PRINCE2 (an acronym for PRojects IN Controlled Environments) is a process-based method for effective project management. It is one of the most accepted and used methods in project management due to the fact that it can be applied to any project regardless of project scale, type, organization, geography or culture. Being widely recognized and understood, PRINCE2 provides a common vocabulary to all project participants and maintains the focus on the project viability in relation to the Business Case, rather than on the project end. The aim of PRINCE2 is to provide the right information at the right time for the right people to make the right decisions. It clearly defines project responsibilities and helps participants understand their roles and needs. (https://www.prince2.com/prince2-methodology + Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2™ )
Every project has six variables and therefore six performance aspect that need to be managed: costs, time, quality, scope, risk and benefits. Prince2 is an integrated framework of processes and themes that address the planning, delegation, monitoring and control of all these six aspects of project performance. At its core, the method has seven principles, which are guiding obligations and practices that determine whether the project is managed using a PRINCE2 approach. In order to provide guidance on how the process should be performed, there are seven themes – aspects of the project management that need to be addressed continually through the project lifecycle. Being a process model of approaching project management, PRINCE2 has a series of activities that are required to direct, manage and deliver a project. (one thousand words + Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2™)
PRINCE2 is a project management method that can be used regardless of the project type. That is because it is principle based. These principles are universal and have been proven in practice. They provide a framework for good practice for all those involved in the project and ensure that the method is not applied so that it contributes to the project’s success rather than in an overly prescriptive way. The principles on which PRINCE2 is based are: 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. (one thousand words + Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2™)
Continued business justification
The first principle of PRINCE2 is that the project needs a justifiable reason to start. The justification has to be documented and approved and it has to remain valid throughout the lifetime of the project. A project is always linked to its business justification and it drives the decision making process to ensure the alignment with the business objectives and benefits. In PRINCE2 the justification documentation is a Business Case. The business justification is important in aligning the corporate strategies to the project’s objective. If the Business Case is not rigorously built, organizations risk proceeding with projects that have few real benefits and poor alignment with the corporate strategy. Even compulsory projects need a business justification, as there are many options on how to develop the project which lead to different costs, benefits and risks. Although generally the justification should remain valid, there are cases when they might change. However, it is important that the project and evolving justification remain consistent. In the case that the project can no longer be justified, the project should be stopped and the resources should be reinvested in other projects that are more worthwhile.
Learn from experience
The project teams using PRINCE2 should learn from previous experience. Lessons should be sought, recorded and acted upon throughout the project’s lifecycle. As projects are unique, the team assigned to undertake a specific project might have not dealt with a similar one before and that is why it is necessary to learn from experience at all stages in the project. At the start of the project, previous or similar projects should be reviewed for lessons learned that could be applied. If the project is completely new, the project team could seek external experience. As the project progresses, it should contain reports and review with lessons learnt and they should be implemented during the lifetime of the project. At the end of the project, lessons should be passed on.
Defined roles and responsibilities
It is important that the parties involved in the project know what is expected of them and what to expect from others. A PRINCE2 project clearly defines the roles and responsibilities within an organization and provides a structure that engages different stakeholders: business, users and suppliers. The business stakeholders are the ones that ensure the business investment provides value for money, the users are the ones using the product after the project is completed and the suppliers are the ones providing the resources and expertise required by the project. Since it involves different parties that have different priorities, objectives and interests, it is imperative that the project has a project management team structure with defined and agreed roles and responsibilities and an effective means of communication between them.
Manage by stages
A PRINCE2 project should be planned, monitored and controlled on a stage-to-stage basis. This approach provides senior managers with control at different milestones throughout the project. The project is assessed at the end of each stage and it is tested against the Business Case and plans to ensure that it remains viable and to decide whether to proceed with the project or not. In order for planning to be effective, it has to consist of a detailed short term plan and an outline for the long term. Attempting to create a detailed long term plan will result in wasted efforts. This is how PRINCE2 overcomes this planning issue, by planning, delegating, monitoring and controlling the project on a stage-by-stage basis.
Manage by exception
In terms of authority, PRINCE2 has clearly defined responsibilities and accountability for directing, managing and delivering projects. Accountability is set by delegating authority from one management level to the next and by setting tolerances against six objectives for the project: time, cost, quality, scope, risk, benefits. In the case that the agreed tolerances are exceeded, they should be reported to the next management layer for a decision on how to proceed. This principle provides an efficient use of senior management time without jeopardizing their control over the project.
Focus on products
According to this PRINCE2 principle, a successful project should be outcome oriented and not activity oriented and that is why it is important to focus on the definition and delivery of products and their quality. The scope of the project should be agreed upon before undertaking the activities required to produce it. In order to fulfil stakeholder expectations, there must be a common understanding of the products required and their quality. A PRINCE2 project uses Product descriptions to provide clarity regarding each product’s purpose, composition, derivation, format, quality criteria and quality method. In the absence of a product focus, projects face risks as acceptance disputes, rework, uncontrolled change and user dissatisfaction.
Tailor to suit the project environment
The main strength of PRINCE2 is that it is designed to be tailored to fit specific project needs such as environment, size, complexity, importance, capability and risk. This should be done in the Project Initiation Documentation where the Project Manager has to make an active decision on how the method will be applied. The purpose of tailoring is to relate the project to its environment (aligning the process to business processes, human resources, finance and procurement) as well as to set the project controls (the reporting and reviewing frequency and formality).