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PRINCE2 advocate: Social project management is "unproven"

Trainers and accreditors respond to accusations that social business signals the end of traditional project management qualifications

Advocates of traditional project management qualifications such as Prince2 have fought back against claims that the social way of working will make these older skills obsolete.

Johan Zetterstrom, CEO of collaboration tools provider Projectplace, last week told Computerworld UK that old project management qualifications would eventually die out because the structures were rigid, whereas the social model allows more iterative and flexible working.

But Simon Buehring, managing director of training company Knowledge Train Limited and a Prince2 trainer, disagreed: "Social project management is unproven, even in small organisations, let alone large corporates.

"Making it work in practice is a huge cultural challenge and not one that I would expect many companies to attempt because introducing widespread change in any organisation is a risky and difficult business."

Zetterstrom said that organisations moving with the social trend would require a culture shift to being more open and transparent, which will lead to a more flat hierarchy. Buehring argued that this was unrealistic.

"Getting large corporates to move from a hierarchical model to a flatter structure is simply not going to happen, except in the most radical of businesses - and there aren't that many of those around," said Buehring.

He believes that social project management will not do away with either Prince2, or the need for Prince2 qualifications.

"The demand for Prince2 is growing worldwide as people seek well-established and proven project management methods based upon best practices. Prince2 provides a common vocabulary and is very flexible so it can be used on any project," he said.

Kate Winter, spokesperson for accreditations provider APMG, agreed with Buehring.

"Current project management should be open, transparent, flexible and iterative. When applied appropriately, Prince2 supports this open and transparent environment by making project management both visible and measurable."

Furthermore, rather than being a 'rigid' framework, Winter argued that Prince2 methodology enables the objectives of the project to be kept at the forefront of the minds of project managers and their team.

"Well-structured Prince2 projects don't drift. If they change, it is because that change has been requested and approved," she said.

Among the potential issues that might arise from social project management, Buehring questioned its ability to scale up, believing that the extensive collaborative approach to project management - though fine in theory - would be unlikely to work in practice.

"It might be appropriate for small projects, but large, distributed, multi-organisational projects cannot scale so easily because there would be different organisational cultures, along with privacy and commercial issues.

"Just because people are used to sharing all kinds of information with friends on Facebook does not mean that people in an organisation are going to want to converse with others in the way that proponents of social project management claim," Buehring said.

In addition, traditional project management qualifications teach soft skills that will not go out of fashion, the Association for Project Management (APM) said.

"APMP and other project management qualifications include a heavy focus on the soft skills that are essential to support any methodology being applied," said Esther Fry, product development manager at the APM.

Meanwhile, Mike Savage, project management practice manager at Thales Training & Consultancy, recognised that traditional qualifications will need to adapt to the social world.

"Social media is becoming more and more ingrained in everyday business and therefore it's obvious that it needs to be included as part of the qualifications for project management going forward.

"With the inclusions of social media, I believe the 'what' of a project will remain unchanged but it's the 'how, where and when' that will be adapted," he said.


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