisation you work for.

For example, some organisations have PRINCE2® embedded within their organisation, so it makes sense to follow the PRINCE2® Foundation and Practitioner accreditation route. Many organisations use a management method which has its roots in PRINCE2® but ‘tailored’ to their own business needs.

I am a beginner, what is the best project management course for me?

The best place to start if to make a decision on which learning option suites you the best.

Project Management courses can be taken in accordance with the learning preference of the individual; whether the project management course is online, in the traditional classroom setting or a mix of the two… the online virtual classroom.

SPOCE offer all learning options for our clients and delegates as follows:

  1. If you like the support of the traditional classroom setting then we offer 2-day Foundation and other entry level qualification courses where you will receive pre course study material, full trainer support and the traditional classroom environment.
  2. If you don’t want to travel, are self-motivated to study alone and without support and also wish to be more self-paced then an online e-Learning course if for you. SPOCE offer any kind of package you wish but the standard is 6 months access with or without exams included.
  3. If you feel you are somewhere in the middle and require a training package where you don’t need to travel and can have flexibility with when you study but you also receive the full support of the trainer and are part of the classroom environment, then SPOCE ONLIVE Virtual Classroom training is for you.

 

One of the best project management courses for beginners is APM PFQ (Association of Project Management Project Fundamentals Qualification). This entry level certification gives an awareness of project management terminology and a broad understanding of the profession and lifecycle of a project. APM is the chartered body for the project professional and was awarded its chartered status for its contribution to the industry in 2016. 

Taking APM PFQ can also be a clear (but not mandatory) route to APM PMQ (Project Management Qualification). Currently, 46% of APM PMQ practitioners earn over £50k per annum (APM 2018).

Other highly recommended entry level qualifications are PRINCE2® Foundation and AgilePM Foundation. Both levels will teach the candidate the general terminology and principles that underpin the relevant approaches.

How can a project management course benefit me?

Studying project management via an officially accredited route can have an enormous impact on your career and how employers view you as a potential candidate for a role. There are also proven benefits for your salary. The certification demonstrates that you have the commitment and training to manage projects and the various challenges that they bring. It also provides you with prior knowledge and experience that will become invaluable, particularly within organisations that already practice these approaches. Having a shared understanding and terminology to use with your peers can enhance communication levels and lead to increased project success.

How much can a project course cost?

The cost of a Project Management Training Fees can vary enormously. Their cost depends on the approach, the level being studied and the preferred learning option of the candidate.

Courses can run as little as £99 for a standard eLearning introduction course (excluding exams) to +£1k for Foundation and Practitioner combined classroom courses with exams. Whilst a classroom-based course is usually completed in one week, e-learning allows the option to fit the training around your existing commitments, and so your study could take from one week to six months.

About SPOCE

SPOCE Project Management are a globally recognised project and IT Service training provider that was the flagship training provider for some of the most prestigious approaches in project and programme management such as PRINCE2® and MSP®. This year SPOCE celebrates 25 years in the industry.

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