IPMA International Project Management Association
13 May 2015 / 4:12

PRINCE2® and ICB3® – Similarities and differences

We often get questions like, how PM standards such as PMBOK, PRINCE2, ICB3 differentiate, why we need them all or why not start a harmonisation. There are similarities between the standards, but there are also differences. Comparing those three seems to be comparing apples and pears. This is why Axelos and IPMA developed a White Paper, showing similarities and differences. It is intended to show how IPMA´s Competence Baseline Version 3 (ICB3) relates to PRINCE2® and vice versa. In particular it is intended to demonstrate how PRINCE2 contributes to the knowledge element of ICB3 which will be useful for project managers wishing to undertake certification with either IPMA or PRINCE2. The analysis could also be used by other audiences, including but not limited to assessors, employers, educators and trainers as well as researchers.

In essence, PRINCE 2 is a method, providing a set of activities to be done, together with role definitions, and some of the techniques for undertaking these activities. It assumes that individuals will bring other skills to bear on the project beside their knowledge of PRINCE2 hence any discussion of the application of these skills is outside the scope for PRINCE2. The PRINCE2 certification (PRINCE2 Foundation and PRINCE2 Practitioner) does not attempt to assess the competence of the candidate as a project manager. Like many qualifications it demonstrates that the candidate has been trained to a certain level and, within the constraints of the examination, that they have demonstrated an ability to apply that knowledge appropriately.

ICB3 is a competence standard, identifying and codifying the competences expected to be performed by individuals working in projects, programmes and portfolios. It defines the knowledge, personal attributes, skills and experience individuals need in order to do their job effectively. The “Eye of Competence” shown in ICB3 defines three competence areas with in total 46 competence elements: technical competences (20 elements), behavioural competences (15 elements) and contextual competences (11 elements). The technical competence range consists of those technical skills and the associated knowledge that relates to the project management subject matter on which professionals are working. The behavioural competence range deals with the personal relationships between individuals and groups managed by the project manager. The contextual range deals with the interactions of the project and project team within the permanent organization. The certification of individuals performed by the national certification bodies in about 60 countries world-wide assesses knowledge, skills and experiences based on a certification scheme ranging from Level D (Certified Project Management Associate) to Level A (Certified Projects Director). For more details see Certify Individuals.

Both PRINCE2 and ICB3 deal with project management as subject and therefore it is not surprising that there is some agreement in the subject matter covered. Within the technical area the greatest correlation of coverage deals with the basics of: Starting up a project, the organization of the project, dividing projects into phases/stages, handling risks and opportunities, handling change throughout the project, handling quality throughout the project, and controlling the project once in flight. While PRINCE2 and ICB3 deal with a core of project management knowledge domains and process that they share in common. They may not always deals with these is the same way and certainly the ICB3 extends into areas that PRINCE2 was never designed to address. They certainly have been constructed from different purposes. PRINCE2 deals with a range of subjects and processes required for an organization to control projects. ICB3 deals much more with individuals and majors on how well they are able to carry out the various activities which make for a rounded capable project (programme, portfolio) manger. ICB3 extends beyond just the project domain and covers the other domains such as programme and portfolio management that PRINCE2 does not cover at all. A key differentiator for certification is the assessment of knowledge in the PRINCE2 exams, whereas the IPMA assessment focusses on knowledge AND experience covering the different domains and levels according the 4-Level-Certification (4-L-C) System.

AXELOS will continue to develop and evolve PRINCE2 but recognizes it is not the only player neither is it an island. This mapping exercise will help to inform further evolutions of PRINCE2. As an example of this recognition is the announcement by AXELOS that it will exempt candidates with IPMA certifications from having to take the PRINCE2 foundation before they can take the PRINCE2 practitioner exam. ICB4 will be launched in September 2015 after four years of development. It incorporates the new domains of Programme Management and Portfolio Management and has been designed in a modular manner to allow for the creation of new roles such as PM Consultant or PMO Manager. ICB4 maintains the ‘eye of competence’ ensuring that the contextual, technical as well as personal and social (formerly behavioural) aspects are identified (http://blog.ipma.ch/the-next-generation-of-competence-icb4/).

Prince2 and the IPMA


1 Comment

  • juliebaker says:

    This is an incredible post about PRINCE2® Foundation Certification in USA Getting such a wide range of benefits is really amazing.

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Author of this post

Dr. Reinhard Wagner has been active for more than 35 years in the field of project-related leadership, in such diverse sectors as Automotive, Engineering, and Consultancy, as well as various not-for-profit organizations. As Managing Director of Tiba Managementberatung GmbH, a leading PM Consultancy in Munich/Germany, he supports executives of industrial clients in transforming their companies towards a project-oriented, adaptive and sustainably successful organization. He has published more than 40 books as well as several hundred articles and blog posts in the field of project management. In more than 20 years of voluntary engagement he served the German Project Management Association (GPM) as well as the IPMA in various roles and was granted for his international commitment with the Honorary Fellowship of IPMA and several of its member associations. He received his doctorate in the field of projectification of society and continues to be active in it through his research and lectures.