PRINCE2 is derived from the earlier PRINCE project management method, which was initially developed in 1989 by the Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA) as a UK Government standard for information systems (IT) project management; however, it soon became regularly applied outside the purely IT environment. PRINCE2 was released in 1996 as a generic project management method. PRINCE2 has become increasingly popular and is now a de facto standard for project management in the UK. Its use has spread beyond the UK to more than 50 other countries.
The most current revision was released in 2005 by the Office of Government Commerce.
PRINCE2:2009 Refresh: Since 2006, the method is thoroughly revised and shall be published as "PRINCE2:2009 Refresh" in summer 2009 (as of Feb. 2009). The name "PRINCE2" (instead of "PRINCE3" or similar) is kept to demonstrate that the method remains faithful to its principles. Nevertheless, it is a fundamental revision of the method from 1996 to adapt it to the changed business environment, to make the method simpler and "lighter", to address current weaknesses or misunderstandings, and to better integrate it with other methods (ITIL, P3O, P3M3, MSP, M_o_R etc.). A preview can be found at.
PRINCE2 is a structured approach to project management. It provides a method for managing projects within a clearly defined framework. PRINCE2 describes procedures to coordinate people and activities in a project, how to design and supervise the project, and what to do if the project has to be adjusted if it doesn’t develop as planned. In the method each process is specified with its key inputs and outputs and with specific goals and activities to be carried out, which gives an automatic control of any deviations from the plan. Divided into manageable stages, the method enables an efficient control of resources. On the basis of close monitoring the project can be carried out in a controlled and organized way. Being a structured method widely recognised and understood, PRINCE2 provides a common language for all participants in the project. The various management roles and responsibilities involved in a project are fully described and are adaptable to suit the complexity of the project and skills of the organisation.
PRINCE2 is sometimes incorrectly considered inappropriate for very small projects, due to the work required in creating and maintaining documents, logs and lists. However, this may often be because of a misunderstanding about which parts of PRINCE2 to apply: PRINCE2 is fully scalable.
Overview of the method
PRINCE2 is a process-driven project management method which contrasts with reactive/adaptive methods such as Scrum. PRINCE2 defines 45 separate sub-processes and organizes these into eight processes:
Starting up a project
In this process the project team is appointed and a project brief (describing, in outline, what the project is attempting to achieve and the business justification for doing so) is prepared. In addition the overall approach to be taken is decided and the next stage of the project is planned. Once this work is done, the project board is asked to authorize the next stage, that of initiating the project.
Key activities include: appointing an executive and a project manager; designing and appointing a project management team; preparing a project brief; defining the project approach; and planning the next stage (initiation).
PRINCE2 advocates product based planning which means that the first task when planning is to identify and analyse products. Once the activities required to create these products are identified then it is possible to estimate the effort required for each and then schedule activities into a plan. There is always risk associated with any work and this must be analysed. Finally, this process suggests how the format of plans can be agreed and ensures that plans are completed to such a format.
Key activities include: designing a plan; defining and analysing products; identifying activities and dependencies; estimating; scheduling; analysing risks; and completing the plan.
Initiating a project
This process builds on the work of the start up process, and the project brief is augmented to form a business case. The approach taken to ensure quality on the project is agreed together with the overall approach to controlling the project itself (project controls). Project files are also created as is an overall plan for the project. A plan for the next stage of the project is also created. The resultant information can be put before the project board for them to authorize the project itself.
Key activities include: planning quality; planning a project; refining the business case and risks; setting up project controls; setting up project files; and assembling a Project Initiation Document.
Directing a project
These sub-processes dictate how the Project Board (which comprises such roles as the executive sponsor or project sponsor) should control the overall project. As mentioned above, the project board can authorise an initiation stage and can also authorize a project. Directing a Project also dictates how the project board should authorize a stage plan, including any stage plan that replaces an existing stage plan due to slippage or other unforeseen circumstances. Also covered is the way in which the board can give ad hoc direction to a project and the way in which a project should be closed down.
Key activities include: authorising initiation; authorising a project; authorising a stage or exception plan; giving ad-hoc direction; and confirming project closure.
Controlling a stage
PRINCE2 suggests that projects should be broken down into stages and these sub-processes dictate how each individual stage should be controlled. Most fundamentally this includes the way in which work packages are authorized and received. It also specifies the way in which progress should be monitored and how the highlights of the progress should be reported to the project board. A means for capturing and assessing project issues is suggested together with the way in which corrective action should be taken. It also lays down the method by which certain project issues should be escalated to the project board.
Key activities include: authorising work package; assessing progress; capturing and examining project issues; reviewing stage status; reporting highlights; taking corrective action; escalating project issues; and receiving a completed work package.
Managing product delivery
This process consists of three sub-processes and these cover the way in which a work package should be accepted, executed and delivered.
Key activities include: accepting a work package; executing a work package; and delivering a work package.
Managing stage boundaries
The Controlling a Stage process dictates what should be done within a stage, Managing Stage Boundaries (SB) dictates what should be done towards the end of a stage. Most obviously, the next stage should be planned and the overall project plan, risk log and business case amended as necessary. The process also covers what should be done for a stage that has gone outside its tolerance levels. Finally, the process dictates how the end of the stage should be reported.
Key activities include: planning a stage; updating a project plan; updating a project business case; updating the risk log; reporting stage end; and producing an exception plan.
Closing a project
This covers the things that should be done at the end of a project. The project should be formally de-commissioned (and resources freed up for allocation to other activities), follow on actions should be identified and the project itself be formally evaluated.
Key activities include: decommissioning a project; identifying follow-on actions; and project evaluation review.
The PRINCE2 method works with most project management techniques but specifically describes the following:
Exams, accreditation and training
Accreditation is governed by the passing of two exams – the Foundation and the Practitioner. The Foundation exam is a one-hour, multiple choice exam. The Practitioner exam lasts for three-hours, and is an objective-testing multiple-choice exam. Around the world, exams are administered by the APM Group. The successful candidate register can be searched on the web.
It is possible for individuals with project management experience to self-study for the exams but a number of training organisations offer courses, many of which also include exam entry in the fee. There is a mandatory accreditation scheme for training providers, run by the APM Group, which provides them with access to the official PRINCE2 examinations.
PRINCE2 Practitioners must retake the Practitioner exam every 5 years to remain accredited. This re-registration comprises a 1-hour examination set at the same standard as the Practitioner examination. Trainers must be re-accredited every 3 years and undergo a surveillance check (either in the form of a visit by an assessor to a training course or a telephone interview of their professional knowledge by an assessor) every 12 months.
Project management is a complex discipline and it would be wrong to assume that blind application of PRINCE2 will result in a successful project. By the same token, it would be wrong to assume that every aspect of PRINCE2 will be applicable to every project. For this reason every process has a note on scalability. This provides guidance to the project manager (and others involved in the project) as to how much of the process to apply. The positive aspect of this is that PRINCE2 can be tailored to the needs of a particular project. The negative aspect is that many of the essential elements of PRINCE2 can be omitted sometimes resulting in a PINO project – Prince in Name Only. In order to counter this, APM Group have defined the concept of a PRINCE2 Maturity Model