Showing posts with label Project Management. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Project Management. Show all posts

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Which project management certification is best for you?

 By Sarah Morgan

Many top level management job openings are now requiring and actively seeking certified project managers. This comes as little surprise with many studies suggesting certified professionals exhibit improved management of workloads, budgets, time, risks and people. These skills translate to a higher project success rate. With a report from PWC, citing 80% of successful projects are run by a certified project manager.

These factors have fuelled huge demand for project management certifications, with a wide range available, meaning it can often be confusing deciding which one best meets your needs. Each offers a unique set of skills. In this post, we breakdown what each one offers and the situation it is most applicable to.

PRINCE2 Foundation and Practitioner Certification

Created by the UK’s Office of Government Commerce, it has become the national standard project management framework, with influences across Europe and Australia. It has also flourished into the most popular project management certification, with over 1 million PRINCE2 certified professionals worldwide.

The PRINCE2 methodology covers product-oriented planning, with emphasis on splitting a project into stages and increasing your control and flexibility. It also focuses on defined organisational structure, eliminating any uncertainty or miscommunication. This standardised approach is designed to be applicable to almost any project. 

PRINCE2 is split into two separate levels, the Foundation and Practitioner. Firebrand is the only training provider in the world to offer both levels of the PRINCE2 certification in just three days.

PRINCE2 Agile Certification

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at
PRINCE2 Agile combines the standardised and effective methodology of PRINCE2, with the responsiveness of Agile. Adding Agile skills to your project management arsenal will make each step of the process more efficient. This means you’ll be able to finish the project quicker, allowing you to meet a higher percentage of your deadlines.

This makes the PRINCE2 Agile certification particularly useful to you if your projects are often affected by time constraints. For example, if you work in a fast-paced environment that requires high turnover of smaller projects. Or, if you often manage large projects with crucial deadlines.

Lean Six Sigma Certifications

Lean Six Sigma skills focus on reducing the amount of errors and minimising waste and variability in your projects. This means improving the processes throughout, making it as efficient as possible. This is done by establishing defined infrastructure at each stage of the project and using quality management to monitor them. The processes are then given quantified financial targets to measure success.

Lean Six Sigma skills can help you
meet your targets.
Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at
Lean Six Sigma certifications are most useful to managers who work on projects measured by efficiency and financial success. The skills these certifications focus on are geared towards improving statistical success rates and overall efficiency.

There are a variety of levels within Lean Six Sigma. The Yellow Belt is the entry level Lean Six Sigma certification. It teaches you Lean fundamentals and the basic waste management tools needed to start implementing Lean Six Sigma thinking in your projects.

The Green Belt will teach you to apply Lean Six Sigma methodologies and behaviours in your role. If you have over 18 months project management experience, it’s possible to go straight onto the Green Belt.

The Black Belt is aimed at advanced project managers and will help you make lasting improvements to your project management processes. It will help you in areas like cost control, customer satisfaction and performance processing. You’ll learn to directly address the speed and quality of your projects.

PMP Certification

Another of the heavyweights in project management certification is PMI’s PMP. Developed and dominant in the US, this certification teaches you PMP’s  globally accepted project management standard. You’ll learn techniques to evaluate and improve your projects under the direction of the PMBoK (Project Management Body of Knowledge), which covers a huge range of project management aspects.

This is another certification that is applicable to a huge range of projects. However, you’re required to have at least five years project management experience to be able to attempt the PMP due to its high level. It is best suited to advanced project managers looking to polish their skills and elevate themselves to the top of their field.

CAPM Certification

An entry-level alternative from PMI, is the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM). This covers a range of project management topics similar to that of the PMP. This allows you start your project management career with awareness of the full range of skills needed to be a successful manager, for the long term. PMI’s CAPM is a fantastic option for inexperienced managers.

PSM Certification

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at’s Professional Scrum Master certification is all about teaching you to remove obstacles and difficulties for your team. It covers managing behavioural shifts, the unique dynamics within teams and coaching your team. The end goal of the Professional Scrum Master certification is to allow you to boost the productivity and efficiency of your team, improving the overall success rates of your projects.

Due to the personable and interactive nature of the Professional Scrum Master, it is best suited to managers responsible for large or fast-moving teams. It is also worth noting that learning for the Scrum Master course is often done through highly interactive exercises and environments, making the skills easily transferable to the workplace.

About the Author:        
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

The new PRINCE2 Agile and why it matters

By Sarah Morgan

The eagerly awaited PRINCE2 Agile framework was released on the 24th June. PRINCE2 Practitioners and project managers will now be considering whether this is a framework they should begin using, in order to stay up to date with the latest project management methods.

What is PRINCE2?

The marriage of PRINCE2 and Agile is intriguing. They are both very different ways of thinking. PRINCE, which stands for PRojects IN Controlled Environments, provides a framework for project managers to track the construction and delivery of products against a plan. With it you’ll get a proven process that allows everyone on your team to approach the project with the same mind-set.

However, despite being a gold standard project management framework for over a decade, it is occasionally dismissed as being unrealistic. This is because there is no such thing as a truly controlled business environment, and so many of the practises are difficult to employ in the real world.

What is Agile Project Management?

Agile Project Management is very much the opposite of this. It’s a flexible way of thinking, making it better for producing deliverables, without substantial changes or reworking required. Tasks are broken down into smaller stages allowing risk to be reduced, with early assessment testing and analysis. Agile trains people to think quickly and come up with solutions to issues on the spot. Ultimately saving money and time as problems are overcome more quickly.

Agile also divides responsibility amongst a team, meaning you’ll achieve more, faster. A well-known example of this is the SCRUM method where responsibility is divided between the Team, Scrum Master and Product Owner.

The merge of PRINCE2 and Agile means that those with knowledge of the framework will get the best of both worlds. PRINCE2 offers the ability to use a well-tested approach to projects and Agile lets you bring the more dynamic and fluid side of project management to the table.

Learn the skills to apply PRINCE2 Agile

The framework is ‘Industry Agnostic’, meaning no matter what projects you undertake, you will be able to apply the processes. In terms of structure it is roughly 20% PRINCE2 and 80% Agile and concentrates on where the two types of thinking meet. This means that you are able to use Agile techniques to tailor how you use the PRINCE2 framework to suit the size and type of project you are undertaking.

One of the best ways to understand and gain the skills required to apply the framework is to get certified in PRINCE2 Agile. The new PRINCE2 Agile course from AXELOS, does exactly that.

On a Prince2 Agile course you’ll learn how to:

  • Apply basic concepts of common Agile ways of working
  • Purpose and context for combining PRINCE2 and the Agile way of working
  • Apply and evaluate the focus areas to a project in an Agile context
  • Fix and flex the six aspects of a project in an Agile context
  • Apply and tailor the PRINCE2 principles, themes, processes and management products to a project within an Agile context
  • Learn through the use of theory and practical exercises
  • Prepare for the PRINCE2 Agile Practitioner exam

To get certified in PRINCE2 Agile you have to sit the exam. It consists of two and a half hours of a multiple choice questions based on scenarios, with a 60% pass mark. In order to take the course you must have the PRINCE2 Practitioners qualification.

Related articles:

About the Author:        
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry. 

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Industry Interviews - Elizabeth Harrin, Director of Otobos Consultants Ltd

Today we begin a new series focusing on careers across the IT industry. Over the coming months we'll be interviewing prominent industry professionals from some of the most sought after job titles within the tech sector.

Gain invaluable insights to the career you desire as we reveal the paths professionals  have taken to secure their chosen career,  what an average day looks like and how training and certification can influence career progression. 

So without further delay i'd like to reveal our first professional, Elizabeth Harrin:

Elizabeth is a Fellow of the Association for Project Management. She runs a project management copywriting firm which helps small and medium-sized businesses talk about their projects and solutions. She’s the author of three books about project management: Shortcuts to Success: Project Management in the Real World, Customer-Centric Project Management and Social Media for Project Management.  She occasionally speaks at conferences and tries not to fall off the stage too often.


Name: Elizabeth Harrin
Job Title: Director
Current Employer: Otobos Consultants Ltd
Personal Blog: A Girls Guide to Project Management
Social Media: found on Twitter and Facebook
- Finalist at the 2015 Women in IT Awards
Computer Weekly - Best IT Professional Blogger of the Year, 2011  

Summarise your job in a sentence

I manage projects and I’m a copywriter writing about managing projects.

What does an average working day look like?

On non-commuting days I give my children breakfast and then when we are all ready for the day I walk into the garden where I have an office. I’m at my desk a bit before 9am. I work until lunchtime – a mixture of conference calls and virtual meetings, catching up on emails and project management. 

At lunchtime I’ll come in for lunch and normally we eat as a family. After lunch, I’ll go back out to work and go through the To Do list I’ve prepared for the day to check I’m on track to complete everything. There’s normally some emergency or last minute thing to sort out that I didn’t plan for – that’s the nature of project work.

Around 4pm I’ll wrap up and come in for the day. I’ll prepare dinner for the children and between then and 7pm it’s eating, family time, baths and bed. I’ll finish up any other work tasks when they are asleep but I don’t go back out to work; I’ll set my laptop up on the dining room table.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The variety. I love being able to spend a morning working with colleagues from France and Spain and then the afternoon focusing on resolving issues. I love writing and my copywriting work which sits alongside project management, means I work with clients all over the world, and help them explain what they are doing. It’s satisfying to know that what I’m writing helps them solve problems for project managers.

What are the biggest challenges in your current role?

Time management! With two distinct roles, plus a young family, it’s hard to keep on top of everything. As a result, I spend less time on risk management and proactive strategic work than I would like.

What career path did you take to bring you to your current job title?

I chose to be a project manager, so that part of my job was a natural progression from Business Change Analyst many years ago to the role I have now. I’ve always written things down as well. I wrote stories as a child and then magazine articles, progressing as the world of copywriting changed to mainly preparing blog articles for project management websites as well as writing my own blog and a couple of books.

Do you have/did you require any professional certifications to secure your current job title? If yes, which?

No. I had written one book at the time of my interview and I think that helped me though. I was also PRINCE2 qualified but I’m not sure that had any particular bearing on my application.

What guidance would you give someone wanting to do your job?

You can get project management skills from any walk of life, including volunteering and managing a household, so don’t be put off by people saying you need deep subject matter expertise. And while it didn’t work this way for me, you can move into project management through other careers, so look for opportunities in your current role.

The advice I have for budding writers is to write. I have heard people say, “Oh, I’d love to write a book.” If you want something, do it. You don’t need anything to get started. Having said that, many people would like to write and really can’t. If you have something to say but lack the skills to get your  message across, either work hard to improve your writing or work with an editor who can polish it up for you.

What guidance would you give someone starting their career in Project Management?

It’s a great job. Take it seriously and remember who your customers are.

Has training and/or certification influenced your career? If yes, how?

I believe it’s a hygiene factor: certification doesn’t automatically mean you are a stellar project manager but it’s a useful grounding in project management practice and it ensures everyone on the team speaks the same language. No one has ever said to me that I didn’t get a job or couldn’t do a role because I didn’t have a certification. 

I support my team and colleagues to get certifications because it’s a way of ensuring the team shares a common background and because I strongly believe people should take responsibility for their own career progression. It’s a way of continuous professional development and that’s only a good thing.

What are your thoughts on the widely reported IT skills gap and its impact on business?

From my own experience it’s the business understanding piece that is lacking. For example, we can recruit developers but it’s hard to get someone who understands what happens when their code doesn’t work: the business impact can be significant. 

That’s the gap that I’m seeing, and the only answer is for organisations to get better at succession planning so that they can fill that gap with internal talent and create a pipeline for those hard-to-fill positions. 

It’s unacceptable to expect universities to turn out senior programmers with deep business knowledge: they can’t do it and they shouldn’t be expected to, although I know many courses have industry placements which must help.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Your PMP exam is changing in 2015

By Sarah Morgan

The PMP certification proves you’ve got up-to-date project management skills and gets you on track for a massive £55,000 salary (ITJobsWatch).

Owing to these reasons, and many more, the PMP® is one of the most important certifications for project managers. And in order to stay relevant alongside the changing demands of project management professionals the PMP must continually evolve. On 1 November 2015 your PMP exam will be changing.

How is the PMP exam changing?

The five domains of practice for the PMP are staying the same. However, new tasks are being introduced and current tasks modified or removed. As of 1 November 2015, the current exam will be retired and only the new version of the PMP exam will be administered.

See the below table for a brief look at the new tasks added across the domains. Or for a more detailed overview of what the new tasks are, take a look at this blog.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Why is the PMP exam changing?

A. PMI are updating the PMP certification to reflect the current status of the project management profession.

A recently completed Role Delineation Study (RDS) – a method used to identify and prioritise crucial tasks of a job or profession – has provided a new description for the role of PMP professionals.

Q. What major differences in the role of project management professionals were identified by the RDS study?

A. PMI’s most recent RDS has shown that the role of the PMP has remained largely consistent over the past few years. However PMI do acknowledge that some aspects of the role have changed over time. These include:

  • Inclusion of benefits analysis and realisation
  • Looking at risk management in terms of opportunity
  • Placing more emphasis on stakeholder management plans and communications
  • Additional focus on lessons learned

Q. This exam update is only affecting the tasks, but to what extent?

A. Some tasks have been slightly modified whereas others have been changed or deleted entirely. In addition to this, there are also 8 entirely new tasks. Take a look at this blog post for more details on the relevant tasks.

Q. Will I need to take a different preparation course now that the exam is being updated?

A. PMI Chapters and R.E.P.s have been informed of this change and should be updating their courses accordingly.

Firebrand will be ready to deliver the new PMP content on our accelerated four day course, when the current exam is retired in November 2015.

Q. I’m studying for the PMP, how will this affect me as a candidate?

A. If you take your PMP exam after the 1 November date, be aware that you will be taking the new exam. Get caught out and you risk revising out-of-date content.

However, the PMP application and testing process remains the same.

Q. I don’t want to test under the new version of the content – what can I do?

A. If you don’t want to be tested on the new version of the PMP exam, you must test on or before 1 November 2015. After this date all PMP exams (this includes retakes and language aids) will reflect the new exam content outline.

Q. Will the exam report change?

A. No – the PMP exam report will remain the same. For computer based tests (CBT), you will continue to receive an exam report immediately after testing.

More to come from PMI...

It is important to note that this is not the finalised version of the content outline (at the time of publication). Currently, the proportion of questions from each domain that will appear on the final exam has not yet been determined. This information will be available by 15 June 2015.

For more information, take a look at the official PMI PMP FAQ.

Related articles:

About the Author:        
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry. 

Monday, 17 November 2014

PRINCE2 vs. PMP - which certification should you choose?


PRINCE2 and PMP are both well-known and respected project management certifications. But it’s not always easy to know which one to achieve. And whilst they’ll both give your project management skills a boost, what’s the use if you can’t apply your new knowledge in the workplace?

Let’s pit these two certifications against each other and take a look at what they can do to boost your career.

Introducing PRINCE2 & PMP

PRINCE2 - Projects in Controlled Environments

Originally developed by the UK’s Office of Government Commerce, it is now regarded as the de-facto standard for project management in the country. It also exerts a visible influence across Europe and Australia.

With over a million total PRINCE2 exams taken, it’s also the most popular project management methodology in the world.

According to arras People’s 2013 UK Project Management Benchmark, the PRINCE2 is held by 63% of all project management professionals.

PMP Project Management Professional

PMP is built around PMI’s Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBoK). Administered and created in the USA, the PMP has become the primary project management certification for North America.

Despite being less known in Europe than PRINCE2, it’s certainly not unknown and is increasingly gaining in popularity.

According to arras People’s 2013 UK Project Management Benchmark, the PMP is held by 9% of all project management professionals.

What do these certs cover?


There are two levels of certification within the PRINCE2: Foundation and Practitioner. You’ll have to pass both to become a registered PRINCE2 practitioner.

PRINCE2 is a project management methodology that covers the management, control and organisation of a project. You’ll learn a flexible and adaptable framework that suits a wide variety of different projects.

This certification follows a sophisticated and clearly defined methodology that outlines detailed steps and processes that your project needs to achieve success in a controlled environment.

The well-laid out and standard approach that PRINCE2 uses is designed to be as generic as possible. As a result, the PRINCE2 processes are recommended for just about any kind of project.

PRINCE2 also helps to eliminate ambiguity by laying out clear roles and responsibilities of the team including: project executive, project manager, senior supplier, financier and senior user.

You don’t need previous project management experience to achieve this qualification and even experienced professionals can benefit from the PRINCE2.


Unlike the PRINCE2, the PMP is structured around the PMBoK and is a project management standard. You’ll become familiar with PMBoK processes and accepted project management techniques to enable you to evaluate your own projects.

It is therefore more of a theoretical and referential guide to assist you in the management of projects.
This certification evaluates your advanced knowledge of project management. As such you are expected to have existing project management experience.

To even apply for the PMP you’ll need at least 5 years of project management experience with 7,500 hours leading and directing projects. You’ll also need 35 hours of project management education (which can actually be gained by completing a PRINCE2 course).

How long will your certification last?


As a Registered PRINCE2 Practitioner you must be be re-registered within 3-5 calendar years of your original certification. Failure to pass the Re-Registration examination after five calendar years as a Registered Practitioner will result in withdrawal of your registered status.


After achieving your PMP qualification you must participate in PMI’s Continuiing Certification Requirements (CCR) program to maintain your active certification status.

During the three-year cycle, you must attain 60 professional development units (PDUs). Once your three-year cycle is up, it starts all over again.

You’ll be obtaining PDUs by engaging in project management activities related to your PMP certification. PDUs are split into two categories: Education PDU and Giving Back to the Profession PDU. For more information on how you obtain PDUs, take a look at PMI’s official PMP handbook.

Industry needs and cultural differences

We recommend you thoroughly research your project management certification choices depending on the industry you work, or want to work in. Every industry will treat these certifications differently - you don’t want to achieve a cert which might prove to be less valuable than its counterpart.

When job-hunting in the UK and the EU as a whole, we recommend first taking the PRINCE2. As we mentioned earlier the PRINCE2 is immensely popular - especially in the UK where it is favoured by government.

Benefits – the bottom line


1. Possibly the best introduction to project management

With its lack of prerequisites, PRINCE2 provides the ideal entry-level qualification for a career in project management. With a clear methodology, the PRINCE2 can take beginners and quickly transform them into educated project managers.

2. Improved career and employment prospects (in the UK and EU)

The PRINCE2 can improve your career prospects across the UK and EU. Due to its popularity in Europe and strong government ties, it is viewed favourably by employers.

 3. A standardised and complete methodology

The PRINCE2 provides a clear methodology that you can continually apply to almost any project. Plus, by using the same approach across every project, you’ll eliminate confusion through the use of common procedures, documents and processes.


1. Improved salary prospects

The PMP demands tougher prerequisites. It’s harder to achieve and as a result it commands higher salaries.

PMI Project Management Professional jobs display an average advertised salary of £60,000 according to data from

2. You’ll have up-to-date skills

Unlike PRINCE2, PMP demands commitment to your project management career. As a result of the Continuing Certification Requirements, you’ll need to stay active within the project management community. This means, whether you want to or not, you’ll be continually sharpening your skills. Make no mistake; employers will be aware of this factor.

3. PMI Membership

When you obtain your PMP certification, you can gain PMI Membership. As a PMI member you’ll get exclusive access to publications, networking opportunities and professional development opportunities. You’ll be able to easily connect with peers, grow your career using an expansive collection of knowledge resources and get access to a premium job board for project management.

So who won?

The smoke has cleared and incredibly, both project management certifications are still standing.

This guy just loves project management
morguefile / Ambro
Our project management instructor argues that, in a perfect world, you would have both certifications.  PRINCE2 provides a tried-and-true methodology whilst PMP provides the skills and knowledge required by the Project Manager to carry a project through to completion.

Achieve both and you’ll possess an encompassing and rounded approach to project management.

We recommend you thoroughly research both certifications, depending on what your long-term goals are, which side of the world you’ll be working from and in what industry.

Find out more about PMP and PRINCE2 here.

Related Articles:

About the Author:        
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry. 

Friday, 26 September 2014

Top 10 reasons you should be Lean Six Sigma certified


Lean Six Sigma is a management philosophy that has the ability to transform your organisation by enabling it to become more effective and efficient. Originally developed by Motorola in the 1980’s, Six Sigma soon became a world standard for quality implementation.

So how exactly does Lean Six Sigma achieve these lofty claims and by extension - why should you be Lean Six Sigma certified?

1. Lead your organisation to reduce errors and defects

Lean Six Sigma makes use of continuous improvement to reduce defects and errors across your entire organisation.

Achieve a Six Sigma qualification and you’ll enable your organisation to benefit from immediate functional improvements in production time and cost. The application of tools like kaizen (a method of constantly analysing process flow and how it’s applied) and poka yoke (mistake proofing) are proven to lead to faster-than-expected improvements.

In IT applications development, Six Sigma can reduce invoicing errors, reduce customer complaints and cut complaint resolution time, control IT spending and reduce schedule slippages.

You’ll stand out as a valuable asset to your organisation if you can apply Six Sigma effectively. With a fall in defects and errors, your organisation will save money – and you’ll be responsible.

Just like this small red man is doing
Image courtesy of / jscreationzs

2. You’ll be able to apply it to almost any industry

We know it can be applied to manufacturing, and I recently mentioned IT applications development; but this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Six Sigma is an industry independent methodology and has been applied successfully across:

  • Manufacturing industries: Aerospace, Health equipment, Electronic Goods, Textiles
  • Service industries: Telecom, Banking and Financial services , Health care, Hotels, IT, Airlines, Cargo Movement, HR, Marketing 
By getting Lean Six Sigma certified, you’ll be able to apply your hard-earned skills and knowledge across a huge number of industries, organisations and businesses. This provides you with a massive boost in employability because your new skills and knowledge will be applicable in almost any company.

Definitely Six Sigma certified
Image courtesy of / Suat Eman

3. You’ll directly improve customer relations

Whilst Lean Six Sigma is primarily a means to increase efficiency, you’ll also be able to apply its practices to reduce the number of customer complaints.

The quality of services has a strong impact on customer satisfaction and by extension, customer loyalty. Customers will be less affected by defects in their products if the manufacturing process is improved and the number of these defects reduced.

When you apply Lean Six Sigma to customer relations it will likely result in reductions in complaint resolution time and a cut in the number of complaints.

So, becoming Lean Six Sigma certified won’t just allow you to improve efficiency and productivity – you’ll also be able to positively impact how your organisation is perceived.

4. Ensure industry and government compliance

Six Sigma aims to reduce manufacturing errors to a rate below 3.4 parts per million. A number of enterprise purchasers, amongst them government organisations and large corporations, actually now use this metric to review vendors.

Be part of the change. Lead or mastermind the Six Sigma strategies in your organisation to achieve or maintain profitable contracts.

5. Improve your organisation’s use of resources

Get Lean Six Sigma certified and you’ll be able to show your organisation and/or your employees how to utilize resources in a more efficient way. As a result, the cost of operations, materials and time will be reduced.

Apply Lean Six Sigma and fewer resources will be allocated to correction and more towards production. This means less defects in your services/products and more emphasis on providing sales.

6. Stand out from the crowd

Get the Six Sigma ball rolling in your organisation and you could experience tremendous professional development opportunities. Help your employer to adopt Six Sigma tools and training and you’ll stand out from the crowd as a proactive and determined individual.

Plus, Lean Six Sigma uses a set of quality management tools to provide a unique infrastructure of people within your organisation.

For example, Six Sigma Green belts are trained to generate business improvements in areas like: customer satisfaction, service delivery and cost control. Moreover, those qualified with the Six Sigma Black Belt are fluent in the practice and can deliver major performance and efficiency transformation in a business or organisation.

7. Command a bigger salary

Six Sigma is no push-over. It’s for determined professionals who are motivated to achieve more and receive validation for doing so.

Hiring professionals and executive managers know this and Six Sigma, as a result, commands respect and a comfortable salary. A Six Sigma Black Belt certified professional, for example, possess an average advertised salary of £45,000 a year according to

8. You’ll be prepared for leadership roles

Once the Six Sigma Black Belt is obtained, a person is both educated in Six Sigma methodologies and prepared to become a change agent within their organisation. You’ll lead efforts to improve processes and the quality of services.

The Six Sigma Black belt can open doors to promotion in upper management and, as you might expect, improves your prospects of obtaining a job with a different employer.

9. Lift morale within your organisation

Lean Six Sigma has the potential to positively affect people by engaging them directly. Employees are the best resource to understand how to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of a business.

As a result, by participating in Lean Six Sigma projects, employees are able to build confidence by directly affecting the capability of your business.

10. A competitive advantage for your organisation

Possessing a Six Sigma qualification will enable you to effectively differentiate your organisation from your competitors. Distinguish yourself through Six Sigma and your marketing team will be thankful with this additional string to your companies bow.

On the other hand, delay and you may find your competitors gaining the upper hand when they decide to implement the Lean Six Sigma strategies for themselves. 

There you have it, 10 great reasons how both you and your organisation can benefit from getting Lean Six Sigma certified. Now you just have to get certified, right?

About the Author:       
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry. 

Thursday, 14 August 2014

How to convince your manager to pay for PRINCE2 Training


Becoming PRINCE2 certified will verify your ability to manage and organise successful projects. But, it’s not always easy to get certified independently - especially whilst trying to juggle your career, family and social life. A helping hand from your organisation could make all the difference.

After all, it’s in your manager’s best interest for you to be more qualified.  The more skilled you are at your job, the more you can contribute to your company.

Educate yourself about PRINCE2 and put across a compelling argument. Get started with these convincing points:

Keep an eye on scope creep
courtesy of 2nix
1. It will save your organisation time and money

1 in 6 projects have a cost overrun of 200% and a schedule overrun of nearly 70%, according to a study by the Harvard Business Review.

Scope creep is defined as uncontrolled and continuous change or growth in a project’s end date. It will cost your organisation the most finite of resources - time and money.

The ‘moving goal posts’ effect of scope creep is often a result of unforeseen changes to the projects requirements. Unfortunately, this typically results in exceeding your initial timescales and budgets. It also has the potential to worsen as the project progresses - you’ll have a hard time planning for a project that is in a constant state of flux. 

But, by using an established project management methodology like PRINCE2, you can manage and prevent scope creep as it happens. Topics like The Process-based Approach, Risk Management Strategy and Baselines for Control will teach you valuable lessons in the management of scope creep.

A reduction in the cost of projects across your organisation is a tangible bargaining chip for winning over your manager. Plus, with PRINCE2’s standardised methodology, you’ll be able to manage any unavoidable change within your projects whilst still maintaining your original objectives.

2. Bring some much needed clarity to your projects

PRINCE2 focuses on providing a tried-and-tested framework and methodology in which to manage projects clearly and efficiently. Your projects will benefit from a common and consistent approach that your stakeholders can take confidence in. 

Clearly measure the success of your endeavours within a standardised system and you’ll be able to provide accurate reports to your project’s stakeholders. Without an over-reliance on bureaucracy, PRINCE2 promotes consistency, continuous improvement and troubleshooting for your projects.

Explain to your superiors how PRINCE2 can provide a standardised framework for every project your organisation undertakes. PRINCE2 gives your organisation greater control of its resources.

The earlier you can adopt the methodology, the better. Fewer costly organisational mistakes will be made and those that are made can easily be tracked and improved upon.

3. It’s Government-backed

PRINCE2 was launched by the UK Government in 1996 and is now recognised as the international standard method for project management because it embodies years of best practice.

According to arras People’s 2013 UK Project Management Benchmark, the PRINCE2 qualification is held by 63% of all Project management professionals - that’s markedly more than the competing PMP (9%) and MSP (23%) accreditations.

With over a million exams taken globally, it’s already recognised as the world’s most popular project management methodology. Press the importance of getting your organisation to take advantage of this industry standard.

4. You’ll only have to take 1 day off work to get fully certified

PRINCE2 is split into a Foundation and Practitioner level. Foundation measures whether you would be able to work within a PRINCE2 project team whereas the Practitioner focuses upon your skill at leading your own PRINCE2 project.

Complete both qualifications in just 3 days and return to work fully qualified to lead a PRINCE2 team. It’s taken over the weekend with only 1 day out of the office - even your manager will have a hard time arguing with that.

About the Author:       
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry. 

Friday, 8 August 2014

See what happened when we asked our Project Management instructor your burning PMP questions


We sat down with Pash Lal, resident Project Management expert and Firebrand instructor, to answer your burning PMP questions. Pash is a qualified trainer in PRINCE2, PMP and Polychor Integrated Change.

Q. As a Project Manager, is PMP certification really necessary?

A. Yes. The PMP is an internationally recognised verification of your existing skills, knowledge and experience. 

Improve your project management skills and lead better projects
Image courtesy of  Renjith Krishnan / morgueFIle

The exam is based on 200 multiple choice questions, each having varying degrees of difficulty. 

Going through each question to read, digest, understand and identify what the questioner is really asking for, takes time. In order to select the correct answer, your level of analysis could vary from 30 seconds to five minutes (if you are not careful).

You are not just relying on what you may have learnt during the course and what you have picked up through reading the manual. You’ll also be relying on your own skills, experience and expertise to arrive at the correct answer.

The PMP exam assumes you understand all 42 processes, their inputs, outputs, tools and techniques. Some processes will require you to utilise up to 15 of the tools and techniques.

The employer needs a way of being able to compare between different Project Managers from other PMs and this is one way of doing so.

Q. What are the core principles of PMP?

Q. Is there any way round PMP pre-requisites?

A. No, these are the PMI rules and REPs are not allowed to bend or bypass them.

Q. What is the best book to help me prepare for PMP certification?

A. There is no one book which, on its own, will fully prepare you for the PMP exam. 

I would recommend you have the PMBOK Guide Fifth Edition as a minimum as this is what the exam is based on.  However be aware it does not contain everything required for you to be able answer each of your 200 exam questions correctly.  After all, it is only a guide to a vast Body of Knowledge. 

If you have this book, then look carefully in each section and where it mentions other areas, techniques, theories or specialisms, as you will need to research this yourself. 

The Rita Mulcahy book “PMP Exam Prep Learning Exam” is well thought out and structured and a lot of people rate it highly.  However the authors have added processes which do not map out against the PMBOK Guide® processes and are potentially confusing. 

The Kim Heldman book “PMP: Project Management Professional Exam Study Guide” is also well thought out and structured, however its flow is against the 5 domains and the author has not allowed for easy mapping against the PMBOK Guide®’s knowledge areas.  Additionally the question style needs to be brought up to date and maybe this has been or will be done in the move to the 5th edition.

Q. What is the main difference between PRINCE2 and PMP?

A. PRINCE2 Foundation and Practitioner is the accreditation offered by APMG in the UK, owned by the Cabinet Office and is crown copyright. 

It has a structure of:
  • 7 Processes: that contain many activities
  • 7 Themes: alongside information, guidelines and content to be able to carry out the process activities
  • 7 Principles: bedrock principles which, if not applied, the project is not a PRINCE2 project
  • 3 Procedures
  • 2 Techniques
The techniques are both optional.  It is seen as structured and applicable (read apply-able) to all projects of any size in any industry but it does not give a focus at all to the people skills without which the project will fail. 

Just ask yourself which Project Manager would you rather work with?  Project Manager #1 is in a constant bad mood, takes no interest in his/her team, barks the orders and castigates you publicly if things don’t go according to plan.  Or Project Manager #2, who smiles when he/she walks in, greets you and asks you how you are, shows a genuine interest when they ask you about your project and individual progress, makes you feel valued, etc…

Deciding which Project Management course to study can be a difficult choice
Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti / morgueFIle

The PMP is an accreditation offered by the PMI (Project Management Institute) and is their copyright.  It is a structured methodology which has 5 process groups with 42 processes (47 in the 5th edition), each of which has inputs, tools and techniques and outputs. 

It includes a focus on:
  • People skills
    • Leadership
    • Motivation
    • Communication
    • Stakeholder management
    • Team building
    • Conflict resolution
  • Scheduling techniques
  • Communication and procurement

All of these focuses are covered to a level not seen in PRINCE2.

Q. How long does the PMP certification last?

A. The certification lasts for life.  You have to demonstrate your continuing professionalism and dedication to maintaining your expertise and knowledge, through recording a minimum of 20 PDUs (professional development units) each year in a 3 year cycle.

Q. Will I need to recertify when PMBoK 6 comes out?

A. You do not need to take the PMP exam again for the rest of your life.  You only have to demonstrate your continuing professionalism and dedication to maintaining your expertise and knowledge, through recording a minimum of 20 PDUs (professional development units) each year in a 3 year cycle.

Q. How do I record and prove 4500 hours for PMP pre-requisites

A. By looking carefully at the work you have done over the last 3 years either working in a project or more preferably, in managing a project.  The character limit is quite small, set at between 300 and 550 characters, so you don’t have much room to describe what you have done.

They need your submission to be short, sharp and focused, a bit like your behaviour and performance as a Project Manager in real life.

I would recommend a one liner to describe the Project Objective (that’s right, just one or you may have used your entire limit without having described what you actually did) e.g. Objectives: to design a new staffing structure and implement across the 5 functions.

Next should be the deliverables which you produced and handed over e.g. Deliverables: stakeholder analysis completed, requirements gathered, best practice research conducted, new structure designed, stakeholders consulted, board approval obtained, new structure communicated and implemented.

Just to put this in perspective, just these two lines above (Objectives and Deliverables) are 302 characters including the spaces!

Lastly I would suggest you have a finishing line to detail the outcome e.g. Outcome: New staffing structure designed, communicated and implemented successfully; customer satisfied.

The above is 406 characters and there is space for some more words but not too many as you can see.

The next bit is then adding up the hours and apportioning them across the 5 domains.  If you had worked on this project full time for 10 months, and worked an 8 hour day, then 8 hours x 306 days x (6 months x31 days and 4 months x 30 days) = 2,448 hours.  This one project is about half of your total required.  Obviously you will need another project to get to 4,500 hours or more.

For each project you will need to work out how much time you spent on each domain (Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring and Control, Closing) and record them in each box provided.

About the Author:       
Sarah writes for Firebrand Training on a number of IT related topics. This includes exams, training, certification trends, project management, certification, careers advice and the industry itself. Sarah has 11 years of experience in the IT industry.