The other ASPECT of trainings

The seven 'sins' of accredited training companies

Looking back at the very beginnings of PRINCE2 methodology and other standards on the word wide market, one must admit it was extremely difficult  not only to receive the trainer’s accreditation title, but also to get the training materials or own manual of quality approved. Having the ATO (Accredited Training Organization) title evoked respect and gave the customer a warranty that attending the training will ensure  access to the best, accredited and experienced coach-practitioners and that the quality of service will be on the highest level. Courses of PRINCE2 and other standards were treated like a visit in a shrine of  true knowledge of organizational harmony in project management.

As time went by, the number of new ATOs on the market was increasing. It was getting easier because the requirements posed by the official accreditation organization were in practice no longer so stringent as they were in the past. In PRINCE2 training materials written by some training vendors one can find such "specimens" as information about…. "PRINCE2 management documents". (It should be explained here that PRINCE2  uses the notion ‘management product’, which not necessarily has a form of a document. It may be presented orally).

Perhaps not all the trainers of the new ATOs with accreditation pertaining only PRINCE2 (i.e. ATO "ones") fully recognized that project management (PRINCE2) is a part of governance basically separate, still tightly closed with the governance of programme management (MSP®) and the governance of portfolio (MoP®) or business as usual activity. Confusing the project with the programme and portfolio, and the lack of expertise in merging these elements of governance in a coherent entirety is a commonplace ‘sin’ of those who received only a partial accreditation.

On  13 August  2013, ASPECT - an association for the excellence of training - organized a meeting in London. Some Accredited Training Organizations took part in the gathering devoted to the problem of continual worsening of the quality of trainings based on British methodologies and guidelines (including PRINCE2). They then decided to define and promote proper practice in this aspect.

OMEC, being the only Polish company taking  part in this meeting, joined the association, which adopted the name ASPECT (Association for the Promotion of Excellence in Consultancy and Training). The new body unites those members who agree to abide by high qualitative standards  with the view of  clients and participants  of  trainings.

ASPECT also wants to help the clients specify properly their requirements against the supplier.

One of the training materials now present on the market contains an example of a project in which a member of the board wants to achieve an increase of  profit of a dozen or so percent during next several years. It should be explained that such initiative initiative is a programme which must be managed within the programme management methodology. Applying a project approach to the initiative which needs a programme,  usually ends in a failure. Such painful examples can be found in unsuccessful projects (yes, projects!) of the state administration.

Another  organization carrying out programme management trainings maintains in its training material that a programme consists of... "project portfolio". Here it should be explained that -- simplifying a bit -- portfolio means a set of all programmes and projects of the organization or its part, and  programmes consist, among other things, of projects (so called "projects dossier").  All in all, it is impossible to teach effectively project management without the knowledge of programme and portfolio management.

In order to be present on the market, new originated ATOs could only offer  ongoing lowering  of price at the expense of quality of trainings.  A price war that began inevitably led to degradation of the quality and value of trainings.

One of the basic offences wilfully committed in relation to clients is:

1. Lack of an official PRINCE2 manual to training offer

A non- well trained client is not even informed  of an access to the manual of PRINCE2, and MSP or P30®, in a English or local version. Value and importance of these manuals (in case of PRINCE2 called the ‘Bible’) cannot be overestimated. No slides can substitute the value and worth of the manual, also after the training when a candidate or his organization would like to apply the knowledge.  Obviously, it is possible to pass the examination on the Foundation level (but not on Practitioner) without the manual, however the essence does not lie in "producing" people only with basic certificates.
One of the ATOs maintains that its training materials fully replace the official textbook. It is an outrageous practice and is simply non-ethical and dishonest. I once met a participant of PRINCE2 Foundation training who was surprised hearing from me that the Polish edition of  PRINCE2 manual does exist and is available. The ATO offering this training did not inform him about the possibility of buying the manual. Its predominant goal was to offer him as low price as possible.

There is also another aspect of hiding the existence of the manuals and theirs values for the customer.  Will the textbooks be still prepared and printed in Polish if they  are not offered together with trainings? Of course, not. But it is not the business of these ATOs, who think only in the category of short term profit at the end of the quarter, and surely not in the category of benefits for the country and preparing the inventory of good managers.


2. Using of inexperienced trainers

Unfortunately, the price war made some training companies get rid of the older trainers, replacing them by a younger and cheaper generation which has no practical project experience  having an accreditation for only one product.
In Poland, there were also situations of using trainers with no accreditation at all to conduct accredited trainings what was nothing but breaking the accreditation rules.

3. Uncontrolled growth of new ATOs

Trainers, being replaced in their ATOs by a cheaper staff, are quickly trying to set up their own training organizations and offer their own trainings. Some trainers, feeling the chance of a quick business, leave their home companies  to set up their own ones. These rapidly growing ATOs, are usually the ones offering only one training (PRINCE2).

This obviously has a big impact on the quality of training. Even the best trainers without an appropriate support, organizational experience, proven training materials and controlled processes cannot assure a quality, especially when they are focused only on minimal price, and not on the quality of the service.


4. Organizing Foundation and Practitioner exams  immediately after the training

To cut the costs, the exams are in many cases organized at, let’s say 5 p.m.,  just after the end of the last day of training. A participant  has no time to review and repeat the material being forced to sit the exam with no time at all.
Many clients were really surprised hearing that the examination could be set on another day. Nobody even mentioned such a possibility, they were not allowed to make a decision.

Certainly, scheduling the exam on the last day of the training is acceptable, especially when groups are small and on external trainings. Nevertheless, for the sake of a learning process, one should strive to organize the examination on the next day or at least to inform the participants that they may take the exam at a later date, if they are not able to do it the very same day.


5. PRINCE2 Practitioner trainings are based entirely on solving widely available examples

Another ATO has practically no training material and uses only two examples of  practice exams provided by the accreditation body. There is neither added value, nor exercises or yet another  practice exam  which could be offered as  educational help.
On the other hand, one can find an ATO which is able (apart from official examples of AMPG) to offer additional exercises or even a supplementary complete  practice exam with explanations.


6. Exotic training companies

It happens that in order to lower the price, trainings are organized for groups of 20 and more persons. It is clear that such large groups  do not guarantee a suitable level of activities  as a trainer is not able to focus on individual questions and needs of each and every participant.

The optimal number of person in a group is 12, and in the opinion of ASPECT,  a group should not exceed 16 persons, otherwise  the training will turn into a lecture.


7. Egzotyczne firmy szkoleniowe

ATOs taking origins in faraway and exotic countries  are taking attempt of establishing  training activities.  The following scheme is observed:
first - sell a training via the Internet, next - make the client pay in advance, and then hurriedly search a trainer able to carry out such a training. Often, he has no time to be acquainted with the training material, and it so happens that training sessions are shortened from e.g. three days, which happens for the Foundation level, to only two days. Similar actions were also noted  in Poland  where trainings were cancelled in the very last minute caused by the inability to  find a trainer for a (obviously low!) payment rate offered to him.

In these companies a part of trainings is often substituted for e-learning. In this approach the trainee, instead of a real contact with the trainer, is given the possibility of using an electronic platform. It is known that the quality of communication via electronic media differs much from the true contact with an expert, though it could be sufficient to pass the Foundation exam (rarely with a high score). For now, what is comforting is that the popularity of e-learning in Poland is far from what is expected by the suppliers of such training (mainly foreign companies).

You can find even more ‘sins’ in everyday practice of accredited trainings on the official page of the ASPECT association (


ASPECT: Association for the Promotion of Quality

Logo ASPECTIt could be possible by cunctando rem restituere (it is by tarrying) do nothing about the obvious ongoing depreciation of the quality of trainings. Or it is also possible to make the effort to change it. Worth noting here are ASCPECT planned activities  directed at informing their clients what their requirements as to the trainings and services should be. The Association has formulated the following objectives:

  • promote and protect excellence in the delivery of portfolio, programme and project management trainings,
  • be involved with the accrediting authorities in setting quality measures,
  • determine, maintain and uphold a set of standards that ensure customers to be provided with the highest quality products and services,
  • provide support in the application of  best practice of  portfolio, programme and project management,
  • provide a platform for collaborative working and continuous improvement in the best management practice.

OMEC is proud to be the first Polish ATO which, from the very beginning, has become a member of ASPECT. It means that there have been  no objections to the ethical and qualitative level presented by our organization. The membership of ASPECT may be perishable , so it  requires taking permanent care of the quality of trainings  for the satisfaction of clients. Those  dissatisfied with the quality of trainings delivered by a member of ASPECT may turn to the association with a formal complaint.

Surely, OMEC will  keep on working hard to  ensure the highest quality of its products. Moreover, according to the ASPECT policy, we will be trying to show the clients what they should require from the suppliers of their trainings. It is the client who will ultimately choose if he or she wants the training to be delivered by a jerry-established ATO, or rather by an experienced ATO with many accreditations and expert  trainers. This is the client that after all will decide if he agrees to buy a training without a manual, and if the examination unavoidably must be set on the last day of training at 5 p.m. Finally, it is the client who will make the choice if he wants to be taught by a computer on an e-learning platform or by a trainer.

Before these more detailed requirements  are prepared, we can advise  potential clients to check if their supplier is a member of ASPECT association, which is opened for all the ATOs bearing experience and which in the past did not blatantly infringed the qualitative or ethical standards and are ready to abide by the appropriate rules in the future.

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Leading trainer, project/programme/portfolio offices consultant
Expert in the field of project and programme management. For several years he has been managing projects in companies of telecommunication, computing and media industry and in civil service. He is an accredited trainer of PRINCE2®, MSP® and P3O® and certified project and programme manager. He serves as an advisor in building of portfolio, programme and project offices (P3O). He is an author of the Polish version of the P3O® manual - Portfolio, Programme and Project Offices.



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