The PRINCE2 project management method contains 7 PRINCE2 Principles, 7 PRINCE2 Processes and 7 PRINCE2 Themes. The Seven PRINCE2 Themes are integrated into the 7 PRINCE2 Processes and this is a notable strength of the PRINCE2 method. The PRINCE2 Themes offer a thematic approach to the project whilst the PRINCE2 Processes describe the chronological approach to the project from beginning to end. With these PRINCE2 themes comes the ability to steer the project towards success and the seven PRINCE2 themes defined below are vital to ensuring that your project is provided with every opportunity to succeed.
The Business Case
The first of the PRINCE2 themes is the Business Case which aims to clearly define the reasons for which the project is being undertaken. The Business Case documents the benefits that the project is expected to deliver and in order for the Business Case to remain valid, the benefits must continue to outweigh the risks and costs that are associated with the project at hand.
Continued business justification must be maintained in order for the project to continue and the Business Case of the PRINCE2 themes will provide a reference point to ensure that this is achieved. This vital document enables the Project Board to define the estimated costs, risks and benefits of the project which will provide a clear view of what will constitute a successful result for the current project.
It is necessary, when considering the Business Case of the PRINCE2 themes, to ensure that this document is referred to regularly and updated at the end of each project stage. If at any point during the course of the PRINCE2 project it is found that it has veered too far from the objectives as laid out in the Business Case, the Project Board can make the decision to prematurely close the project to minimise further losses and prevent the wastage of the remaining resources. The Business Case, as defined in the PRINCE2 themes, can be considered to be the Guide Book for the project.
The next of the PRINCE2 themes that we will be taking a look at is the Organisation Theme. The main goal of the Organisation theme is to define the structure for responsibility and accountability of the project team members, the Project Manager, the corporate management, the Project Board and the stakeholders. The roles and responsibilities within a PRINCE2 project ensure that everyone is aware of what is required from them and this prevents uncertainty and situations of “passing the blame”.
Some of the roles that are found within the Organisation aspect of the PRINCE2 themes are:
• Executive – as a member of the Project Board, the Executive is responsible for ensuring that a PRINCE2 project maintains its focus on achieving the expected objectives and assuring that the project provides value for money.
• Senior User – this Project Board member specifies the product/s and outcomes that the project must achieve and is responsible for defining the required benefits and demonstrating to higher management that the project is fulfilling these needs.
• Project Manager – is the person who is ultimately held responsible for the success or failure of a project and this is determined by whether or not the required product is delivered, meets the quality criteria and does not exceed the budget for time and cost.
• Team Managers – are usually present on large-scale projects where the project team is broken down into smaller teams and the duties of the Team Manager is to ensure that the Work Packages are received, completed and returned; as well as reporting progress to the Project Manager via Checkpoint Reports.
When it comes to the PRINCE2 themes, the Plans theme is one of the most important and provides the crucial backbone which supports the method. Regardless of whether or not you use the PRINCE2 method, there is no denying that proper planning is essential to the success of any project. Not only does planning define the instructions for the future of the project, it also provides a means by which to evaluate the project as it progresses. The PRINCE2 theme for planning enables you to clearly see what has been achieved thus far and what has been expended on a project at any given point.
There are four levels of planning within this PRINCE2 theme:
1. Project Plan
This is used by the Project Board throughout the course of the project as a baseline against which project progress can be measured. The Project Plan contains an overall schedule and cost assessment for the project, as well as the approved tolerances that have been agreed upon.
2. Stage Plan
The Stage Plan is a baseline reference which is used by the Project Manager for the day-to-day activities that must be carried out when managing a PRINCE2 project. Each stage has its own Stage Plan and these will describe the resources and products involved with that stage, the tolerances assigned by the Project Board and the quality activities which must be addressed. Updating the Stage Plan regarding the ongoing progress of the stage will allow the Project Manager to spot deviations in a timely manner.
3. Team Plan
When the current project requires Team Managers (generally due to size and/or complexity), the Stage Plan can be segmented into Team Plans which are used by the Team Managers. These Team Plans are used to allocate tasks, monitor progress and remain watchful with regards to team-level constraints.
4. Exception Plan
If, at any point during the project, it is forecast that the stage-level tolerances will be exceeded, the Project Manager must submit an Exception Report to the Project Board as expected by this one of the PRINCE2 themes. This will include details of the exception, the impact that it is expected to have on the project, suggestions for what course of action can be taken and the recommendation of a particular option that could be implemented to handle the issue. When necessary, an Exception Plan will be created through this section of the PRINCE2 themes as a response to the Exception Report. If approved, the Exception Plan will replace the section of the original plan from the point at which the Exception was noted.
The Risk Theme supports the first three PRINCE2 Themes and is focused on managing the risks associated with the project. High quality risk management significantly increases the project’s chance for success and this one of the PRINCE2 themes provides a risk management strategy for the project at hand.
The Risk Management Strategy which is used by the PRINCE2 project management method recommends five steps when dealing with risks:
• Identify the risk
• Assess the probability and impact of the risk
• Plan a response to the risk
• Implement the approved risk response
• Communicate all information associated with the risk
An important inclusion in the PRINCE2 themes is the Quality Theme. This addresses the need to fulfil the specified quality requirements of the product that is to be delivered by the project. The purpose of the Quality portion of the PRINCE2 themes is to define the expected level of quality that must be achieved in the development of the product.
Whereas other project management methods place their focus on cost or time, the emphasis of the PRINCE2 method is on quality. Dedicated quality planning, quality control, quality management strategy and quality review all strive to ensure that the quality tolerances for the product are met in order for the product to be accepted by the customer.
Change is inevitable and this is particularly true when it comes to the world of project management. One of the PRINCE2 themes is the Change Theme and this provides the required guidance for managing these changes. Approaching change in a reliable and controlled manner is essential to managing it appropriately whilst maintaining the security and stability of the project.
Change deals with project issues which are any relevant events which were unplanned but have happened, or are likely to happen, and require management action. When an issue has been identified, the PRINCE2 method has a five-step procedure for dealing with the issue:
1. Capture the issue information in the Issue Register (or Daily Log for informal management) and create an Issue Report
2. Examine the issue and assess the impact it can have on the project if change is initiated
3. Evaluate alternatives and recommend the proposed action necessary to handle the issue
4. The Project Manager, Project Board or Change Authority will make a decision regarding the action to be taken
5. Implement the authorised corrective action and update the appropriate Logs and Registers
The last of the PRINCE2 themes is the Progress Theme and the purpose of this is to monitor and control the progression of the PRINCE2 project. To ensure continued business justification, it is vital to compare the project plans to the project reports. The plans will describe the expected input and the reports will identify what has already been achieved and what is still required. This comparison assists in minimising the variation between the expected progress and the actual progress which then determines whether or not the project is still on track to achieving its objectives. Without this control in place for monitoring the project’s progress, it could veer far enough away from the Business Case to result in it being deemed no longer viable and this almost always results in a premature closure and a failed project. Ensuring that progress remains steady can truly make the difference between failure and a successfully completed project.
The PRINCE2 method is well-structured and is based on the experience, knowledge and insight of many project management professionals. To ensure that you gain every advantage provided by this method it is necessary to implement the method as it was designed and this includes making proper use of all seven of the PRINCE2 Themes.