PRINCE2 (PRojects IN Controlled Environments) is a structured project management method and practitioner certification programme. PRINCE2 emphasises dividing projects into manageable and controllable stages.
It is adopted in many countries worldwide, including the UK, western European countries, and Australia. PRINCE2 training is available in many languages.
PRINCE2 was developed as a UK government standard for information systems projects. In July 2013, ownership of the rights to PRINCE2 was transferred from HM Cabinet Office to AXELOS Ltd, a joint venture by the Cabinet Office and Capita, with 49% and 51% stakes respectively.
Project Management Templates for both Agile and PRINCE2 project planning and tracking.
PRINCE was derived from an earlier method called PROMPT II (Project Resource Organisation Management Planning Techniques). In 1989 the Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA) adopted a version of PROMPT II as a UK Government standard for information systems (IT) project management. They gave it the name ‘PRINCE’, which originally stood for “PROMPT II IN the CCTA Environment”. PRINCE was renamed in a Civil service competition as an acronym for “PRojects IN Controlled Environments”. 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 the 2009 revision, the acronym was changed to mean ‘PRojects IN a Controlled Environment’.
There have been two major revisions of PRINCE2 since its launch in 1996: “PRINCE2:2009 Refresh” in 2009, and “PRINCE2 2017 Update” in 2017. The justification for the 2017 update was the evolutions in practical business practices and feedbacks from PRINCE2 practitioners in the actual project environment.
Overview of PRINCE2
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, Tailor To Suit The Project Environment.
- Seven themes: Business Case, Organisation, Quality, Plans, Risk, Change, Progress.
- Seven processes:
- Starting Up A Project, in which the project team is appointed including an executive and a project manager, and a project brief is produced
- Initiating A Project, in which the business case is completed and Project Initiation Documentation assembled
- Directing A Project, which dictates the ways in which the Project Board oversees the project
- Controlling A Stage, which dictates how each individual stage should be controlled, including the way in which work packages are authorised and distributed
- Managing Product Delivery, which 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.
- Managing Stage Boundaries, which dictates how to transition from one stage to the next
- Closing A Project, which covers the formal decommissioning of the project, follow-on actions and evaluation of the benefits.
The PRINCE2 manual contains 26 suggested templates for documentation associated with the project, which it terms management products and which are divided into baselines, records and reports. Some examples of management products are:
- Benefits Review Plan: defines how and when a measurement of the project’s benefits, expected by the Senior User, can be made.
- Business Case: used to capture financial justification for the project. It is a PRINCE2 principle that a project must have continued business justification. As soon as a Business Case fails to make sense, change or stop that project.
- Checkpoint Report: a progress report created by the Team Manager and sent to the Project Manager on a regular basis to report the status of the Work Package.
- Communications Management Strategy: a description of the methods and frequency of communication to stakeholders, covering the flow of information in both directions to and from stakeholders (Information required to be provided from the project and information required to be provided to the project).
- Configuration Item Record: provides a record of the product History, Status, Version, Variant, Details of any relationships between items/products, and Product owner/Product copy holders.
- Configuration Management Strategy: used to identify how the project’s products will be identified, controlled and protected, this document is created by the Project Manager in the Initiating a Project process.
- Daily Log: used to record informal issues.
- End Project Report: reviews how the project performed against the original Project Initiation Documentation (PID)
- Issues Register: an issue log of notes about change requests, problems and complaints sent by all project members.
- Lessons Log: a set of notes of lessons learned which may be useful to future projects
- Project Brief: used by the Project Board to authorize the Initiation Stage (1st stage of the project). In the Initiating a Project process, the contents of the Project Brief are extended and refined and the Project Brief evolves to form the Project Initiation Documentation (PID)
- Quality Register: details of all planned quality control activities, dates, and personnel involved.
- Risk Register: a record of identified risks (threats and opportunities) relating to the project
The PRINCE2 principles can be described as a mindset that keeps the project aligned with the PRINCE2 methodology. If a project does not adhere to these principles, it is not being managed using PRINCE2.
- Continued business justification: The business case is the most important document, and is updated at every stage of the project to ensure that the project is still viable. Early termination can occur if this ceases to be the case.
- Manage by exception: regular meetings, like weekly team meetings, are inefficient and unnecessary. Instead, work packages are assigned by team managers to team members including deliverables with time and quality tolerances, and only if something exceeds these tolerances is communication and management required between the workers and team managers.
- Learn from experience: each project maintains a lessons log and projects should continually refer to their own and to previous and concurrent projects’ lesson logs to avoid reinventing wheels.
- Defined roles and responsibilities: Roles are separated from individuals, who may take on multiple roles or share a role. Roles in PRINCE2 are structured in four levels (corporate or programme management, project board, project manager level and team level).
- Manage by stages: the project is planned and controlled on a stage by stage basis. Moving between stages includes updating the business case, risks, overall plan, and detailed next-stage plan in the light of new evidence.
- Focus on products: each work package is defined by one or more deliverable products, preferably with tolerances to time, cost, scope 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 clearly specify what is required, and to allocate responsibility for delivering and controlling it.
- Tailor to suit project environment: PRINCE2 should not be applied in a dogmatic form, but tailored to specific projects. Formal reports and project documents may be replaced by informal verbal or email equivalents, the structure of the project board and management team may be altered to reflect the goals of the project, multiple roles may be assigned to individuals on smaller projects, and increased emphasis may be placed on stage replanning for research-intensive projects which may need to change directions as new findings are delivered.
Not every aspect of PRINCE2 will be applicable to every project, thus 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.
Integration with other techniques
The 26 Management Products described by PRINCE2 are only used for the “high-level” management of the project. Within its tasks, task managers must still decide on their own project management framework. Some suggestions given in the PRINCE2 manual are product based planning, change control, quality review technique, Gantt charts, PERT charts and critical path analysis.
PRINCE2 can also be used to manage projects that use agile software development methods.
Quality review technique
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.
Training and Certifications
PRINCE2 certifications, awarded by AXELOS, require the user to undertake a training course with an Accredited Training Organization (ATO) followed by an exam. The training and exam may be online or in person. AXELOS requires that any organisation providing official PRINCE2 training must go through an accreditation process in order to validate the quality of the course content and delivery. Once approved, the organisation can use the title Accredited Training Organisation (ATO). Trainers must be re-accredited every 3 years and undergo a surveillance check every 12 months.
There are three levels of certifications for PRINCE2:
- PRINCE2® 2017 Foundation: confirms the holder has sufficient knowledge and understanding of the PRINCE2 method to be able to work in a project management team working with this method.
- PRINCE2® 2017 Practitioner: confirms the holder has achieved sufficient understanding of how to apply PRINCE2 in a scenario situation and will, with suitable direction, be able to start applying the method to a real project. Qualified PRINCE2 Practitioners who go on to study for the APMP qualification of the Association for Project Management (APM) are exempt from certain topics of the syllabus that are covered in the PRINCE2 Practitioner qualification.
- PRINCE2® Agile Foundation: was released in June 2018 and confirms the holder has sufficient knowledge and understanding of the PRINCE2 method and agile way of working and how agile can be combined to PRINCE2.
- PRINCE2® Agile Practitioner: confirms the holder is able to apply the project management principles of PRINCE2 whilst combining agile concepts such as Scrum and Kanban.
AXELOS publishes a successful candidate register which can be searched on the web.
Advantages and criticisms
PRINCE2 provides a method for managing projects within a clearly defined framework, but project management is a complex discipline and using such a framework is no guarantee of a successful project.
Some of the advertised benefits of PRINCE2 are: increased quality of the finished products, efficient control of resources, avoidance of either “heroic” (under-regulated) or “mechanistic” (over-regulated) working, and increased confidence among the project team.
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. The deliverable structure may also lead to focus on producing deliverables for their own sake, to “tick the boxes” rather than do more useful work.
The general response of PRINCE2’s authors to criticism has been to point out that the methodology is scalable and can be tailored to suit the specific requirements and constraints of the project and the environment. This strong emphasis on tailoring has led some users to complain that PRINCE2 is unfalsifiable, i.e. it is impossible to tell whether PRINCE2 “works” or constitutes “best practice” if any problems encountered with a project can be blamed on inappropriate application of PRINCE2 rather than on PRINCE2 itself.
The experiences of the Blair administration in the UK between 1997 and 2007 (and of subsequent UK governments) arguably undermine PRINCE2’s claim to be “best practice”, given the string of high-profile failed IT projects charged to the taxpayer during that time, and the controversy surrounding the financial relationship between the Blair government and PRINCE2’s co-owners Capita. PRINCE2’s training material addresses these failures, blaming them on inappropriate tailoring of PRINCE2 to the project environment, and advocating for more PRINCE2 training for government project managers to solve the problem.
Differences from PMP
Project Management Professional (PMP) may be seen as a competitor of PRINCE2. In general, UK, Australia and Europe prefer PRINCE2, and the USA and American countries prefer PMP. Asia, Africa and the Middle East area have no strong preference for PMP or PRINCE2. The important thing is that PMP (PMBOK) can be used with PRINCE2.
PRINCE2 and PMP acknowledge each other’s existence in their advertising material and attempt to position themselves as complementary products – PRINCE2 as a “methodology” and PMP as a “standard” – which can be used alongside each other. In practice, companies and practitioners choose one system or both depending on the project environment, their geographical location and costs involved.
- Agile software development
- Comparison of project-management software
- Gantt chart
- List of project management topics
- Project Management Institute (PMI)
- Project Management Professional (PMP)
- Work breakdown structure
- “What is PRINCE2®?”. AXELOS. Retrieved 1 February 2017.
- PRINCE2® – PRojects IN Controlled Environments – Consulting Organisations List
- “PRINCE2 STUDY Guide) ® Handbook” (PDF). Project Management Institute. Retrieved Dec 15, 2017.
- Reid, Amy (2013-07-30). “Capita acquires majority stake in ITIL and PRINCE2”. Association for project management. International project management association. Retrieved 2016-02-22.
AXELOS has been revealed as the name of the new joint venture between Capita and the Cabinet Office set up to manage the best management practice training tools and accreditations, including PRINCE2, and ITIL. […] Capita and the Cabinet Office have established a 51:49 per cent stake in the new organisation that will own the intellectual property (IP) of this portfolio of products […]
- OGC – PRINCE2 – News
- “OGC brings its shining quartet back into the limelight” (Press release). Office of Government Commerce. 2005-12-14.
- Official PRINCE2 website
- “Introducing the PRINCE2 2017 Update” (Press release). Axelos. 2017-12-11.
- PRINCE2 manual
- “PRINCE2® Agile”. http://www.axelos.com. Axelos. Retrieved 6 March 2015.
- Find an Accredited Provider
- – PRINCE2 accreditation scheme
- PRINCE2 2017 update from AXELOS
- “- APMP for PRINCE2 Practitioners”. Archived from the original on 1 November 2013. Retrieved 30 October 2013.
- AXELOS Successful Candidates Register
- OGC Best Management Practice – PRINCE2
- “The Blair IT projects”. ZDNet.com.
- The Blunders of our Governments. 2013. ISBN 978-1780742663.
- “The costly trail of British government IT and ‘big bang’ project disasters”. theguardian.com.
- “Blair avoids MPs’ questions on Capita”. Telegraph.co.uk.
- “Capita chairman quits after criticism of loans to Labour”. theguardian.com.
- “PRINCE2 vs PMP Certification 8 Important Differences”. http://www.educba.com. Retrieved 7 December 2017.
- “PRINCE2 with PMBOK”. http://www.athem.net.br. Retrieved 6 July 2018.
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- “Project Management Professional (PMP) ® Handbook” (PDF). Project Management Institute. Retrieved September 18, 2009.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to PRINCE2.|
- Official website
- Guidelines for Managing Projects (fully consistent with PRINCE2) from the UK Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR)