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PRINCE2 – a tried-and-tested approach to project management

Woman illustrating aspects of a project on a whiteboard.
Themes in this post: PRINCE2, Project Management

What is PRINC2, you might be asking yourself?

PRINCE2 is a tried-and-tested «best practice» method for effective project management that is based on the best methods from several industries and experiences gathered from a number of project sponsors, project managers, project teams, training providers and consultants.

We think a systematic approach to project management, like PRINCE2, will increase the likelihood of success. The method can be difficult to grasp, so we want to take a closer look at it here.

How can it be clever to use a standardized method for project management?

To understand that you must be clear about what a project actually is, and how a project differs from day-to-day operations in a company.

A project is temporary by nature and often has the aim of introducing a change of some kind. A project is interdisciplinary, which involves people with differing expertise having as their aim the introduction of a change that will probably affect others beyond the team. Although several projects may have several similarities, each project will be unique, and that means that projects have a certain degree of uncertainty associated with them, as opposed to ordinary day-to-day operations, for example.

Project management means planning, delegating, monitoring and checking activities in the project, and making sure that the project stays within the performance targets for cost, time, quality, scope, uncertainty and profit.

A framework such as PRINCE2 can contribute to achieiving control on all that.

Since a project by its nature has a higher degree of uncertainty, it might be wise to use a tried-and-tested method, simply to avoid making the same mistakes as others have done before you. PRINCE2 can be adapted for use in all kinds of projects: from small web projects to big construction projects. The principles are basically the same, regardless of the size or type of project.

In addition to this, the method’s product focus helps to make it absolutely clear what the project is to deliver, why, when, by whom, and which recipient is to receive the end product.

The framework ensures that you always keep your focus on the project’s viability, and helps to continuously validate whether the profits in the Business Case are still achievable.

Quite understandably, for many PRINCE2 may seem to be too big and complicated a project framework that is difficult to understand. Symfoni Next can provide advice and guidance on how to start using PRINCE2 and implementing it in projects. Customers must be confident that their projects are based on a project management method that is effective, usable and standardized, without the actual customer needing to be an expert in PRINCE2 or having practical experience in its use.

Main elements of PRINCE2

PRINCE2 provides us with a set of tools/elements that will help us implement the project successfully.

These are principles, themes, processes and being able to adapt PRINCE2 to the project’s surroundings.

Principles

PRINCE2 has 7 principles that form the basis of the method. All are equally important and it is these that define whether or not you are using PRINCE2.

  1. The project must have continuous commercial support, be updated regularly and documented in a Business Case
  2. The project must include deviation management where tolerances are set up for performance targets for cost, time, quality, scope, uncertainty and profit.
  3. The project is planned and managed on a phase-by-phase basis, so that at every phase transition you can evaluate whether the project is viable in future.
  4. Defined roles are set up with associated responsibility such as project manager, project owner, change officer, team leader, project support, senior supplier and senior user.
  5. You have to learn from experience – both the experiences of others, and experiences the company (the customer and the supplier) itself possesses.
  6. The project must be adapted to the project’s surroundings, such as the size of the project, and the associated uncertainty, complexity, etc.
  7. The project must have a continuous product focus, especially considering the product’s quality requirements.

Themes

PRINCE2 has 7 themes that describe aspects of the project that must be managed continuously.

  1. Business Case – why do we do that?
  2. Organisation – here you describe the roles and responsibilities for the individual members of the project management. I.e. who do we need to lead the project in a good way?
  3. Uncertainty – how does the project handle uncertainties?
  4. Quality – what is to be delivered at what level of quality. This must be made clear to the project members. How is the management to ensure that these requirements are delivered?
  5. Change – what is the effect of changes? How to manage change requests, deviations from the specification and problems and/or challenges?
  6. Progress – where are we now, where are we going, and shall we continue? Here it’s about management and monitoring of actual performance and the handling of unforeseeen events.
  7. Planning – how to make good plans, and what plans are to be made when?

Processes

PRINCE2 has 7 processes. Each process is composed of a given order of activities that will together help to achieve a particular goal. Some of these processes run through the entire lifetime of the project and can run in parallel, while others are only used in parts of the project and can run in series, e.g. at the start or end of a project.

  1. Start of a project (the very first thing you do in the project)
  2. Owner management of the project (throughout the entire lifetime of the project)
  3. Initiating a project (at the start of the project)
  4. Managing a phase transition (each time you move from one phase to the next)
  5. Controlling a phase (applies to the entire lifetime of the phase)
  6. Managing product deliveries (applies to the entire lifetime of the phase)
  7. Concluding the project (at the end of the project)

These processes help the project manager to lead and manage the project well and in a structured way.

Each process delivers a given set of so-called management products. These are different types of documentation, such as plans and descriptions where something is version-managed and maintained throughout the entire lifetime of the project, while others only apply in certain phases and/or situations.

It could, for example, be documentation that goes between team leader and project manager, or between project manager and the project board. Examples of such documentation could be experience reports, daily log, quality register, project plan, team plans, phase plans, exception reports, Business Case, product descriptions, and so on.

Adaptation of PRINCE2

It is important to understand that an adaptation of PRINCE2 does not involve leaving out parts of the method. All elements of the method affect one another, and to leave out one or more elements is regarded as improper use of PRINCE2, and the project itself would then no longer be a PRINCE2 project.

On the contrary, adaptation of PRINCE2 is more about changing the method in accordance with factors such as business standards or guidelines that must form the basis, factors such as the size or complexity of the project, or the type of project.

Practical application of PRINCE2 in Symfoni Next’s projects

If the customer wishes, Symfoni Next can provide PRINCE2-certified project management, in both small and medium-sized projects.

The aspects of PRINCE2 mean that project management will automatically become a bigger, integrated part of the project, but offers added value to the customer through continuous focus being held on cost, time, quality, scope, uncertainty and profit, with associated testable project management products.

If the customers do not wish to use the framework PRINCE2 for project management, we at Symfoni Next will, regardless, attempt to follow the fundamental principles within the framework we have at our disposal. This ensures integrity and quality in all our deliveries.

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