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PRINCE2 is a project management methodology of 7s. The principles, themes and processes all follow this model. Here, we break down each one and discuss how they relate to each other.

The 7 Principles

PRINCE2 derives its methods from 7 core principles. Collectively, these principles provide a framework for good practice:

1. Continued Business Justification

A project must make good business sense. There needs to be a clear return on investment and the use of time and resources should be justified.

2. Learn from Experience

Project teams should take lessons from previous projects into account. A lessons log is kept updated for this purpose.

3. Define Roles and Responsibilities

Everyone involved in a project should know what they and others are doing. This includes knowing who the decision makers are.

4. Manage by Stages

Difficult tasks are better off broken into manageable chunks, or management stages.

5. Manage by Exception

A project running well doesn’t need a lot of intervention from managers. The project board is only informed if there is or might be a problem.

6. Focus on Products

Everyone should know ahead of time what’s expected of the product. Product requirements determine work activity, not the other way around.

7. Tailor to the Environment

PRINCE2 can be scaled and tailored. Projects that adapt PRINCE2 to their needs are more likely to succeed than projects that use PRINCE2 dogmatically.

The 7 Themes

Themes provide insight into how the project should be managed. They can be thought of as knowledge areas, or how principles are put in practice. They are set up at the beginning of the project and then monitored throughout. Projects are kept on track by constantly addressing these themes:

1. Business Case

Related to the continued business justification principle. This theme provides knowledge about whether a project is worthwhile and achievable.

2. Organisation

Related to the define roles and responsibilities principle. The organisation theme requires project managers to have everyone’s roles and responsibilities on record.

3. Quality

Related to the focus on products principle. Quality can be an abstract concept, so defining it at the beginning of a project is vital to keeping the work on track.

4. Plans

A plan describes how targets will be achieved. It focuses on the products, timescale, cost, quality and benefits.

5. Risk

The purpose of this theme is to identify, assess and control uncertain events during a project. These are recorded in a risk log. Negative risks are called threats and positive ones are called opportunities.

6. Change

This theme is about handling change requests and issues that arise during the project. The idea is not to prevent changes, but to get them agreed on before they’re executed.

7. Progress

Progress is about tracking the project. This allows project managers to check and control where they are relative to the plan. Not only can projects go off the rails without this – or any one – of the themes, but by not tracking, you may not even be aware that it’s happening.

The 7 Processes

The PRINCE2 method also separates the running of a project into 7 processes. Each one is overseen by the project manager and approved by the project board. Here is a breakdown of each stage:

1. Starting Up a Project (SU)

  • Create a project mandate, which answers logistical questions about the project. It explains the purpose of the project, who will carry it out and how to execute it.
  • A project brief is derived from the mandate, lessons log and discussions with people involved in the project.
  • A team is assigned and with the brief, they should have all the information needed for next process.

2. Initiating a Project (IP)

This stage is about realising what needs to be done to complete the project. The project manager outlines how the following performance targets will be managed:

  • Time
  • Cost
  • Quality
  • Scope
  • Benefits
  • Risk

3. Directing a Project (DP)

This is an ongoing process from the beginning to the end of a project. The project board manages these activities:

  • Initiation
  • Stage boundaries
  • Ad hoc direction/guidance
  • Project closure

4. Controlling a Stage (CS)

Project managers authorise work packages, which break the project down into manageable activities. These are assigned to teams and their managers. The project manager then has these tasks:

  • Overseeing and reporting on work package progress
  • Stepping in to correct problems

The team manager, meanwhile has these tasks:

  • Coordinating daily work
  • Communicating between team members and the project manager

5. Managing Product Delivery (MP)

This is how the communication between the team manager and project manager is controlled. MP consists of these activities:

  • Accepting a work package
  • Executing a work package
  • Delivering a work package

6. Managing Stage Boundaries (SB)

Project managers and the board review every stage. The board decides whether to continue the project. The project manager meets with the team to record lessons learned for the next stage. SB consists of these activities:

  • Plan the next stage
  • Update the project plan
  • Update the business case
  • Report the stage end or produce an exception plan

7. Closing a Project (CP)

  • Decommission the project
  • Identify follow-on actions
  • Prepare benefits and project evaluation reviews
  • Free up leftover resources
  • Hand over products to the customer