What is PRINCE2 and who uses it?
PRINCE2 is a project management methodology owned and maintained by the Office of Government Commerce in the UK. It summarises best practice from a variety of industries and backgrounds. PRINCE2 has been adopted by the NHS as its preferred methodology and a number of governments world wide are looking at adopting it as their standard project management methodology. PRINCE2 is one of the few Government standards that has grown organically to be adopted by both private and public organisations.
Starting up a Project
This process occurs before a project has started, it involves getting the people who make decisions together and appointing a Project Manager to manage the project. Together they will outline reasons for the project and how it is to be carried out. This information is put into the “Project Brief”. Carrying out this process gives the project a very clear beginning.
Directing a Project
To begin a project it must be approved by a group of senior managers called the ‘Project Board’. A basic principle of PRINCE2 is management by exception. That means that while the Project Board take overall responsibility for the success of the project they will entrust the Project Manager with the day to day management. The Project Manager will keep the Project Board informed of the Project’s progress with regular reports.
Initiating a Project
For a project to be approved it must be carefully planned to ensure that it meets its objectives. This requires making detailed estimations of costs, time and other resources. The Project Manager puts these into what is called a “Project Initiation Document” for approval by the “Project Board”.
Controlling a Stage
PRINCE2 projects are divided into manageable stages to ensure the project remains manageable and controlled. The number of stages will depend on the size of the project and the level of risk. In PRINCE2 each project stage must be completed before starting the next and each new stage is planned in the stage proceeding it. The Stage Plans will be approved by the Project Board to help ensure that the project remains within budget and delivers its objectives.
Managing Stage Boundaries
This process involves preparing for the next stage and reviewing the current stage. It includes the Project Manager making suggestions to the Project Board about the likelihood of the project achieving its business objectives and any changes in the business case, project plan, risks and issues. Having clear stage boundaries allows a project to be controlled and managed by permitting the project to continue only once the Project Board is satisfied with the current stage end and next stage plan.
Each project plan, stage plan and team plan must consider key planning aspects. These including what products to produce, the activities required to produce these products, estimated resources (including costs and time), scheduling the activities and analysing risks. By following the PRINCE2 planning process all these points are conducted in a sensible, logical sequence. Ensuring consistency enables plans to be compared and streamlines the planning process.
Managing Product Delivery
PRINCE2 projects deliver products. A product could be a physical thing such as a poster or it could be an intangible deliverable such as a service or sales agreement. In fact everything produced in PRINCE2 (even a document) is called a product! Often a Project Manager does not create the product. A 3rd party supplier and/or their colleagues may do some or all of the work. It is the project manager’s responsibility to ensure that the supplier produces the correct products at the right time by providing a description of the work to be done.
Closing a Project
Once the project has delivered its products it is closed down, with approval from the Project Board. The Project Manager plans what will be done to evaluate the project’s outcome (called the “Post Project Review”). A controlled close down is in effect the last demonstrable PRNCE2 project action. Any lessons learned are recorded, resources are released and the Post Project Review Plan is created.
PRINCE2 key concepts
The key concepts that are fundamental to PRINCE2 are control, quality, planning, lessons learned and risk management. These are outlined below.
Being able to control your project is key to its success. The larger something is the more difficult it is to control. For this reason PRINCE2 breaks down projects into easily managed stages, essentially breaking a large project into ‘bite size chunks’. In addition defining stages introduces clear decision points, called stage boundaries that help control the project. PRINCE2 stage boundaries need clear management structures that make decisions.
To ensure that a product (or service) meets the customer’s quality expectations these must be defined and agreed when a project is being planned. Throughout a PRINCE2 project work continuously monitored to ensure that these quality standards are met. In PRINCE2 there are documents and techniques that ensure quality is managed such as the Quality Log, Quality Reviews and Project Quality Plan.
In PRINCE2 planning does not end once the project has started. One of the reasons PRINCE2 breaks down projects into small manageable stages is that they are much easier to plan. Of the 8 PRINCE2 processes all but one involve planning. Even the final process called “Closing a Project” involves the planning of the Post Project Review.
Every time we carry out a project we learn something. Very often mistakes are made, what is important is that mistakes are not repeated. When projects in organisations fail or contain mistakes are they learned from? Are lessons learned written down so others don’t repeat them? PRINCE2 has a clear process for recording lessons learned and creating a report for others to reference. All lessons; mistakes, ideas or successes are captured in the Lessons Learned Log. At the end of the project these are collated into a Lessons Learned Report, allowing others in the organisation to benefit from them.
Is PRINCE2® in the public domain?
It depends. It depends on what you think ‘public domain’ means. According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of Law © 1996, public domain is:
“the realm or status of property rights that belong to the community at large, are unprotected by copyright or patent, and are subject to appropriation by anyone”
PRINCE2 is protected by copyright. By definition, therefore, PRINCE2 is NOT in the public domain.
LaunchPad Professional (Single User)
LaunchPad Professional (£99+vat) has been authored to help support the introduction and use of the PRINCE2 Method for individual users. For a site-wide solution, see Corporate PRINCE at the bottom of this page.
LaunchPad Professional provides a set of template documents and launch buttons which enable users to get up and running with PRINCE2 within a few minutes!
Integral within LaunchPad is a set of “help” files which explain the eight key Processes which are the drivers for the PRINCE2 project. Key documentation templates can also be loaded from each of the process help pages. Additional help pages, derived from Ken Bradley’s best selling “Understanding PRINCE2” provide a very readable and easily understood reference. Also included is the full Acrobat Reader version of Ken Bradley’s “Understanding PRINCE2”.