PRINCE2 can seem daunting at first, particularly when you first opened the Manual. So in this article I’m going to share with you a process model framework that will help you quickly grasp the method. You can then use this framework to gradually build the detail.
In the PRINCE2 Manual is a diagram of what they call the process model and this is a good place to start as it shows the different management levels as well as how the processes interact with each other.
I’ve gone one stage further by showing how this process model framework would sit within a typical three stage project. You will learn that these processes do not always occur in series and some are used in an iterative manner.
Another aspect that can cause problems in the mind of the reader is the various activities that exist within each process contained within the process model. PRINCE2 is often seen as a bureaucratic method; however this is completely wrong as I will now show you.
The activities contained within each process are nothing more than a list of guidelines to help the reader decide whether or not they should be carried out within that process for their particular project. These activities will help the planner using the process model to identify what must be done, and what can be missed out or done in an informal manner.
Treating these activities as a helpful checklist will fast track your learning and application of the PRINCE2 method.
Let us now look at flow of the process model and will describe how they relate to each other:
The first process is the starting up a project process and is used pre-project. Its purpose is to gather sufficient information to decide whether or not it is worth investing in the detailed planning of the project, and includes information about the project to show whether it is worthwhile doing from a business perspective.
There are two main management products that are created at this point; the project brief and the initiation stage plan. The project brief contains information to determine if the project is worthwhile, and the initiation stage plan contains the cost, time scale and resources needed to carry out the initiation stage.
You will note from the process model diagram that there are three management levels:
The project board provides project direction and as such will use the directing a project process. But pre-project, only the starting a project process is used. The process model concept here is that although the project board will not be fully formed yet, some or all of the individuals that will eventually sit on the project board, are fully involved in gathering the relevant business data within the project brief.
process model – directing a project
You will notice that the direction level encompasses both the starting a project and the directing the project processes.
The directing a project process consists mainly of the key decision points needed to be taken by the project board throughout the project, but also includes giving ad-hoc direction to the project manager whenever needed throughout the delivery stages.
The next level down is the management level, and this is the main domain of the project manager. Notice that the project manager is fully involved within the starting up a project process and also the remaining four processes.
The lowest level is the delivery level, and it is the specialist team who are involved here. This is where the specialist products are created, quality checked and authorized. The specialist team can start work once the project manager gives them a work package (containing the product description of at least one of the specialist products.)
Once they have accepted the above work package, they can start product creation and they keep the project manager informed of their progress via regular highlight reports. Once all the products within the work package are complete and authorised, they then inform the project manager.
During a particular stage, the project manager may give out many work packages to one or more specialist teams either at the same time or in some logical sequence. Some of these specialist teams may be internal and some may be third parties.
Now let us look at the time frame of the process model. Notice that the starting up a project process does not occur in a stage, and as such, is just a set of activities that take place pre-project.
The project brief and the initiation stage plan created during the starting up a project process, are brought before the project board for the first time within the directing a project process. The purpose here is to agree that the project is worthwhile and that the project will are prepared to provide the necessary resources to carry out the initiation stage.
The roles and responsibilities of the project management team are designed and appointed within the starting up a project process, and this includes the project board.
The initiation stage uses the initiating a project process, whose main objective is to create the project initiation documentation (PID). This contains the project plan, business case, and the various strategies that have been agreed for this particular project.
You will note that the managing a stage boundary process is also used. This process is there to prepare for the end stage assessment that occurs at the end of every stage except the final one.
The initiation stage supports two key decisions: the first is to authorize the project by signing off the PID, and the second is to authorize the next stage so that work can begin on creating the specialist products.
In a PRINCE2 project, there will be a minimum of two stages; the initiation stage plus one delivery stage. However, dependent upon the size, complexity and risk of a project, there may be more delivery stages.
A delivery stage is the name given to a stage that creates the specialist products, which of course contribute to the main deliverable of the project itself.
Within each delivery stage of the process model, the project manager uses the controlling the stage process to manage and control the delivery of the specialist products for that stage. This process contains the activities covering the project manager’s day to day work during each stage.
The managing product delivery process only contains three activities, but it is where the deliverables or products, are created – and hence where most of the project budget is spent. This is the domain of the specialist team, so-called because a PRINCE2 project is suitable for use in any industry, and hence the nature of the products that are created may vary enormously. They simply need the specialist knowledge and skills to create the specialist products.
The managing a stage boundary process is used at the end of every stage apart from the last one, and is used to prepare the next stage plan as well as updating other projects documents. These are brought before the project board within the directing a project process so that an informed choice can be made about what do next with the project.
And It may well be that the delivery stage following the initiation stage is the first and last delivery stage within a particular project, but as mentioned above, many projects will have several delivery stages.
The closing a project process is only used within the final delivery stage of a project, and is used in place of the managing a stage boundary process. Its purpose is to ensure that everything is complete and one of the main management products is the end project report.
Evidence is put before the project board as it is they alone will have the authority to agree project closure. As part of this, the end product of the project is passed on to those who will use it within the operational area concerned. This may be an external customer.
Once the project is finished, then so too is your use of the PRINCE2 method and the process model for this project!
Want more information? CLICK HERE for my PRINCE2 Primer!
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 PM Academy System 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.