PRINCE2 Process Overview

PRINCE2 Process Overview

I am often asked how one PRINCE2 Process “speaks” to another in terms of a PRINCE” Process Overview. My following summary will give you a new insight to each PRINCE2 Process, and how they work together:

It would be helpful if you thought of a PRINCE2 process as “Toolkits” or “Toolboxes” Each Process is used when they are needed – some once per project, some re-used several times, and one, Directing a Project, is used continuously after the completion of the starting up a project process.

Here is how the seven processes would be used in a (say), a three stage PRINCE2 project…

Note how some processes are used many times, and the differences between the Initiation Stage (creating and approving the Project Initiation Documentation) and the delivery stages (creating and approving the specialist products).

Also, that the Closing a Project process is used once within the last delivery stage, and is NOT in a stage of its own.

There are many drivers in an organization that may cause the need for change, and hence the instigation of a PRINCE2 project.

These drivers may include a new idea, a customer request, new business objectives, or the need to respond to competitive pressures, changes in legislation, the final report of a feasibility study, or even a recommendation or audit output.

Therefore, the trigger for PRINCE2 could be just about anything and in any form. This trigger is called the Project Mandate, and may take the form of a verbal instruction, the minutes from a meeting, or a direct request from senior management.

PRINCE2 Starting Up a Project Process

The Executive of the Project Board is appointed who in turn will normally appoint or recommend the Project Manager. At this point, the Project Manager will create the Daily Log, which is usually in the form of a diary.

It is used throughout the project to capture any informal issues or risks, and for the Project Manager to use to note any information that may not be captured elsewhere (such as a ‘to-do’ list)

The rest of the management team are also appointed – the Senior User role, Senior Supplier role, and Project Assurance (if separate individuals).

The information in the project mandate will almost certainly need to be further refined and this uses the PRINCE2 process Starting Up a Project to carry this out along with other activities.

The project mandate will be further refined into the Project Brief plus the creation of a Stage Plan for the Initiation stage. The Project Brief contains the Outline Business Case, the project approach and the Project Product Description.

The Project Board will now review these two key documents and make a decision on whether or not to formally start the project.

Their thinking will be “do we have a viable and worthwhile project?”

Directing a Project

This is used continually throughout the project by the Project Board, and its purpose here is to use the activity ‘authorize initiation’ activity.

Initiating a Project

If a decision by the Project Board has been made to proceed further, then this is the trigger to start the Initiation stage, where the project brief will be further refined and expanded to become the Project Initiation Documentation (PID).

The project will now be planned in detail after the various strategy documents within the PID have been determined. These are:

  • The Risk Management Approach
  • The Quality Management Approach
  • The Change Management Approach
  • The Communication Management Approach

Appropriate Project Board and project management level controls are defined, including how funding for the project is to be obtained.

The outline Business Case contained within the Project Brief is now further refined to become the detailed Business Case as part of the PID.

The initiation stage is completed once all of the information is assembled within the Project Initiation Documentation which will now need to be reviewed by the Project Board to decide whether or not to authorize the project, and to proceed into the next stage (the first delivery stage).

Also during the Initiation stage, the Managing a Stage Boundary process is used to prepare for the End Stage Assessment, including the creation of the second stage plan.

Directing a Project

This is used continually throughout the project by the Project Board, and its purpose here is to use the ‘authorize the project’ activity. It does this by approving the PID and the next Stage Plan.

The activity ‘authorizing a stage or exception plan’ within the PRINCE2 process Directing a Project is used to approve or otherwise the second Stage Plan.

Once the PID is signed off, then all remaining stages (there may only be one), need to be authorized, and the Project Board will have delegated day-to-day control to the Project Manager for each remaining stage, one at a time.

Controlling a Stage

The Project Manager will assign work to the Team Manager/Specialist team) via Work Packages and will want to ensure that their progress is in line with the approved stage plan, and that the stage forecast remains within the projects performance targets and agreed tolerances.

To assist in progress control, the Project Manager will use a set of project records (the Daily Log, Lessons Log, Issue, Risk, and Quality Registers, and Configuration Item Records).

The Project Manager will keep the Project Board informed of progress via regular Highlight Reports.

Managing Product Delivery

This is used by the Team Managers and specialists team members to execute their assigned Work Packages, keeping the Project Manager informed of progress with regular Checkpoint Reports.

This is the process where the specialist products are created, and as such will normally spend most of the project budget!

Managing a Stage Boundary

At the end of each management stage the Project Manager will use the PRINCE2 process Managing a Stage Boundary process to create the next Stage Plan, update the Project Plan and Business Case, and assess the aggregated set of risks including any current issues.

This information will be presented to the Project Board in the form of an End Stage Report, where they will need to decide what to do next.

The final delivery stage (there can be as many as the project needs, but must have a minimum of one delivery stage), is different in that although specialist products will have been created, when the final products are approved, the Project Manager will use the PRINCE2 process Closing a Project process to prepare for controlled shutdown.

Closing a Project

The evidence from this process is used by the Project Board to authorize project closure.

The main deliverables are:

  • Hand over the project products
  • Benefits Review Plan
  • End Project Report
  • Lessons Report

Use this diagram to help visualize the way that the PRINCE2 processes map onto the typical stages of a PRINCE2 project:


PRINCE2 kicks off with the project “trigger” from Corporate or programme management – the Project Mandate.

  • The Starting Up a Project (SU), and Initiating a Project (IP) PRINCE2 process are both “in series” – the Management Products of each being taken to the Project Board for approval (Authorizing initiation and Authorizing a project).
  • The PRINCE2 process Managing Product Delivery, is used, along with the PID, to create the 2nd Stage Plan and End Stage Report containing the updated versions of the Project Plan, Business Case, and Risk Register
  • These Management Products are presented to the Project Board Authorizing a project), to agree that the whole project, in principle, should be agreed, and that it is sensible to invest in the 2nd Stage Plan (in the activity Authorizing a Stage or Exception Plan)
  • From there on, the “Engine Room” of PRINCE2 takes over – ONE anticlockwise revolution per Stage…SB is used the prepare for the End Stage Assessment (ESA), Directing a Project process is used to approve the Stage Plan, Sets Tolerance, and sets the frequency of each Highlight Report…
  • The PRINCE2 process Controlling a Stage (CS) authorizes Work Packages (WP), the Specialist Team then agrees them (all happens in Managing Product Delivery – MP)
  • The Specialist Team creates the Products, carries out the Quality Checks/Quality Reviews, issues Checkpoint Reports on WP progress – and eventually completes the Work Package then advising the Project Manager, who needs to agree the Work Package
  • The Project Manager “Manages by Exception”, issuing regular Highlight Reports and this continues until the last Work Package in the Stage is completed
  • This “triggers” the Project Manager to use PRINCE2 process Managing Stage Boundary (SB), create the Next Stage Plan, update the relevant documents, and present the information to the Project Board at an End Stage Assessment (ESA)

Then the whole cycle repeats… In PRINCE2, all plans are documents, and the Plans Theme and the product-based planning technique is used whenever a Project Plan, Stage Plan, optional Team Plan, and Exception Plan (if needed), are required

Whenever the Stage/Project is forecast to exceed Tolerance, the Project Manager enters it in the Issue Register, and raises an Exception Report to bring the matter to the attention of the Project Board (along with options to recover/minimize the situation)

The Project Board then makes a decision to ask for a plan on a particular option or order a premature close.

If the Project Board wants an Exception Plan, the Project Manager will use Managing s Stage Boundary to create it, and then update the remaining documents just like an End Stage Assessment.

BUT, the meeting to agree/or not, an Exception Plan is called an Exception Assessment (EXA).

Once approved, the Exception Plan replaces the original Stage Plan that would have not completed within Tolerances, and the Project Manager authorizes new/modified Work Packages against the new Stage Plan

Pass YOUR PRINCE2 Foundation and Practitioner Exams At First Try HERE!


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About the Author Dave Litten

David spent 25 years as a senior project manager for USA multinationals, and has deep experience in project management. He now develops a wide range of project-related downloadable video training products under the Primer and Projex Academy brand names. In addition, David runs project management training seminars across the world, and is a prolific writer on the many topics of project management.

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