Initiating a project is a very significant process in PRINCE2, because it marks the start of the project. Unlike the process starting up a project which is Prix project preparation, the work of the initiation process falls into the first project stage.
The process is all about getting the project initiation documentation (PID) ready. It’s the PID that the project board uses as an information base to decide whether to commit to running the delivery stages of the project.
Initiating a project also kicks off another PRINCE2 process: managing a stage boundary, to produce a stage plan for the first delivery stage. That way, if the project board does decide to continue with the project, the first delivery stage can start immediately, because the plan is in place.
Have a look at the following checklists to make sure you feel confident about all the different aspects of initiation, both the contents and the way that the process works. If you can’t take an item confidently, target that area for revision.
At foundation level, you’re not required to know all the activities in all of the processes in detail, but initiation is one where you are. Be sure then that you know the activities, the overall suggested sequence of those activities, what’s happening in each and who’s doing what.
If that sounds daunting, don’t worry too much, because the latest version of PRINCE2 continues an underlying logic from earlier versions that make a lot of the method easy to predict the. You’ll find that although the details of the activities isn’t exactly self-evident, it’s generally sensible, and that makes it easier to get to grips with it all.
Here are some notes on a few aspects of the process to help you revise. This section picks up on areas where you may be having a bit of difficulty, or where you may think your understanding is insufficiently clear.
Have a look at each heading and perhaps the first sentence of each point. If you think you’re not having problems, then that’s great: you can state that section. If you think the heading pinpoints something queer you’re not clear all you want to be absolutely sure you’ve got it right, then read on in that section.
Getting an overview of initiating a project
Here are the key points:
As you probably already realized, some of the language in PRINCE2 can be a bit confusing, particularly when you’re learning PRINCE2, and the larger IE of different expressions start to fly round your head.
It’s worse if you work in a business rather than a specialist project environment, or if the language conflicts with terms that your organisation or industry already uses in a different sense.
The particular problem here is that the initiation stage and the process both include the word “initiation”. The word isn’t perhaps the best ones, but that doesn’t present much difficulty once you know PRINCE2.
What does cause confusion when people are learning the method is the use of the word “initiation” in both the process and the stage.
The first stage of any PRINCE2 project is the initiation stage. The initiation stage is a block of time at the front end of the project when planning work – and only planning work – is done.
The stages basically to cover the work necessary to plan the whole project and produce the project initiation documentation (PID), and then to plan the first delivery stage at a lower level of detail and in line with the PID.
The initiation stage is driven by the process “initiating a project”, but that’s not the only process used. Towards the end of the initiation stage, the process managing a stage boundary is called in order to create the more detailed stage plan for the following stage, the first delivery stage.
If you were involved in projects before you started learning PRINCE2, which you probably were, you may be confused between initiation and feasibility. Actually, they’re completely different.
The initiation stage and the process initiating a project are all about project planning. “technical” is a dirty word in PRINCE2 for historical reasons, but it helps to make things clear on this point. Initiation is not about the technical work; it’s about the project management work.
An example of feasibility work is to look at different possibilities for the new entrance and reception facilities at a headquarters building for example. One option is to build a completely new extension to the building as a purpose built entrance area. Another option is to modify a large office by the car park and turn that into a smart entrance and reception area.
A third possibility is to renovate the existing entrance area to make it more modern and provide a reception area with visitor’s chairs and magazine racks.
None of these options are anything to do with planning and project control. Instead the options are technical things, or to use the PRINCE2 word, “specialist” things. All of the different feasibility options have different business case is that include different costs, risk, timescale, and so on, and need very different project plans.
In cases where it’s not clear which way to go, or even what the possibilities are, the answer isn’t to do feasibility work as part of initiation or even start-up. The most common solution to the problem is to run a feasibility project which can be controlled under PRINCE2 like any other project.
That feasibility project delivers a feasibility study report which sets out the different options, each with its own business case and each with its own outline plan. The organization select an option or hybrid of different options, and a new project can be started up and initiated to implement that option.
In short, then, doing a feasibility study is specialist work which itself needs to be project managed. The research of the options, the costing and sizing of the candidate projects, and the production of the feasibility report are all part of the work being carried out in delivery stages, not in the planning stage of the initiation.