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Princely Support for Project Managers

Getting projects right in tough times gives an organization an immediate advantage. The current economic climate puts every aspect of the organization under the microscope: return on investment, day-to-day operations and staff skills – they all get the spotlight treatment. How you manage your operations becomes more and more important and will determine how you come through the tough times.



Project management, and the ability to balance change with business as usual, is a key differentiator. Your project management ethos shows how you go about your business. An organization with mature project management systems will deliver consistently on time and within budget. Using a tried and tested methodology to deliver projects is the difference between theory and practice. And one project management methodology stands out: PRINCE2.

In the UK and Europe, PRINCE2 is the project management methodology of choice. On the western side of the Atlantic, PMI’s Project Management Professional (PMP) certification is more widespread. However, in global terms there is not much in it. There are around 400,000 qualified PRINCE2 project managers and 385,000 Project Management Professionals (PMPs).

What is not always understood is that PRINCE2 is completely complementary to the PMBOK. The PMBOK is what the project manager (PM) should know – a descriptive body of knowledge. PRINCE2 is the methodology – it is, step by step, what the PM should do; it is prescriptive. More and more managers in the US and Canada are acknowledging that PRINCE2 has a role beside the PMBOK.

In future articles, I’m going to look at this growing phenomenon. I’ll explain what makes PRINCE2 such an essential tool for project managers – how it works and what makes it special. It won’t all be theory – I have real life examples of PRINCE2 at work in Canada and the United States and insight from PMI PMPs who use PRINCE2.

Richard Tucker PMP, PRINCE2, a senior US project manager with experience in the US Federal Government and Fortune 500 companies agrees about the PMI-PRINCE2 fit and adds that PRINCE2 can, in fact, reduce experimentation in the project management equation and ultimately direct a project team to success. “Where PMBOK is the ingredients, PRINCE2 is the recipe. They work together well,” says Richard, who is Director of Client Services at ICOR Partners in Arlington, VA.

From its beginnings in 1989 as the UK Government standard for IT project management, PRINCE2 has rapidly spread its wings and, since it was released as a generic project management method in 1996, its popularity has grown.

PRINCE2 is a structured methodology suitable for the management of all types of projects. It provides organizations with a repeatable methodology and a common language and document set.

In order to describe what a project should do, PRINCE2 has a series of Processes which cover all the activities needed on a project from start to finish and to provide clear, step by step, direction. PRINCE2’s processes are complemented by several Themes, such as Risk and Quality, which provide the building blocks of the project, along with clear Principles which empower the project team to deliver using concepts which have stood the test of time.

In the UK, PRINCE2 has been widely adopted and adapted by both public and private sectors. It is well established in most sectors where it is frequently required by buyers in their RFPs. Elsewhere PRINCE2 is growing strongly with hotspots in Europe, Africa and North America.

In this global village, how often does our business have an international dimension? It’s an ideal time to take advantage of the shrinking world and look at how these two traditions can work together.

My colleague Alvin Gardiner, an award winning PRINCE2 Practitioner, Trainer and Registered Consultant who was on the Scoping and Review Group for the latest refresh of PRINCE2, is just back from doing consultancy in Canada. He sees PRINCE2 and the PMBOK as sitting together comfortably, having much in common, but with gaps in both, as he explains: “PMI talks about methodology but doesn’t actually define a methodology and so PRINCE2 actually gives you the method around which you can hang the characteristics of PMBOK.”

He adds: “A seasoned PMI-trained project manager usually sees PRINCE2 as a useful step forward. It gives them the method that they can then use to help them deliver with the PMBOK approach.”

In particular, two things stand out from the PRINCE2 methodology which can really help PMPs deliver their projects better. The Business Case and Product Based Planning are unique to PRINCE2. And they can be the key to the success of a project. As Alvin says: “If you don’t have a Business Case, you don’t have a project. Product Based Planning gives you a clear understanding of the scope and terminology for your project, so you focus on how you are going to deliver your end product.”

We will come back to these key features in more detail in the future.  Next time, however, we will discuss why – and how – PRINCE2 works for North American project managers.

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Paul Atkin is a leading authority on the PRINCE2 project management methodology. He combines over 20 years of hands-on project management experience with a unique insight from personally training more than 900 PRINCE2 students. This gives him a deep – and intuitive – understanding of PRINCE2. As Founder and Chief Executive of Advantage Learning Paul has harnessed his enthusiasm to gather a talented team of PRINCE2 consultants and trainers who deliver official training on four continents. Paul can be reached on +44 (0) 131 668 2445 or [email protected].

Mike Morton

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