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Understanding PRINCE2 and its Applications

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06th Mar, 2019
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22nd Sep, 2017
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Understanding PRINCE2 and its Applications

Projects as defined in the PMBOK are temporary endeavors undertaken to produce a unique product, service or result. According to PRINCE2 a project is undertaken in order to satisfy a agreed upon business case. Projects thus help organizations thrive in its current operations as well as help in achieving positive business change.

Projects run in an uncertain environment and the outcome is uncertain until achieved since the environment poses many a threat and opportunity. Hence, all projects must be managed in a proper manner in order to ensure that the aspects of time, cost scope and quality as defined in the iron triangle are properly managed over the course of the project.

Project Management is to do with planning, delegating, executing, monitoring and controlling all aspects of a project including motivation of all stakeholders involved in order to achieve project objectives or results. Various project management approaches came into being with many being customized to meet the needs of different industries and to control the sequence and occurrence of all activities. In other words the purpose of project management is to ensure that the roofing contractor doesn’t arrive before the walls of the house are built up and to ensure that the walls are put up in a proper manner in order to ensure that it is strong enough to hold the roof.

What is PRINCE2?
PRINCE2 is the acronym for Projects IN Controlled Environments 2nd version and it is a non-proprietary project management method and a global standard applicable to any type of project with a well defined start and finish date regardless of scale, type, organization, geography or culture. 

The most critical word in PRINCE2 is ‘Controlled’ and it is all about ensuring that the project is always executed with good management control. PRINCE 2 is widely recognized, understood and available in the public domain and can be used free of charge. PRINCE2 is also part of the suite of guidance developed by the UK office of Government Commerce (OGC).

The roots of PRINCE2 go back to 1975. It was originally based on PROMPT, a project management methodology formed by Simpact Systems Ltd. In 1979, the Central Computer and Communications Agency (CCTA) embraced PROMPT as the standard to be used for all Government information system projects. CCTA later changed its name to the OGC (Office of Government Commerce) and launched its own method called PRINCE in 1989. It replaced PROMPT for all government projects. 

By 1996, OGC published the newer version of PRINCE, which is PRINCE2. This was in response to user requirements with regards to governance of any type of project through a contribution of users from 150 odd countries and it remains as a registered trademark of OGC. It has undergone major revisions and splits multiple times.

Advantages of following PRINCE2
PRINCE2 is applicable for any type of project and it is a collection of recognized and proven project governance and delivery practices. PMI® defines the guidelines and standards for project management through the PMBOK™ guide where as PRINCE2 provides more practical guidance on applicability of different concepts and principles. PRINCE2 establishes its goal for effective communication throughout the project through a clearly defined arrangement  for responsibility, delegation, accountability and authority for communication on different aspects of managing the project.

PRINCE2 exam in a nutshell
The PRINCE2 credential consists of 2 levels; foundation and practitioner. PRINCE2 foundation identifies the project manager as someone who is knowledgeable about the concepts and understands them whereas the practitioner certification level identifies as the project manager who can apply the concepts and learning from PRINCE2 to real projects. PRINCE2 Foundation certification level must be completed first for the individual to attempt the practitioner level.

PRINCE2 Foundation is a 75 question MCQ type closed book paper with 35 required to pass the exam. The practitioner exam is a closed book scenario type paper of 2 ½ hour’s duration where the individual is required to 8 questions with 10 items per question with each carrying 1 mark each. The participant is expected to get 44 marks out of the possible 80 in order to obtain the credential.

Key Constructs of PRINCE2 Manual
Below is a discussion on the key few constructs of the PRINCE2 manual. It is important to understand these factors when breaking down the same.

1) Principles 
The principles define the aspects that constitute a PRINCE2 project. Below are these key principles.

  • A PRINCE2 project is built upon the need for continuous business justification for the project as it goes through different stages in its lifetime.
  • PRINCE2 project teams learn from previous experience and apply those learning. These lessons are collected and acted upon throughout the life of a project and beyond by using them in subsequent projects.
  • PRINCE2 projects are governed through a defined and agreed set of roles & responsibilities that are arranged to function within an organization. The project gets managed through the engagement of users, business sponsors, suppliers and other stakeholders.
  • PRINCE2 projects are managed in stages with each stage having a gate opening to the next stage of the process. PRINCE2 projects are planned, monitored and controlled through this stage-gate mechanism.
  • PRINCE2 projects apply the management by exception approach with relevant stakeholders expected to get involved only as and when required. Projects have defined tolerance levels for each objective which are being monitored on a constant basis.
  • The scope and quality requirements for PRINCE2 projects are predefined and the definition and delivery of such standards are expected to be realized throughout the lifetime of a project. 
  • PRINCE2 can be tailored to work with any project environment and has no restrictions in terms of  of size, complexity, importance, capability or risk.

2. Themes 
PRINCE2 project themes define all Project Management activities that must be adhered to throughout the entire life cycle of the project. These are as listed below.

  • Business Case 

Any project has a specific reason for which it is undertaken. Simply put, the project manager is expected to identify the business justification as to why the project is being carried out.

  •  Organization

This refers to the composition of the team involved in the project. The internal and external stakeholders involved in delivering the project must be identified as part of the project organization. 

  • Quality

All project activities are expected to be carried out according to quality requirements defined in terms of project delivery. Hence this theme identifies the quality of the product and the project. 

  • Plans 

Plans refer to the time, cost, resource and any other planning that needs to be done, the frequency and extent of such planning, when the planning should happen, how it should happen and who should be involved in the same. 

  • Risk

Every project is executed in an uncertain environment. The next theme of interest in to identify what might go wrong and to understand what needs to be done if something does go wrong.

  • Change 

Change and change management is a massive area of interest for project managers. This theme specifies the importance of change, how it may impact the project and the need to prepare to handle such changes.

  • Progress 

PRINCE2 projects are about constant monitoring of progress made. The project manager is to expected to monitor where the project is at now and determine whether or not to continue with the project or not.

3. Processes
PRINCE2 Processes creates the backbone of the framework in terms of operationalization. Processes define the project activities required to direct, manage and deliver a project. The PRINCE2 processes represents the key activities of the four levels of management namely, Corporate or programme Management, the Project Board, the Project Manager and the Team Manager.

PRINCE2 if learnt, understood and practised properly can be highly beneficial to any project team and organization. Many government organizations especially in Europe still regard PRINCE2 practitioners to be of high demand. PRINCE2 practices are applicable for any type, size or complex project and is an important credential to strive for in order to gain a major industry recognition.

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Rumesh Wijetunge

Chief Innovation Officer - Zaizi Limited, Chief Operating Officer - LearntIn (Pvt) Ltd., Director /

Rumesh is an IT business leader with over 12 years of industry experience as a business analyst and project manager. He is currently the CIO of Zaizi Limited, a UK based data management company heading the operations in Sri Lanka, the COO of LearntIn, a global training institute based in Sri Lanka and is also a lecturer / trainer at multiple private universities on management, IT, business analysis and project management subjects. He is the current president of the IIBA Sri Lanka chapter and is one of the most qualified and sought after trainers in Sri Lanka. Refer his LinkedIn profile for more details and to see more articles he has written on linkedin