When managing complex projects, it is beneficial to use a project management methodology for guidance. PRINCE2 is one of the most popular and widely used methodologies available.
What is PRINCE2?
PRINCE2 (or Projects in Controlled Environments) offers a structured process for projects & provides recommendations for each project phase. It is one of the leading project management methodologies (next to PMBOK (from the Project Management Institute)) and used in over 150 countries.
Basic principles of PRINCE2
PRINCE2 provides a clear structure for projects and is based on 7 principles, 7 themes and 7 processes as described by PRINCE2.com.
PRINCE2 is build on seven principles which represent guiding obligations and good practices.
The 7 Principles are:
- Continued Business Justification: A project must make good business sense (justified use of time and resources, clear return on investment).
- Learn from Experience: Previous projects should be taken into account. Project teams use a lessons log for this purpose.
- Define Roles and Responsibilities: The decision makers in the project are clearly defined. Everyone in the project knows what they and others are doing.
- Manage by Stages: Difficult tasks are broken into manageable chunks, or management stages.
- Manage by Exception: The project board is only informed if there is or may be a problem. As long as the product is running well, there is not a lot intervention from managers
- Focus on Products: Everyone knows ahead of time what is expected of the product. Product requirements determine work activity.
- Tailor to the Environment: The PRINCE2 methodology can be tailored and scaled. Projects which are adjusted based on the actual needs perform better in general than projects which use PRINCE2 dogmatically.
In addition to these 7 Principles, there are 7 Themes which are addressed continually throughout the project. They provide guidance for how the project should be managed. They are set up at the beginning of the project and then monitored continually to keep the project on track:
- Business Case: This theme is used to determine if a project is worthwhile and achievable. It is related to the principle of Continued Business Justification.
- Organisation: Project managers are required to keep a record every team member’s roles and responsibilities. It is related to the Define Roles and Responsibilities principle.
- Quality: At the beginning of the project the project manager defines what constitutes the quality of the projects. This is related to the Focus on Products principle.
- Plans: A plan is set up which describes how objectives are going to be achieved. It is focused on cost, quality, benefits, timescale and products.
- Risk: Uncertain events during the project are identified, assessed and controlled. They are recorded in a risk log. Positive risks are called opportunities, negative risks are called threats.
- Change: How to handle change requests and issues which arise during the project. Changes shouldn’t be avoided but they should be agreed on before they are executed.
- Progress: This principle is about tracking the project. This allows project managers to verify and control if they are performing according to the project plan.
To structure the step-wise progression through a project, there are 7 Processes. Every one of the steps is overseen by the project manager and approved by the project board:
- 1. Starting up a project
- Create a project mandate to answer logistical questions about the project. It covers the purpose of the project, who will carry it out and how to execute it.
- From the project mandate a project brief is derived, as well as lessons log and discussions with project members.
- A project team is assigned.
- 2. Initiating a project
- During this stage project manager determines what needs to be done to complete the project and outlines how the performance targets will be managed (cost, time, quality, benefits, risks, scope)
- 3. Directing a project
- This is an ongoing process covering the entire life time of the project.
- The project board manages activities such as initiation, stage boundaries, guidance, project closure.
- 4. Controlling a stage
- Project managers break the project into work packages / manageable activities and assigns them to the project members.
- The project manager oversees and reports the work package progress.
- 5. Managing product delivery
- This manages how the communication between the team and the project manager is controlled.
- The activities include accepting, executing and delivering work packages.
- 6. Managing stage boundaries
- The project manager and the board review every stage. The board decides whether to continue the project. The project manager records lessons learned with the team for the next stage.
- This process includes
- Planning the next stage
- Updating the project plan
- Updating the business case
- Reporting the stage end or producing an exception plan
- 7. Closing a project
- In the final process the project is closed. This includes decommissioning the project, identifying follow-on actions, preparing project evaluation and benefits reviews, freeing up leftover resources and handing over products to the customer