PRINCE2 (PRojects IN Controlled Environments) is a process-based method for effective project management. PRINCE2 is a registered trademark of the Cabinet Office, used widely in the private and public sectors, with two qualification levels: PRINCE2 Foundation and PRINCE2 Practitioner.
The PRINCE2 Foundation level course is for those with a requirement to learn the terminology and basics of PRINCE2 for general involvement with PRINCE2 projects. PRINCE2 Practitioner training leads you to the highest level qualification and is designed for those with the need to manage projects within a PRINCE2 environment.
PRINCE2 offers a structured methodology and clearly defined project team management roles:
PRINCE2 – A Structured Project Management Methodology
Before we delve into the specifics of PRINCE2, some general points about the subject of project management are worth noting to help put everything into context…
Structured project management means managing the project in an organised and logical manner, following defined steps. A specific project management method like PRINCE2 is the written description of this organised and logical approach.
Whenever we decide we want to go somewhere, do something, build something, achieve something, we need to answer some questions:
- What are we trying to do?
- What do we need?
- Can we do it alone, or do we need help?
- How long will it take?
- How much will it cost?
- When will we start?
These are the basic questions asked at the beginning of any project and the answers are the building blocks of project management – defining what we want to do and calculating the best way to achieve it.
Projects that aren’t managed in a structured and organised way often go disastrously wrong! You will probably have heard of some examples in the national press, e.g. Channel Tunnel and London Ambulance both experienced very public problems of huge overspends and systems not working properly. Structured project management methods have been developed to try and prevent such disasters!
In order to describe what a project should do when, PRINCE2 has a series of processes which cover all the activities needed on a project from start to finish.
The PRINCE2 Methodology says that a project should have:
- A controlled and organised start, i.e. plan and organise things properly before jumping in at the deep end
- A controlled and organised middle, i.e. ensure the project continues to be controlled and organised once it has begun
- A controlled and organised end, i.e. that loose ends are tied up when you’ve achieved what you want and the project has finished
PRINCE2 Project Management Roles
The person responsible for controlling and organising a project is called the Project Manager.
The Project Manager will select people to carry out the work on the project and will be responsible for making sure the work is completed correctly and within the time expected.
The Project Manager prepares the Project Plan which describes the work the Project Team will be carrying out and the time frames to finish.
Each PRINCE2 project will have a Project Board made up of the executive (or customer), someone who represents the the supplier or specialist input, and someone who represents the final user.
In PRINCE2, these people are called Customer, Senior Supplier and Senior User respectively.
The Project Manager reports in to the Project Board, informing them of the progress made and of any issues he/she can predict.
The Project Board is responsible for providing the Project Manager with the necessary decisions for the project to proceed and in order to overcome any issues that may take place along the journey.
Customer, User and Supplier
The person who is financing the project is called the customer or executive.
The person who is going to utilise the results or outcome of the project, or who will be impacted by the results of a project, is called the user.
On some projects, the customer and user may be the same. The person who provides the expertise to complete the actual work on the project (i.e. will be responsible for the design and outcome) is called the supplier or specialist.
All of the people listed above need to be co-ordinated and organised so that the project delivers the expected outcome within budget, to the appropriate quality and by the deadline.
PRINCE2 Project Management Techniques
Project Assurance provides an independent perspective of how the project is coming along.
In PRINCE2, there are three views of assurance; user, business and specialist. Each view will reflect the interests of the three Project Board members. Assurance is checking that the project is still viable in terms of costs and benefits (business assurance), checking that the users’ requirements are being adhered to (user assurance), and that the project will deliver a suitable solution (specialist or technical assurance).
On certain projects, the assurance is carried out by a separate team of people called the Project Assurance Team, but the assurance job can be done by the individual members of the Project Board themselves.
On many projects there is a need for administrative work, arranging meetings, keeping everyone informed, keeping plans updated, chasing things up, storing files and so on. Project Managers often do all this work on their own, particularly on smaller projects. But if there are a number of projects going on simultaneously, a Project Support Office can be set up to lighten the load on the Project Manager.
Apart from describing the different people involved on a PRINCE2 project, and what their responsibilities are, the methodology also explains how to manage quality, how to manage risk, and how to control change on the project.
Quality Management is about monitoring the quality of work done on the project, either by testing it or reviewing the work in some way. Risk Management is about calculating what could go wrong and planning what to do if it does. There are always many changes during the lifespan of a project: people change their minds about specifications and other things occur which affect what the project is doing. PRINCE2 has a technique of controlling the way changes impact the project so preventing the project drifting off in the wrong direction.
In summary, PRINCE2 is a method for managing projects. It helps you plan who should be involved and what roles they will be responsible for. It gives you a set of processes to work through and explains what information you should be gathering along the way.
It’s important to remember that PRINCE2 doesn’t do the work for you, it cannot guarantee that your projects will be a success. Good projects, which deliver quality results within budget and to the deadline are dependent on the quality of people involved – from the Project Board down to individual team members
Having read this brief introduction to project management and PRINCE2, the next step is attend a training course and find out more!
(Team image from Victor1558 on Flickr)
Similar posts you may like:
- A PRINCE2 Management Team Structure
- The Philosophy of Project Management
- Evaluating a PRINCE2 Project
- How to Close a Project in PRINCE2
- PRINCE2 Project Initiation Document Template