Project Management is an important skill, not just for professional project managers. Increasingly, managers of all sorts are called on to manage projects. And one big idea in project management is PRINCE2.
PRINCE2 was developed in the UK, for public sector projects. But there, some non-Governmental organisations have adopted it. Some have done so because they work with the public sector. Others because it offers a valuable framework for accountable projects.
The same reasons account for the uptake of PRINCE2 outside the UK. It is at its most popular in:
- northern Europe (Germany, Netherlands, Belgium) and
- the English-speaking world (Australia, South Africa and the United States)
PRINCE2 arose out of a specific need in the UK Government sector. Too many large IT projects were over-running their budgets and schedules.
In 1989, the CCTA (Central Computing and Telecoms Agency) licensed a systems development methodology called PROMPT II.
PROMPT: Project Resource Organisation Management and Planning Techniques
From PROMPT II, it developed a new IT Project Management Standard, which it called PRINCE. Initially, the acronym stood for:
PRINCE: PROMPT II IN the CCTA Environment
I suspect this was seen as somewhat inward looking. It was soon changed:
PRINCE: PRojects IN Controlled Environments
The PRINCE methodology was published in 1990. Soon project managers used it for all manner of Government projects – not just IT.
PRINCE2 was a major revision, in 1996. This made the methodology far more generic. In particular, it became more scaleable. It is mandatory in the UK, for all public sector projects. The original form was ill-suited to small projects.
The present PRINCE2 methodology is the result of two more major upgrades (with no name change), in 2009 and 2017. During this time, ownership passed from (the now defunct) CCTA to the Cabinet Office, and then to a private joint venture company, Axelos.
What is PRINCE2?
PRINCE2 is the UK Government’s methodology for managing projects. In UK, it is compulsory for all projects spending public money.
PRINCE2 is highly flexible. Project Managers can scale it to meet their needs. It works for the largest infrastructure and defence projects, down to the smallest local projects. What matters is applying the principles of control and good governance. You would then select the structures to fit the type and scale of your project.
As well as being a standard, it is also a qualification set. Licensed providers offer training for a range of certifications:
For this, you need some understanding of Project Management. But there is no formal prerequisite for the Foundation qualification. Typically this takes 3 days’ study.
To sit the PRINCE2 Practitioner examination, you need a lower level PM qualification. However, many providers offer this with a Foundation qualification. Typically this takes 5 days’ study.
There are also certifications available for PRINCE2 Professional and PRINCE2 Agile.
PRINCE2 is now part of a suite of related methodologies. These also offer certifications, and include:
- Programme Management (MSP)
- Risk Management (M_o_R)
- þPortfolio, Programme & Project Offices (P3O)
- Portfolio Management (MoP)
- Value Management (MoV)
How to Use PRINCE2
PRINCE2 won’t teach you project management – and neither can this article. However, let’s note that PRINCE2 focuses on governance and process. Therefore things like business justification, and formal review, are central.
It divides projects into controllable stages. Between stages are Gateway Reviews. Yet it is compatible with Agile Project Management and, as noted above, there is an Agile version.
PRINCE2 is built around 7 processes:
- Starting up a project (SU)
- Initiating a project (IP)
- Directing a project (DP)
- Controlling a stage (CS)
- Managing product delivery (MP)
- Managing stage boundaries (SB)
- Closing a project (CP)
The most recent revision to PRINCE2 was made earlier this year; 2017. This has substantially modernised the feel of it as a professional standard. The major change is that now PRINCE2 sets out 7 basic principles:
- Continued business justification throughout the project lifecycle
- The value of learning from experience
- The need for defined roles and responsibilities
- Management of your project by stages
- Managing by exception
- A focus on delivery of products (also called deliverables)
- The need to tailor PRINCE2 to suit its environment
What are the Critiques of PRINCE2?
Some critiques are fair; some are not. The most frequent is that PRINCE2 training doesn’t teach how to manage a project. That’s not fair. It does not set out to. We don’t expect training in MS Word to teach us how to write a book, a report, or an article.
Of more concern is the extent to which its flexibility truly allows adaptation to small projects and Agile processes. Without a doubt, there is a lot in PRINCE2. Applying it all can overburden a small project.
So, Should you Consider PRINCE2 Certification?
As you’d expect, the answer is… It depends.
If you are planning a career as a project manager, in the UK public sector, then yes. The further you move from that description, in any direction, the less valuable a PRINCE2 qualification will be to you.
So, not a project management career, not in the UK, and not in the public sector. No. Anywhere between, and you should be evaluating it against other options. Look at the job market, the skills you’ll get and, frankly, the time and cost of getting qualified.
What is Your experience of PRINCE2?
Are you a PRINCE2 Practitioner? We’d love to hear your experiences, ideas, and questions. Please leave them in the comments below.