Navigating project, programme and portfolio management training

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Written by Russell Kenrick on 20 April 2016

As projects continue to grow in complexity and continue to fail – project and programme delivery capabilities are in the spotlight. Plugging skills gaps in project, programme and portfolio management (3PM) is not straightforward.

Learning and development professionals must navigate myriad different 3PM qualifications and getting an understanding of which qualification is appropriate for what level of project or programme manager is key.

Best Practice qualification in 3PM comes in many flavours. There are five major accrediting bodies, each with a different status and focus: AXELOS, APMG International, APM and the Project Management Institute (PMI), and the International Project Management Association (IPMA).

AXELOS is a commercial joint venture company, created by the Cabinet Office on behalf of the UK government and Capita to run the Global Best Practice portfolio. AXELOS owns the intellectual property on its Best Practice, while third parties deliver examinations. APMG International is both the owner of its IP and the examining institute for its Best Practice.

All five bodies have developed exam-based project management qualifications. In many cases the qualifications overlap so picking the right one for your organisation and its staff is complex and changing.

Square holes for square pegs

The task ahead is to align job roles with relevant qualifications and choose the right fit for your organisation and learning needs. In our 3PM Qualification1 Matrix, ILX has identified six job levels: project management introduction, project management, portfolio management, programme management, the project management office and senior management.

The five Best Practice bodies focus on levels from introductory to senior and also focus on niches such as developing a business case, managing benefits or Agile working. All the qualifications are equally valuable; the trick is to identify the qualifications that meet the needs of your people and your organisation.

If projects are not being delivered on time and on budget, or failing entirely, it is time to address 3PM capability. Here are three top tips to navigate the training matrix:

  1. Assess your existing 3PM job roles. What roles do you have and what are the current levels of competency within those roles? Job titles do not say enough – one project manager may have very different skills from another project manager. The key is to identify skills gaps that exist in both organisational and individual capability. One way to do to this is to carry out a maturity and competency assessment. There are free tools that can help you with this2 or you can use your own competency assessment tools to map the characteristics of the job roles against the current capabilities of employees.


  1. Evaluate how your organisation type would fit with different 3PM approaches. A traditional waterfall-based approach such as that offered by the AXELOS suite would work best for organisations that must deliver a defined outcome. By contrast a tech start-up might need the flexibility of the agile approach to make a major change in direction to adapt to changes in a fast moving market. Organisations looking to work globally or work with US partners or suppliers might consider that the US focus of the PMI suite is best for them. A combination of methodologies suits some large and complex organisations.


  1. Align skills gaps with the right qualifications. ILX has produced an independent matrix of accredited body qualifications against job role/skill level that can help with this1.

Plotting a course through the numerous 3PM training options is not for the fainthearted. The ILX matrix is a useful free starting point to help align levels of competence with qualifications available. 

Project managers who are looking at the best way of developing their career need to have a clear view of the options, as do training professionals who are also taking an organisational view.

Only when gaps are filled both within 3PM roles and across the organisation will the organisation possess the skills for project and programme success.


About the author

Russell Kenrick​ is the Managing Director at ILX