In an earlier writing, we discussed the seven principles which guide the PRINCE2 Methodology. These principles are the foundation of PRINCE2. Now we shall examine the seven themes which are described in the PRINCE2 Manual. They are as follows:
- The Business Case Theme
- Organization Theme
- Quality Theme
- Plans Theme
- Risk Theme
- Change Theme
- Progress Theme
The Business Case is arguably the most important Management Product produced in the PRINCE2 Method for Project Management. It largely answers the question, “Why are we doing this project?” Without a viable Business Case, a project should never start. If an approved Business Case is at some point no longer viable, the project should either be closed prematurely or the justification for the project should be revisited and revised. The documentation of the Business Case, once approved, is subject to continual review and verification, usually at key decision points such as the end of a Management Stage. These checkpoints ensure precious resources are not wasted on projects which are no longer viable, desirable, or no longer achievable.
The second theme described in the PRINCE2 Method is Organization; this theme answers “Who?” It sets out to establish accountability and responsibility for the approved project. PRINCE2 describes the three primary interests on a project, they are: The Business, the User, and the Supplier. The Business interests are represented by the Executive on the Project Board; this role is responsible for the monetary interests on the project, which could include financing the project and ensuring a return on investment. The User interests are represented by the Senior User on the Project Board. The Senior User is responsible for ensuring the product deliverables are meeting the stated needs, as they will realize the benefits of the outputs of the project. The final member of the Project Board is the Senior Supplier, who represents the interests of those actually producing the products. As you can see, the Project Manager is not represented on the Project Board. The Project Manager is tasked with the day-to-day management of the project and is granted this authority by the Project Board. The Project Manager reports up to the Project Board on status and for key decision making.
The Quality theme ensures that product outputs meet expectations and the desired benefits are realized; this is usually referred to as “Product Focus”. The goal is to ensure there is a clear and common understanding of the requirements of the products, and measurable criteria are in place enabling the assessment of all outputs. There are two primary components of the Quality theme, these include: Quality Planning and Quality Control. Quality Planning is the process of defining quality criteria, quality methods, and responsibilities for product outputs. Quality Control is the actual inspection of the outputs produced. Quality Control ensures the product outputs are meeting the defined quality criteria. In PRINCE2, Quality Assurance is set outside the boundaries of the project. The purpose of this separation is to ensure there is independence between the project and the quality standards and policies of the organization as a whole.
The purpose of the Plans theme in the PRINCE2 Methodology is to facilitate communication and establish control over a project. This helps answer the questions as to what is required, how will it be achieved, when key events will occur, and whether the targets are achievable (in relation to time, cost, quality, scope, risk, and benefits). There are multiple levels of planning in PRINCE2, these include the Project Plan, Stage Plan, and Team Plans. The Project Plan is the highest level of planning, and relates to the project as a whole. These show the major products, activities, and resources required for the project. It also shows how and when a project’s time, cost, scope, and quality performance targets are to be achieved. The next level is the Stage Plan, which is similar to a Project Plan, but is decomposed to a lower level allowing for the day to day management of the project. A Team Plan is the lowest level of planning in PRINCE2, these facilitate the execution of Work Packages and producing the product deliverables required.
The purpose of the Risk Theme is to identify, assess, and control uncertainty, and as a result, increase the probability of project success. Risk Management in PRINCE2 focuses on the proactive control of risks, specifically those which may negatively impact the likelihood of achieving project objectives. The aim is to support good decision making through a clear understanding of risks including: the causes of risks, the likelihood of occurrence, impact of risk (both positive and negative), the timing of risk occurrence, and risk response strategies. Management of risk is a continual activity throughout the life of the project, effective risk management is a prerequisite to the continued business justification of the project.
The Change Theme in PRINCE2 revolves around the ability to assess and control any deviations from an approved baseline. The purpose is to provide a systematic approach to identify, assess, and control issues that may occur as a result of change on a project. PRINCE2 recognizes that change is inherent on a project, but aims to achieve a method for governing it through systematic procedure. It requires all changes be reviewed by the Change Authority and approved prior to implementation of any change. This requires a Configuration Management System to be established to record project product baselines, along with Issue and Change Control Procedures be in place throughout the life of the project. The primary management products associated with the Change Theme in PRINCE2 include: The Configuration Management Strategy, Configuration Item Records, Product Status Accounts, Daily Log, Issue Register, and Issue Reports.
The Progress Theme is concerned with monitoring project performance baselines, to actual performance on the project. This theme also addresses forecasted deviations from the baseline (tolerance), it’s effect on achieving project objectives, ensuring the continued viability of the project, and provide control over any deviation from the agreed upon tolerances. Tolerance allow for discretion in decision making at various levels in the management structure. For example, the Project Manager is allocated some latitude within a given Management Stage and may take corrective action as appropriate, so long as the deviation is within an agreed upon tolerance (such as an increase in cost not exceeding tolerance parameters). If however, the forecast exceeds the tolerance allotted, the Project Manager would be required to report up through the Project Board for a decision. A PRINCE2 Project will measure progress, comparing baseline and actual performance, in terms of time, scope, quality, benefits, and risk.