PRINCE2 and PMP – which is better? 

 October 11, 2021

By  Dave Litten

PRINCE2 and PMP – which is better?

Probably one of the most often asked questions I get is “which is better PRINCE2 or PMP?”

Pmp Logo

The answer is simpler than you could have ever imagined – you see, they both serve different yet complementary purposes in the world of project management.

Put as simply as I can, PMP describes “how to be a project manager”, while PRINCE2 provides any project manager with “a framework for project success”.

There are some overlaps. While PMP describes Knowledge Areas (such as risk management, cost management, schedule management, etc), PRINCE2 describes Themes such as The Risk Theme, The Plans Them, The Progress Theme, and so on.

So just taking the topic of project risk, for example, both will deal with the management of risk throughout the project (with some differences).

The PMP (Project Management Professional) qualification does what it says on the tin – it is a worldwide qualification proving that the owner has demonstrated a professional level of knowledge skills and expertise in the management of projects.

The PMP qualification is owned and run by the Project Management Institute (PMI). The PMP syllabus is free to use and apply.

PMP is a rigorous process that documents your achievements in the field of project management.

NOTE: The PRINCE2 Methodology is based entirely on the Official Guide called Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2.

PMP on the other hand is just the name of the qualification (which I shall use throughout this article). However, PMP is based on the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK). This too is a book, BUT, the PMP exam syllabus is also based on information in several other books.

Why should you become PMP certified?

It demonstrates proof of professional achievement, it increases your marketability, it provides greater opportunity for advancement in your field, and it raises customers’ confidence in you and in your companies’ services.

So, what is PRINCE2?

PRINCE2 is a Methodology.

PRINCE2 is owned and run by Axelos in partnership with HM Government. It is free to apply, tailor and use.

The name is an acronym, standing for PRojects IN Controlled Environments, and has been developed from the contribution of countless project sponsors, project managers, project teams, academics, trainers, and consultants.

PRINCE2 is a versatile method for structuring and tailoring projects in any environment and in any industry. It underpins successful project management and provides guidance on how to apply those principles to any type of project.

PRINCE2 has been designed to be generic so that it can be applied to any project regardless of project scale, type, organization, geography, or culture.

The World of Projects

A key challenge for organizations in today’s world is to succeed in balancing two parallel, competing imperatives:

Maintain current business operations, also called “business as usual”, transforms business operations in order to survive and compete in the future

Projects are the means by which we introduce change and, although many of the skills required are the same, there are some crucial differences between managing ‘business as usual’ and managing project work
Both PMP and PRINCE2 have their inbuilt set of processes.

Prince2 And Pmp – Which Is Better?
Prince2 And Pmp – Which Is Better?

Business As Usual

Business As Usual (BAU), also called operations management, has no defined end, is not routine, uses people from the same area, and does not introduce major change.

It is entirely different from projects, however, the deliverables from a project can be destined for one of your (or a customer’s) operational areas

Adaptive versus Predictive Projects

Traditional projects used predictive or plan-driven methods. Agile or adaptive methods are iterative and incremental.

Agile and traditional approaches are both used today – depending upon the project type, so a professional project manager should be familiar with both approaches, including hybrid approaches (using a mix of both).

For that reason, both PRINCE2 and PMP have a syllabus that contains Agile methods.

The PRINCE2 exam will have a mix of agile-related questions, whereas the PMP exam has a full 50% of exam questions based on Agile methods.

Because both PRINCE2 and PMP are designed to be tailored, using or blending agile is not a problem!

The PRINCE2 Methodology

Based on established and proven best practices and governance for project management, it can be applied to any type of project and blended with industry-specific models

PRINCE2 assumes that there will be a customer who will specify the desired result and a supplier who will provide of resources and skills to deliver that result

The PRINCE2 Processes

Processes provide a set of activity “checklists” showing how to manage various parts of the project, the following diagram provides an example:

Prince2 And Pmp – Which Is Better?
Prince2 And Pmp – Which Is Better?

Widely recognized and understood providing the common vocabulary for all projects, PRINCE2:

  • Promotes consistency of project work and the ability to reuse project assets
  • Tailored to meet the organization’s needs and scaled for project size and complexity
  • Facilitates staff mobility and reduces impact of personnel changes or handovers
  • Ensures focus on the viability of the project in relation to its business case
  • Ensures stakeholders are properly represented in planning and decision making
  • Promotes learning from project experience and continual improvement in organizations
  • Supported by the Worldwide Network of examination institutes

The Benefits of PRINCE2

These are many and varied, including:

  • Provides a consistent range of practical management documents
  • Has a continual focus on project justification and benefit realization
  • Management by exception ensures efficient and effective use of management time
  • Has been developed and tested over many years
  • Role and responsibility definitions ensure the right people are involved
  • Provides a tailorable management framework for a consistent working approach
  • Product focus gives clarity and agreement on what needs to be created
  • Aids communication via common project terminology
  • Activities within each Process acts as a helpful checklist – advising what you may or may not want to do
  • Develops management skills and provides work consistency and hence asset reuse

How PRINCE2 helps

  • Built-in auditing for precise progress and accurate reporting
  • Provides a step-by-step approach to planning
  • Provides a checklist “memory-jogger” approach
  • Clear roles and responsibilities – clarifies communication
  • Builds in continuous risk management and monitoring
  • One person is ultimately in charge of the project
  • Links quality management to deliverables
  • Brings in managers at key points for timely decision-making
  • All stakeholders are involved in the project and users and suppliers
  • Provides precise effective progress monitoring controls
  • Flexible and tailorable to fit different types of project
  • Ensures approved Business Case and measurable benefits drive the project

The Structure of PRINCE2

PRINCE2 activities within each Process acts as a helpful checklist – advising what you may or may not want to do

Prince2 And Pmp – Which Is Better?

PRINCE2 has two Specific techniques: Product-based planning – this is “product-led” planning along with four supporting techniques, and Quality Review – uses a meeting to identify errors in a written product

Product Description outlines

These describe the baseline management products, and define aspects of the project that once approved, are subject to change control

The PRINCE2 method consists of four integrated elements:

  • PRINCE2 assumes a Customer/Supplier Environment, and is a flexible framework and is tailored to suit the project context
  • Principles provide the guiding obligation of good practice enshrined in PRINCE2
  • Processes are the model for HOW the project will be managed
  • Themes provide Guidance on HOW the activities are to be performed

Project Environment

Organizations often want a consistent approach to managing projects, and tailor PRINCE2 to create their own project management method. This method is then embedded into the organization’s way of working.

PRINCE2 is generic and based on proven principles, so organizations adopting the method as a standard can improve their organizational capability and maturity in multiple areas of business activities

PRINCE2 Processes

These show the chronological flow of the project, where each process has checklists of recommended activities, products, and related responsibilities, and shows a progression from the pre-project activity of getting started, through the stages of the project lifecycle, to the final act of the project closure.

PRINCE2 walks you through your project and advises what to do at each point

PRINCE2 Themes

These are used continually throughout the project, explaining the specific treatment required by PRINCE2 for various project management disciplines and why they are necessary

Prince2 And Pmp – Which Is Better?

PRINCE2 Principles

PRINCE2 Principles are the guiding obligations and good practices which determine whether the project is genuinely being managed using PRINCE2

There are seven principles and unless all of them are applied, it is not a PRINCE2 project, and these provide a framework of good practice and must be adopted for a project.

PRINCE2 is a flexible method and one of the principles is that it should be tailored to suit the type and size of the project

Management Stages

A Management stage is a section of the project that the Project Manager is managing on behalf of the Project Board at any one time, at the end of which, the Project Board will review progress to date, the state of the Project Plan, the Business Case and risks and the Next Stage Plan, in order to decide whether to continue with the project

The project board authorizes one management stage at a time if there is sufficient business justification to continue

Prince2 And Pmp – Which Is Better?

The PRINCE2 Process and Product Timeline

This diagram shows the interrelationship between its seven processes, key management products, and management stages. I have shown three stages, but there could be a minimum of two, and any sensible maximum based on the project needs.

Prince2 And Pmp – Which Is Better?

Benefits of becoming PMP Certified

“PMI asserts that those with a PMP certification garner a higher salary (20% higher on average) than those without a PMP certification” Here are the benefits for you:

  • Demonstrates proof of professional achievement
  • Increases your marketability
  • Raises customer confidence in you and your company
  • Enhanced salary expectation
  • Professional recognition and respect
  • Greater opportunities for career advancement

The PMP Examination Content Domains

There are 180 questions that need to be completed in 230 minutes – Half of the examination will be about predictive methodologies and the other half about agile and hybrid methodologies
180 questions (175 = scored questions, and 5= Unscored (pretest) questions)

Process Domain Area

If you investigate the tasks in the new Exam Content Outline (ECO), all the 10 knowledge areas will still be covered by the new exam. All the processes and ITTO within the 10 knowledge areas will remain the same.

Business Environment Domain Area

Tasks include:

  • Plan and manage project compliance
  • Evaluate and address external business environment changes for impact on the scope
  • Support organizational change
  • Evaluate and deliver project benefits and value

The environment domain area will only account for 8% of the exam. The project manager will be expected to manage the project in a changing business environment

People Domain Area

The new PMP exam will have a significant increase in coverage for dealing with the project team and stakeholders. PMP aspirants will need to know how to be a team leader and a problem solver:

Team Leader: Leading a team, build a team, training, mentoring, empower a team/stakeholder, support team performance, engaging virtual team members, and collaborate with Stakeholders.

Problem Solver: Manage conflict, address blockers, negotiation, define ground rules, and build shared understanding.

PMP Process Groups and Knowledge Areas

Prince2 And Pmp – Which Is Better?

The Process Products

Usually, the output of one Process feeds into the input of another…
“…the scope of the project is “progressively elaborated” – meaning some processes are performed iteratively…”

Prince2 And Pmp – Which Is Better?

The PMBOK Processes and Knowledge Areas

So which is qualification is “best” then?

Devotees will debate opinions such as – Why PRINCE2 is better than PMP?

Well, it’s not – no more than PMP being better than PRINCE2.

It’s like comparing apples and oranges – both delicious fruit – yet different.

This brings me to:

Do I go for PRINCE2 or PMP?

Prince2 And Pmp – Which Is Better?

It depends on where you are now, and where you want to go since both PRINCE2 and PMP have introductory qualifications. If you are a novice/junior project manager looking to get ahead in your career or moving into that profession, then I would suggest CAPM Certification for Project Managers.

If you are an entry-level professional, consider obtaining a CAPM certification.

Project management offers a useful set of skills that can be applied to a multitude of careers and industries, and project managers are consistently in high demand by employers.

  1. Then consider taking PMP
  2. Now that you have a solid grounding in project management you will want to get a framework for success – that’s PRINCE2.
  3. PRINCE2 Foundation. This is a prerequisite to PRINCE2 Practitioner, and it gets you a solid overview of the foundational aspects of PRINCE2.
  4. PRINCE2 Practitioner. This is a sought-after qualification that proves practical understanding of managing projects.
  5. Okay, so what if you are already a project manager, then you could go straight into becoming a PMP. You will want to undertake steps four and five above to get PRINCE2

Could you get PRINCE2 first and then PMP?

Yes, you could.

Probably okay for folks with some project management experience, but a novice may not grasp the full significance and power of PRINCE2 without some bedrock understanding of what a project is all about.

I hope by now, you know the answer to the question which I should choose – PRINCE2 versus PMP?

One last point.

PRINCE2 to PMP conversion

Since they don’t provide a project manager the same benefits, why would you want to ‘convert’ PRINCE2 to PMP?

The answer is you wouldn’t.

A better question is “How can I blend the two” The answer here is by tailoring, and because of the infinite range of projects and environments, there can never be one right answer.

For example. You have a potential supplier based in the USA, and so you employ PMP approaches and techniques from the procurement knowledge area, and you harness that within the PRINCE2 Process Roadmap.

I see it this way since both PRINCE2 and PMP are “recipes”, and like any good chef, then you would want to blend or “pick and mix” them to suit a specific project.

My advice to any project manager, novice or experienced, is to get BOTH and Become the Best You Can Be.

Check out Projex Academy’s PRINCE2 Masterclass and our PMP Masterclass to find out more information!

Dave Litten

David spent 25 years as a senior project manager for USA multinationals, and has deep experience in project management. He now develops a wide range of Project Management Masterclasses, under the Projex Academy brand name. In addition, David runs project management training seminars across the world, and is a prolific writer on the many topics of project management.

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