Who Takes the PRINCE2 Qualification and Why?

It is not just project managers who are taking the PRINCE2 accreditations, so who is taking PRINCE2 and why are they doing it?

I took it upon myself to research why people are undertaking PRINCE2. I interviewed a few of our own students as well as browsed the net in search for answers. Over the course of a few weeks, I was able to gather a number of individual reasons some of which I would like to share below.

There are already tens of thousands of people around the world who are fully qualified as PRINCE2 Practitioners. So extensive is the use of PRINCE2 and its applicability that in the last 12 months over 25,000 people have qualified as PRINCE2 Practitioners. Below are a few of the reasons we received.

Anonymous 1 has just passed her PRINCE2 Practitioner and is a Business Logic Analyst, she “wanted further information on project management processes, I work with Project Managers allot. Now I understand the whole process”. It costs allot of money (approx US$1,000, to do both Foundation and Practitioner levels in PRINCE2 with Africa Value Solutions LTD) so I was keen to find out if Anonymous 1 could have saved herself some money by just completing the Foundation level, especially as all she wanted to do was understand the processes. Anonymous 1 explained, “If I did the practitioner level, I would have the scope to pursue it later on (in my career).

Anonymous 2 recently got made redundant from an administration job and used the funding from her employer to do PRINCE2, “so hopefully I can get a decent job!”

Anonymous 3 is actually a project manager delivering IT projects within the public sector, he recently passed his PRINCE2 Practitioner examinations for the second time (it’s a requirement that PRINCE2 Practitioners refresh their accreditation every five years), I asked what the benefit was to him in doing this, surely as a practicing project manager using PRINCE2 everyday you don’t forget? “It was mainly down to the changes in PRINCE2:, I wanted to make sure I was not missing something new. Also the organisation paid for it so I thought why not?”

Anonymous 4 is an IT Manager and his organisation was looking at standardizing on a project management methodology. He has just completed his foundation level in PRINCE2 and is looking to self-finance the practitioner level as he has bought into the PRINCE2 method. I wanted to find out more about Anonymous 4 situation, I asked, “As an IT Manager, does that mean you’re also the organisation’s Project Manager?” Anonymous 4 is the project manager for purely IT projects and for larger more complex projects that are cross directorates he is co Project Manager/Senior Supplier.

Anonymous 5 is an animator who ended up as a web designer and is currently managing a team within a small organisation. “I’m choosing PRINCE2 because I know nothing about project management – but seem to have ended up overseeing it. I didn’t really want it but there is a need for someone to do it. PRINCE2 came up first in Google – and thats all I really know about it”. A pretty honest reason why Anonymous 5 is looking into PRINCE2, and his answer gives a good insight into how PRINCE2 has become so dominant in the project management field, anyone browsing the web to understand project management can’t help to be bombarded with PRINCE2.

Anonymous 6 “Our projects are getting bigger so we’re going to need more staff – but we can not do that till we’ve got more projects to generate revenue. Structure and direction are being focused on so I figured I better learn about Project Management properly if my team is to expand”. Anonymous 6 is a typical reluctant project manager and we tend to see allot of this within smaller organisations where there is a need for project management skills but a reluctance to recruit the specialist skill. Making do with current in-house staff, regardless of whether their own career paths are pointing to project management, has become more prevalent and incredibly it’s often the individual who has to foot the bill for their own development.

Anonymous 7 is a service manager, working in the private sector for public sector clients. When asked why he recently took his PRINCE2, he responded, “pretty much all the change that I deliver is governed by PRINCE2 and ISO20K. I guess they (the organisation) want me to do more of the project management myself. In practice (doing PRINCE2) just makes me second guess the project and programme elements more.

I’d like to thank everyone who took the time to speak to me about their recent dealings with PRINCE2, it’s been an interesting insight into how PRINCE2 has started to infiltrate businesses, non project roles and of course the  project management arena.

IT Service Management – A Look at ITIL

 ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) is the most widely adopted framework for IT Service Management among IT professionals worldwide. It is a practical approach to identifying, planning, delivering and supporting IT Services. ITIL and its associated certifications have been around since the 1980s and provide a framework of best practice guidance, designed to enable IT departments deliver cost effective, efficient and reliable IT services.

 

ITIL Qualifications Levels:

1. ITIL® V3 Foundation: First-level training for IT personnel and customers of IT giving knowledge of the ITIL Service Lifecycles, the ITIL processes, roles and functions. how the Service Lifecycle provides effective and efficient IT Services which are aligned and underpin Business processes. The course prepares students for the exam leading to the Foundation Certificate in IT Service Management, a pre-requisite for further ITIL courses leading to the ITIL Expert diploma.

2. Intermediate Lifecycle courses: Staff members who want to gain a deeper insight into the service lifecycle phases of:

Service Strategy
Service Design
Service Transition
Service Operation
Continual Service Improvement

3. Intermediate Capability courses: Staff members who want to gain a deeper insight into the processes contained in each of the Lifecycle stages

Service Offerings and Agreements
Planning, Protection and Optimization
Release, Control and Validation
Operational Support and Analysis

 

Individual Benefits to ITIL

The list below is by no means definitive, but hopefully conveys some of the fundamental benefits of having an ITIL qualification.

  • A documented approach
  • Global recognition
  • Accredited educational companies
  • Increased and improved effectiveness and efficiency of an organization
  • Potential to positively effect an organizations profits and share prices
  • Improved interaction and functioning within the IT/IS department
  • Improved interaction and functioning with the Business and Customer community
  • Vocabulary and terms understood by all who have undertaken ITIL education irrespective of industry sector, country or continent
  • Recruited ITIL qualified personnel are potentially able to integrate into another ITIL organization so much easier
  • Specific roles can be recruited so much quicker and easily
  • Outsourcing companies can be audited against ITIL best practice
  • ISO /IEC 20000 provides the confidence for customers and purchasers of an organizations services, on both a country and global basis
  • Improved customer satisfaction through a more professional approach to service delivery
  • Improved IT services through the use of proven best practice processes
  • Improved ROI of IT
  • Improved delivery of third party services

 

Organizational Benefits to ITIL

Successful introduction of IT Service Management with ITIL should deliver the following benefits:

  • Improved customer satisfaction through a more professional approach to service delivery
  • Improved IT services through the use of proven best practice processes
  • Improved ROI of  IT
  • Improved delivery of third party services through the specification of ITIL
  • Improved morale of service delivery and recipient staff
  • Increased competence, capability and productivity of IT staff
  • Increased staff retention
  • Reduced cost of training
  • Improved systems/ applications availability
  • Reduced cost/ incident
  • Reduced hidden costs that traditionally increases substantially the TCO
  • Better asset utilization
  • A clear business differentiator from competitors
  • Closely aligned to commercial business services and products
  • Greater visibility of IT costs
  • Greater visibility of IT assets
  • A benchmark to measure performance against in IT projects or services
  • Reduced cost of recruitment and training – hiring ITIL qualified people is easier

 

How PRINCE2 Can Help Boosts Your CV

 There’s been some debate about what professional qualifications such as PRINCE2 can really do for your job prospects. While they won’t guarantee you a job, they will certainly improve your chances as recent studies now reveal. International professional qualification such as PRINCE2, ITIL, COBIT, MSP, Lean Sigma among others will surely help you:

1.    Meet job specifications. Look in the job ads for project manager, IT service manager and find one that doesn’t specify PRINCE2 or ITIL as essential or desirable. How many did you find, truly go ahead and search. Even when not stated, certification is often a given, in fact some recruitment agencies won’t even consider you without them and some interviewers may wonder why you didn’t formalize your experience by tackling the training and the exams. Don’t give them the chance.

2.    Move from the academic to the real world. For undergraduates or graduates familiar with an academic environment, PRINCE2 could be your door to the real world as it tells employers that you’ve thought seriously about your career progression path and that you’re ready for business.

3.    Get your foot in the door – or get it open! Trying to get into project management can seem daunting even if you have employment experience. Put PRINCE2 on your CV, though, and it says: I’m interested, I’m committed and I’m across everything that’s behind it and its application. It makes you more likely to be considered for any project management opportunity that fits you best: work experience, internship, associated role and for a trainee as well as junior project manager post.

4.    Go global with your job prospects. PRINCE2 can not only help open doors it can keep them open. If you’re a professional who has landed a job with project management competencies, its proven methodology will give you the confidence to back up decisions when challenged; if you’d love to get that kind of job it’ll instill the competence and confidence to go for it. PRINCE2 is totally portable and acknowledged across the global job market. Think of it as one element of your back-up plan in case things don’t shape up as well as you’d like.

5.    Show employers you’ve still got it. Having PRINCE2 on your CV demonstrates that along with years of unbeatable experience you’ll be bringing potential employers today’s recognized best practices that improve project success and not yesterday’s tired and failed methods.

6.    Credibility for contractors. Freelance operatives are like mini companies and like all companies they have to sell themselves, their reputation and their skills. Much easier to do that with PRINCE2 on your resume. It is evidence that you’re using a proven and consistent methodology that they can understand and that you know that project management is all about delivering.

7.    Employers see PRINCE2 as the safe bet. In times of crisis we all head for safety. For HR and training and development departments that means PRINCE2. Faced with the need to spend less whilst still ensuring that staff get top-class training so they can deliver projects successfully, they see PRINCE2 as the de-facto standard for project management according to a recent report. Doubtless they have taken into account worldwide research demonstrating its benefits.

8.    Value for money employee. Ask yourself this: since training budgets are tight what will a company offering openings in the project management field think if you turn up already trained in one of the foremost, international project management qualifications?

Africa Value Solutions (AVS) currently offers the following PRINCE2® courses

The Cheat’s Guide to taking an exam at home

Now I’ve got your attention I want to give you some tips if you’re taking your exam online at home. Africa Value Solutions Limited (AVS) offers the ability to take some of our exams in the comfort of your home.

No 1.

Wear some clothes.  Every second of your exam is recorded and reviewed by APMG, so please do consider what you’re wearing. We’ve seen people taking exams wearing flimsy negligees, reindeer dressing gowns and Sponge Bob boxer shorts. We’re not fussy about the dress code so we don’t expect you to dress smartly, just remember that someone will watch you taking the exam.  Jeans and a t-shirt is perfect!

No 2.

You must be alone. You can’t chat to anyone – not even the cat. Please keep pets, partners and children away while you take your exam.

No 3.

Get out of bed.  We’ve seen people attempting to take their exam in bed – while their partner lies next to them.  This won’t get you a pass so please don’t consider it! You’re better off sitting at a desk or table and you can then follow tip no 4 more easily too.

 

No 4.

Scan the room slowly all the way round and up and down. You’ve got to do a 360 degree scan of the room and that includes under the desk and right above and behind you. If you perform the scan too quickly, we won’t be able to see the room, so take it slow.  You’ll get full instructions when you register – please follow these carefully as you will be issued a breach result if you don’t  follow the instructions correctly.

No 5.

We’re actively looking for signs of cheating. They are not difficult to spot. We can see if you’re referring to a source of information and our software picks up repetitive motion – so please don’t even try. Remember your Foundation exam is closed book so you can’t have anything with you. Practitioner exams are open book and you can refer to your manual.

No 6.

Don’t forget your ID. Check what you need before you sit down for the exam. Without the proper ID, even if you have taken the exam, you will breach your result. Your passport is ideal but check the instructions for other forms of acceptable ID and don’t forget to have it with you when you start. If you go off into another room to hunt for ID you will breach the exam.

No 7.

Remember you are being watched.  It might not feel like it but your exam footage will be reviewed either while you are taking the exam or after you have taken it. Any question whatsoever about the integrity of your exam will result in a breach. Unfortunately remote exams must be administered this way in order to be fair to everyone. So give yourself the best chance by being prepared.

No 8.

Please actually read the T&C before ticking the box and continuing with the exam.

No 9.

When we ask for the room to be clear, we mean nothing should be on the floor, desk or shelves in the room where you are taking your exam.  This includes bags, papers or books as they could contain reference materials.  So, it’s a good excuse for a de-clutter but remember you need to do it before you start the exam.

No 10.

Relax and concentrate. Treat this exam as you would any other. Don’t get flustered. If you have prepared well enough you are sure to pass.  Good luck!

Is my project too risky?

 When identifying risks, it can sometimes feel like there are too many risks involved to successfully deliver a project’s objectives. The problem is, how do you know if you have too many risks and how should you deal with them?

There is no maximum number of risks for a project, particularly as projects vary so much in size, scope and value. The first thing you need to do is assess the size of the project. A small project may not be able to cope with a high number of risks where a larger project would not be held back. It is likely only small projects will be halted at this stage. From here, you need to grade the risks in terms of likelihood, impact and immediacy.

This will allow you to identify and concentrate on the major risks while also evaluating the overall level of risk facing the project. At this point, you can decide if the project is simply too risky or is acceptable, you may also find that it is acceptable but you need external help in the form of a specialized risk manager. You could use a risk manager just to get the risk load down to a reasonable size or hire them long term to mitigate risk throughout the project. Regardless of whether or not you decide to use external resources, once you have categorized and prioritized the risks, you need to minimize the threats and maximize the opportunities in each.

This way, you’ll be able to focus on the risks that need to be closely monitored. Using this system of grading risks, you can assess risks as and when they appear over the course of the project and make sure the level is risk is under control.

We offer Management of Risk, which considers risk from strategic, programme, project and operational perspectives within an organization. Visit http://avs.co.ke/courses/m_o_r-management-of-risk

Take your Exam at Home

 With Remote Proctor Now, all you need is a computer with audio and video capabilities and a suitable internet service provider.

The booking process is easy – when you are ready to take your exam you simply contact Africa Value Solutions Limited (AVS) to arrange a date and time. As the process is entirely online, exams can be taken 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Once an exam is booked, you will receive an access code via email; you can then follow the instructions in the email, download the software and start the exam.

After you have filled in your details, the software will check your computer’s compatibility and prompt you to shut down any remote assistance/control applications you have open. When your desktop is secure, you will be asked to enter your exam code which will then take you to the online exam room. At this point you will need identify yourself, which is done by taking a photo of yourself and of your passport or driver’s license, and verify that the room you are in is suitable for exam conditions.

This means you will need to use your computer’s camera to scan the entire room, including the surface of your desk, under the desk, the walls, ceiling and floor area. By doing this, you are proving that you have no reference materials available to you and there is no one else in the room who will be helping you with your exam. The use of televisions, radios, phones, headsets and any other electronic devices is prohibited. Once you have done this, the camera should be returned to a position where it can record your face throughout the duration of the exam.

After these checks have been completed, you can start the exam. You will be given the appropriate amount of time to complete it depending on which qualification you are doing and once you click finish you will be given a preliminary result. This way, you will know immediately whether or not you have passed, however your result will still need to be verified by your ATO. Your certificate will be sent to you by your ATO upon successful verification of your grade.

All Foundation exams and ITIL Intermediate exams are available to be taken via Proctor Now. Candidates wishing to book a remotely proctored exam will need to book it through Africa Value Solutions Limited (AVS). Please contact us at info@avs.co.ke

Is COBIT complementary to ITIL?

 Both ITIL and COBIT help organizations to manage IT from a business perspective and achieve business goals while measuring progress and ensuring effective IT governance. Because of this, there is often confusion about whether they do the same thing or contradict each other. In reality, the two frameworks are complementary.

COBIT 5 is the latest edition of the ISACA globally accepted framework, delivering an end-to-end business view of the governance of enterprise IT, which reflects the central role of information and technology in creating value for the enterprise. ITIL is more focused on service management and provides guidance on how to develop and implement effective solutions. COBIT provides an overall, high level governance framework which is applicable to most organizations but is not specific about certain aspects of the business like IT service management or information security.

 As ITIL covers particular areas in more detail, it can be mapped to COBIT to enhance the framework and build a hierarchy of processes. This means that COBIT can be used to shape ITIL processes to the business needs and measure the success of ITIL implementation.

By using COBIT and ITIL together, IT can meet businesses objectives as COBIT is used to set business goals and ITIL assists with the management of resources to achieve these goals.

The Principles of Project Management

The principles of the PRINCE2 project management method are:

  • Continued business justification
  • Learn from experience
  • Defined roles and responsibilities
  • Manage by stages
  • Manage by exception
  • Focus on products
  • Tailor to suit the project environment.

Not all project management methods contain these principles. There are some other concepts included in virtually every project management method, including PRINCE2, which are management of quality, risk and changes.

Continued business justification – this states the concept that no project should be undertaken or allowed to continue if it has no business justification. This justification usually means financial justification. Too many projects start without anyone checking that it will bring benefits that outweigh the cost. During the life of the project very few projects review the original justification to see if the business environment, company strategy, cost of producing the end products and expected outcome have changed to such an extent that there is no longer a viable business case. PRINCE2 ensures that there is a viable Business Case before the project is allowed to start and requires a review of this at the end of every stage, thus avoiding money being thrown away.

Learn from experience – A huge amount of project money can be wasted by project managers making the same mistakes that others made before. There is little benefit to senior management to find that different projects are being run under different methods (or no method at all). There should be a formal method of recording good and bad experiences and practices and making these lessons available to every new project. This is a first step in moving towards project management maturity.

Defined roles and responsibilities – Project managers do not provide the budget for their projects. They do not establish the tolerances or limits beyond which they must acknowledge that the project is out of control and they need help. They do not decide what the customer wants. Project managers should not be responsible for deciding if major changes to the specifications should be allowed. Senior management should appoint a project board, a group of managers whose authority matches the commitment needed, with representation from the customer whose staff will specify what is required, the supplier whose resources will build the product and in charge of these a manager who is responsible to company management for the outlay and ensuring that the project matches company strategies. PRINCE2 provides role descriptions for a project management team and every member of the team signs up to a role description to understand what responsibilities are theirs and to whom they report. Such roles can be shared or combined according to the needs of a project.

Manage by stages – PRINCE2 believes that projects should be split up into stages. There is always an initiation stage, where a project plan is created, a business case is built and strategies are created for quality, risk, configuration management, change control and communication. After that stage the rest of the project is broken down into a number of stages, minimally one for small projects. The two main reasons for stages are to provide a project board decision time to check that the project should continue and to allow the project manager to create a detailed stage plan for the next stage.

Manage by exception – PRINCE2 does not believe in ‘progress meetings’. Once a Stage Plan has been agreed by the Project Board, the Project Manager gets on with the job of managing that stage. For each stage the Project Board sets tolerances within which the Project Manager must work. As long as the stage stays within these tolerances, work continues. If there is a danger of a tolerance being broken (an exception situation), the Project Manager must then make the Project Board aware of the danger and propose action.

Focus on products – PRINCE2 believes that in planning you should focus on the required products rather than the activities to create them. This helps the definition of the purpose and required quality of each product, how that quality should be verified, who should check that quality. This is much easier than defining the quality of an activity. Focus on products also forms the base of PRINCE2 planning. You think of the required products and then the sequence in which they need to be constructed. The method allows the major products to be broken down into project, stage and finally team plans.

Tailor to suit the project environment – if you are to have a project management method, it needs to work for all sizes of project, but what is needed for large projects may be too much for small projects. PRINCE2 builds in flexibility throughout the method to allow it to be tailored not only to the size of the project, but also local management requirements; role names, specific local forms and other company requirements. The company may have a change control method that it wishes to keep. It may require all projects to use a specific configuration tool. PRINCE2 can be seamlessly merged into all such local practices.

By Colin Bentley, former PRINCE2 Chief Examiner

Colin Bentley has been a project manager since 1966 and has managed many projects, large and small, in several countries. He has been working with PRINCE2, PRINCE and its predecessor, PROMPT II, since 1975. He was one of the team that brought PROMPT II to the marketplace, wrote the major part of the PRINCE2 manual and is the author of all revisions to the manual until the 2009 version.

He was the Chief Examiner for PRINCE2 from its beginning until 2008 and wrote all Foundation and Practitioner exam papers and marked them until they reached the massive volumes that are sat today. Now retired, he has had over twenty books published, lectured widely on PRINCE2 and acted as project management consultant to such firms as The London Stock Exchange, Microsoft Europe, Tesco Stores, Commercial Union and the BBC. He still writes books on the PRINCE2 method and has updated them all to reflect the 2009 

What’s this ITSM thing really about?

 If someone were to ask you “What is the purpose IT Service Management?”,  you might simply say:
“It is the management of IT services for the customer.”  The next question that may come up would be,
“How do you do that effectively?” That answer may not be as simple, but it could be…

Like most improvements of any nature you rely on what you measure to tell you how well you are doing today. The result far too often is that we never really seem to achieve customer satisfaction the way we intended. We get only so far and seem to hit a plateau. Why is that?

The challenge you may face is that of perspective.

Think about this for a minute… IT will measure how “good” IT is doing based on the reporting that IT does on itself.

Sounds crazy when you put it in those terms, however quite often this is how we do it. We measure the amount of incidents we had last month and their durations which is good, don’t misunderstand. However, we are measuring IT success based on IT criteria, not that of the customer. If we want to improve the customer experience we should first understand what that experience is.

There are many ways in which we can better understand this. Depending on your organization some ways will have more value than others. It could be managed through:

  • A customer satisfaction survey,
  • Some form of Social IT,
  • Actual customer interactions, or
  • A combination of these.

It’s also important to be specific; the whole purpose is to get feedback from the customers and not to assume what the issues are. Set some goals and target them accordingly.

Remember that this is about improving service. It is not just an “Incident Reduction” thing or something along those lines. Get all of IT on board with the work you are doing to achieve this goal. While it may be the mandate of the ITSM team to improve quality of service and drive down the costs, alignment ensures that you are all going in the same direction towards customer satisfaction. At the end of the day IT is providing services to achieve a business outcome.

Keep in contact with your customers while this work is underway. Many of these improvements are not going to happen overnight so it is important that your customers understand that you have heard their suggestions and are working with them to improve the quality of service.

Is e-learning the way to go?

Africa Value Solutions’s e-learning provides an effective and flexible solution for those who wish to complete a class, but do not wish to attend a classroom course. These web-based courses combine the best of online interactivity and engaging course design by employing sound instructional design with multimedia components, practice tests and online quizzes. Students who have attended such a course are suitably prepared to successfully take the associated certification test which is a requirement for attending any of the further learning courses available in the appropriate tracks.

Africa Value Solutions (AVS) is accredited to offer the following international best management practice courses via self-paced e-Learning in over 51 countries:

Course Approach:

E-learning allows the delegate to go through the chapters in a logical manner. The content starts with an introduction, overview and ends with sample exams to test the delegates understanding of the material covered. E-learning enables the delegate to study the material at the delegate’s preferred pace. It is recommended to do the sample exams after the complete e-learning has been followed. To prepare effectively for the exam, delegates should be prepared to undertake revision and exam preparation work.

Course Student Material:

Students will receive the credentials to start the Computer Based Training (CBT). The CBT is an online training course and can be followed anytime and anywhere.

Businesses and Individuals

In this post we’re taking a look at why businesses and individuals are opting for online learning over the more traditional methods. E-learning is the global education market’s fastest growing sub sector. But what is it about online learning that is so appealing and how does it benefit today’s organizations and individuals?

E-learning provides opportunities for individuals who perhaps don’t have access to traditional training environments to learn current theories and methodologies at their own pace and without large costs. It’s estimated that individuals and companies can save 50-70% on their training costs by switching to e-learning from traditional training methods.

But it’s not just the costs that are attractive. Research has found that retention of e-learning is twice as high as classroom instruction at half the cost; moreover, it has been discovered that participants learn almost five times more material without increasing the time they spent training.

The use of e-learning requires up-front investment in technology, development tools and content. Africa Value Solutions (AVS) has invested and partnered with the best online training providers for our PRINCE2, ITIL and Management of Risk (M_O_R) e-learning courses. These investments are fixed, regardless of how many students we train allowing our prices to remain very competitive in comparison to the more traditional training modes.

Other advantages of e-learning include:

  • Faster delivery - At a time when change is faster than ever a key advantage of e-learning is that it has faster delivery cycle times than traditional classroom-based instruction. There is a practical limitation on how fast learning can be rolled out with classroom-based instruction, as the capacity to deliver learning is limited by the number of available classrooms and trainers.
  • More effective learning - A nine-year survey by a research literature in training concluded that: “Learners learn more using computer-based instruction than they do with conventional ways of teaching, as measured by higher post-treatment test scores.’
  • Lower environmental impact - Online learning is an effective way for individuals and organizations to reduce their carbon footprint.
  • Flexibility, Accessibility, Convenience – Learners can proceed through a training program “at their own pace and at their own place.” They can also access the e-Learning course at any time, and only as much as they need. This is also known as “Just in time and just enough.”
  • Savings in Travel Cost and Time 
  • Ease of Updates
Some of the disadvantages attributed to e-learning include:
  • Learners with low motivation or bad study habits may fall behind
  • Without the routine structures of a traditional class, students may get lost or confused about course activities and deadlines
  • Students may feel isolated from the instructor and classmates
  • Instructor may not always be available when students are studying or need help
  • Slow Internet connections or older computers may make accessing course materials frustrating
  • Managing computer files and online learning software can sometimes seem complex for students with beginner-level computer skills
What do you think? Should we stick to more traditional methods of training, is e-learning the way forward or would a combination of the two create an ideal learning experience?

I know what organisational change requires – but how do I do it?

Mindful ITSM requires a focus on the people aspects of change and not just process and technology.
Manypeople understand this and have turned to guidance such as Kotter’s eight steps process for
leading change. However, where I find people struggling is that they understand the ‘what’ needs to happen
but are unsure of the ‘how’.

My book, ‘Balanced Diversity – A Portfolio Approach to Organisational Change’ is based on research undertaken at Simon Fraser University which produced a framework of 59 practices that can be utilised to embed change into an organisation.

The fundamental difference between this approach and other change models is that it advocates a balanced approach. The practices are arranged into groups of informal and formal practices that either deliver on current commitments (fulfilment) or move the organisation further along the path to change (innovation).

The key is to select a balance of practices from each group in order to successfully embed the change into the organisation, rather like we should select a balance of foods from each of the four food groups for a healthy life, so that it becomes part of the DNA of the organisation.

The 59 practices identified by the research are grouped into 20 categories across four quadrants.

The quadrant that depicts informal practices aimed at fulfilment is called “fostering commitment”.

Practices in this quadrant aim to build and reinforce the importance of the change for the organisation and to support and encourage those who are making efforts to embed the change.

The quadrant that depicts the formal practices aimed at fulfilment is called “clarifying expectations”.

The practices in this quadrant aim to integrate the change into the core of the organisation’s strategies and processes; equip and encourage employees via training and incentives; and measure, track and report on the organisation’s progress.

The quadrant that depicts the informal practices aimed at innovation is called “building momentum for change”.

The practices in this quadrant aim to support a culture of change innovation by developing the new ideas needed to bring the organisation closer to its long-term goals. These practices inspire and reassure employees so that they can experiment, try new things, and build on each other’s ideas.

The quadrant that depicts the formal practices aimed at innovation is called “instilling capacity for change”.

Practices in this quadrant aim to create structures or supports that will form a foundation for future changes in the organisation.

Leaders of ITSM change should draw practices from all four quadrants of the framework in the effort to embed a change within the organisation. It is a balanced approach, using a wide and diverse range of practices that will achieve successful organisational change.

The approach can be used for strategic, tactical and operational change. It can be used for small, medium and large changes of varying complexity and priority.

The framework can be used to assess a current change initiative and perform a gap analysis or it can be used for planning the approach to future change initiatives.

You can read the white paper about the framework here.

‘Balanced Diversity – A Portfolio Approach to Organisational Change’ is a part of the itSMF Library and published by TSO (The Stationery Office). ISBN 9780117080607.

Help! I’m Taking Over a Failing Project

 What should you do when you take over a project that has been going wrong? One of our candidates was given a project and needed to produce a presentation for the Managing Director about the project in terms of where is stands, what went wrong and what his plans were to get it back on track. The previous project manager had agreed variables, timescales and a project plan but had off ill for two weeks with no contact with the client. Colin Bentley, former PRINCE2 Chief Examiner, offered this advice about how to tackle the presentation.

“I would have three parts to the presentation.

First would be the state of the project at the time the project manager went sick - was it on target, what if any were the problems, what was the state of open issues, risks, and what work was in progress?

The second would be the state now - same questions;

The third would be what you propose to do over the next period of time, maybe two weeks or a month. You would have to decide how long you need to recover any lost time or deal with problems and how long the Project Board is willing to give you to see any improvement. Of course, you may find that everything is going along nicely - but I doubt it.

I think you should also look at the state of the Project Plan, Business Case, current Stage Plan, the project organization and the way in which matters such as issue capture and analysis and risk management are being handled and make proposals if they are not following PRINCE2 guidance.”

Do you have any stories of taking over a failing project? Let us know how you dealt with it by emailing us at info@avs.co.ke.

The Principles of Project Management

By Colin Bentley, former PRINCE2 Chief Examiner

 The principles of the PRINCE2 project management method are:

  • Continued business justification
  • Learn from experience
  • Defined roles and responsibilities
  • Manage by stages
  • Manage by exception
  • Focus on products
  • Tailor to suit the project environment.

Not all project management methods contain these principles. There are some other concepts included in virtually every project management method, including PRINCE2, which are management of quality, risk and changes.

Continued business justification – this states the concept that no project should be undertaken or allowed to continue if it has no business justification. This justification usually means financial justification. Too many projects start without anyone checking that it will bring benefits that outweigh the cost. During the life of the project very few projects review the original justification to see if the business environment, company strategy, cost of producing the end products and expected outcome have changed to such an extent that there is no longer a viable business case. PRINCE2 ensures that there is a viable Business Case before the project is allowed to start and requires a review of this at the end of every stage, thus avoiding money being thrown away.

Learn from experience – A huge amount of project money can be wasted by project managers making the same mistakes that others made before. There is little benefit to senior management to find that different projects are being run under different methods (or no method at all). There should be a formal method of recording good and bad experiences and practices and making these lessons available to every new project. This is a first step in moving towards project management maturity.

Defined roles and responsibilities – Project managers do not provide the budget for their projects. They do not establish the tolerances or limits beyond which they must acknowledge that the project is out of control and they need help. They do not decide what the customer wants. Project managers should not be responsible for deciding if major changes to the specifications should be allowed. Senior management should appoint a project board, a group of managers whose authority matches the commitment needed, with representation from the customer whose staff will specify what is required, the supplier whose resources will build the product and in charge of these a manager who is responsible to company management for the outlay and ensuring that the project matches company strategies. PRINCE2 provides role descriptions for a project management team and every member of the team signs up to a role description to understand what responsibilities are theirs and to whom they report. Such roles can be shared or combined according to the needs of a project.

Manage by stages – PRINCE2 believes that projects should be split up into stages. There is always an initiation stage, where a project plan is created, a business case is built and strategies are created for quality, risk, configuration management, change control and communication. After that stage the rest of the project is broken down into a number of stages, minimally one for small projects. The two main reasons for stages are to provide a project board decision time to check that the project should continue and to allow the project manager to create a detailed stage plan for the next stage.

Manage by exception – PRINCE2 does not believe in ‘progress meetings’. Once a Stage Plan has been agreed by the Project Board, the Project Manager gets on with the job of managing that stage. For each stage the Project Board sets tolerances within which the Project Manager must work. As long as the stage stays within these tolerances, work continues. If there is a danger of a tolerance being broken (an exception situation), the Project Manager must then make the Project Board aware of the danger and propose action.

Focus on products – PRINCE2 believes that in planning you should focus on the required products rather than the activities to create them. This helps the definition of the purpose and required quality of each product, how that quality should be verified, who should check that quality. This is much easier than defining the quality of an activity. Focus on products also forms the base of PRINCE2 planning. You think of the required products and then the sequence in which they need to be constructed. The method allows the major products to be broken down into project, stage and finally team plans.

Tailor to suit the project environment – if you are to have a project management method, it needs to work for all sizes of project, but what is needed for large projects may be too much for small projects. PRINCE2 builds in flexibility throughout the method to allow it to be tailored not only to the size of the project, but also local management requirements; role names, specific local forms and other company requirements. The company may have a change control method that it wishes to keep. It may require all projects to use a specific configuration tool. PRINCE2 can be seamlessly merged into all such local practices.

Colin Bentley has been a project manager since 1966 and has managed many projects, large and small, in several countries. He has been working with PRINCE2, PRINCE and its predecessor, PROMPT II, since 1975. He was one of the team that brought PROMPT II to the marketplace, wrote the major part of the PRINCE2 manual and is the author of all revisions to the manual until the 2009 version.

He was the Chief Examiner for PRINCE2 from its beginning until 2008 and wrote all Foundation and Practitioner exam papers and marked them until they reached the massive volumes that are sat today. Now retired, he has had over twenty books published, lectured widely on PRINCE2 and acted as project management consultant to such firms as The London Stock Exchange, Microsoft Europe, Tesco Stores, Commercial Union and the BBC. He still writes books on the PRINCE2 method and has updated them all to reflect the 2009 version.

Improve your Information Value Chain

 Issue: Businesses suffer productivity losses, risks of poor decision-making and costly mistakes due to ineffective and inefficient use of information and related technology

Guidance: Expanding the traditional Demand-Supply paradigm and thinking in terms of Demand-Supply-Use closes the circle and helps you to assess and improve the effectiveness of the whole information value chain

Demand-Supply-Use

The weakest link

There is a potential and costly weakness in your information value chain. While you have spent fortunes on specifying and realizing information systems, if they aren’t used properly, then the value that you envisaged and on which you based your business case, simply isn’t realized. In addition to this, poor understanding of increasingly complex information leads to equally poor decision-making, leading in turn to costly mistakes. To make things even worse, recent research has identified a productivity loss varying from 3.1% to 4.1% of working hours due to inadequate user skills.

IT Manufacturing versus IT Retail

Many of us in IT often think in terms of demand and supply of IT services. The inevitable commoditization of technology is forcing traditional IT departments to shift their focus from delivering to demand-based specifications (‘IT Manufacturing’), to selecting readily available supply-based commercial offerings that fulfill business needs (‘IT Retail’). Considerable investment in reskilling and repositioning is needed to prevent the IT department being blamed for ‘rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic’ while business executives bypass the IT department and deal directly with external service providers.

Users left to their own devices

But the shift from IT Manufacturing to IT Retail (ref: The Quantum Age of IT) is only half the story. Difficult as this is, this reskilling and repositioning of the IT department ‘only’ ensures that the business gets the information systems that it needs. Not whether they are used effectively and efficiently. There is increasing awareness that the demand-supply paradigm needs to be expanded to address the actual use of information and related technology. With the ‘democratization’ of devices (BYOD), applications (easy to download apps) and data (in particular readily accessible Big Data from external sources), it is easy to leave the users to their own devices and hope that they use them well enough. If information isn’t that important for your organization, then you can take the risk. But if information is one of your important business assets, you need to manage it appropriately.

Demand-Supply-Use

Expanding the demand-supply paradigm and thinking in terms of demand-supply-use closes the circle and helps you to assess and improve the effectiveness of the whole information value chain. ‘Information management’ addresses demand and use of  information and related technology. It is an enterprise responsibility that focuses on exploiting optimal value from information. Although information and technology are intimately intertwined, they are two separate entities that need to be managed in their own right. Information management and IT management are two separate disciplines with different dynamics. IT is managed by the IT department, information by the business.

Desired attitude and behavior

Attitude

  • Being aware of the importance of the whole demand-supply-use circle for realizing the intended value
  • Realizing that users often develop their own way of using information systems and that the IT department usually isn’t aware of this

Behavior

  • Observing how users use information and technology
  • Capturing good ways of using information systems
  • Sharing these good practices, either peer-to-peer or ‘top down’
  • Users improving their individual practices
  • Monitoring the effect of improvement

Additional guidance

Guidance for information management can be found in frameworks such as COBIT® and BiSL®. COBIT 5 guides enterprises in rigorous governance and management of processes and other enablers related to demand, supply and use of information and technology. It provides excellent guidance for assurance of benefits realization, risk optimization and resource optimization. Because BiSL provides more detailed guidance regarding the content of the processes for demand and use of information and technology, COBIT 5 and BiSL are regarded as complimentary frameworks.

ISO/IEC 20000 – Defining the scope of the service management system

 The 2nd edition of ISO/IEC 20000-1 was published in April 2011. Adopting the standard will produce improvements in service management and service delivery leading to business benefits for organizations.

When considering certification to ISO/IEC 20000, one of the first things to be done is to define the scope of the service management system (SMS). Are you going to include all of your services, some of your services, only IT or more than IT? ISO/IEC 20000-1 includes requirements for defining scope and ISO/IEC 20000-3 includes guidelines.

 

The requirements for defining scope

ISO/IEC 20000-1 Clause 4.5.1 states the requirements for defining the scope of the SMS. It requires the scope statement to be included in the service management plan which will set the context for the whole plan.

There are two items that must be included in the scope statement:

name of the service provider delivering the services

the service(s) to be provided.

The name of the service provider can be the whole organization or can refer to the specific service provider area within the organization. For example, it can be ‘Organization A’ or ‘the IT department of Organization A’.

The services to be provided can be generically described as ‘all IT services’ or more specifically described e.g. all desktop services, all services to customer B, SAP support services.

There are four items that must be considered when defining the scope. These items can optionally be included in the scope statement:

location(s) where the service provider delivers the services

customer(s)

customer  location(s)

technology.

Taking each of these in turn, location of the service provider could be a data centre, an office or various sites. There may be several sites included in the scope or just one. Auditors usually like to specify the sites that are included in the scope.

The customer can be defined if it helps to define the scope e.g. all internal users, the finance department, external customers.

The customer location can be defined if the service is limited to specific locations for the customer e.g. all internal users at the head office site, all external customers in the UK.

The technology can support the definition of the services e.g. desktop services, application support services, SAP support service, telecoms services.

IT or beyond?

ISO/IEC 20000-1 is largely used for IT services. The definition of IT in this case is taken from ISO/IEC 38500:2008:

information technology (IT)

resources required to acquire, process, store and disseminate information

NOTE   Includes Communication Technology (CT) and the composite term Information and Communication Technology (ICT).

From this we can see that IT can include hardware infrastructure, software applications, telecoms, cloud computing, networks and much more.

ISO/IEC 20000-1 has the term Information Technology on the title page but not throughout the standard. It can be applied to any service as long as all of the requirements can be met. There has been a certificate awarded for business process outsourcing services in India.

Guidelines for defining scope

The scope statement should be easy to understand and unambiguous.

There is no need to include the names of other parties involved in the services e.g. suppliers, or the names of the processes – they are defined in ISO/IEC 20000-1.

A service catalogue can be referenced in the scope statement but it is not good practice as it is not clear what the scope is. If the service catalogue is included because it is too complex to specify the scope in other ways, do not include the version or date as this may change if the catalogue is updated. If the catalogue is in the scope statement, then it is essential that all services in the catalogue meet the requirements of ISO/IEC 20000-1.

Exclusions can be included in the scope statement to aid clarity although this is unusual.

The scope can only be for a single legal entity. If all of the requirements are satisfied by two companies working together, then this is not a valid scope.

The commercial status is irrelevant to the scope. For example, the infrastructure could be owned, leased or in the cloud. The service provider can be internal or external to the customer. The terms of a contract cannot be used to reduce the service provider’s obligations to fulfil all the requirements of ISO/IEC 20000-1.

If the scope changes to add or remove services/locations, then the scope statement may need to be updated and the auditor will have to check that all of the requirements of ISO/IEC 20000-1 are still being met for the revised scope.

Format of scope statement

It is important to remember that it is the scope of the SMS that is being defined and certified. The scope statement can therefore be:

The SMS of <service provider> that delivers <services>.

A more complex scope statement can look like

The SMS of <service provider> that delivers <technology> <services> from <service provider location> to <customer> at <customer location>.

Further information

ISO/IEC 20000-3 provides further guidance on the definition of scope in the form of scenarios.

Lynda Cooper, an independent consultant and trainer, is one of the first people in the world to hold the ITIL Master qualification. Lynda sits on the BSI committee for IT service management (ITSM) and is one of the authors of ISO/IEC 20000. Lynda sits on various ISO/IEC committees and is the project editor for ISO/IEC 20000-1 and ISO/IEC 90006.

How ISO/IEC 20000 makes your organisation work better

 The dryness of certifications and qualifications can sometimes take peoples’ eyes off the ball, making them forget that the underlying purpose of study, examinations, and accreditation is to make things better, and to sometimes create dramatic improvements in the way an organisation works.

ISO/IEC 20000 is an international standard that allows organizations to demonstrate excellence and prove best practice in IT service management.

Although the adoption of ISO 20000 has grown rapidly in the international arena for both internal and external IT service providers many of the very people who would gain from its adoption, are still not aware of the benefits, whether for individuals or more importantly for the organisation as a whole.

ISO/IEC 20000 allows IT service providers to achieve conformance to a service management system which specifically requires them to continually improve their delivery of IT services. The fact that the organisation is independently audited for compliance using an internationally recognized scheme and standard can only help to bring credibility to any organisation that takes it on.

One of the key benefits of achieving this standard is to establish an on-going culture of continual improvement and learning throughout the organisation, leading to continual improvement in the quality of IT services provided. This in turn leads to increased customer confidence in the service provider and ultimately more new business.

This is just a taster of the positives for organisations of completing ISO/IEC 20000 certification, to say nothing of the benefits for individuals within that business.

ISO/IEC 20000: Application & Governance of Processes Operated by Other Parties

By Lynda Cooper.

 The 2nd edition of ISO/IEC 20000-1 was published in April 2011. During my work training or advising organizations on how to use ISO/IEC 20000, two of the areas that raise the most questions are application and governance of processes. These are covered in Clauses 1.2 and 4.2 of ISO/IEC 20000-1. These were both new Clauses in the 2011 edition of the standard. This blog aims to provide some explanation and guidance about these 2 Clauses

Application – Clause 1.2

Clause 1.2 of ISO/IEC 20000-1 is headed ‘application’. This sub-clause does not contain requirements i.e. SHALL statements that an auditor will assess for evidence. However, it is a very important part of the standard. Many users of ISO/IEC 20000-1 will only read Clauses 4 – 9 which contain the requirements or SHALL statements. As with all standards, the introduction and Clauses 1 – 3 are very important to position the standard and define the terms used. Many certification schemes will reference items from Clauses 1 – 3.

Clause 1.2 starts by stating that the standard can be applied to any type and size of service provider regardless of services delivered i.e. it can be applied to small or large, public or private, IT services or non-IT services, internal or external service providers.

It then clearly states that no exclusions are allowed when a service provider claims conformity to ISO/IEC 20000-1 i.e. in order to gain certification, a service provider must be able to demonstrate conformity to all of the requirements in Clauses 4 – 9.

It also explains that ISO/IEC 20000-1 is not a specification for products or tools although it can be used to support their development.

Clause 1.2 then goes on to discuss how conformity can be shown when other parties are involved in operating some or all of the requirements of processes in ISO/IEC 20000-1.

For Clause 4, service management system (SMS) general requirements, the service provider must show evidence of fulfilling all of the requirements themselves. They cannot outsource requirements in Clause 4 and rely on governance of processes operated by other parties. Imagine if you outsourced all of Clause 4, including the top management control, you would no longer own or be in control of your SMS! It is acceptable to have other parties doing some of the work of Clause 4 on your behalf e.g. supporting you to develop the service management plan, conducting internal audits on your behalf.

For Clauses 5 – 9, the simplest scenario is for the service provider to operate all of the processes themselves. However, this is often not the case and the Clause goes on to clarify when the standard can be applied when there is a small or large amount of outsourcing of the service management processes.

If the service provider has outsourced the majority of the requirements in Clauses 5 – 9, then the service provider is not applicable to demonstrate evidence of conformity. It may be possible to ask your supplier to achieve conformity to ISO/IEC 20000-1. Alternatively, another standard such as ISO 9001 may be more appropriate.

If the service provider has outsourced only a minority of the requirements of Clauses 5 – 9 and can demonstrate governance of processes operated by other parties for those processes (or parts of processes), then the service provider is applicable to show evidence to demonstrate conformity.

Governance of processes operated by other parties – Clause 4.2

There are 3 possible ‘other parties’:

  1. Suppliers – these are defined in ISO/IEC 20000-1 as external to the service provider’s organization and contracted to the service provider – see Clause 7.2, supplier management, for requirements to manage suppliers
  2. Internal groups – these are defined as in the same organization as the service provider but outside the scope of the SMS. There will be a documented agreement between the service provider and the internal group – see Clause 6.1, service level management, for requirements to manage internal groups
  3. Customers acting as suppliers – the customer can operate a process or part of a process e.g. the customer operates the 1st line service desk with some of the incident management process. Again there needs to be a documented agreement between the service provider and the customer – see Clause 6.1 for requirements to manage customers acting as a supplier.

The other parties can operate a process or part of a process. They can also provide a product, tool or service without operating any process or part of a process e.g. a supplier of laptops, service management toolset or network cabling service.  Clause 4.2 only applies to those other parties who are operating a process or part of a process.

There are 4 requirements, which have been broken down further, for demonstrating governance of processes operated by other parties. It is important to remember that this is not asking for the service provider to be doing the activities themselves; what is the point of outsourcing if you do that?

The requirements are explained below:

  1. Accountability

-          the service provider needs to demonstrate that they are accountable for the process or part of a process i.e. if something goes wrong with the process operated by the other party, it is the service provider who is accountable to the customer for putting it right and not the other party. The other party is accountable to the service provider for putting it right

  1. Control of definition of process and interfaces to other processes

-          there are various ways that the service provider can do this – by providing a process description, by agreeing to the other party’s process description or by defining and agreeing a process description together

-          it is important to include the interfaces to other processes, especially where these cross organizational boundaries e.g. if the other party is operating incident management and the service provider is operating problem management

  1. Authority to require adherence and compliance to the processes

-          the service provider needs to have a method to ensure compliance to the agreed process e.g. the internal auditors also auditing the process operated by the other party

  1. Determining process performance

-          the other party needs to allow the service provider to track the performance of the process. This could be through various methods e.g. reporting, direct access into a tool

  1. Controlling the planning and prioritization of process improvements

-          the service provider does not have to identify the process improvements themselves although they can do this if some improvements are found from the other activities e.g. from an audit of the other party’s activities

-          the service provider and the other party can review the suggested improvements together

-          the service provider has the final decision on plans and priorities for the improvements.

Contracts and documented agreements can be used to set expectations with the other party for these requirements. Evidence can then be shown in the form of meeting minutes, improvement logs, reporting etc.

The most frequently asked question

Finally, the most frequently asked question I get asked for governance of processes:

Does the other party have to be certified to ISO/IEC 20000?

The simple answer is no. But they do need to be aware of your requirements and their part in helping you to fulfil them.

Further information

ISO/IEC 20000-3 provides further guidance on application and governance of processes operated by other parties.

Lynda Cooper, an independent consultant and trainer, is one of the first people in the world to hold the ITIL Master qualification. Lynda sits on the BSI committee for IT service management (ITSM) and is one of the authors of ISO/IEC 20000. Lynda sits on various ISO/IEC committees and is the project editor for ISO/IEC 20000-1 and ISO/IEC 90006.

What’s the best route into a project management career?

 Whether you have just left education or are considering a change in career, it’s not always easy to know how to take the first step. One of our candidates recently asked us about a good entry route into the project management industry or the best way to obtain practical experience. He had recently graduated university with a BSc in IT with Management and passed the PRINCE2 Practitioner exam, although this put him in a strong position it is essential to remember that qualifications alone do not make an effective project manager.

If you’re just starting out in project management, it’s quite unlikely that you will enter a project management role immediately. The key is experience, tactically choosing the organization you want to work for and future-proofing your skills.

It’s a good idea to select a large organization which runs a lot of projects as this will allow you to work on different teams, gain experience and show your colleagues what you are capable of. Make yourself known to your managers and the HR team and let them know that your aiming for a Project Manager role.

Use your knowledge and do some research into upcoming trends in project management. (The Arras People Annual Benchmark Report and PMI’s Pulse of the Profession Report are good places to start.) If you start to build your skill set to cater to this trend, you will be ahead of the game when organizations are looking for professionals who can tackle their projects using these up and coming techniques. What would be even better would be if you could pinpoint a skill that you envision to become a market leader and look for a company that is using that skill. You can then look for project management openings around that skill, whether it be a methodology or understanding of software