Delivering Successful Projects with PRINCE2



In the past 2 years, I have successfully delivered three rather ambitious projects on behalf of the  organisation I’m employed by as part of our Digital Transformation Programme and in addition I have also bought several websites into existence through my on-the-side website design business. All my projects were delivered following the PRINCE2 methodology and by working with highly competent project team members, suppliers and stakeholders, I was able to successfully deliver a Planned Maintenance System, a Cloud based Document Management Solution and an online based Learning Management System. In this article, I will give a summary explanation of the PRINCE2 method, its principals, themes and processes which have helped me deliver projects on time, on budget and as per the required quality criteria.

What is PRINCE2 Methodology? 

PRINCE2 (PRojects IN Controlled Environment) is a structured project management method based on experience drawn from thousands of projects – and from the contributions of countless project sponsors, Project Managers, project teams, academics, trainers and consultants. It is widely used by the U.K Government for managing its domestic and global projects, it has also emerged worldwide as one of the most widely accepted methods for managing projects. This is largely due to the fact that PRINCE2 is truly generic: it can be applied to any project regardless of project scale, type, organisation, geography or culture. All U.K Government projects are delivered using the the PRINCE2 method, including the current flagship Crossrail construction project.

The Importance of Projects

Projects are the means by which change is introduced, as the pace of change (technology, business, social, regulatory etc.) accelerates, and the penalties of failing to adapt become harsher, it is now inevitable for most organisations to introduce projects/business change to keep up with the ever changing and highly competitive world. The main two challenges for organisations is 1) to maintain current business operations (business as usual) and 2) to transform business operations in order to survive and compete in the future (business change). Projects are the means by which change is introduced and while many of the skills required are the same, there are some crucial differences between managing business as usual and managing project work. 

What makes projects different?

A project is a temporary organisation that is created for the purpose of delivering one or more business products according to an agreed Business Case. There are a number of characteristics of project work that distinguish it from business a usual:

  • Change – Projects are the means by which change is introduced
  • Temporary – Projects should have a defined start and end – once the desired change has been implemented, business as usual would resume in its new form and the need for project is removed
  • Cross-functional – Projects involve a team of people with different skills working together (on a temporary basis) to introduce a change that will impact others outside the team
  • Unique – Although organisations may undertake many similar projects, and establish a familiar, proven pattern of activity, but every project will be unique in some way: a different team, a different customer, a different location etc. 
  • Uncertainty – Projects tend to be more riskier then business as usual as it can typically introduce new threats and opportunities but with good risk management strategies in place, most threats can be dealt with successfully and opportunities can be exploited.

What does a Project Manager do?

The Project Manager is responsible for managing the day to day running of the project. The Project Manager creates a Business Case, Project Initiation Documentation (PID), Project Plan – plans sequence of activities, risks and issues log, monitors progress against the plan, organises events (stakeholder, board, supplier meetings, workshops, training etc.), appoints project team and maintains control over the project from inception to implementation – ensuring it meets the desired objectives. It is the Project Manager’s responsibility to monitor how well the work in progress matches the plan and if the work doesn’t go to plan, the Project Manager has to do something about it. Even if the the work does go to plan, the Project Manager may spot an opportunity to speed it up or reduce costs. The Project Manager must manage the six aspects of project performance: 

  1. Costs – The project has to be affordable, although the project may start with a budget in mind, there may be factors which can lead to overspending but there can also be opportunities to cut costs
  2. Timescales – Project should have a defined start and end 
  3. Quality – The projects product must be fit for purpose 
  4. Scope – Project Manager needs to know exactly what is within the scope and what is not, and try not to deliver beyond the scope as this can lead to overspend, delays and uncontrolled change (scope creep)
  5. Risk – All projects entails some risk but it should be clear from the onset of how much and what type of risk are acceptable 
  6. Benefits – The Project Manager has to have a clear understanding of the purpose of the project as an investment and make sure that what the project delivers is consistent with achieving the desired return.

Principles

The purpose of PRINCE2 is to provide a project management method that can be applied regardless of project scales, type, organisation, geography or culture. PRINCE2 is principle based and the seven PRINCE2 principles are: 

  1. Continued Business Justification – There must be a justified reason to start the project, the justification should remain valid throughout the life of the project and the justification must be documented and approved
  2. Learn from Experience – Project teams learn from previous experience: lessons are sought, recorded and acted upon throughout the life of the project
  3. Defined Roles and Responsibility – PRINCE2 projects must have defined and agreed roles and responsibilities within an organisation structure that engages the business, user and supplier stakeholder interests
  4. Manage by Stages – Project is planned, monitored and controlled on a stage-by-stage basis
  5. Manage by exception – Projects must have defined tolerances for each project objectives to establish limits of delegated authority (time, cost, quality, scope, risk & benefit)
  6. Focus on Products – Projects must focus on the definition and delivery of products, in particular their quality requirements
  7. Taylor to meet the Project Environment – PRINCE2 is tailored to suit the project’s environment, size, complexity, importance, capability and risk.

Themes 

The PRINCE2 themes describe aspects of project management that must be addressed continually. Project Manager’s should give thorough attention to these themes in order to fulfil the role in a professional manner. The PRINCE2 themes are carefully designed to link together effectively. The seven PRINCE2 themes are listed on the table below.

Theme Description Answers
Business Case  The project starts with an idea which is considered to have potential value for the organisation concerned. This theme addresses how the idea is developed into a viable investment proposition for the organisation and how project management maintains the focus on the organisation’s objectives throughout the project. Why?
Organisation  The organisation sponsoring the project needs to allocate the work to managers who will be responsible for it and steer it through to completion. Project are cross-functional so the normal line function structures are not suitable. This theme describes the roles and responsibilities in the temporary PRINCE2 project management team required to manage the project effectively Who?
Quality  The initial idea will only be understood as a broad outline. This theme explains how the outline is developed so that all participants understand the quality attributes of the products to be delivered – and then how project management will ensure that these requirements are subsequently delivered. What?
Plans  PRINCE2 projects proceed on the basis of a series of approved plans. This theme complements the Quality theme by describing the steps required to develop plans and the PRINCE2 techniques that should be applied. In PRINCE2, the plans are matched to the needs of the personnel at the various levels of the organisation. They are the focus for communication and control throughout the project. How?

How much?

When?

Risk Projects typical entail more risk than stable operational activity. This theme addresses how project management manages the uncertainties in its plans and in the wider project environment. What if?
Change  This theme describes how project management assesses and acts upon issues which have a potential impact on any of the baseline aspects of the project (its plans and completed products). Issues may be unanticipated general problems, requests for change or instances of quality failure. What’s the impact?
Progress This theme addresses the ongoing viability of the plans. The theme explains the decision-making process for approving plans, the monitoring of actual performance and the escalation process if events do not go according to plan. Ultimately, the Progress theme determines whether and how the project should proceed. Where are we now?

Where are we going?

Should we carry on?

 

Processes

PRINE2 is a process-based approach for project management. A process is a structured set of activities designed to accomplish a specific objective. It takes one or more defined inputs and turns them into outputs. There are seven PRINCE2 processes, which provide the set of activities required to direct, manage and deliver a project successfully. The seven PRINCE2 processes and its purposes are:

  1. Starting up a Project – Ensures that the prerequisites for initiating a Project are in place by answering the question: do we have a viable and worthwhile project?
  2. Directing a Project – Enables Project Board to be accountable for the project’s success by making key decisions and exercising overall control while delegating day-to-day management of the project to the Project Manager.
  3. Initiating a Project – Establish solid foundation for the project, enabling the organisation to understand the work that needs to be done to deliver the project’s products before committing to a significant spend.
  4. Controlling a Stage – To assign work to be done, monitor such work, deal with issues, report progress to the Project Board, and take corrective actions to ensure that the stage remains within tolerances.
  5. Managing Product Delivery – To control the link between the Project Manager and the Team Manager(s), by placing formal requirement on accepting, executing and delivering project work.
  6. Managing a Stage Boundary – Enables the Project Board to be provided with sufficient information by the Project Manager so that it can review the success of the current stage, approve the next Stage Plan, review the updated Project Plan, and confirm continued business justification and acceptability of the risks.
  7. Closing a Project – To provide a fixed point at which acceptance for the project product is confirmed, and to recognise that objectives set out in the original Project Initiation Documentation have been achieved (or approved changes to the objectives have been achieved), or that the project has nothing more to contribute. 

Five Factors for Successful Projects

  1. Smart People – Without the right people in place, any strategy and plan can potentially be unsuccessful. Because of this, the core project team, expert resources, suppliers and all stakeholders should be part of the team dynamic. All of those involved must have commitment to the group, share similar visions for the projects and strive for overall success.
  2. Smart Planning  Comprehensive planning sets up a project for success. All stakeholders should be on board during the planning process and always know in which direction the project is going to go. Planning can help the team to meet deadlines and stay organised. Good planning keeps the project team focused and on track and also keeps stakeholders aware of project progress.
  3. Open Communication – Looking closely at details and listening to outside sources of information is vital to the success of a project. Keeping open communication within the team is absolutely essential. When working under a specific timetable, it is important that the team remains well-informed. If a problem arises on one part of a project, it can negatively impact other parts as well. Communication is the best way to prevent problems from occurring or escalating into a much bigger issue.
  4. Careful Risk Management – Things rarely go off exactly as planned. During the planning process, it is vital to produce a risk and Issue log with an action plan for the risks that the project could encounter. All key stakeholders should be made aware of the potential risks and issues. If something happens, then the team should be in a position to quickly resolve the issue with the management plan that has already been set in place. This will give the team confidence when facing project risks and help the clients feel comfortable with the project’s progression.
  5. Strong Project Closure – All projects should have a strong closure, otherwise there’s a risk of the project dragging on far beyond the agreed timescale and this can potentially consume resources and end up costing far greater that the set budget. The project team must be firm and agree with the customer that all critical success factors have been met. Confirmation of the project delivery, testing, and release must be agreed upon and signed off.

5 Steps for Successful Delivery

  1. Blueprint – Hold discovery workshops with project stakeholders to gather in detail what the current phase of the project needs to deliver, document this and consider creating a design blueprint which should be signed of by key stakeholders
  2. Build – Build the product as per the agreed blueprint/s
  3. User Acceptance Testing – Upon completion of build and some testing, create User Acceptance Testing (UAT) scripts and invite concerned users to carry out UAT to make sure the product is fit for purpose. The testers would follow the test scripts and either pass or fail steps. All the fails should be investigated by the implementation team and addressed then testers should be invited to redo the UAT
  4. Training – Create User Guides/Training Plans and deliver training to end users so they will be in a position to use the product competently upon implementation
  5. Go-live – Roll-out the product after the project has met all its objectives and put in place dedicated support for end users, specially in the first week of going live.

PRINCE2 Project Team Structure

 

 

PRINCE2 Process Model (simple)

PRINCE 2 Process Model (Detailed) 

 

Closing 

I hope you found my article interested, informative and useful and I hope it helps you deliver successful projects for your organisation. You can learn more about PRINCE2 by clicking here.


Nazrul Hoque – 01 May 2018