Managing successful projects in diverse areas such as construction, IT, banking, research and product development or in the field of health and service industry requires adoption of best practices that are pan-geographical. Post-COVID, the world is slowly recovering emotionally and economically, and what is needed are robust recovery measures such as project management best practices that will hasten up this recovery and help make things normal again.
It is becoming imperative that a project, once initiated, becomes a success. That is where the methodology of PRINCE2® (P2) comes into play. Projects in a Controlled Environment viz PRINCE2 is one of the most widely accepted methodologies for managing projects world over. Thousands of project sponsors, project managers and project teams, trainers and consultants have contributed to format the P2 methodology.
To be an independent project or a programme manager, one has to be a certified P2 practitioner. There are two parts to the P2 Certification. The first is the Foundational Level, and once you gain this, you can go for the Practitioner Level examination. Gaining the PRINCE2 Foundation, or any one of a number of certifications such as the PMQ, PPQ, PMP, CAPM or IPMA Level A,B,C or D is mandatory in order to be able to appear for the P2 Practitioner exam.
The popularity of P2 is attributable to the fact that it can be applied to any type of project, it can be tailored to meet the specific needs of the project and above all, it is based on established and proven best practices and governance for project management. A certification in P2 is thus valuable to enhance one’s market value as a project manager.
Structure of PRINCE2®
The four integrated elements of P2 are Principles, Themes, Processes and the Project environment.
P2 Principles. These are the guiding obligations and good practices which help determine whether a project is strictly being managed using P2. All the seven Principles discussed in succeeding paragraphs have to be followed if a project has to qualify as a P2 project.
P2 Themes. There are seven themes namely, Business Case, Organization, Quality, Plans, Risk, Change and Progress which are the aspects of project management that need to be addressed continually and in parallel throughout the project. Themes are the knowledge areas that one must master to be a successful P2 practitioner.
- BC theme tells us why we are doing a project.
- Organization theme tells us who will do what. The roles of Project Board (Executive, Senior User and Supplier), the Project Manager, Team Manager, Project Assurance and Quality Assurance are listed in detail.
- The Quality theme covers the quality specifications and mechanism to ensure that the product produced is ‘fit for purpose’.
- The Plans theme tells us when and at what cost the activities are sequenced.
- The Risk theme helps us identify, track and manage all risks. It answers the question ‘What if’.
- The Change theme tells us how to handle issues and measure the impact.
- The Progress theme helps us to monitor the project through reports and tolerances. It answers the question ‘where we were’ and ‘where we are now’ at any stage of the project.
P2 Processes. There are seven processes that describe a progression of a project so that a project manager can proceed logically from Starting a Project to Closing a project. The processes have a check list of activities, documents and state of products at every step. The seven processes are Starting up a Project, Directing a Project, Initiating a Project, Managing a Stage Boundary, Controlling a Stage, Managing Product Delivery and Closing a Project.
P2 is thus a 7X7X7 matrix that ensures that projects are managed successfully.The Project Environment. Organizations may not want to apply the themes and processes in a rigid manner to all projects. They can thus tailor their projects depending upon the size and complexity of the project. This way, they can create their own project environment.
The Seven Principles
Let us now have a look at the Principles of P2. All these Principles should be practiced throughout the life of a project. Remember, none of them can be omitted or tailored.
- Continued Business Justification: Every P2 project requires that there is justifiable reason for starting a project. This justification is recorded and approved. The validation of this justification is checked at the end of each stage throughout the life of the project. The moment it is realized that the project does not have a justifiable reason or business case, then either the direction of the project is changed, or the project is prematurely closed. Closing a project does in no way imply that the project has failed but it may be a wise decision under the circumstances.
- Learn From Experience: When we start a project, it is essential that we learn from the experiences of past projects. What went well, what did not go so well, are the questions a project manager has to ask. He/she may also learn from the records of organizations who have undertaken similar projects. This happens when starting a project. As the project progresses the project manager continues to learn by recording events in relevant reports and reviews. Similarly, when the project closes then we pass on lessons to future project managers by including them in the lessons report.
- Defined Roles and Responsibilities: Every project has a temporary team structure. The role of each and every member of the team is well defined. This ensures that lines of communication between each of the members of the project team as well as with business sponsors, users and suppliers are open and clearly aligned with the objectives of the project. The defined roles and responsibilities provide answers to the question “What is expected of me?”
- Manage by Stages: This is one of the most interesting features of P2 principles. It states that the project work can be partitioned in workable chunks. These are referred to as stages. Management by stages ensures that the project has been properly initiated. The end of each stage provides us the opportunity to review the Business Case or Business Justification and seek approval of the Project Board to proceed with the next stage. The Board authorizes one stage at a time. This is done as the project progresses towards closure. The number of stages a project must have depends upon the complexity and size of the project. However, every P2 project has minimum 2 stages viz Initiating a project and Closing a project, in case it is learnt that the project is not aligned with the benefits it was supposed to achieve.
- Manage By Exception: The three levels of managing a P2 project are Directing a Project (Project Board), Managing a Project (Project Manager) and Delivering a Project (Team Manager). The six aspects of a project which a project Manager has to control are Cost, Time, Quality, Scope, Benefits and Risk. Each of these aspects has tolerances allotted at each level of the plan viz Project Plan, Stage Plan and Team Plan. When a Project Manager or a Team Manager realizes that a certain element of CTQSBR is going to exceed its tolerance limit he can raise an exception report at the appropriate level (Team Manager to Project Manager, Project Manager to Project Board and Project Board to Corporate). However, if a level of management feels that they can bring the project back on track without exceeding the tolerance allotted to a particular aspect, then they make a mention of it in stage report. This is Manage by Exception and provides efficient use of senior management time. Remember that every exception has to be approved by the Project Board or corporate, if the Project Board feels it needs more money or time to complete the project.
- Focus on Products: A P2 project focuses on producing a product. A product means the output of a project which has been undertaken to bring about a change in the organization. This output can be measurable or non-measurable. In other words, tangible or intangible. The Output in P2 means a specialist product (what the project is meant to produce) or management product (records, registers etc.) There are 26 Management Products.
- Benefits Management Approach
- Business Case
- Change Control Approach
- Communication Management Approach
- Product Description
- Project Brief
- Project Initiation Documentation
- Project Product Description
- Quality Management Approach
- Risk Management Approach
- Work Package
- Daily Log
- Issue Register
- Lessons Log
- Quality Register
- Risk Register
- Checkpoint Report
- End Project Report
- End Stage Report
- Highlight Report
- Exception Report
- Issue Report
- Lessons Report
Both the Specialist and Management products are subject to quality testing and should be ‘fit for purpose’. The quality criteria, quality methods, composition, and derivation if any, are studied and documented in the Product Description. A PD helps determine Efforts, Estimates, Resource requirements, Dependencies and Activity schedules which aid in planning and defining a product’s purpose. In other words, the Scope remains within its boundaries.
- Tailor to Suit the Project: A P2 project can be tailored according to its size and Complexity, Importance, Team Capability, Risks and Environment in which it is operating. Tailoring helps you use resources appropriately. Effort and approach in carrying out a project can be made appropriate. Tailoring ensures that one neither follows a method of project management mechanically nor chaotically where there is no method at all. The project approach that is methodical is most likely to succeed.
PRINCE2 is one of the most flexible project management methodologies evolved over the years by the Office of Commerce, UK through Axelos and has been adopted by all commonwealth nations since its Version 2 was released in 1989. A certification as a P2 Practitioner will ensure that one would be qualified to handle projects independently as a Project Manager par excellence.