PRINCE2 is the world’s most popular methodology for project management, and that popularity is well-deserved. The framework’s ‘best practices’ stem from a range of flexible yet virtually universal factors that every project manager should know and be able to keep in mind. Combined with the adaptability of the framework itself, this allows PRINCE2 practitioners to successfully utilize their expertise for virtually any project.
One of the most important things for candidates to learn is that the best practices of the PRINCE2 methodology are not simply a set way of doing things. Rather, they are formed by PRINCE2’s Principles, Processes, and Themes.
By studying each of these elements, PRINCE2 students gain the knowledge and perspective to not only understand what constitutes a ‘PRINCE2 project’ but also how to adapt the framework in real-world projects. They will also soon see the value of PRINCE2-level awareness when it comes to exercising and improving other project management practices.
So what are the pieces that make up PRINCE2 best practices? Let’s look at the building blocks of PRINCE2!
What are PRINCE2 Principles?
The Principles of PRINCE2 form the core rules of how to manage and optimize projects. Indeed, if one of the Principles is missing from a project, it cannot be called a ‘PRINCE2 project’. These core principles influence all PRINCE2 best practices.
- Continued Business Justification – Throughout the project, managers must regularly check that the project’s projected benefits make sense from a business perspective. Will the returns justify the investment? Has the viability of the project changed over time? If a project does not make sense strategically, it should be closed in a constructive and closed manner.
- Learn From Experience – There are lessons learned in every project, even the ones that don’t work out. PRINCE2 practitioners will keep and update a lessons log to ensure project teams can keep improving.
- Define Roles and Responsibilities – All PRINCE2 project team members should know exactly what they are doing and what their responsibilities are. This also includes specifying who the decision-makers are.
- Manage by Stages – In a real PRINCE2 project, larger tasks are broken into smaller ‘management stages’ that are easier to handle. This sometimes distinguishes the PRINCE2 method from other traditional frameworks.
- Manage by Exception – Project teams do not need intervention from managers if everything is going well. In a PRINCE2 project, project board members will usually only get involved if there is a potential problem to address.
- Focus on Products – The makeup of the finished product should be clear well in advance. All project team members should know what to expect and how their work activities have been defined by the requirements of the product itself.
- Tailor to the Environment – As we said, PRINCE2 is not just a simple way of doing things but a framework that can be tailored and scaled to suit different projects. When a practitioner tailors PRINCE2 to the environment of a project, that project is far more likely to succeed.
What are the PRINCE2 Processes?
Over the course of a PRINCE2 project, several ‘Processes’ will take place. This includes during the pre-project preparation stage and even after a project’s completion. This helps make the process-based framework more scalable and flexible, though the processes themselves also have defined inputs, outputs, objectives, and activities. Each will be overseen by the PRINCE2 project manager and reviewed by the project board.
- Starting Up a Project (SU) – Practitioners will explain the purpose of a project, how the project will be executed, and who will handle different tasks in the Project Mandate. This mandate is then used to create a Project Brief and Lessons Log. It will also generate discussions between those involved in the project itself. The project team, once they have the brief, can move on to the next stage.
- Initiating a Project (IP) – The project team now starts thinking about how to complete the project. A project manager will outline performance targets in terms of Time, Quality, Benefits, Cost, Scope, and Risks.
- Directing a Project (DP) – This process is managed by the project board and will take place throughout the project. It includes several activities: Initiation, Stage Boundaries, Ad Hoc Direction/ Guidance, and Project Closure.
- Controlling a Stage (CS) – ‘Work packages’, which specify manageable activities within projects, will be authorized by managers and assigned to teams. The manager will then have to oversee and report on the progress of work packages, as well as step in when necessary. Team managers, meanwhile, will focus on facilitating communication between teams and managers while coordinating daily tasks.
- Managing Product Delivery (MP) – This process controls the communication between teams and project managers. The activities include Accepting, Executing, and Delivering Work Packages.
- Managing Stage Boundaries (SB) – Every project stage will be reviewed by project managers as well as the board, which will decide whether to continue the project. Project managers will also consult with teams to discuss what lessons can be applied to the next stage. Activities during this stage include Planning the Next Stage, Updating the Project Plan, Updating the Business Case, and Report the Stage End/ Produce an Exception Plan.
- Closing a Project (CP) – This process involves bringing the project to completion. It can include Decommissioning the Project, Identifying Appropriate Follow-On Actions, Preparing Benefits and Project Evaluation Reviews, Freeing Up Leftover Resources, and, finally, Handing Over Finished Products to the Customer.
What are the PRINCE2 Themes?
PRINCE2’s Themes constitute the different aspects of project management that need to be addressed continually and simultaneously. They are instrumental in keeping projects on track (and managers grounded!) Themes also form activities that begin at the start of a project, are monitored throughout, and can be tailored to suit both the project and its environment.
Themes can be given greater prominence as necessary. For example, Risk may be more of a factor for some projects than others, or there may be more stringent requirements for quality, organizational change, and so on.
- Business Case – The all-important business case is connected to the Principle of Business Justification. It establishes the importance of making sure a project is both achievable and worthwhile from a business perspective.
- Organization – This Theme has project managers record each team member’s roles and responsibilities for the sake of clarity. It is closely connected to the Roles and Responsibilities Principle.
- Quality – It is important to define what constitutes ‘quality’ for a specific project early on. This helps to keep the project on track. The Theme is closely related to the Products Principle.
- Plans – This Theme focuses on having definitive plans for how to reach specific targets. Managers should consider plans in terms of timescale, cost, quality, benefits, and the products themselves.
- Risk – This Theme focuses on identifying, assessing, and controlling uncertain events throughout a project. Risk levels can vary depending on the project in question, and managers will take time to specify whether each risk is negative (‘Threat’) or positive (‘Opportunity’). Each risk will also be recorded in the Risk Log.
- Change – This Theme deals with change requests and other issues that can arise during a project. It is not necessarily about blocking changes, as this can hamper adaptability at key points. Instead, the Theme’s focus is on making sure changes are agreed on before being carried out. This is essential, as poorly conceived changes can have a major impact on project scope and feasibility.
- Progress – Project managers will track progress throughout the project, stepping in when necessary to keep things steady. Without this Theme, projects can quickly end up going off track. Of course, this can be inevitable, but unless this Theme is being actively monitored, projects may begin to fail without anyone noticing!
Applying PRINCE2 Foundation best practices
For successful PRINCE2 practitioners, it is not enough to simply know best practices. The best users also have a great deal of experience seeing them applied in real projects. Studying the Foundation syllabus is one thing, but being able to utilize PRINCE2 is all about fluency – and fluency takes practice.
The next step for learning the best practices of the project management methodology is to study the PRINCE2 Practitioner syllabus. This goes into a greater level of detail on the Principles, Processes, and Themes and explains how they are applied in real projects. Further certification training can also make it easier to unlock more responsibilities in PRINCE2 project teams.
Candidates should also be aware that there are numerous free resources and discussions online regarding PRINCE2. Many of these go into greater detail on best practices for specific elements of the framework, such as:
- Risk Management
- The Project Management Team
- Preparing a Business Case
- Escalating Project Issues
Candidates are also advised to start looking for areas to start applying PRINCE2 in their current roles. As you become more comfortable with the framework, you may be able to take on additional responsibilities. You could even oversee the implementation of PRINCE2 within your company or apply it to your own projects as an individual practitioner.
Want to find out more about PRINCE2 and how it works? Check out our article, ‘What is PRINCE2?’, or try a free trial of our fully accredited PRINCE2 Foundation course today!