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How To Be A Successful Project Manager: PRINCE2

Vinnie PRINCE2(Last Updated On: October 16, 2018)

About the Author

Vince Giacchi began working for Mercedes Benz Australia Pacific as an IBL (working student) towards the end of his International Business Degree in 2012. After a successful IBL tenure Vince took a position with the parent company Daimler AG, at their headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany. Now back home in Melbourne, and having recently completed his PRINCE2 certification, Vince has found his calling as the SAP Project Manager at Daimler Truck and Bus Australia Pacific. Below, Vince has summarised the PRINCE2 methodology, providing professional insight into effective project management practices.

What is PRINCE2?

PRINCE2 (PRojects IN Controlled Environments) is a structured project management approach. It is recognised as a leading project management methodology, with over one million certified professionals worldwide. It was formed through the analysis and interpretation of a multitude of projects and the experiences offered by their respective managers, teams and sponsors. A PRINCE2 project is governed by seven principles, themes and processes which we will touch on below.

1. Principles (Why?)

A project does not meet the PRINCE2 standard unless all seven principles are applied. They provide the framework for each project undertaken, that guide and empower project managers towards management best practice. The seven principles are:

  • Continued business justification (Does this project make sense?)
  • Learn from experience (Don’t make the same mistake twice)
  • Define roles and responsibilities (Know everyone’s role)
  • Manage by stages (Break large tasks into a series of smaller ones)
  • Manage by exception (Instil autonomy within the working group)
  • Focus on products (Output orientated)
  • Tailor to environment (Adapt to any unique working environment)

2. Themes (What?)

The seven PRINCE2 themes offer an insight into how a project can be best managed. They can be interpreted as putting principles into practice. The themes are relevant from the beginning right through to the end of a project. The seven themes are:

  • Business case – The purpose of this theme is to assess if the project is viable, linking directly to the ‘continued business justification’ principle.
  • Organisation – Defining the project structure, creating accountability and responsibility. This theme links to the third principle ‘define roles and responsibilities.
  • Quality – This encourages project teams to ensure each output meets the required standards, and is fit for purpose. Relating to the ‘focus on products’ principle.
  • Plans – The purpose of this theme is to communicate how targets will be achieved. It focuses on all measurables within a project, i.e. time, cost, who and how. This theme relates to multiple principles.
  • Risk – This theme helps to identify, assess and produce effective mitigation against uncertainty, improving the likelihood of a successful project outcome.
  • Change – Assessing and controlling any changes to the project baseline (initial business case). ‘Continued business justification’ and ‘learn from experience’ are two principles relevant to this theme.
  • Progress – This theme is about tracking where the project is in reality, in comparison to the project timeline.

3. Processes (How?)

A PRINCE2 project is broken up into seven processes, most of which are managed by the project manager. All of the seven processes must be approved by the project board. The seven PRINCE2 processes are:

  • Starting up a project (Is the project viable/worthwhile?)
  • Initiating a project (Establish foundations/Define roles/Understand what needs to be done)
  • Directing a project (Refers to management from a board level – key decision-making)
  • Controlling a stage (Refers to management from a project manager position – monitoring/delegating/corrective-action)
  • Managing product delivery (Project manager works with team managers to agree, accept, execute and deliver requirements)
  • Managing a stage boundary (Duties relating to the end of a stage – review stage success, seek approval for next stage from board)
  • Closing a project (Used by the board to assess and accept the final outcome ‘project product’)

PRINCE2 in Practice: Working Through the Stages

Throughout each stage of a project, the themes and principles offered by the PRINCE2 methodology are ever-present. Let’s look at ‘building a house’ as an example project to demonstrate these processes in practice.

Before starting any successful project, it’s most important to understand what the clients requirements are, or in PRINCE2 terminology, the ‘project product’. A well-written preliminary business case and project brief will help you to do this. In this case, our project product is to build a house.

Once a project brief has been submitted and approved by the board, it’s time to initiate the project. The most important element at this stage, and perhaps the entire project, is the Project Initiation Document (PID). This document details the most important aspects of a project including scope, approach, finalised business case, roles and responsibilities, quality, change, risk and communications management, as well as the project plan. The PID acts as a ‘contract’ between the project manager and the board. The board in this case is represented by the owner and the architect, and the PM is the builder.

It is important to mention the three primary roles on the board, which are the executive, the senior supplier and the senior user. The executive has overall responsibility of the project (the home owner). The senior supplier is the architect, providing knowledge and experience representing the suppliers interest and providing supplier resources, i.e house plans. They deliver quality. The senior user in our case is also the home owner, as they are accountable for ensuring users needs are specified, and the solution chosen suits the end user’s needs. They define quality. Moving on…

The PID has been signed off, the project foundations established, now it’s time to build a house. Controlling a stage is the engine room of any project. Within this stage, the project manager will monitor, problem-solve and escalate to the board if need be. It’s also the PM’s responsibility to authorise, review and receive completed work orders, or ‘work packages’, which have been delegated to different team leaders for completion. In our example this, these ‘team leaders’ are embodied by the plumber, electrician, carpenter and others tradesman. Each trade represents it’s own work package, reporting directly to the project manager. The action of accepting, executing and delivering a work package encompasses the managing product delivery stage.

Once a stage is nearing an end, we move towards managing the stage boundary. This involves assuring all work packages have been completed in accordance with the PID (e.g. quality management approach). This stage also gives the project manager the opportunity to update the board so they are able to assess the progress, accept identified risks, and confirm the projects continued business justification. “Are we on track to build this house on time, and on cost?”

The slab was poured in January, the frame erected in March. The plastering and rough-ins were completed by the end of August, and the house has now been fit-off. We’re nearly ready to close the project. At this final stage the board needs to verify and agree that the project product has been achieved, before handing over the keys.

You might have noticed that theres one process missing from this example… Directing a project happens throughout all of the stages of a PRINCE2 project. As the project progresses through the various stages, the executive, or owner in our case, will oversee and manage by giving ad hoc direction, requesting status updates, approving progress, assessing change and providing final approval of the project product… A brand new house!

Final Note

The PRINCE2 project management methodology is in-depth, and this article is but a brief summary of how it can be implemented to give any project the best chance of being successful. As outlined above, the principles, themes and processes are all intertwined, defining the structure and operations of a well-organised and efficient project. To give your next project the best chance at success, implement the PRINCE2 project management method.

As always, thanks for listening, and thank-you Vince for sharing your expertise! If you have any questions about the article, you can post them in the comments section below.



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