Back about 8 Years ago I posted a blog with the title: Prince2 – the next wave to reach North American project management
It’s strange that I used the word “wave’. Waves come and go… die out in the very short term. I certainly did not believe this back 8 years ago.
Prince2 tried to land in North America back around 2000. I was a huge supporter in my role with The Schulich Executive Education Centre and as the Managing Director of ProjectWorld Canada. I, my colleagues and a few competitors in the training business saw Prince2 as exciting new potential.
We were right. But potential does not always equate to results. Prince2 has remained a relatively unknown project management tool in North America with very little potential for a turnaround.
First of all, for any reader who needs a Prince2 crash explanation…
Prince2 (PRojects IN Controlled Environments) is a simple, easy to understand, easy to teach, methodology that can be adopted to any project environment in any industry managing any type of project. It is basically available at no cost though templates and documentation on the internet. It was created by the UK Government IT group and then used throughout all government projects. Once its value was established outside IT the decision was made to take it outside the Government walls and offer it to the rest of the world though a new entity called the APM Group. The APM Group makes its money on training and certification.
Prince2 has over 200,000 users around the world. In 2000, this was mostly the UK and Australia with a fair presence in Europe. Nothing in North America. Today, these numbers are only slightly different with a very small number of US and Canadian organizations adapting Prince2. When I say small, I mean less than 5 large organizations in Canada! Small.
So what happened? Here are five reasons that I think have led to the current state of Prince2 in North America:
1. Confusion between PMBOK and Prince2. Regardless of how much APM Group and Prince2 training vendors tried, most people still think these two are competitors. They are far from it. The PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge) is NOT a methodology. It is a GUIDE to the body of knowledge that the Project Management Institute thinks is required for project managers. I often refer to it as the “What you know”. The stuff we all learn before college or university.
Prince2 is a methodology – a step-by-step, gate-based process for managing projects. The “How do you do it” part. The stuff we learn during college and university or on the job.
Together they are brilliant. Thus my enthusiasm ‘many’ years ago. But no one really understood this on this side of the Atlantic.
2. It takes one very powerful person in an organization to make the decision to standardize on Prince2. So far, in all of these years we have only seen a few of them courageous enough to take the leap. I have seen many incidents when the investigation creates a committee and that very powerful person meets up with a clear lack of support – for reasons mentioned in 3 and 4 below. I have also observed the exit of that original champion and the quick exit of Prince2 along with him or her.
3. Prince2 is deceivingly expensive. If you decide to standardize on it, you are all in. There is no small step. Everyone in your project management community needs to be educated – from senior management to all project management resources. Not easy.
4. Prince2 is expensive on an on-going basis. Because of the lack of up-take in North America, every project manager you hire will need to be certified in Prince2. If you have already done the mass training, each one of these new resources needs to attend a public program – 5 days at $3,000 – $5,000 each.
5. Prince2 is perceived to be ‘old school’ against a more modern option called Agile. Both are true methodologies with very different applications. In fact I think they are very complimentary but one is certainly getting more press these days than the other. If I were a CIO looking at options, I think I would invest in Agile over Prince2.
So 2015 and Prince2 is nowhere near a standard in North America. In fact, sadly, not even understood well enough to be considered.
10 thoughts on “Five Reasons Prince2 Did Not Make it in North America”
An interesting article, but unfortunately it is laden with curious logic, incorrect facts, and a bit of bad grammar.
Let’s start with the simple things . . . PRINCE2, as you point out, is
actually an acronym, and therefore is capitalized (and should have the
registered trademark symbol after it but it would not represent in this application), not lowercase. And since AXELOS took over the management of the methodology from the Cabinet Office, the logo has changed as well.
But more interesting is the premise that PRINCE2 is expensive because people need training. The logical conclusion is that it is more cost effective to not train your project managers. I think this would come as a surprise, not only to the PMI who require training to become a PMP, but to the many corporations who insist on having a well-trained and credentialed project management staff. It is certainly more expensive to have failed projects due to inadequately trained project managers.
I am not sure where your numbers come from. Over one million professionals have achieved their PRINCE2 certification. And while
certainly they are not all practicing product managers, this number is a
testament to the value that is seen in both the methodology and the
As to the cost, the price of PRINCE2 training is solely the
decision of the company which offers it. If you look around the market, you will find courses over a broad price range, offered in the classroom, web delivered, or pre-recorded. There are options for every organization and every budget.
It is a fact that in North America, the PMP is the more popular certification by a large margin. And I agree that when the PRINCE2 is used as a methodology with the PMBoK as the underlying framework, it is a powerful combination.
But I think a bit more time, thought, and research would have resulted in a more accurate article.
Hi Ron. Well said. I should have checked my facts with you first. Sorry. I am surprised at the 1000000 #. I searched every web site I knew of to check that number. 200k is the only one that popped. Can you please provide some sort of reference.
On the expense comment I would be pleased to talk about this. PRINCE2 (I stand corrected as per your comments) is so tightly controlled that it is almost impossible to train anyone without getting the management group involved. This involves a fee per student back to them and that means a higher cost per person for all vendors from the start. Yes we need well trained PMs. Of Course. My opinion is that to standardize on PRINCE2 will cost a lot more than over the long haul than other methodology options.
Maybe this article will help the cause. Maybe some organizations might read this and investigate themselves.
No-one uses PRINCE2? I’m sat in a Canadian airport on the way to another
customer who has rolled it out to their IT Department. I’ve been on the
road doing this for the last 2 weeks. Advantage Learning has been running
courses across Canada, year on year since 2007 – we’re busy!
Even if you’re not with an all-in PRINCE2 environment the method has
many benefits. The key one (which PMBOK lacks) is PRINCE2’s emphasis on
continued business justification. It’s all about the value the project
is delivering – the business case is the project life support system
and ensures the project continually checks progress against anticipated
Not even in UK – the land of PRINCE2 – are all PMs certified. A project team needs to understand their methodology but only the PM needs to do the 5 day class. Team members can certify at the (3 day) Foundation level and Executives and Team members can receive short inexpensive awareness sessions. PMI recognizes the value of PRINCE2 with PDUs and PMPs can skip the Foundation exam.
Just as PMBOK© and PRINCE2© compliment each other, so do AGILE and PRINCE2©. The current version of PRINCE2© is agile ready, so just as it is not one or the other with PMBOK© and PRINCE2© it is not one or the other with AGILE & PRNCE2©.
I agree with Ronn’s comment on cost as well. PMI requires 35 hours of training ($) before writing the exams (more$). For the same 35 hours of training you can also get your PRINCE2© foundation and practitioner exams written.
Also, if I’m not mistaken the numbers of certified PRINCE2© practitioners worldwide is similar to the number of PMPs.
Canada’s First Authorized PRINCE2 Trainer (2009)
Interesting post and one to create conversation, so nice and thought provoking David.
1. I think one of the challenges is that PMI universally reacted as if PRINCE2 was a competitor (I was in on PMI Chapter meetings with that was a discussion point). And the PMI is a formidable defender of its turf. You just have to look at the ISO PM Standard to see that it was stuffed with PMI people following the PMI line.
2. Another challenge for the US is the “Not Invent Here” syndrome. I will say no more on that.
3. Can it be turned around? It would need a government body to come out and state it is a standard adopted and all sub contractors must comply. Much like other countries where it has grown. Go back to number 2.
I have no answers, but continue to offer my support and seek to persuade PM’s to the usefulness of PRINCE2 and the Agile extension of it!
David, I agree strongly with your major points. I took the PRINCE2 Foundation exam about a dozen years ago (back when the only Canadian exam option was to write it at a British Consulate or at the Embassy). But I have yet — ever — to use the PRINCE2 materials in practice in Canada. Some organizations talk about it, but I have not personally seen one complete implementation of it.
I have good news, though. Axelos (the current “owner” of PRINCE2) just released an agile version of it called PRINCE2 Agile. (See https://www.axelos.com/best-practice-solutions/prince2/prince2-agile ) There is a certification exam for it and training organizations are getting geared up to support it. Perhaps this will usher in a new “wave” of interest in PRINCE2 in North America.
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