In 2017 AXELOS updated the PRINCE2 guidance and launched new Foundation and Practitioner examinations. Together, these form the PRINCE2 2017 update and represent the first major revision of PRINCE2 since 2009.
Susan Tuttle is a project and change management specialist at Terrapin Agrada and previously joined us in Episode 22 to discuss Amazing Project Management. She also has some online project management courses with over 2,000 delegates from over 100 countries.
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Excerpts from “Episode 91: PRINCE2 2017 with Susan Tuttle”
Can you share with us some information about your interesting background?
Yes. Sure. I am Susan Tuttle and I am the CEO of Terrapin Agrada, a project management training and consulting company. So, I was based andworked in the US, and I had no project management background, but I was asked to help outwith the projects when the Y2K came around.
I had no experience and I don’t think they asked mebased on my suitability to be a project manager, it’s more about my availability to be a project manager. They were just grabbing people, left, right, and centered to help them with the Y2K projects. And it happened that I was really good at it, so I stayed on and continued to work on projects. Having said that, it took me years until I got official project management training, so I just kept doing it how I thought was the best way of doing projects.
So, it was really eye-opening when I finally got my first training course and learned about what I was doing very well but learned even more about what I wasn’t doing well and why I kept having the same exact problems in the project after the project. I wasn’t paying attention to risk what so ever, it is very reactionary. I wasn’t really good at managing stakeholders, wider stakeholders, anybody who is directly connected to a project.
I was really good at engaging with them but finding the wider pool of stakeholders and people who are impacted by my projects. I wasn’t good at engaging with them, especially early enough. They found out about it right before it goes live. Obviously, they weren’t very happy. My first training course got me some really good insights into how to better address those.
Was that in the PRINCE2?
I actually haven’t heard about PRINCE2 until I moved to the UK in 2004. When I was in the States, I was using PMI which is the Project Management Institute. Their body of knowledge for traditional projects and I was using extreme programming or XP for agile projects. I haven’t even heard of PRINCE, but once I did, I became an instant fan.
It is process based, it is really logical and I really enjoy that aspect of it. Just adding a bit of process can really go a long way. It is great for both, traditional and agile projects. So, I use just PRINCE and you don’t have to have a whole bunch of different methods, which is really nice.
What other benefits does the PRINCE2 have?
The biggest part of it is that tailor ability. You can use it for any type of project. It tends to have a reputation of being very prescriptive but I think that is just the way that people have interpreted PRINCE in the past. They used PRINCE as awhole when PRINCE as a method is constantly promoting the idea of tailoring based on your circumstances. That’s a point about the change they just made in 2017, what they updated is really focusing on the aspect of tailoring to fit your specific needs.
They have always had this but it was kind of an added on feature, the chapter 19 of 19 chapters talked about “Oh yeah, and you have to tailor your approach to your circumstances.”. And, of course, people skip it if it’s the chapter 19 of 19 chapters. So, this version they brought it up and they have integrated and interspersed this idea throughout every single topic.
They explain the topic and then how could you tailor this specific advice and what it would look like, if you are a part of the program, what would this aspect to the project look like if you are doing an agile, what would it look like if you were working with external suppliers, what would that mean to your project. So they give you this specific best practice guidance to summon what to do in you certain situations. It is going to help using PRINCE2 to move forward.
What other changes should we be aware of?
This one is the huge part. They have taken the way that they examine the course and they updated it to be common day practices versus something that was in practice in 2009, in a period before smartphones and electronic tools and techniques. They have added in the 2010s way of working, a lot of virtual teams and dispersed teams and international teams.
They added the realism in teams that are working together but not in face-to-face communication. But the structure of PRINCE is very solid and stable because it hasn’t changed that much. It is still about the projects but it has given it more accessibility, the language has slightly improved, it’s not the textbook language, it is more common-speech language and explaining some of the topics, their advice about how things should look, some advice on the minimum aspects to deal with the project all the way to the maximum aspects if you have large, complexed projects. They actually give you specific examples where they before talked about it in general and now they give you some advice.
Since it has updated last year, how mainstream did it become?
I think they had a bit of the crossover period with the old version and the new version. There are still people out there who took PRINCE 5 or 6 years ago that they are still referring back to their manual. In common practice, it hasn’t changed so significantly that they couldn’t still use the 2009 version but if you want to update your training you would have to move to the 2017 version.
Have you been in talks, discussions, and conversation with people who are and have been using the 2017 version and what are the general concerns?
It gives project managers a bit more confidence. The previous versions only just promoted the idea that you have to tailor based on your circumstances and pretty much left it up to the project managers to figure out what that would really mean. And now there are specific advice when project managers are in the situation where their organization is unwilling to change or accommodate a specific situation.
They have more confidence to push back on that if it is not working or it’s not adding value, they now have the best practice guide that shows them “Here’s a way you can deal with this, make sure that is what you are doing, make the adjustments that are effective for your projects”.
May be able to stand up to your own companies on how projects should be done. The agile seems to be such a big, popular topic at the moment, agile project management. Because you can use the PRINCE in an agile way, it’s helping people understand the agile philosophy and how can I put it in practice when I am already using PRINCE, and here is exactly what it means. So, they find that helpful.
And in the terms of certification, do we need to re-certify?
Same as before, you have to re-certify, I think, now it’s every 3 years for practitioner qualification. They do now have a membership option. There is AXELOS Membership program where you just become a member and you can access to a lot of resources and the information on the latest best practice guides, but also to keep the qualification you could just get the PBU professional development units and keep your training up-to-date and then you don’t have reset the exam. You have a couple of options now through the AXELOS.
You have a book to help us with it?
Yes, I do. “PRINCE2 in action: Project Management in real terms”. So, I have taken the PRINCE2 manual and I have added some small case studies to bring to life some of these topics about project management. I really believe in storytelling and what that helps. People see themselves and see certain situations that they might not have seen before by reading a story that they can really relate to.
I keep taking all the topics and showing people in the case study when they are using PRINCE and it is going well and when they are not using PRINCE and it is not going so well. I think people really enjoy that aspect so they can see how this might work and get another specific example but this time using real people.
And it is on the Amazon or your website or both?
It is on Amazon. The publisher is IT Governance and they have got it. Also, it is on my website.
Do you need to keep your courses up-to-date to these changes?
Yes. I do have to do that. I only have so much of a reach when I do the in-person training course. I found that online training courses help address that you can be anywhere in the world and get the training course from me. When you have to come to my training course, you have to come to London which is one of the most expensive cities in the world.
If I can offer ways of people hearing my message, my lessons and my experiences and help them in any certain way. So I have to take the advantage of it. So, the book and online training courses. As I mention it before over 2,000 people so far have signed up and from over 100 countries so it is very good news. It is a much wider reach than I could ever do on my own.
What territories are the courses most popular in?
In North America, so US and Canada. I don’t know because of my accent or not, but then it goes to the UK and then it’s just filtering out through the rest of the world. I think it is also because I use the platforms like Udemy and Teachable and the two platforms where I offer it and those are quite popular in the US and Canada.
Do you think that it’s finally becoming a commonplace idea or do you think that people would prefer the classroom and will only do it online purely because of access?
Yeah, well I don’t know, I think access is important when the is the budget constraint if you can’t get to London or your learning style is that you don’t do well on 5-day courses where you are crammed up with information with a couple of exams. If you like to just take your time and do it at your convenience. They really have toknow themselves because it takes a lot of discipline and dedication to do an online course.
I think that’s one of the problems with Udemy is that they find a lot of people signed up for courses but they don’t actually finished them. You have to make the course really engaging that people want to take the whole thing. But from their point, it takes a lot of self-discipline to make sure you keep taking is. Especially if it is quite a lengthy course. The thing is that they do have access to it for life and as long as Udemy is around you will have access to your course.
Sometimes you don’t need all the information up front, you can dip in and out of the course and pick up nuggets here and there. Maybe you are about to do a risk assessment of your project you can you dip into the risk section of the training course. If you are about to write briefs, you can dip into the brief to see what kind of things you need to consider.
I’ve bought a few and completed a few and some I haven’t completed. I suppose if the pinpoint is strong enough and if it’s for your career or to solve a problem, or both, you will complete the course. I guess for 24/7 access I’ll do it tomorrow and tomorrow becomes next weekend. So it definitely depends on discipline. Susan, it is always great to catch up with you. If people want to find out more and I’m sure they will, can you give us the website?
Terrapinagrada.co.uk and I am also on LinkedIn and I have a Blog, on both the website and LinkedIn. I’m always trying to share bits of knowledge much as I can, and helping people. I went a long time before I got that first training course and I wish I had done it many years before and it would make such a big difference. I’m always here trying to help people on their journey.