PRINCE2 Methodology in Project Management

PRINCE2 is one of the world’s most widely used project management methodology. It was originally developed for UK government IT projects, its use has been widened to large projects of all kinds, and it has been taken up internationally in more countries in both public and private sectors such as police forces, telecommunication companies, banks, as well as other large commercial organisations and also used in enterprise resource planning implementations.

PRINCE2 stands for Projects in Controlled Environment and it was developed at a time when the UK government was outsourcing an increasing amount of its work, and the methodology incorporates best practice on the integration of internal teams and external agencies.

PRINCE2 takes a process approach to project management, fitting each process in to a framework of essential components that need to be applied throughout the project. PRINCE2 focuses mainly on the aspects of managing projects in the life cycle for project managers in an ideal world, PRINCE2 ensure that every step within the project life cycle is completed on time and within the budget while using the right resources.

The technique of PRINCE2 methods works with most project management techniques but specifically describes the quality reviews for project documented, output driven product based planning and a change control process for agreeing potential changes and fixing faults.

Benefits of PRINCE2

The PRINCE2 methodology has many advantages and benefits to it. In recent years, large IT projects and government departments have implemented the method, where it has had a huge benefit to the project through using PRINCE2. The PRINCE2 methodology has guided projects with the right terminology. It is a constant, reliable and organised approach to adapt to a project from the beginning, middle and end stages. It brings a product base to the project which divides the project into stages making the project very easy to manage. This assist the project team to maintain a motivated and focused workforce and being capable to deliver the outcome expected on time.

Another benefit it brings to project teams is that it improves all communications between members and other stakeholders; this provides the project to be more controlled and team members to work sufficiently with one another without having any problems. It gives stakeholders the opportunity to express their opinions when decision making as they are always informed through project reports and regular meetings.

PRINCE2 comprises of established and proven best practice and governance for project management. It can also be applied to any type of project and can be easily be implemented in specialised industry models; either construction, engineering models, IT, business, financial or development lifecycles. This is because PRINCE2 plans are carefully designed to meet the needs of the different levels in the management team, improving communication and control. As it is widely recognised and comprehensive, it enables good communication channels between all project participants and has an explicit recognition of project responsibilities in order for participants to understand each other’s roles and needs; with a well defined structure by limiting delegation of authorities among participants.

PRINCE2 Process Framework

PRINCE2 takes a process based approach to project management; any project run under this methodology will need to address each of these processes in some form. There are seven processes in PRINCE 2 which provide a set of activities to direct, manage and deliver a project successfully.

PRINCE2 Methodology in Project Management

  1. Starting up a Project (SU) – This is the first process in PRINCE2. It is a pre project process, designed to ensure that the basics for initiating the project are in place. The process expects the existence of a project Mandate that defines in high level terms the reason for the project and what product is required.
  2. Directing a Project (DP) – This process is aimed at the project board, the management team representing the sponsors, the users of the final product and the suppliers of the product. The project board sets the direction and makes key decisions throughout the life of the project, this process is owned by the project the project board and provides authorization for work to be carried out and resources to be committed.
  3. Initiating a Project (IP) – Initiating a project (IP) is aimed at laying the foundations for the fulfillment of the principles just described. It follows the pre- project process Starting up a project (SU) it is triggered by authorizing initiation, leads to authorizing a project, and invokes the planning process to create the project plan and the managing stage boundaries (SB) process to create the next stage plan.
  4. Managing Stage Boundaries (SB) – During the initiation stage and at the end of each stage, this process is used to plan the next stage in detail, it reports on the achievements of the current stage and the impact on the overall project plan and business case and produces the information on which the project board will take key decisions on whether to continue with the project or not.
  5. Controlling a stage (CS) – A project may have many stages. This process describes the monitoring and control activities of the project manager involved in allocating work, ensuring that a stage stays on course and reacting to unexpected events. The process forms the core of the project manager’s effort on the project, being the process that handles day to day management of the project.
  6. Managing product Delivery (MP) – This is where the main development work for the project happens, and where the majority of resources are consumed. This process focuses on the creation of the specialist products; progress whereby a checkpoint report is provided to the project manager and the quality activities defined in each product description are implemented and the products approved.
  7. Closing a Project (CP) – This process covers the project manager’s work to wrap up the project at the end; this includes the activities for closing the project in an orderly way. Acceptance for the project is confirmed and the projects products are handed over, and any activities required to review benefits that have not yet been realized are documented in the Benefit Review plan. The end project report is prepared to include a review of the business case, the projects objectives and team performance.

All these aspects would normally be termed good management. The difference here is the level of structure and documentation that is required by the standard.

PRINCE2 Themes

PRINCE 2 has a process based approach to project management. The PRINCE2 themes describes aspects of project management that need to be continually addressed, it defines the management activities to be carried out during the project. The strength of PRINCE2 lies in the way that the seven themes are integrated: they are carefully designed to link together effectively. The themes are used throughout the processes to give more detailed guidance on the common aspects of project management.

PRINCE2 Methodology in Project Management - PRINCE2 Themes

All seven themes must be applied but can be tailored according to scale, nature and complexity of the project concerned. The seven PRINCE2 themes are as follows:

  1. Business Case – Every project should be driven by a business need. This theme addresses how an idea that could have value for the organisation is considered and developed into a viable business proposition. It also explains how project management should maintain focus on the business objectives throughout the project.
  2. Organisation – The structure of a project management team. This theme defines the roles and responsibilities and relationships of all staff involved to manage the project effectively. These roles are separate from day to day line management.
  3. Quality – This theme describes how an initial idea is developed so that all participants can understand the quality aspects of the products to be delivered. It also explores how the project managers ensure these delivered the required standards.
  4. Plans – PRINCE2 offers a series of plan levels that can be tailored the size and needs of a project and an approach to planning based on products rather than activities. Plan is the focus if communication and control as the project proceeds.
  5. Risk – Risk is a major factor to be considered during the life of a project. PRINCE2 defines the key moment when risks should be reviewed, outlines an approach to the analysis and management of project risk, and tracks these through all the processes.
  6. Change – This theme describes how project management assesses the potential impact on any of the project tolerances of Time, Cost, Quality, Scope, Risk and Benefits. These issues could be unanticipated general problems, requests for change or instances of quality failure.
  7. Progress – This theme explains the decision making process for approving plans, the monitoring of performance and the means of escalating events that do not go according to plan. This enables the project board to determine whether the project should proceed.

Issues in using PRINCE2 Methodology

PRINCE2 is a structured project management principles and procedures with an intention to its application to cover all types of projects. PRINCE2 strength is in its wide applicability and it is entirely generic but it has been criticized for not been able to provide specialist aspects, detailed techniques and leadership capability.

Specialist Aspects

In terms of specialist aspects, some project experts are required especially industry-specific or type specific to carry out specific technical part of a project, which PRINCE2 does not cover. Also such aspects of activities that are excluded in PRINCE2 methodology are engineering models, project life cycle or specific techniques like organizational change management or procurement while PRINCE2 categorizes all these aspects of project work as “specialist”. Specialist products needs to be identified and included in project scope and plans.

PRINCE2 methodology also excludes some proven techniques of project management in planning and control like the critical path analysis in planning control and earned value analysis in progress control hence, the recommendation is that some of these techniques could be use in support of the PRINCE2 components or themes.

Leadership

When dealing with leadership capability, it is impossible to codify in PRINCE2 methodology the leadership skills, motivational skills and interpersonal skills which are greatly important in managing any projects as all these are deliberately and carefully omitted. PRINCE2 did not address this aspect of project management directly as leadership styles vary considerably and the style that works in one situation may be entirely inappropriate in another.

In the planning process PRINCE2 states that activities and indecencies should be identified in which indecencies for the activities are identified but not for the products. There are so many products in an organisation which uses PRINCE2 does not explain the impact the products have on other products. In this way more work is generated which becomes too much meaning the costs on the project will increase and huge cost overruns will be the outcome. If not managed properly accordingly to the needs of the project it can become very difficult for small projects to handle.

Risk Management

Another issue is risk management, which is well known as a great threat to project failure. PRINCE2 shows that the earlier the stage is, the more important that stage is. That is, the project may become more successful if they improve risk management at the project brief stage. This shows that risk management should be carried out as early as possible. In the software development life-cycle for example, its faults and defects are generated in every early stages of development. The earlier they are discovered corrected, the less cost and risk the project has. But yet, PRINCE2 does not provide advice of estimating the project risks for the project manager. PRINCE2 does not offer much guidance on how problems are resolved and how judgments are to be made, when they are identified. When problems aren’t resolved properly they can lead to several consequences, leading to the project to have more risk. 

Documentation

PRINCE2 involves a lot of documentation which makes the series of its processes difficult to manage in terms of keeping trace of it how it going and understanding. Just documenting can become the main focus in which can lead the project in major trouble. Organisations with the matrix structure it can be an issue for small organisations in that PRINCE2 recognizes four management levels “Corporate or programme management”, “Directing a project”, managing a project” and “managing product deliverer”. So in smaller organisations to employ people with such skills equivalent to the management level is not easy.

Also PRINCE2 can become a heavy duty approach for small projects as it may produce too much work load, especially on documentary, if the method is not tailored to the need of the project properly.

Technology

PRINCE2 requires to work with technologies for it cannot work on it’s on to meet the specific organisational needs and projects. The problem in this is training of staff on such a technology that works with PRINCE2 can be quiet costly and having such a technology itself.

It is also commonly accepted that one of the most common causes of projects failing to deliver benefits is a neglect of the planning process. There are many reasons for this, one of the most common being is that there is “no time to plan” as there is often a temptation to rush into things so the PRINCE2 business case gets forgotten, instead of having an adequate PRINCE2 business case the start up phase is rushed or completely ignored and the organisation goes straight into the project initiation stage especially if there is a deadline to be met. The other side of this is where senior management does not recognize the importance of planning and will not make the necessary time available.

Planning

Another issue is that projects are often badly planned so they go off track, overspend and are unable to deliver the intended outcomes. Organizing a project using the PRINCE2 project management methodology requires a strong project board but often project boards are not strong and do not function well. They may ignore issues or avoid taking the key decisions they are there to make and so the project goes off track. Also the right skills are not identified to ensure the project goes smoothly or there is no management commitment so the project just lacks sufficient resources.

PMBoK Vs PRINCE2

In PRINCE2 Projects in Controlled Environments is a major worldwide project management framework, or methodology. It takes a different approach than the PMI’s PMBoK but the goal of both is to improve project performance. While PMBoK is generally well-accepted worldwide, it is by far the leading approach in North America. PRINCE2 on the other hand is strongest in the United Kingdom, with a strong presence in Europe, Australia, and other typically English-speaking countries outside North America. But both are expanding there reach on a constant basis as the world gradually “projectizes.”

PRINCE2 is used extensively by the UK government and private sectors has lead to the methodology often been evaluated with other world best project management method or standards, a good example is that of project management body of knowledge as an internationally recognized. It provides the fundamentals of project management, irrespective of the type of project like: construction, software, engineering or automotive.

PRINCE2 as being described as a structured method for effective project management for all types of project while PMBoK on the hand is known as Project Management Body of Knowledge is a collection of processes and knowledge areas generally accepted as best practice within the project management discipline.

There are several differences between PMBok and PRINCE2 methodologies. PRINCE2 speaks of “stages” rather than “phase” and states that while use of stages is mandatory, their number is flexible according to management requirement of the project. PRINCE2 also differentials between technical stages and management stages where technical stages are identified as a specialist skill while management stages equate to commitment of resources and authority to spend. Contrarily the Guide (PMBoK) defines a project phase as ‘a collection of logically related project activities usually culminating in the completion of a major deliverable’. It does not distinguish between phase and stages and in the text uses either indiscriminately”.

The Guide to Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBoK) is a standard manual for any project by Project Management Institute which should be project manager ethics while PRINCE2 is an implementation methodology.

There is differing definition of responsibility of the project manager. The PMBoK defines project manager simply as an individual responsible for managing a project, while PRINCE2 defines project manager as the person given the authority and responsibility to manage the day-to-day basis to deliver the required products within the constraint agreed with the project board. These constraints are referred to as “tolerances” and prescribe the ranges of acceptability of each of scope, quality, time and cost within which the project manager must manage.

Under PRINCE2 methods management is done by the project board and directed by an executive who is mainly responsible for the project; while PMBoK does not recognize either “executive” or “project director” but uses the term “sponsor”. The sponsor is one of the project’s stakeholders and is defined as the individual or group either within or external that provides financial resources, in cash or in kind for the project; this shows under PMBoK that it is the project manager who is firmly in charge.

PRINCE2 and PMBoK takes a very different approach to presentation of their materials which serve different purposes and therefore not directly comparable. The PMBoK takes the best approach for purposes of teaching the subject content of each knowledge area, but it is not effective when it comes to providing guidance for running a particular project.

Some other advantages of PRINCE2 is that there is no equivalent PMBoK pre-project process to PRINCE2’s ‘Starting up a Project’ (SU), so there is no discussion of what or who should be in place at the beginning of a project.

PRINCE2 offers a complete change control approach, whereas PMBoK just talks of the need for it. The PMBoK only talks about a Project Plan, whereas PRINCE2 offers Stage and Team Plans and discusses the advantages of breaking the project Plan down. PRINCE2 offers standard roles for its project management team, were PMBoK only covers the creation of a WBS, and does not compare to the PRINCE2 product-based Planning technique in terms of the latter’s Product Descriptions and Product Flow Diagram. Nor is there any real detail in the PMBoK Planning process to take a plan through to a network plan and a Gantt or bar chart.

Despite PRINCE2 has many excellent ideas for project management, some critics finds the approach to quality management process as inappropriate and not very realistic. At the beginning of a PRINCE2 project you agree with a client about a set of measurable attributes regarding the products you want to use for building. These are called “acceptance criteria” that is when you deliver the products later, the client will only sign it off if they conform to the criteria settled earlier; this assumes that client knows what they want. In reality they often do not know as project work is a creative process, while sometimes it takes trial and error as well as a certain amount of vision to create something the end users will eventually be satisfied with.

The methodology requires a communication plan in the project initiation document that is, the main plan for the project. Communication plan states how each particular communication will be made. This maybe formal with a letter or memo, by meetings or e-mails or by putting information on a project website and also by phone call. All these creates countless of papers and documents.

In terms of PRINCE2 is only for big projects is not true because its methodology can be use for small, medium and big projects and this has already been confirmed by many project managers who have applied PRINCE2 in their projects. In fact, part of the skill in using this methodology is to know how to apply it appropriately to each individual project.

In terms of managing a project and having to use PRINCE2, you manage a project using PRINCE2 so there is no cost or little in using the method to manage a project. It is a superb best practise method and if use properly it will be a real help with the job of planning and controlling a project.

PRINCE2 is definitely flexible and unique to use. There is nothing about this method that you cannot adjust. Therefore you can fine tune it to the exact needs of the project. The success of PRINCE2 rest on applicability and tailoring towards the project with greater flexibility.

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