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Santa’s Christmas Countdown Of Courses For A Career in Project Management

Santa's Christmas Countdown Of Courses For A Career in Project Management

Santa’s Christmas Countdown Of Courses For A Career in Project Management

Those of you who have read ‘How Santa used Scrum to organise his Christmas deliveries’, will know that Santa recently completed several training courses to enhance his project management skills.  The mammoth task of organising Christmas present manufacture and delivery had become increasingly stressful to all concerned, but his training enabled himself and his elves to get back on track.  He found the courses invaluable, so much so that he decided to take his training further by enrolling on a PRINCE2 Agile® course followed by a Managing Successful Programmes (MSP) course.  As well as this he recognised how beneficial it would be for his elves to learn new skills too.

So, being a good Scrum Master, Santa knows each of his team well enough to be able to recommend which courses they should take first.  He is especially excited because he has seen that NILC have some bundle offers on, so he is going to save a fortune on training for his elves.  With all this in mind, he holds a meeting with them and describes the branches of each training course and then enrols them accordingly over the last twelve days before Christmas.

On the 12th day ‘fore Christmas, I said unto my team “It’s Visio for you and you and you…”

Microsoft Visio

… is a software tool used to create both simple and complicated diagrams; anything from flow charts to 3D Maps.  With a wide variety of built-in shapes, objects and stencils, the driving force behind this software is to make diagramming an easy process.   Able to pull live information from an external source such as Excel, Visio allows you to make the diagram you are working on current and functional.  Visio is designed more for corporate users but can be used by the home user as well. 

There are two stages to Microsoft Visio training.  The introduction to Microsoft Visio caters for students new to working with Visio in Windows, whilst the advanced course builds on those skills and teaches students to work with some of the more advanced features. Students will learn to create objects of their own, using the drawing tools, as well as being able to automate the charting using external data.  This course is invaluable if you wish to send multiple diagrams to different recipients or create visual representations of data to a group.

On the 11th day ‘fore Christmas, I said unto my team, “It’s Excel for every one of you…”

Microsoft Excel

… is an extremely useful package to master.  For the home user who wants to create a spreadsheet for their Christmas card list, to the more advanced user who needs to create formulas and functions, Excel is invaluable.  There are four courses to progress through:

Level 1: Beginners

Level 2: Intermediate

Level 3: Advanced

Level 4: Formulas and Functions

You do not need to take all of these courses, but most administrative roles demand a sound knowledge of Excel.  It depends on what you intend to use it for, but in terms of a project management career, Level 3 Advanced at least, would be preferable.

On the tenth day ‘fore Christmas, I said unto my team, “It’s Project that everyone must do …”

Microsoft Project

… is very much a process-driven project management application.  It is an invaluable foundation stone for any project management career, whether it be an administrative or managerial position you wish to pursue.  Microsoft Project is designed to help develop a project plan by means of a Project Initiation Document (PID) which you will learn to create in the Introduction.  You will also learn to assign resources to tasks, track progress, manage budgets, and analyse workloads, so you will understand why Santa thought it so beneficial for his elves to take this course too.  A basic understanding of Microsoft Project will allow you to be familiar enough with the application to be able to use it on a daily basis.  

The second level of Microsoft Project training is the Advanced Specialist.  This will build on your introductory skills and provide you with a thorough understanding of the functionality of Microsoft Project.  By the end of this advanced training, you will be able to use complex calendars, consolidate plans, share resources create and alter timelines, track projects and complete many other tasks besides.  This training seriously needs to be considered as a worthy tool in one’s project management box.

On the 9th day ‘fore Christmas, I said unto my team, “Its Agile Foundation for some of you…”

AgilePM Foundation

People (or elves) working together effectively is the foundation stone of any successful project and AgilePM recognises this.  It encourages everyone involved in the project to work closely together and to communicate with each other so that the best solution can be found.  Agile assigns clear roles and responsibilities to each person according to the needs of the business and the process of development of the product.  Often the best solutions emerge from a self-organised and therefore self-empowered team and this is what Agile strives to achieve.

AgilePM is a little different to waterfall methodologies like PRINCE2. By its very nature, Agile allows a flexible response to change because it focuses on developing solutions incrementally, enabling project teams to communicate and react early, thereby increasing collaboration and ownership.  Based on iterations (cycles), Agile offers a practical and repeatable methodology that manages change, reduces time to market and eliminates waste.  By this means AgilePM offers a structured and scalable corporate framework that is based on proven practice.   

At AgilePM Foundation level, you will learn the basic principles of AgilePM and about the Agile project lifecycle and process.  You will be introduced to Agile’s theory of iterative development and the importance of communication, collaboration, prioritization and risk management and control.   

On the 8th day ‘fore Christmas, “Foundation’s now complete, so Agile Practitioner YULE meet…”

AgilePM Practitioner

Only once you have completed Agile Foundation, are you able to progress to Agile Practitioner.  At this more advanced stage of AgilePM the focus is on using what you have learned at Foundation Level to undertake a project from beginning to completion.  Once you have passed the exam, and become a certified Agile Practitioner, employers will view you as being committed to the project management profession.  Whether or not you are already in a project management role, this certification will not only boost your confidence but also your future career prospects because as an internationally recognised certification, AgilePM is highly sought after by employers.

The informality of Agile approaches can seem daunting, but quality is understood before any work is undertaken.  By this means, everyone knows what needs to be done before the project is even started (as we saw with Santa and his team).  Whilst AgilePM can be utilised as a stand-alone approach to project management, it also works well alongside the more formalised project management approaches such as PRINCE2®.  So, as you can see, AgilePM as a qualification has great value in the project management environment.

On the 7th day ‘fore Christmas, I said unto my team, “Scrum is what I want you all to do…”

Scrum Master

Is one of the most popular Agile tools.  As a certified ABC Scrum Master you would not so much manage as train and encourage your team.  You would not delegate tasks to your team members as a more traditional project manager would do, but (like Santa) you would discuss what needs to be produced and they would decide amongst themselves who will work on what.  Transparency and visibility are of the utmost importance in a Scrum team, so each member puts their name to the task they are working on and by so doing they become accountable for that task.  By this means everyone within the team knows who is working on what.

A good Scrum Master will ‘create’ a self-organised team.  This makes for a pleasant working environment, a happy and willing workforce and any issues that were encountered during the project will have been learned by and therefore avoided during future projects.  So, although Scrum can be tricky to master because it is so different from a traditional project manager’s role, it is a certification that is well worth pursuing.  Santa, himself found it invaluable.

On the 6th day ‘fore Christmas, I said unto my team, “It’s PRINCE2 for only some of you…”

PRINCE2 Foundation

PRINCE2® stands for Projects in Controlled Environments.  This is a structured project management methodology that emphasises the division of a project into manageable and controllable stages.  At Foundation level, Yule (pardon the play on words, but it is Christmas!) gain an understanding of the broad range of PRINCE2® principles, themes and processes.  The aim of this course is to provide you with a basic working knowledge of the fundamentals of PRINCE2®.  You will become familiar with PRINCE2® terminology so that you are confident and able to work within a PRINCE2® environment.  PRINCE2® allows the successful management of projects irrespective of scale, size or industry, so to have the Foundation certification under your belt is a step in the right direction for any project management career.

On the 5th day ‘fore Christmas, PRINCE2 Foundation’s done so Practitioner is now the next one…”

PRINCE2 Practitioner

PRINCE2® Foundation is suitable for both new and the more experienced project team members, whereas PRINCE2® Practitioner is geared more towards project managers, general managers or programme managers.  Whilst there are no prerequisites for the Foundation course, other than a basic understanding of project management, you will need to be certified at Foundation level to be able to pursue the Practitioner course.  If, however, you hold a Project Management Professional (PMP) or a Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) certification, then PRINCE2® Foundation would not be necessary.

The PRINCE2® Practitioner course builds on what you will have learned at Foundation level.  It will teach you the basics of applying PRINCE2® methodology.  You will be given a project scenario and will apply PRINCE2® principles to start and complete the project.  You will learn how to direct PRINCE2® to address the requirements of the scenario project and any issues that may arise.  By doing so you will gain a comprehensive understanding of the relationship between the principles, processes and themes that are PRINCE2®.   Being globally recognised PRINCE2® then is a worthy course for you to consider for your project management career. 

On the 4th day ‘fore Christmas, I pondered for a while, then asked who would like PRINCE2 Agile…?”

PRINCE2 Agile® Practitioner

PRINCE2 Agile® combines the flexibility and responsiveness of Agile with the clearly defined PRINCE2® framework.  This course will teach you to blend structure, governance and control with agile methods, techniques and approaches.  The PRINCE2 Agile® certification is an extension to PRINCE2® and is aimed at individuals or organisations who already use PRINCE2® but who wish to tailor it more for use in an agile environment.  Professionals (like Santa!) involved with integrating project management with product delivery; those with governance responsibilities for projects using agile delivery approaches and those involved with programme and project support functions would find this course most beneficial.

Prerequisites for the PRINCE2 Agile® Practitioner course include PRINCE2® Foundation or Practitioner, PRINCE2 Agile® Foundation, Project Management Professional (PMP), Certified Associate in Project Management or International Project Management Association (IPMA).  Although any of these prerequisites are acceptable, it is strongly advised that you hold a recent PRINCE2® Practitioner certification as this will be most beneficial when applying these principles and processes in an Agile environment.  (Santa is actually sitting this course now.)

On the 3rd day ‘fore Christmas, I said unto my elves, “MSP Foundation I’ll now do…”

Managing Successful Programmes (MSP) Foundation

Having the abbreviation of ‘MSP’, the Managing Successful Programmes course is not to be confused with Microsoft Project.  Santa’s exact words were that ‘the two courses are about as many miles apart as the North Pole is from a British chimney stack!’  He has just started MSP Foundation, having successfully completed PRINCE2 Agile® and knows first-hand that Microsoft Project is a good place to start for any project management career, but MSP is more for those further up the ladder of experience.  For this reason, he has advised his elves to utilise their newly acquired project management skills for a while before they too take the course.

Whilst there are no prerequisites for the MSP course, PRINCE2® would be especially beneficial although any familiarity of a project management method would stand you in good stead in terms of understanding how this programme works with projects.  Briefly to explain, MSP creates a structured framework for organisations of all sizes and sectors.  This framework provides the implementation of strategy, initiatives and changes once the programme outcome has been decided.  To manage a programme is to help organise, manage, accommodate and control any necessary changes to the projects within it so that the eventual outcome will meet the business objective.

The Foundation level of the MSP course teaches you the fundamentals of how to manage programmes in a structure that strengthens the coordinated management of a portfolio of projects.  You will learn how MSP principles, governance themes and transformational flow can be effectively integrated into existing structures and processes of an organisation.  

On the 2nd day ‘fore Christmas, I said unto my elves, “MSP Practitioner’s next to do…”

Managing Successful Programmes (MSP) Practitioner

As usual with project management training courses (except perhaps PRINCE2 Agile®, which accepts PRINCE2® Foundation, as a prerequisite), to be able to take MSP Practitioner you would need MSP Foundation.  This latter level of MSP teaches you the fundamentals of the methodology.  MSP Practitioner level will then train you to practice your knowledge and newly found skills by applying them to managing a scenario programme of projects.  This again, is why a project management practitioner certification is really advisable before em-‘bark’-ing on this, the last but one branch of our Christmas tree.  The more experience and training you have, the easier you will find it to understand the management of programmes, rather than a single project.

In terms of what MSP can do for you career-wise, the certification will show your commitment to a project management career.  Employers will be impressed by it, so as proof of your desire to progress, this will make you stand out from the crowd.  As such, MSP at Foundation level or, better still Practitioner level will reward your efforts with a high salary and multiple benefits.  See; ‘What jobs can I get with Managing Successful Programmes (MSP)

On the last day ‘fore Christmas, there’s one more course to go; MSP Advanced, ho, ho, ho

Managing Successful Programmes (MSP) Advanced Practitioner

Building upon MSP Practitioner level, MSP Advanced Practitioner aims to provide you with a much more detailed understanding of MSP components, processes and techniques.  It is like a fine-tuning; designed for MSP Practitioners who wish to build on their existing competencies and training.  You will gain this certification by means of practical exercises and case studies (and yes, as with the other project management training courses, there will be an examination!) MSP is a globally recognised methodology and therefore to hold this certification demonstrates that you have the extensive knowledge needed to efficiently and effectively manage a programme of organisational change.

Once Santa has completed MSP Advanced Practitioner, he plans to retire from his delivery role as he is quite advanced in years as well as in his project management skills.  He may continue to pursue other training courses, but his focus will be to manage the programme of Christmas projects that he so enjoys.  Don’t be upset, however, because Santa retiring himself from deliveries means that there will be a vacancy available for a new younger Santa.  So, if you enjoy the outdoors and are not afraid of heights or flying, watch out for the vacancy … we’ll keep you posted.

Here we are… It’s Christmas Eve and our Christmas project management tree is fully assembled.  All that remains for us to do is to place the presents beneath it.  I mentioned at the beginning of this post that Santa and his elves took full advantage of the bundles of project management training courses that NILC had on offer.  These then are the presents beneath our tree and they could save you a pretty penny.  For more information on these offers watch out for my post on ‘NILC project management training bundles’. 


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