PRINCE2 methodology

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PRINCE2 is a project management method and it covers the management, control and organization of a project. PRINCE2 is currently on its 5th edition/revision which is widely known as PRINCE2 2009. PRINCE2 has become increasingly popular and is now a de facto standard for project management in the UK and the number one project management certification in the world. The PRINCE2 Foundation Certification is the number one project management certification and more that 1.2 million have this certification.

First some basic points regarding project management which helps to put everything into context. Whenever we decide we want to do something, create something, improve something, change something, or achieve something, we need to know the answer to some questions like:

  • What is the current situation? (where are we starting from)
  • What are we trying to do (main objectives)?
  • When can we start the project?
  • What knowledge and resources do we need to get this done?
  • Can we do it alone, or do we need help (inside the organisation / external)?
  • How long do we think it will take (estimate)?
  • How much do we think it will cost (estimate)?

These are the normal questions asked at the start of any project, and the answers help to run the project and deliver the required products – defining what needs to be done and working out the best way to get it done.

PRINCE2 is referred to as structured project management, meaning that PRINCE2 helps to manage a project in a logical, organized way, following defined steps (PRINCE2 processes) . Experience shows that projects which are not properly configured and controlled properly usually go badly wrong and PRINCE2 has been developed to try to prevent such disasters.

The PRINCE2 methodology says that a project should have:

  • A controlled start. Define what needs to be done in as much detail as possible and create and validate the Business Case.
  • A controlled middle. Continue to control the project and check that the Business Case is still viable during the project
  • A controlled end: Check that project has delivered its agreed products; the products are accepted, the products will be supported after the project is closed and tidy up the loose ends. Then the project can be closed down.


PRINCE2 methodology advantages

PRINCE2 is a structured approach to project management. It provides a method for managing projects within a clearly defined framework that is easy to follow. PRINCE2 describes the procedures (processes) to coordinate people and activities in a project, describes the roles, how to design and supervise the project at different levels, and what to do if the project has to be adjusted (e.g. dealing with change requests and issues) if it doesn’t develop as planned. Each of the seven PRINCE2 processes are specified with their key inputs and outputs and with specific goals and activities to be carried out.

The PRINCE2 methodology breaks the project into manageable stages; the method enables an efficient control of resources. PRINCE2 provides a common language for all participants in the project, which helps to improve communication for all project stakeholders. The management roles and responsibilities (Project Manager, Executive, Senior User …) involved in a project are fully described and are adaptable to suit the complexity of the project and skills of the organisation.

PRINCE2 methodology dis-advantages

Some people think that PRINCE2 is not appropriate for small projects; due to the high number of management documents that have to be created and many people get this impression after following a PRINCE2 course as this is part of the training syllabus. It is important to be aware that PRINCE2 is fully scalable and it can be tailored to run small projects of just one to two days. However you need good PRINCE2 and project management knowledge to tailor PRINCE2 and this is one reason why the majority of people who have a PRINCE2 certification do not practice PRINCE2.

Good Rule: You should use the minimum amount of documentation in a PRINCE2 project, just do what you think is necessary.

PRINCE2 methodology: Processes

PRINCE2 describes what a project should do and when and it does this using a series of processes which cover the activities needed on a project, from starting up to closing down. Due to this, PRINCE2 is known as a process driven methodology and the seven PRINCE2 processes are as follows:

  • Starting Up a Project: Check if the project is good idea and if not close it down ASAP
  • Initiating a Project: Gather requirements, plan the project and create the Business Case
  • Directing a Project: This is where the Project Board make their decisions for each new stage to start
  • Managing a Stage Boundary: Report on each current stage and plan the next stage
  • Controlling a Stage: Monitor and control the project one stage at a time
  • Managing Product Delivery: This is where the team create the products that are required by the customer
  • Closing a Project: Handover the products and close the budget


The-PRINCE2-Process-Model.png


PRINCE2 methodology: Principles

Each PRINCE2 project should obey the following seven PRINCE2 principle and these principles are also a good way to evaluate a PRINCE2 project:

  • Continued business justification
  • Learn from experience
  • Defined roles and responsibilities
  • Manage by stages
  • Manage by exception
  • Focus on products
  • Tailor to suit the project environment

Questions to ask to see the principles are being applied to the project?

  • Continued business justification: Is there a valid Business Case?
  • Learn from experience: What lesson are being used?
  • Defined roles and responsibilities: Are stakeholders aware of their responsibilities?
  • Manage by stages: How is the project broken up into stages?
  • Manage by exception: What are the project and stage tolerances?
  • Focus on products: How are product descriptions documented?
  • Tailor to suit the project environment: How is PRINCE2 tailored for this project?

PRINCE2 methodology: Themes

PRINCE2 has seven themes. These are aspects which should be addressed continually throughout the project for the project to be successful (e.g. Risk: you must continue to consider risk during the project):

  • Business Case: Business reasons and benefits
  • Organisation: Roles and responsibilities
  • Quality: Document the quality requirements
  • Plans: Create project and stage plans
  • Risk: How to evaluate and control risk
  • Change: How to deal with change requests
  • Progress: How to monitor and control the project

The PRINCE2 methodology is a good way to structure your project. PRINCE2 provides a good project setting where requirements gathering and responsibilities can be clearly communicated between the project team and other stakeholders.


PRINCE2 Methodology: Project Management Roles

The Project Board

The Project Board is appointed by the corporate or programme management to take overall direction of the project. The Project Board should be made up of managers with the authority to commit resources to the project and act as the public face of the project. It is also necessary that Project Board members have time to carry our their responsibiites and should be replaced if not.

The Project Board agrees all major plans and should authorize any important changes to the agreed Stage Plans. They sign off each stage one at a time and authorize the start of the next stage.

The Project Board appoints the Project Manager and sets tolerances (Stage tolerances) for the Project Manager to work within. The Project Board is responsible for the assurance of the project, that it remains on course to deliver the desired outcome of the required quality to meet the Business Case defined in the project contract.

The Project Board is made of three roles: 1) Executive, 2) Senior User & 3) Senior Supplier. The Execute is just one person (single point of accountability) and both the Senior User and Senior Supplier can be more that one person.

The Project Board control the project in three ways:

  • Using stage tolerances
  • Making decisions between each stage (e.g.: to allow the project to continue or not)
  • Reviewing regular reports provided by the Project Manager (Highlight Reports)


Executive

The Executive has the ultimate responsibility for the success of the project (they are accountable for the project, no the Project Manager); that it gives ROI and that the demands of the business, user and supplier are balanced. They will appoint people to the roles of Senior User, Senior Supplier and Project Manager. The must be good communication between the Executive and Project Manager at all times during the project and the Project Manager must be able to approach the Executive at any time.

The Executive will closely monitor ongoing progress and changes to the Project Plan; and will eventually approve the notification of project closure. The Executive has also the ultimate responsibility for project risk.


Senior User

This role is made up of one or more persons e.g. the manager of a business unit and a number of people that have a good understanding of the requirements and processes. The Senior User specifies the needs of those who will use the product and monitors to ensure the solution will meet those needs. They are always thinking: “Will the solution work so we can improve the way we do our job”. The Senior User are also asked to provide information on the expected benefits that the product will bring to the organisation and then are expected to assist in making this happen.

Their place on the board is to represent the interests and requirements of the users as a whole and they should have time to work on the project. To many times the Senior User are given the responsibility but not the necessary time.


Senior Supplier

The Senior Supplier advises on the technicalities of the project; including method, design and strategy. This is also a shared role: The IT Manager and a number of specialists or team leaders. They approve the product descriptions which are mostly created in the Initiation Stage and represent those who are designing the product, developing it, operating and maintaining it.

The Senior Supplier has the authority to utilize the resources needed to get the work done and deliver the products.

Project Manager

The Project Manager works on behalf of the Project Board to manage the ongoing project on a day to day basis to the agreed specifications and tolerances for Time, Cost, Quality, Scope, Benefits and Risk (six project variables). They make sure the final product is as agreed (or as near as possible) and they are also responsible to document and review the expected benefits during the project. The Project Manager and the Executive must have a good communication process with each other.

Team Manager

In small projects the Team Manager role is done by the by the Project Manager. Larger projects may demand a specific role for a Team Manager who has specialist knowledge of the product or who works in another location than the Project Manager. The Team Manager reports to the Project Manager but has responsibility to ensure the product is delivered on time and meets the required level of quality so the product can be accepted. The Team Manager creates their own Team Plans and reports to Project Manager using the Checkpoint Report.

Project Support

In most cases project support work is done by the Project Manager. It can take the form of advice on project management tools, admin services including paperwork or data collection in other words the administration of the project. In large organisations, Project Offices (PMO) can supply Project Support staff to Project Manager. The role of Project Support should be used as a training path to Project Management but not many companies do this which is a pity.

External resources

Video course: How to run your first PRINCE2 project: Part 1

Video course: How to run your first PRINCE2 project: Part 2

Video course: How to run your first PRINCE2 project: Part 3

Reference