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(PRojects IN Controlled Environments)

Management Overview


PRINCE, which stands for Projects in Controlled Environments, is a project management method covering the organization, management and control of projects. PRINCE was first developed by the Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA, now part of the Office of Government Commerce) in 1989 as a UK Government standard for IT project management. Since its introduction, PRINCE has become widely used in both the public and private sectors and is now the UK¡¦s de facto standard for generic project management, not just IT projects.

The latest version of the method, PRINCE2, was designed to incorporate the requirements of existing customers and to enhance the method to become a generic, best-practice approach for the management of all types of projects. The design and development work was undertaken by a consortium of project management specialists, and over 150 public and private sector organizations were involved in a Review Panel which provided valuable input and feedback to the consortium. The development work was completed in March 1996.



PRINCE2 is a process-based approach for project management providing an easily tailored, and scaleable method for the management of all types of projects. Each process is defined with its key inputs and outputs together with the specific objectives to be achieved and activities to be carried out.

The method describes how a project is divided into manageable stages enabling efficient control of resources and regular progress monitoring throughout the project. The various roles and responsibilities for managing a project are fully described and are adaptable to suit the size and complexity of the project, and the skills of the organization. Project planning using PRINCE2 is product-based which means the project plans are focused on delivering results and are not simply about planning when the various activities on the project will be done.

A PRINCE2 project is driven by the project¡¦s business case which describes the organisation¡¦s justification, commitment and rationale for the deliverables or outcome. The business case is regularly reviewed during the project to ensure the business objectives, which often change during the lifecycle of the project, are still being met.

Diagram: Scope of PRINCE2

There are different groups of people involved in projects: the customer, one or more suppliers, and of course the user.  PRINCE2 is designed to provide a common language across all the interested parties involved in a project. Bringing customers and suppliers together typically involves contracts and contract management, although these aspects are outside the scope of PRINCE2, the method provides the necessary controls and breakpoints to work successfully within a contractual framework.



PRINCE2 is a structured method providing organizations with a standard approach to the management of projects. The method embodies proven and established best-practice in project management. It is widely recognized and understood, and so provides a common language for all participants in the project.

PRINCE2 provides benefits to the organization, as well as the managers and directors of the project, through the controllable use of resources and the ability to manage business and project risk more effectively. PRINCE2 enables projects to have :

  • A controlled and organized start, middle and end;
  • Regular reviews of progress against plan and against the Business Case;
  • Flexible decision points;
  • Automatic management control of any deviations from the plan;
  • The involvement of management and stakeholders at the right time and place during the project;
  • Good communication channels between the project, project management, and the rest of the organization.


What is PRINCE2?

Before we go into the specifics of PRINCE2, there are some general points about the subject of project management, which should help put everything into context...

Why project management is important
Whenever we decide we want to do something, go somewhere, build something, achieve something, we need to know the answer to some questions. What are we trying to do? When will we start? What do we need? Can we do it alone, or do we need help? How long will it take? How much will it cost? These are typical questions asked at the start of any project and the answers are the building blocks of project management - defining what we want to do and working out the best way we can do it.

Structured project management means managing the project in a logical, organized way, following defined steps. A structured project management method is the written description of this logical, organized approach. PRINCE2 is a structured project management method.

We have briefly covered what structured project management, and hence PRINCE2, are all about. Now for some more details about the PRINCE2 method.


Coverage of PRINCE2

PRINCE2 says that a project should have:

  • An organized and controlled start, i.e. organize and plan things properly before leaping in;
  • An organized and controlled middle, i.e. when the project has started, make sure it continues to be organised and controlled;
  • An organized and controlled end, i.e. when you¡¦ve got what you want and the project has finished, tidy up the loose ends.

In order to describe what a project should do when, PRINCE2 has a series of processes which cover all the activities needed on a project from starting up to closing down.

Organizing and controlling a project means that we need to have someone responsible for doing the organizing and controlling - this person is called the Project Manager. The Project Manager will select people to do the work on the project and will be responsible for making sure the work is done properly and on-time. The Project Manager draws up the Project Plans that describe what the project team will actually be doing and when they expect to finish.

The person who is paying for the project is called the customer or executive. The person who is going to use the results or outcome of the project, or who will be impacted by the outcome of a project, is called the user. On some projects, the customer and user may be the same person. The person who provides the expertise to do the actual work on the project (i.e. will be designing and building the outcome) is called the supplier or specialist. All of these people need to be organized and coordinated so that the project delivers the required outcome within budget, on time and to the appropriate quality.

Each PRINCE2 project will have a Project Board made up of the customer (or executive), someone who can represent the user side and someone to represent the supplier or specialist input. In PRINCE2, these people are called Customer, Senior User and Senior Supplier respectively. The Project Manager reports regularly to the Project Board, keeping them informed of progress and highlighting any problems he/she can foresee. The Project Board is responsible for providing the Project Manager with the necessary decisions for the project to proceed and to overcome any problems.

Providing an independent view of how the project is progressing is the job of Project Assurance. In PRINCE2, there are three views of assurance; business, user and specialist. Each view reflects the interests of the three Project Board members. Assurance is about checking that the project remains viable in terms of costs and benefits (business assurance), checking that the users¡¦ requirements are being met (user assurance), and that the project is delivering a suitable solution (specialist or technical assurance). On some projects, the assurance is done by a separate team of people called the Project Assurance Team, but the assurance job can be done by the individual members of the Project Board themselves.

On most projects there is a lot of administrative work needed, keeping everyone informed, arranging meetings, keeping plans up-to-date, chasing things up, keeping files, etc. Project Managers often do all this work themselves, particularly on smaller projects. But if there are a number of projects going on at the same time, a Project Support Office can be setup to help the Project Managers with this work.

Apart from describing the different people involved on a PRINCE2 project, and what they are each responsible for, the method also explains how to manage risk, how to manage quality, and how to control change on the project. Risk Management is about working out what could go wrong and planning what to do if it does. Quality Management is about checking the quality of work done on the project, either by testing it or reviewing the work in some way. There are always lots of changes during the life of a project; people change their minds, other things happen, which affect what the project is doing. PRINCE2 has a technique of controlling the way changes impact the project in order to prevent the project going off in the wrong direction.

So, PRINCE2 is a method for managing projects. It helps you work out who should be involved and what they will be responsible for. It gives you a set of processes to work through and explains what information you should be gathering along the way. But PRINCE2 doesn¡¦t do the work for you, it cannot guarantee that your projects will be successful. Good projects, which deliver quality results, on-time and within budget are dependent on the quality of people involved from Project Board down to individual team members.


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