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A process is a structured set of activities designed to accomplish a specific objective. PRINCE2 has activities for starting up, planning, running, controlling, and closing a project. It groups these activities into processes.
PRINCE2 is a process-based approach for project management. There are 7 processes that are compatible with the Core Principles and guide you through the project. Each process provides a set of activities. These activities help to direct, manage and deliver a project, and are described in the PRINCE2 manual. Like any process, a PRINCE2 process takes one or more inputs, acts on them, and provides defined outputs.
The 7 PRINCE2 process are:
- Starting up a Project
- Initiating a Project
- Directing a Project
- Managing a Stage Boundary
- Controlling a Stage
- Managing Product Delivery
- Closing a Project
The following is a quick overview of the project lifecycle; the way processes are run through the management stages.
What happens before the project starts? This is known as Pre-Project (project has not started yet).
Someone, somewhere, at sometime has an idea or a need. This can be a business opportunity or something that is necessary to do for the company (e.g., a change in legislation like a CO2 reduction). This idea or need is the trigger for the project.
The first step that is normally taken is the creation of a project mandate document. This is why we say that the project mandate is the Trigger for the project. A project mandate can be a simple one-page note, an email, or a structured document based on a company project mandate template.
There are a number of Pre-Project activities to be done and these are referred to as the project start-up. PRINCE2 suggests a number of pre-project activities that should be done. All of them are contained in a process (i.e., the Starting up a Project process).
The main objective of the Starting Up a Project process is to verify that the project is worthwhile. The project mandate is expanded to a Project Brief, and a plan is created for the Initiation stage. The Starting Up a Project process is also about preventing poor projects from starting.
After this process is complete, The Project Board reviews the Project Brief and decides whether to initiate the project. This is the first decision that the Project Board takes.
This is the first Stage in a project and the activities to be performed for project initiation are contained in the Initiating a Project process. The main objectives of the Initiation Stage are to:
- Define the Project Product quality, project timeline, costs, risk analysis and commitment of resources, and then assemble the Project Initiation Documentation (PID). The PID contains almost all of the project information to date, including the Project Plan.
- Create a detailed Business Case , document the benefits and prepare a Benefits Management Approach that will describe how and when Benefits will be reviewed.
- The Project Plan is a high-level Plan for the whole project. A Stage Plan is also created for the first delivery Stage Plan (in the Stage Boundary process), which is a lot more detailed.
At the end of the Initiation Stage, the Project Board will receive the PID and decide whether to authorize the project or not. In simple terms, this means that the Project Board will decide (Yes or No) to allow the project to start. If yes, the PID is baselined so it can be used in the future to compare the project objectives with the current situation.
Most of the initiation activities are run in a process called Initiating a Project .
Stages after the Initiation Stage
The Project Manager has day-to-day responsibility for the project on a stage-by-stage basis, and reports to the Project Board. The Project Manager does the following:
- Assigns work to be done (assigns work to the Team Managers).
- Checks that all deliverables have passed the required quality tests.
- Checks that stage is in line with Stage Plan.
- Checks that forecasts are within project tolerances.
- All these activities are done in the Controlling a Stage process.
The Project Manager keeps the Project Board up to date about the progress of the project using the Highlight Report . For example, the Project Board may have agreed to receive a Highlight Report every two weeks from the Project Manager.
Towards the end of a stage in the Managing a Stage Boundary process, the Project Manager will request permission to proceed to the next stage and will have to provide the following information to the Project Board: Updated Business Case , End Stage Report , and Next Stage Plan.
The Project Board will use the information provided by the Project Manager to assess the continued viability of the project and will make the decision to authorize the next stage.
Final Delivery Stage
During the final stage, the Project Manager will be accepting and getting approval for the last products to be produced, and will focus on decommissioning the project.
The Project Board will check that the recipients of the project’s products are in a position to own and use them, and will also check that they will be supported after the project has stopped.
The Closing a Project process is always the last part of the last stage and it describes a number of activities that should be done, such as:
- Assessing the project by comparing it to the original plan
- Writing End Project Report
- Planning post-project benefits reviews
- Writing and delivering Lessons Learned Report
The Project Board will revise the data provided by the Project Manager and then can take the decision to Authorize Project Closure. The Project Manager can then leave the building ;)