Project Management Best Practices: An Introduction to PMBOK & PRINCE 2 - Page 2

Feb 13, 2008

Haydn Thomas

A Guide to PRINCE2                            


Initiated by the U.K. Office of Government Commerce (OGC) in 1989, the current version of this best-practice methodology, PRINCE2, has been in place since 1996 and is planned for an update in 2008-9. This process-based approach is a generic project management method, although widely applied by IT organizations, and has been used worldwide for its ability to be scaled and tailored to provide a standard and consistent approach for organizations.

Specifically, the PRINCE2 methodology is a framework of processes that assist the project manager by using a set of common components to reduce risk and avoid failure. To achieve this, three techniques are employed: “Product Based Planning”, “Quality Review” and “Change Control.”

Following are the eight process groups outlined by PRINCE2. It should be noted that the “Planning” and “Directing” processes remain ongoing throughout the project lifecycle.

1.   Starting Up – This is done before the initiation of any project. An idea or request from the organization is raised in a project mandate. It is here that information is collected to determine the business case for the project, the plan for moving forward and the team that will be responsible for its delivery.

2.   Initiating – In the initiation phase, the contract will be arranged between the project manager and project board, along with the development of a high-level plan and control approach.

3.   Planning – The technique of product-based planning is used in the identification of project deliverables. In addition to the required resources, quality and testing are addressed. Monitoring and control of the progress is also undertaken.

4.   Controlling a Stage – This is the day-to-day management of the stage by the project manager. Controlled production of the agreed products by monitoring key indicators allows the project manger to control the scope and achieve delivery to time, quality and budget.

5.   Managing Product Delivery – This can be a highly administrative area, which defines how the project will be delivered to the project manager upon completion.

6.   Managing Stage Boundaries – Managing the transition to the next stage in a controlled manner by applying a common structure. Certain items are mandated to ensure delivery of the project within scope.

7.   Closing a Project – This process is a structured closure of the project, which must happen whether the deliverables have been achieved or the project is terminated early.

8.   Directing – The project board proactively manages the project’s response to the external environment. Within the project, the project board should “manage by exception,” so demands on its time are kept to a minimum.

PRINCE2 is optimized for product-based planning. Here, the “product” is a result, i.e., the production of a document at the end of a task. The product falls into one of two categories:

·      Management Products are items required to support project management, e.g., a business case, project scope, quality log, etc.

·      Specialist Products are items contributing to an identified deliverable of the project, e.g., a piece of code, specification, etc.

Ultimately, PRINCE2 helps to provide control and an adaptable method for your business. This is a proven, tailored method for project management, especially in IT. Essentially, PRINCE2 helps PMOs control the chaos of project delivery.

Success with PRINCE2 comes from configuring it to meet your specific needs. PRINCE2 is more prescriptive than PMBOK, and more detailed therefore configurations in process or standards are common. For example, in some organizations, there might not be a need for the role of “senior supplier” as outlined in PRINCE2, so users might either rename or re-scope this role.

Don’t Ignore Training

Training is vital. The PMO needs to be trained on methodology. Review of the method (PMBOK or PRINCE) is a lengthy process, but subsequent payoff in execution support is equally large.

PRINCE2 is widely supported by accredited organizations to assist in training and implementation. OGC’s partner organization, APM Group Ltd (APMG), provides two-tier courses called “Foundation” and “Practitioner.” The latter course must be taken to become a registered practitioner, and a re-registration exam every three to five years is required to maintain the designation.

The ability to provide template plans according to the organization’s approach, governance by configured workflows, and control over stages, etc. enables the PMO to manage the effective rollout of PRINCE2.


For more on Project Management go to Project Manager


(Coming up in part two of Best Practices Methodologies for the Project Management Office (PMO), we discuss the last of the three leading formalized methodologies – Control Objectives for Information and Related Technology (COBIT).)

Haydn Thomas brings more than 15 years of experience implementing enterprise-wide project management systems to his position as a certified architect of CA Clarity PPM software. Most recently, Haydn has been responsible for overseeing CA Clarity PPM r8 upgrades within some of CA’s marquee financial, telecommunications, pharmaceutical, it and public sector customers.

Julie Tilke has worked in the areas of project portfolio management and ITG governance for over 20 years. Initially working on process and techniques for project management (PROMPT and later PRINCE), Tilke developed an interest in the developing technologies to support these new implementation approaches. After a five-year stint with Softlab managing its U.K. consulting and training practices, she took time out to manage the European delivery team of a small systems integrator.


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