PRINCE2® wiki

What is PRINCE2?

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PRINCE2 is a project management method that can be used for any project, from running a 1 day event to building a nuclear power plant. PRINCE2 is widely recognised (#1 project management certification) can be used in both the public and private sectors. The PRINCE2 method is in the public domain therefore it is free to use and it also offers non-proprietorial best practice guidance on project management.

Some key features of PRINCE2 are:

History of PRINCE2

The following is a timeline of PRINCE2 and its origins:

Benefits of using PRINCE2

There are numerous advantages to using PRINCE2 (like most methods):

PRINCE2 project variables

The two most common variables to control in a project are time and cost. There are 6 variables (performance targets) to control in a project and these are: Timescales, Costs, Quality, Scope, Benefits, and Risk. Also known as: 6 aspects of project performance. Tip to remember them: Use TeCQuila SoBeR. This will give you Timescales, Costs, Quality, Scope, Benefits, and Risk. Or you can use: “BC QRST.”

Project Defintion

There are many project definitions and its best to read them all to get a better of the PRINCE2 definition.

PRINCE2 project definition: A project is a temporary organization that is created for the purpose of delivering one or more business products according to an agreed business case.

Core Principles

Principle 1: Continued business justification

A PRINCE2 project must have business justification; therefore, each project should have a business case that shows that the project is value for money. So, there must be a business reason to start and continue with a project and there must be a clear Return on Investment.

“Does the project have business justification?” = “Does the project have a valid business case?”

If at any time during the project, the expected Return on Investment falls (for example, by about 80%), then the project will most likely be stopped.

The business case document details the full business case, showing why the project should be done, the costs, the expected benefits, and timescales. This information is also referred to as the business justification information. The business justification is checked throughout the lifetime of the project. E.g., at the end of each stage.

Full article on the continued business justification principle

Principle 2: Learn from experience

PRINCE2 projects should learn from previous projects and should take the necessary initiative to uncover lessons from previous projects and experience and take these into. It is the responsibility of everyone involved with the project to seek lessons and the PM should remind everyone.

Projects are unique, meaning that there is always something new and therefore all project can learn from other people. “Learn from experience” covers the full lifetime of the project, from the SU to the CP process. All lessons learned during the project should be documented and these should be passed on, so they are available for future projects. The project board should also ask for proof that the project is learning from lessons.

Full article about the learn from experience principle

Principle 3: Defined roles and responsibilities

In any project, people need to know what is expected from them and what they can expect from others. A PRINCE2 project should have defined and agreed roles and responsibilities. Each project should have a clear team structure and this needs to be known and accepted.

A PRINCE2 project has 3 primary stakeholders:

These 3 primary stakeholders must be represented in the project management team description and in the project board. So, this principle answers the questions “What is expected of me?”, “What can I expect from others?” and “Who makes what decisions?"

Full article about the defined roles and responsibilities principle

Principle 4: Manage by stages

How do you eat an elephant? one bite at a time (this is just an expression). How do you do a large project? one stage (chunk) at a time. PRINCE2 refers to these chunks as stages (management stages). A PRINCE2 project should be planned, monitored, and controlled on a stage-by-stage basis and each stage is separated by a project board decision.

At the end of each stage, the project board should assess the performance of the last stage by reading the end project reports and checking the business case and stage plan for the next stage. They will then decide to proceed to the next stage or stop the project.

If the project board wish to have more control over the project, they increase the number of stages, so they have more control points and more work. Some advantages of stages are:

Full article on the manage by stages principle

Principle 5: Manage by exception

Each layer (CPC, direction, management) wishes to manage the level below them but still give them some room to work and make decisions and manage by exception is used for this. The layer below gets on with their work and notifies the above layer if there is a big issue (exception) that is outside their tolerance. So, an Exception is a big issue that takes a level out of their agreed tolerance.

Imagine you are sitting on the project board and of all is going OK with the PM you will just get normal reports. If the PM hits a big issue, then they will contact the project board immediately as this big issue is an exception. The definition for Manage by Exception is: A PRINCE2 project has defined tolerances for each project objective to establish limits of delegated authority.

PRINCE2 lists 6 tolerances that can be set. Time, Cost, Quality, Scope, Risk, and Benefits. Both time and cost are easy to understand so I will just comment on the other four.

Manage by Exception provides the above management layer with a system to manage and control the lower management layer.

Full article about the manage by exception principle

Principle 6: Focus on products

If a product requirements are not correctly defined, then all project stakeholders can have a different idea on what the product should be. This will cause a lot of issues during the project and most likely produce an end product that cannot be used.

Detailed product descriptions of the products will help build correct expectations and make life easy for the teams who deliver the products. A PRINCE2 project should focus on the definition and delivery of products, in particular, their quality requirements.

A detailed product description also makes it easier for the team managers to determine resource requirements, dependencies, and activities. The focus on products principle states that a product description with quality requirements should be written as soon and as clearly as possible.

Full article about the focus on products principle

Principle 7: Tailoring or tailor to suit the project environment

No projects are 100% the same and each PRINCE2 project should be tailored to suit the project’s size, environment, complexity, importance, capability, and risk.

The purpose of tailoring is to:

Full article about the tailor to suit the project environment principle


Themes are knowledge areas; they are the parts of the project that need to be continually addressed throughout the project lifecycle. Each theme provides knowledge (how to go about) on a specific area of project management, such as the business case, planning, quality, risk, etc.

Themes should also be tailored to suit the project and only use what is required to do the project. This will of course depend on the project and the environment you are working in. For example, if you are building a lunar module, then quality and risks themes would be used in detail.

The PRINCE2 processes address the flow of the project, in other words, the processes guide you through the typical activities that you need to do to run a project.

All 7 themes should be tailored according to the risk, scale, nature, complexity, or simplicity of the project so. Each PRINCE2 theme specifies minimum requirements for each theme. Note: Tailoring is covered in the PRINCE2 Practitioner syllabus, so you don’t need to know much (this is all) more about tailoring the themes for the Foundation syllabus.

Theme 1: Business Case

The business case theme provides information to help the project make better decisions regarding the business case. The purpose of the business case theme is “to provide a structure to judge whether the business case is desirable, viable, and achievable.”

Business justification means that there should be valid business reason for doing the project and this reason remains valid throughout the project. If the business case becomes, then the project should be shut down. The business case is used to document the business justification.

Full article on the business case theme

Theme 2: Organisation

The purpose of the organization theme is to help define and establish the project’s structure of accountability and responsibilities. PRINCE2 states that a project is based on a customer/supplier environment where one party is the customer, who will specify the results and most likely pay for the project (and use the products), and the other party is the supplier, who will provide the resources, do the work, and deliver the required products.

PRINCE2 states that a project team should:

So, each project needs to have direction, management, control, and communication.

Stakeholder: A stakeholder is any person or group that can be affected by the project or can affect the project. This includes the project team, potential users and other persons external to the project as well as those who may be negatively affected.

Full article about the organization theme

Theme 3: Quality

The purpose of the quality theme is to setup and implement a system that will create and verify that products are fit for use and meet user requirements. The quality theme defines the PRINCE2 approach to ensure that products created during the project meet the user’s expectations and that the end product can be used as intended, so users can realize the expected benefits.

Product focus is one of the seven principles of PRINCE2, which states that products should be clearly defined (including detailed quality requirements) and signed off before development is allowed to start. Product descriptions must include the quality criteria information so that all project stakeholders have a common understanding of the products that will be created.

For example, if you are creating a new can opener, some of the quality criteria might be:

Full article about the quality theme

Theme 4: Plans

The purpose of the plans theme is to provide a framework to design, develop, and maintain the project plans to help plan, facilitate communication and control the project.

This theme helps to answer the following questions:

The plans provide the backbone of information used to manage the project. Without a plan, there can be no control as you have no baseline to compare your progress to. The act of planning helps the project PM and the rest of the project management team think ahead and avoid duplication, omissions, threats and other planning issues.

Full article about the plans theme

Theme 5: Risk

The purpose of the risk theme is to provide an approach to “identify, assess, and control uncertainty during a project, and as a result, improve the ability of the project to succeed.”

PRINCE2 states that the project’s objectives which are the 6 performance targets of time, cost, quality, scope, benefits, and risk.

Risk management activities:

Risk management is about actions you take to enable you to identify, assess, and control risk. The PRINCE2 risk theme provides an approach to manage risk in a project. There are 3 steps to risk management, which are Identification, Assessment, and Control:

Full article about the risk theme

Theme 6: Change

The purpose of the change theme is to help you identify, assess, and control any potential changes to the products that have already been approved and baselined. Change is inevitable in any project, and all projects need a good approach to identify, assess, and control issues. This theme provides an approach to issue and change control.

Issue and change control happens during the full lifecycle of the project. Remember, the objective is not to prevent changes but to get changes agreed and approved before they are executed.

Each project requires a configuration management system that tracks products, records when products are approved and baselined, and helps to ensure that the correct versions are being used.

Change definitions:

Full article about the change theme

Theme 7: Progress

The purpose of the progress theme is to:

Progress is about checking progress compared to the plans and controlling any deviations. Project control involves measuring actual progress against the 6 performance targets of time, costs, quality, scope, benefits, and risk. Progress can be monitored at 3 levels:

Progress is checking and controlling where you are compared to the plan and this is done for the project level, stage level, and work package level. Progress control involves the activities of measuring actual progress against the performance targets and each project layer wishes to monitor the layer below. Each layer does the following:

An exception is a situation where it can be forecast that there will be a deviation beyond the agreed tolerance levels.

Tolerances are the deviation above and below a plan’s target. For example, the project should take 6 months, with a tolerance of ±1 month. Tolerance levels could also be set for all 6 tolerance areas.

Full article about the progress theme

PRINCE2 Processes

A process is a structured set of activities designed to accomplish a specific objective. has activities for Starting Up a Project, running a project, and many others. It groups these into processes.

is a process-based approach for project management. There are 7 processes that guide you through the project, and each provides a set of activities. These activities help to direct, manage and deliver a project, and are described in the manual. Like any process, a process takes one or more inputs, acts on them, and provides defined outputs.

Process 1: Starting up a project

The main purpose of this process is to ask the question: “Do we have a worthwhile and viable project?” and prevent poor projects from starting up. This question should be asked for each project idea and then briefly documented (project brief).

Typical questions can be:

Objectives of the SU process:

Full article about the starting up a project process

Process 2: Initiating a project

The purpose of the IP process is to establish a solid foundation (documented in the PID) for the project so the organization can understand the work that needs to be done to deliver the required product.

Objectives of the IP process: The objectives of the IP process are to ensure there is a shared understanding of:

Full article about the initiating a project process

Process 3: Directing a project

Purpose: The purpose of this process is to enable the project board to be accountable for the project. They will make key decisions, have overall control and to delegate day-to-day management to the PM.

Objectives: The objectives of the directing a project process are to provide authority (project board):

Other objectives are to:

Full article about the directing a project process

Process 4: Controlling a stage

Purpose: The purpose of this CS process is for the PM to assign the work to be done, monitor this work, deal with issues, report progress to the project board, and take corrective action to ensure that the stage remains within tolerance.

Objectives: The objectives of the controlling a stage process are to:

Full article about the controlling a stage process

Process 5: Managing product delivery

Purpose: The purpose of the MP process is to control the link between the project manager and the team manager(s) by agreeing on the requirements for acceptance, execution, and delivery.


The managing product delivery process views the project from the team manager’s point of view:

Full article about the managing product delivery process

Process 6: Managing a stage boundary

Purpose: The purpose of managing a stage boundary process has two parts:


SB activities:

Full article about the managing a stage boundary process

Principle 7: Closing a project

The purpose of the CP process is to provide a fixed point to check that the project has reached its objectives and that the products have been accepted by the customer.


The project board close the project and the project manager only prepares the project for closure.

Closing a project activities:

Full article about the closing a project process

PRINCE2 Certifications

There are two levels of certification for PRINCE2, Foundation and Practitioner.

PRINCE2 Foundation Certification

The aim of the PRINCE2 Foundation level aims to measure whether a candidate would be able to act a member of a PRINCE2 project management team. Therefore they need to show they understand the principles and terminology of the method and be able to:

Examination format:

There’s also a full article about the PRINCE2 Foundation exam.

PRINCE2 Practitioner Certification

The PRINCE2 Practitioner level is aiming to measure whether a candidate could apply PRINCE2 to the running and managing of a non-complex project within an environment supporting PRINCE2. Therefore they need to show that they can apply and tailor PRINCE2 to address the needs and problems of a given project scenario eg:

Examination format

In order to sit the PRINCE2 Practitioner exam you must be able to provide proof of passing one of the following exams:

There’s also a full article about the PRINCE2 Practitioner exam.

discussion icon PRINCE2 wiki is open-source and published for free under a Creative Commons license.

discussion icon Written by Frank Turley (his LinkedIn profile)