PRINCE2®

PRINCE2 is a generic and dynamic method for Project Management, so it can be used for any project, from running a 1 to 2 day project for the TV Programme such as “The Apprentice” (a popular TV Programme in the UK and US) to a company acquisition or even the construction of the main stadium for the Olympic games or an ICT project.

PRINCE2® separates the management layer from the work layer (where the team works) to create the required products that the project has to produce (specialist work). This means that the same management layer can be used for different types of projects. The Management Layer refers to the organization of the project, such as Level 1 = Project Board, Level II = Project Manager and Level 3 = Teams. You will see this more clearly when we discuss the process model later and the Timeline diagram.

The official manual says that the PRINCE2® method consists of 4 main parts and has chosen the word Elements (or Integrated Elements) to represent these 4 parts. These elements are: 1) Principles, 2) Themes, 3) Processes and 4) Tailoring. You can use the structure of this manual to help you remember. First, you have the Principles, then Themes, then Processes and finally, the last chapter, which is Tailoring.

PRINCE2 Structure

PRINCE2 Structure

  • Principles: Each project should consist of the 7 principles (in other words, “best practices” or good project characteristics).  In fact a good way to evaluate a project a project is to ask, how is this project following these 7 principles.
  • Themes: Themes answer the question regarding what items must continually be addressed during each project, e.g., Business Case, Organization, Quality, Progress, Risk and Change.  PRINCE2 provides a good overview on how to address each of these Themes.
  • Processes: Processes provide information on the activities that are carried out during the project and by whom. Processes also answers “What products are to be created and when?” The processes are my most people favour PRINCE2® over the PMBok as it provide a path through the project and make it easier to understand.
  • Tailoring: Tailoring answers one of the most common questions from a Project Manager, “How do I best apply PRINCE2 to my project or my environment?”   However tailoring is not very well covered in both the Foundation and Practitioner Courses and it is where most people have issue as you need to have both project management and PRINCE2® experience to tailor a project. 

A PRINCE2® project should include all 7 principles; these will be discussed and explained in the next chapter. The 7 principles are:

  1. Continued business justification. What is the return on investment?
  2. Learn from experience. Keep asking what we learned during the project
  3. Defined roles and responsibilities. Accountability is key
  4. Manage by stages. Break the project up into chunks and review
  5. Manage by exception. Let the team get on with the work and produce the products
  6. Focus on products. Good product descriptions with regular customer feedback
  7. Tailor to suit the project environment. Only use the parts that PRINCE2 that add value to your project

 

What does a PRINCE2 Project Manager do?

You might already have a good idea about what a Project Manager does, but very often the Project Managers find themselves assisting the team to create the products as they try to keep the project on track. This might seem like a good idea at first, but they will end up not managing the project in the long run.

How a project starts: There is a project to do and, therefore, a Project Plan must be created. This is usually one of the first tasks for the Project Manager when the project starts up. They create the plan with help from specialists (Team Leaders and business process owners) and it includes tasks such as leading a planning workshop, defining products, activities and dependencies, estimating resources required, scheduling these activities, and defining roles and responsibilities.

The main objective for the Project Manager is to see that the project goes according to the plan. They review the completed tasks (look to see the products have been quality checked and signed off), get signoffs, confirm that the next tasks can start, and so on. In other words, the Project Manager monitors how well the work is going according to the Project Plan. I will repeat this line in case you are in an elevator someday and somebody asks what you do. You can say “I monitor how well the work is going according to the project plan.”

Monitor the six variables / project performance targets
The Project Manager will also constantly monitor the 6 variables we just discussed, and they are part of any project. These are Timescales, Costs, Quality, Scope, Benefits and Risk.  Just imagine a cockpit in your car where you have a gauge for each of these project variables and you can see how well the project is going.

Dealing with Issues
The Project Manager also has to deal with issues as they arise. In the case of small issues, they might choose to handle these themselves (e.g. getting a supplier to work an extra day to solve the issue and get the project back on track). If an issue arises which could force the stage to go beyond the set tolerances, the Project Manager can escalate it to the Project Board.

Speed up the project
Another task of the Project Manager that is sometimes forgotten is to look for opportunities to speed the project up and reduce the costs.

Lastly, I recommend that Project Managers spend the necessary amount of time defining and agreeing on Roles and Responsibilities at the start of the project. Depending on your company, you might need good soft skills to do this. This will benefit the project and could also prevent some stakeholders from passing their work and responsibility back to the Project Manager.

PRINCE2 Timeline Diagram    

The goal of this this PRINCE2 timeline diagram is to provide another view of how a PRINCE2 project works as it provides a helicopter view of a PRINCE2 project.

PRINCE2 Timeline

PRINCE2 Timeline

What you see the diagram above:

  • Three project levels:
    • Level 1: Project Board: They direct the project
    • Level 2: Project Manager: They manage the project (monitor and control)
    • Level 3: Team Manager: The lead the team that create the products
  • SU process (Startup process)
    • Also known as pre-project: In this example it is 1 week and the create the Project Brief
    • At the end, the Project Board takes their 1st decision “Authorize Initiation”
  • IP process (Initiation process)
    • I prefer to call this the planning process as this is what is done here
    • In this example, the IP process takes 4 weeks and the main deliverable is planning information.
    • At the end, the Project Board takes their 2nd decision “Authorize the Project”
  • CS process (Controlling a Stage process)
    • This is where the project managers monitor and controls the project on a stage by stage basis and deals with issue as they arise. They also give work out to the teams to do.
    • At the end of each stage we have Stage Boundary step
  • SB process (Stage Boundary process)
    • This is a short process. The Project Manager reports on the performance of the last stage and plans the next stage
    • At the end, the Project Board takes the decision to continue to the next stage or not
  • MP process (Managing Product Delivery process)
    • This is where the team creates the products to the required level of quality
    • The team receives work from the Project Manager in Work Packages, which contain one of more Product Descriptions (so the team know what to deliver)
  • CP process: (Closing a Project process)
    • This is the last stage of the project and the Project Manger will report on the project and update the Benefits Review Plan to show the expected benefits of the project (ROI) and when these benefits will be measured in the future.
    • At the end, the Project Board takes the decision to close the project and there closes the project budget

 

Further information

 

Certifications:

– PRINCE2 Certification: PRINCE2 Foundation
– PRINCE2 Certification: PRINCE2 Practitioner

Awareness, One Step a Day (free)

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