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PRINCE2 (an acronym for PRojects IN Controlled Environments, version 2) is a project management methodology. The methodology encompasses the high level management, control and organisation of a project, but not lower level activities such as scheduling. PRINCE2 is also used to refer to the training and accreditation of authorised practitioners of the methodology who must undertake accredited qualifications to obtain certification.
PRINCE2 derives from an earlier method called PROMPT and from the PRINCE project-management method, which was initially developed in 1989 by the Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA) as a UK Government standard for information systems (IT) project management. PRINCE is an acronym for "PRojects IN Controlled Environments". However, it soon became regularly applied outside the purely IT environment, both in UK government and in the private sector around the world. PRINCE2 was released in 1996 as a generic project management method. PRINCE2 has become increasingly popular and is now a de facto standard for project management in many UK government departments and across the United Nations system.
In July 2013, ownership of the rights to PRINCE2 was transferred from HM Cabinet Office to AXELOS Ltd, a joint venture between the Cabinet Office and Capita plc.
Since 2006, the method has been revised. It launched as "PRINCE2:2009 Refresh" in 2009. The name "PRINCE2" (instead of "PRINCE3" or similar) remains to indicate that the method remains faithful to its principles. Nevertheless, it is a fundamental revision of the method from 1996 to adapt it to the changed business environment, to make the method simpler and lighter, to address current weaknesses or misunderstandings, and to better integrate it with other AXELOS Global Best Practice methods (ITIL, P3O, P3M3, MSP, M_o_R etc.).
The main difference between the 2009 version and earlier versions is that there are two manuals:
Both the Foundation and Practitioner Examinations are based on the new 'Managing Projects' manual and do not include material from the new 'Directing Successful Projects' book.
PRINCE2 is a process-driven project management method.
PRINCE2 is based on seven principles (continued business justification, learn from experience, defined roles and responsibilities, manage by stages, manage by exception, focus on products and tailored to suit the project environment), seven themes (business case, organization, quality, plans, risk, change and progress) and seven processes. The principles and themes come into play in the seven processes:
In this process the project team is appointed and a project brief is produced.
In addition the overall approach to be taken is decided and the next stage (initiation) of the project is planned. Once this work is done, the project board is asked to authorize that stage.
Key activities include: Forming project board; appointing an executive and a project manager; designing and appointing a project management team; preparing a project brief; defining the project approach; consulting the Lessons Logs of previous projects; and planning the next stage (initiation).
This process builds on the work of the start up process, and the project brief is augmented to form a business case. The approach taken to ensure quality throughout the project is agreed together with the overall approach to controlling the project itself (project controls). Project files are also created as is an overall plan for the project. A plan for the next stage of the project is also created. The resultant information can be put before the project board for them to authorize the project itself.
Key activities include: planning quality; planning a project; refining the business case and risks; setting up project controls; setting up project files; and assembling a Project Initiation Documentation.
This process dictates how the Project Board (which comprises such roles as the executive sponsor or project sponsor) should control the overall project. As mentioned above, the project board can authorise an initiation stage and can also authorize a project. Directing a Project also dictates how the project board should authorize a stage plan, including any stage plan that replaces an existing stage plan due to slippage or other unforeseen circumstances. Also covered is the way in which the board can give ad hoc direction to a project and the way in which a project should be closed down.
Key activities include: authorising initiation; authorising a project; authorising a stage or exception plan; giving ad hoc direction; and confirming project closure.
PRINCE2 suggests that projects should be broken down into stages and these sub-processes dictate how each individual stage should be controlled. Most fundamentally this includes the way in which work packages are authorised and received. It also specifies the way in which progress should be monitored and how the highlights of the progress should be reported to the project board. A means for capturing and assessing project issues is suggested together with the way in which corrective action should be taken. It also lays down the method by which certain project issues should be escalated to the project board.
Key activities include: authorising work package; assessing progress; capturing and examining project issues; reviewing stage status; reporting highlights; taking corrective action; escalating project issues; and receiving a completed work package.
The Controlling a Stage process dictates what should be done within a stage, Managing Stage Boundaries (SB) dictates what should be done towards the end of a stage. Most obviously, the next stage should be planned and the overall project plan, risk register and business case amended as necessary. The process also covers what should be done for a stage that has gone outside its tolerance levels. Finally, the process dictates how the end of the stage should be reported.
Key activities include: planning a stage; updating a project plan; updating a project business case; updating the risk register; reporting stage end; and producing an exception plan.
Best practice includes the project board including users reviewing progress and approving changes to the workplan at the boundary. This review does not include team managers or team workers because it wastes their time; and the project manager should be competent enough to present their work directly to the board.
The Managing product delivery process has the purpose of controlling the link between the Project Manager and the Team Manager(s) by placing formal requirements on accepting, executing and delivering project work. The Objectives of the Managing Product Delivery process are:
The key activities are: Accept a work package, execute a work package and deliver a work package.
This covers the things that should be done at the end of a project. The project should be formally de-commissioned (and resources freed up for allocation to other activities), follow on actions should be identified and the project itself be formally evaluated.
Key activities include: decommissioning a project; identifying follow-on actions; and project evaluation review.
PRINCE2 maintains several management products throughout the projects, which may be formal paper documents, word processor files, data in specialised PRINCE2 software, informal notes by managers, or even communicated orally. "Registers" are intended to be more formal than "logs". The following are examples of the PRINCE2 management procuts.
A short explanation of the need for the project, the management team, the structure and goals.
A detailed description of the need for the project and its expected benefits (to all stakeholders in the project, including its owner, users and suppliers and sometimes the general public (e.g. in public-funded projects, especially concerning pure research or the environment.)
The Risk register is a table which contains the risks that may threaten the goal of the project. Risks are categorized, named and assigned a risk number. Then, each risk gets a probability score and an impact score. The multiplication of these two results in the Risk Score. The risks are sorted on descending Risk Score in order to show the priority of a risk. Each risk is also assigned a precaution and a response-action in case the risk still occurs. See Risk register
This register will be updated to show the current status of all quality checking activities. It ensures that the delivered products are complete, have met their quality criteria and the agreed processes have been observed. See Quality register
A set of notes about problems, complaints and concerns sent by all project members.
A set of notes of lessons learned (often the hard way) which may be useful to future projects.
A diary about the project written by the project manager, like a ship's log.
Much of the methods above are derived from seven core principles:
The Business Case is the most important document, and is updated at every Stage of the project to ensure that the project is still useful. Early termination can occur if this ceases to be the case. At lower levels, use of time and resources should be justified, such as the need to have expensive meetings. (e.g. it is good practice to begin each meeting with a sentence about what its goal is—and if such a statement is hard to find then the meeting may not be necessary.)
Regular meetings, especially the dreaded "weekly team meetings" are considered inefficient and unnecessary. Instead, work packages are assigned by Task Managers to Team Members including deliverables with time and quality tolerances. If work progresses smoothly then the workers have no need to interfere with the Task Manager's time. Only if something deviated from the plan is communication and management required from them. Some Task Managers may request short status updates such as weekly emails or informal chats, to monitor for any exceptions, but no formal management is required unless an exception occurs.
Each project maintains a Lessons Log and projects should continually refer to their own and to previous and concurrent projects' Lessons Logs to avoid reinventing wheels.
Roles are separated from individuals, who may take on multiple roles. By naming and defining roles in the PRINCE2 standard it becomes clear exactly who has what responsibility and decision making powers, avoiding arguments.
The project is planned and controlled on a stage by stage basis. This includes updating the Business Case, overall plan, and detailed next-stage plan after each stage in the light of new evidence.
Each work package is defined by one or more deliverable products, preferably with tolerances to time and quality quantified in advance. Even management activities such as stage planning are defined by their final output, such as a physical report containing the new stage plan. This allows all parties to cleanly specify what is required, and to allocate responsibility for delivering and controlling it.
PRINCE2 should not be applied blindly in a dogmatic, bureaucratic form. (This would lead to wasted time on paperwork and create false senses of security). Rather it is defined to be a method in need to tailoring to specific projects. Typical adjustments include the replacement of deliverable reports and project documents by informal (verbal or email) equivalents, alterations to the structures of the project board and management team to reflect the goals of the project (e.g. replace majority board voting by sole Executive decisions in cases where the project's goal is to serve only the Executive's interest rather than users or suppliers); assignment of multiple roles to individuals on smaller projects; and increased emphasis on stage replanning for research-intensive projects which may need to change directions as new findings are delivered. A typical criticism of PRINCE2 is that the deliverable structure can lead to focus on producing deliverables for their own sake, to "tick the boxes" rather than do more useful work. If this is occurring, it demonstrates a failure of management to apply PRINCE2 and tailoring correctly.
PRINCE2 describes only high-level aspects of project management and leaves the choice of management tools and frameworks within its tasks to the Task Managers. It specifically mentions the following:
and in passing mentions as possible tools,
The quality review technique ensures a project's products are of the required standard (i.e. meet defined quality criteria). This takes place in a quality review meeting, which identifies errors in the product. The quality review meeting will not attempt to solve the problems it identifies. The meeting brings together people who have an interest in the project's outputs (or products) and people on the project team able to address issues identified.
There are defined roles including a Producer and Scribe.
More about Quality Assurance.
PRINCE2 certification requires passing the requisite examinations or assessment.
The lower level Foundation exam is a one-hour, multiple choice exam which tests candidate's knowledge of the method. The exam consists of 75 questions, 5 of which are trial questions which do not carry a mark. Of the remaining 70 questions which do carry a mark, the candidate needs to score 50% or more (i.e. 35 or more) to pass. .
The higher level Practitioner exam lasts for 2.5 hours, and is a more complex multiple choice exam which tests candidate's ability to apply the method to a simple project scenario. The paper consists of 8 topics, with 10 questions per topic making a total of 80 marks. The pass mark is 55%, which is 44 marks or more. Passing the Foundation exam is a pre-requisite for sitting the Practitioner exam.
Candidates who have passed the PRINCE2 Practitioner exam may call themselves a Registered PRINCE2 Practitioner for 5 years after which they must pass a Re-registration examination every 5 years to maintain their Registered Practitioner status. The Re-registration exam is a one hour exam with 3 topics each containing 10 questions. The pass mark is 55%, which means candidates must score 17 marks or more to pass.
In 2012 the APM Group, accreditation body at the time, introduced a higher level qualification known as the PRINCE2 Professional qualification which is awarded following successful completion of a 2.5 day residential assessment involving group exercises and activities. The assessment criteria involve more general capabilities such as team working, which is not a specific PRINCE2 capability. Passing the Practitioner exam is a pre-requisite for sitting the Professional assessment.
Examinations can be sat by candidates who attend an accredited training course, or by those who purchase an accredited elearning course. Candidates who self-study may also purchase an exam via the APM Group's web site and can then sit the exam at a public exam centre, or at a British Council office. The PRINCE2 Foundation exam may also be sat at home, with a live proctor observing the candidate virtually via webcam.
The APM Group publishes a successful candidate register which can be searched on the web. The register records the details of candidates who have sat PRINCE2 examinations.
Trainers must be re-accredited every 3 years and undergo a surveillance check (either in the form of a visit by an assessor to a training course or a telephone interview which assesses their professional knowledge and training capability) every 12 months.
Qualified PRINCE2 Practitioners who go on to study for the APMP qualification of the Association for Project Management are exempt from certain topics of the syllabus that are covered in the PRINCE2 Practitioner qualification.
Project management is a complex discipline and it would be wrong to assume that blind application of PRINCE2 will result in a successful project. By the same token, it would be wrong to assume that every aspect of PRINCE2 will be applicable to every project. For this reason every process has a note on scalability. This provides guidance to the project manager (and others involved in the project) as to how much of the process to apply. The positive aspect of this is that PRINCE2 can be tailored to the needs of a particular project. The negative aspect is that many of the essential elements of PRINCE2 can be omitted sometimes resulting in a PINO project – Prince in Name Only. In order to counter this, APM Group have defined the concept of a PRINCE2 Maturity Model.
PRINCE2, as a method and a certification, is adopted in many countries worldwide, including the UK, Western Europe and Australia.
The PMI and its certification, the PMP, is popular in the UK, USA and the rest of the world. Since the PMI's PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge) is a collection of recognized good practices  and PRINCE2 is a methodology, these two certifications are suggested to complement each other, as pointed out by the PRINCE2 official website.
PRINCE2 is a structured approach to project management. It provides a method for managing projects within a clearly defined framework. PRINCE2 describes procedures to coordinate people and activities in a project, how to design and supervise the project, and what to do if the project has to be adjusted if it doesn’t develop as planned. In the method each process is specified with its key inputs and outputs and with specific goals and activities to be carried out, which gives an automatic control of any deviations from the plan.
Divided into manageable stages, the method enables an efficient control of resources. On the basis of close monitoring the project can be carried out in a controlled and organised way. Being a structured method widely recognised and understood, PRINCE2 provides a common language for all participants in the project. The various management roles and responsibilities involved in a project are fully described and are adaptable to suit the complexity of the project and skills of the organisation.
PRINCE2 is sometimes considered inappropriate for small projects or where requirements are expected to change, due to the work required in creating and maintaining documents, logs and lists. However, owner AXELOS claims that the methodology is scalable and can be tailored to suit the specific requirements and constraints of the project and the environment.