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PRINCE2 (an acronym for Projects in Controlled Environments, version 2) is a project management methodology. It was developed by the UK government agency Office of Government Commerce (OGC) and is used extensively within the UK government as the de facto project management standard for its public projects. The methodology encompasses the management, control and organisation of a project. 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 PROMPTII 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 a Controlled Environment. However, it soon became regularly applied outside the purely IT environment. 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.
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 OGC 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 will be based on the new 'Managing Projects' manual and will not include material from the new 'Directing Successful Projects' book.
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 (describing, in outline, what the project is attempting to achieve and the business justification for doing so) is prepared. In addition the overall approach to be taken is decided and the next stage of the project is planned. Once this work is done, the project board is asked to authorize the next stage, that of initiating the project.
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; 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 on 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 Document.
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.
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.
The PRINCE2 method works with most project management techniques but specifically describes the following:
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 accreditation body, the APM Group, introduced a higher level qualification known as the PRINCE2 Professional qualification which is 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 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 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  although as pointed out by the PRINCE2 official website, these two methodologies can complement each other.
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, the OGC claim that the methodology is scalable and can be tailored to suit the specific requirements and constraints of the project and the environment.