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PM Today Podcast: AXELOS® Launches ProPath

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There’s a growing buzz around the high-profile launch of AXELOS® Global Best Practice’s new combined professional certification scheme: ProPathTM.

Offering project professionals three distinct professional development pathways, ProPath adapts to each professional’s individual training needs and equips delegates with the skills needed to drive change and benefits in their organisations.

In our latest Podcast, sponsored and created in association with AXELOS®, PM Today’s Associate Editor, Amy Hatton, spoke to Allan Thomson, ProPath Product Ambassador at AXELOS® to find out more about what the PM community can expect from ProPath.

Stream the podcast below, and to find out more visit www.axelos.com/propath.

Amy: Well, hello everyone, and welcome to today’s PM Today podcast. This is the first of a two-part series and today we’re talking to AXELOS® Global Best Practice.

My name is Amy Hatton and, of course, you all know me as the Associate Editor of PM Today.

In fact, I’ve been covering the work of AXELOS right back to the first day that they were incorporated back in 2013. So, I’m really, really delighted that today I’ll be talking to Allan Thomson, who is the ProPath Product Ambassador at AXELOS.

We’re going to be discussing AXELOS’s new combined best practice professional certification scheme, which has been launched as ProPath. Allan, a really warm welcome to you, thanks for joining me today. Can you just start by introducing yourself and telling our listeners a little bit about you?

Allan: Hi, Amy. Hi, everyone. My name is Allan Thomson and I’m the AXELOS® ProPath Product Ambassador. So, the role I have at AXELOS involves being a subject matter expert on all of the products contained in the ProPath product set, which we’ll talk about shortly.

I’m also accustomed to giving thought leadership presentations related to the subject matter areas related to projects and programmes. One of these would be for example, how to improve communication within projects and programmes.

Amy: That’s great, Alan, thanks very much. So, let’s just start by setting scene a little bit. I think it’s fair to say that the world’s changed fairly dramatically in the last eight years and obviously, particularly in the last year.

But just recently, AXELOS’s own research has shown that 97% of employers and 87% of professionals say that professional certification leads to a number of benefits.*  And not least amongst these are higher workplace efficiency, employee satisfaction and workplace transparency.

And we’ve got data from the Project Management Institute, of course, predicting that a whopping 87 million project professionals will be needed by 2027. We’ve also seen the rise of the PMO – the number of organisations with formal PMOs has increased from 71% to 89% in just the past four years. So, brilliant news for all of us in the project management profession, we continue to be in high demand as professionals.

And that really means that professional development options need to keep up and serve evolving needs. So, Allan, that’s why we’re really keen to be talking to you about ProPath today. Can you just start by giving us the higher-level picture just outlining for us what ProPath is and who can benefit from that?

Allan: The new AXELOS® ProPath Certification Scheme brings together the world’s leading project, programme, and portfolio best practice certifications. It’s designed to equip project professionals with the breadth of skills required to enable effective organisational change.

AXELOS has conducted extensive research for trainers and end users to create the required designations and provide a clear professional development journey for professionals working in project, programme, and portfolio management roles.

As the name suggests, with AXELOS® ProPath, professionals are in control of their career journey and ongoing progression by continually upgrading their knowledge and skills along the way.

The clear structure of the scheme makes it easier to select and follow a pathway in whatever industry professionals choose to lead projects, programmes and portfolios. It’s also important to note, it is a journey. There is no time limit to achieve what they want to achieve. But it’s important to be up to date with the most current best practice available.

Amy: That’s great, Alan, thanks, and tell me why is ProPath needed? Or, if I can maybe put it more accurately, why is ProPath needed right now?

Allan: The corporate world is changing fast and will continue to do so. In fact, it’s fair to say that change is the only constant at this time, and it feels more urgent than ever before.

Organisations need to be ready to adapt the way they work, and even to change the fundamental nature of that work at a previously inconceivable pace.

Professionals certified in best practice that provides the skills to master the pace of change are fast becoming indispensable. The future is indeed bright for them, as they strive to provide organisations with the crucial skills, methods and frameworks needed to reduce costs, increase efficiencies, and make sound investments for the future.

AXELOS® ProPath is designed to do exactly that, to provide a progressive development structure of best practice certifications that are specifically geared towards delivering meaningful change.

It provides individuals with multiple skill sets to make significant and sustainable improvement in their organisations, allowing them to survive and thrive in a challenging environment.

Amy: So tell me Allan, what makes ProPath different from all of the other certifications that are out there on the marketplace?

Allan: What makes ProPath different is it brings together the world’s leading project programme and portfolio best practice certifications for the breadth and skills required to deliver meaningful change one powerful step at a time. And they’re all located within the AXELOS® ProPath designation scheme.

Amy: I see. So, if I’ve understood you correctly, I think what you’re saying is that the real power of ProPath lies in the ability to achieve this combination of leading certifications and do it along a pathway that suits you best in your professional role. Have I understood that correctly?

Allan: Yes, that’s correct.

Amy: Okay, and I believe there are three pathways available to delegates considering ProPath? Could you just outline what those three pathways are and maybe give our listeners an idea of which pathway is suited to which professional profile so they can understand which one might fit best with their role?

Allan: Yes, I can. The first pathway is the AXELOS® ProPath Project Expert. This path is designed for project management professionals that are looking for a holistic view of their projects, certification that will strengthen their ability to deliver consistent results and help maximise benefits and efficiencies while managing risk.

That’s the first pathway. The second pathway is AXELOS® ProPath Agile Project Expert. And this pathway is for those that are passionate about the flexibility and responsiveness of Agile Project Management, that is the path to choose.

So, it’s like the first pathway but with an Agile flavour included.

The third pathway is AXELOS® ProPath Programme Leader. This is designed for individuals who want to increase their ability to manage the complexities of multiple projects and programmes, whilst controlling the impact of risk and maintaining alignment with corporate strategy.

Amy: That’s great Allan, thanks. I know how passionate AXELOS is as an organisation about developing global best practice solutions.

I know that from day one, you’ve always worked very, very hard to engage with the professional project management community to gather live data, real world experience, real time intelligence on what they need and want.

So, tell me, how did you go about developing ProPath? And what did you learn from that experience?

Allan: So, what we did was, we carried out extensive research, including customer surveys, ATO interviews with our training organisations, and a comprehensive competitor analysis.

These were the key findings and I’d like to share that with the audience today. PPM is seen as standing for several different “P”s across the board: project, programme, product, and portfolio.

There were general confusion and inconsistencies found. In addition, the use of acronyms caused further confusion as to what PPM meant. And one of the worst ones was, for example, Pay Per Minute.

Just to give you a bit of an insight to the research, the acronym finder for PPM came up with a list of 109 different variants for PPM. So, the research respondents were also asked: “what could we do to improve the situation?”.

They thought there were more appropriate terms that needed to be used and were needed to give more connection to the business focus. because end users find it difficult to navigate the environment.

End users did not realise that there is something else after – for example – PRINCE2. The research showed that our PPM portfolio covers how to manage projects, manage programmes, and manage portfolios.

All of which includes elements of risk management and coordination of PMOS. One of our core values at AXELOS is that collaboration with our community is at the heart of everything we do. And this research showed that.

Amy: Now that’s really interesting, because I actually recently watched the webinar that you gave to launch ProPath. And in it, you ran some live polls amongst your delegates, after discussing, obviously, what the training and certification offers to them.

What was really interesting to me is that there was a marked response in your poll where you asked the question: “knowing what you know now about ProPath, which certifications would you be most interested in taking?”.

And there was an overwhelming response that indicated a very high level of interest in two areas. One was Prince2® Agile, and the other was Managing Risk. Obviously, all of the certifications are popular, but they’re the two that really stood out to me as being high level headlines for project professionals at the moment.

I mean, do you think that interest in Agile and risk management techniques reflects the way that the world we’re working in is changing at the moment?

Allan: Yeah, I do actually – and for the following reasons: the Agile option has been built into the ProPath designation scheme to do that, because you can follow a linear traditional type of project, but also the effects of Agile in the project management world is becoming even more important, because if managed properly, Agile can give you value to your organisation quicker, it can deliver products more effectively, and it can make businesses more effective as well – if it’s governed properly within the organisation.

Risk will always be with projects. Projects are typically risky endeavours, because of the unknown. So, risk – whether you’re working in an agility or traditional/linear projects – risk is always going to be present with the projects. Hence there is that interest within M_o_R® (Management of Risk), which was shown at the webinar as well.

That’s why we have that within the ProPath designation scheme. M_o_R® is basically central to it at the entry point. And we have two entry points, we have the traditional projects for PRINCE2®and the Agile Project Practitioners for PRINCE2® Agile.

Amy: Okay, so Allan, we’ve already discussed the high-level view of the three pathways available Can we just look in a little bit more detail at what each of those specific pathways looks like?

So that our listeners can maybe visualise what the practical experience will be of following the certifications?

Allan: Okay. There are three AXELOS® ProPath paths to choose from: AXELOS® ProPath Project Expert, AXELOS® ProPath Agile Project Expert, and AXELOS® ProPath Programme Leader. Each path is made up of a specially selected combination of AXELOS best practice qualifications.

So, step-by-step, one certification at a time, ProPath builds the skills that lead to outstanding results, and a standout professional profile, AXELOS® ProPath Project Expert comprises of PRINCE2® Practitioner, Managing Successful Programmes Practitioner (MSP®), and Management of Risk (M_o_R®) Practitioner.

AXELOS® ProPath Agile Project intentionally combines PRINCE2® Agile, Management of Risk, and Managing Successful Programmes for similar reasons to the Project Expert Path, but with the main difference being certification in PRINCE2® Agile for those who are passionate about the flexibility and responsiveness of Agile project management.

The AXELOS® ProPath Programme Leader comprises of Managing Successful Programmes Practitioner, Portfolio, Programme and Project Offices (P3O®), and Management of Portfolios (M_o_P®) Practitioner – this is what we call the strategic stream.

Amy: Bringing it down to the real practicalities of undertaking ProPath certification, can you give our listeners an idea of what they might expect in terms of time commitment, that kind of thing?

Allan: The way this scheme has actually been developed, Amy, is that it’s one step at a time for the candidates. There’s no time duration. The only time duration comes in when you have what is based on your certification of your qualifications.

But there’s no time duration to get from one level to the next. Or, what we’ve got in ProPath is basically try to give as many pathways and as many choices, so that end users can follow the path they want to follow.

But just to stress, there’s no time duration. And just to add to that, all the information regarding the extensive network of trainers who basically train the AXELOS® ProPath portfolio, you can find that on our AXELOS® ProPath Website.

Amy: Okay, so that’s great. So, look, we talked about the practicalities. And we’ve talked about the benefits of ProPath and the flexibility and all that sort of thing. Obviously, the key question that our listeners are going to want an answer to is: what they can expect to gain from the certification in terms of outputs and how they can apply those to their careers and their professional development?

So could you just talk to me a little bit about that, please?

Allan: I certainly can. PRINCE2® and PRINCE2® Agile allow individuals to understand how to successfully manage a project from start to finish – on time and within budget. Managing Successful Programmes provides a wider perspective and understanding beyond projects. MSP®, as we call it, upskills project managers to have a holistic understanding of the business.

For example: why are projects happening? The alignment to business goals of the organisation involving multiple projects. So really incorporating a strategic element to the work, its outcomes, and its effects across the entire organisation. In an ever-changing world, risk management is a critical part of ensuring the programme or project is delivered on time and within scope.

Management of Risk helps to identify, assess, and control risk across your organisation. Management of Portfolios provides advice and examples of how to apply principles, practices and techniques to help optimise an organization’s investment and change, alongside its Business as Usual work.

Portfolio, Programme and Project Offices builds on the references in the other best practice guides in the AXELOS® ProPath portfolio to provide a single information source for organisations or individuals wishing to set up or maintain an effective delivery support office.

Amy: Brilliant. Thanks, Alan. And tell me, how do you see those outputs and the benefits of ProPath that you’ve just outlined benefiting a project professional in terms of their career development, and particularly in this incredibly uncertain modern climate that they’re working in?

Allan: Any professional with the designations of the AXELOS portfolio, programme and project management certifications will be able to bring the following to their organisations: be able to deliver consistent results and reduce costs, which are key for organisations these days; ensure the organisation makes good investments based on the proven use of best practice methods and frameworks which AXELOS best practice provides; improve speed to market by increasing efficiencies, allowing organisations to get to market ahead of the competition; improve customer and stakeholder satisfaction due to confidence of the best practice methods or frameworks been used in the organisation; provide a competitive advantage – work quicker, but also work better; provide a knowledge of a range of delivery modes, including Agile, Linear and Hybrid, so the individuals gain knowledge across the board; understand and provide governance and deliver successful change.

Don’t be afraid of change, embrace it, be comfortable with it, and be a key player for change within your organisation. Enhance your reputation within your organisation, and with your peers within the organisation too. All these factors, this is what the best practice AXELOS® ProPath portfolio can bring the individual.

Amy: Absolutely I couldn’t agree more. I think, you know, the message around not being afraid of change is such an important one in today’s working world, isn’t it?

Allan, do you think it would be true to say that, moving forward, that’s going to become even more important as we’re looking at an environment where employment can be quickly disrupted, roles can change very quickly? Do you feel that ProPath sets professionals up to deal with that?

Allan: Yes, I do. And the reasons for that are – there are a couple of reasons. I think if you are basically disrupted in your employment, then you have to go and look for another job etc.

If you have basically followed the ProPath pathway, then you are basically augmenting your skills in various sectors like projects, programmes and also portfolios and risk and PMO activities, so you can make yourself a better proposition to new employers, or within your own organisation, where organisations (and I always use this expression), scarce resourced, will still be expected to deliver more with less.

That will continue because the demands that organisations have will not go away. So, as an individual within an organisation, where your jobs will change based on the needs of the organisation, having skills across the board within projects, programmes, and portfolios will make you become a key player within your organisation to enable change.

Amy: And it’s early days, isn’t it but just give us a flavour of how ProPath is being received by the marketplace so far?

Allan: I think what we’re finding is that everyone’s positive about it. And it was quite interesting at the end of the recent webinars, it was about ten minutes after the finish of the webinar.

I started, on my LinkedIn, to get in lots and lots of messages – from the Far East, Australia, US, Canada, and of course in Europe as well – of how much they were looking forward to working with AXELOS on ProPath.

The general feedback is that this is what the ecosystem was expecting, based on the research that we conducted. And I think they are very, very happy so far that we’ve done what we said we would do based on the research. So – so far, so good.

Amy: Okay, so it really seems like you’re filling a need in the market that is very genuinely there, isn’t it?

Allan: Yeah, I would say so Amy. And that’s exactly what we’re doing.

Amy: So, I mean, I suppose the obvious question is what next, as you’re rolling ProPath out?

Allan: What we’re planning for the AXELOS® ProPath rollout, Amy, is Certified Portfolio Director. This is still under construction. But what it will involve is, once an individual has got AXELOS® ProPath Project Expert, or AXELOS® ProPath Agile Project Expert – and if they’ve also done AXELOS® ProPath Programme Leader (so it’s either/or, and AXELOS® ProPath Programme Leader), they can then be put forward for consideration regarding Certified Portfolio Director.

Amy: Wow. So you’ve got a lot coming up in in the next year then. Allan, it all sounds really exciting. And the obvious question now, of course, is where can our listeners go to find out more?

Allan: That’s axelos.com/propath.

Amy: Great stuff. Thanks ever so much, Allan, for joining us today. It’s been great talking to you. And I’m looking forward to catching up with you again, where we’re going to be delving a little deeper into some of the detail of ProPath, and what people can expect from AXELOS, moving forward.

Allan: Yes, we are Amy, and I’m looking forward to it as well.

Amy: Fantastic. So, I think that’s about all we’ve got time for today, everyone. Again, I’d like to thank you, Allan, for joining me today. It’s been fantastic talking to you.

Of course, I’d love to thank all of our lovely listeners who tuned in to find out more about AXELOS® ProPath. And just a quick reminder, in case you didn’t catch it before: if you want to find out more about ProPath you should head over to axelos.com/propath, or you can even just Google it, and I can assure you that will come straight up for you.

Make sure that you follow both AXELOS and PM Today via all our online channels. And you’ll be getting the latest on this new certification programme as it emerges.

We’ll also give you the date of the next episode as soon as we’re ready to broadcast it. Thanks ever so much, everyone. It’s been great to have you with us today. Bye bye.

*The Power of Professional Certification Report, AXELOS® Global Best Practice, August 2020

Amy Hatton
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