08/11/2022 - Articles

PRINCE2 Method in Project Management: Basics, Strengths and Weaknesses

As standardized approaches, project management methods provide guidance for planning, executing and controlling projects. PRINCE2 is a process-oriented method, can be scaled and places the benefits of a project at the center of project management. Our technical article offers an introduction to the basic idea, strengths and weaknesses of the PRINCE2 method.

PRINCE2 is more than a method: Project success with a system

The PRINCE2 method is a process-based project management method. It is one of the most popular project management methodologies, with more than one million PRINCE2 certifications and adoption in over 150 countries worldwide. In the UK, it is the leading project management standard. PRINCE2 is not just a project management method, but a fully comprehensive project management system with its own process definitions, roles, management templates and methods. PRINCE2 describes the concrete implementation of projects only rudimentarily (unlike PMI's PMBOK or IPMA's methods); the focus is clearly on the overarching management model. PRINCE2 is therefore more of a framework, a methodical process model for overall project management.

PRINCE2 provides a best-practice approach to the governance framework for projects of all types and sizes

The name PRINCE is an acronym that stands for PRojects IN Controlled Environments. PRINCE2 is published and continuously developed by the British company Axelos Ltd. The "2" in the name indicates that it is a further development of the registration standard for IT projects "PRINCE", which was developed in 1989. PRINCE2 was developed with the involvement of users on the basis of this IT project management method and was published in 2009 in the first cross-industry applicable version. The nomenclature, roles and processes of PRINCE2 have been adapted to the other project-relevant guidelines of the Best Practice Management Portfolio.

Is the PRINCE2 method agile?

In principle, PRINCE2 can be classified as a classic project management method. In addition to the classic variant, however, an agile variant of PRINCE2 has now become established: PRINCE2 Agile®. This integration of agile frameworks into the PRINCE2 process model has been described in an additional manual since 2015.

What is PRINCE2 Agile®? PRINCE2 Agile combines the flexibility and responsiveness of AgilePM™ with the clearly defined overarching process control framework of PRINCE2®. PRINCE2 Agile was developed for companies and individual users who want to use PRINCE2 and additionally benefit from the advantages of agile methods. The integration of agile approaches relates primarily to concrete implementation. PRINCE2 Agile thus also enables agile work in complex projects and is a popular method for hybrid project management.

How does the PRINCE2 method work?

Four basic components

Three basic elements represent the actual content of the PRINCE2 method:

  • 7 basic principles or core values form the basis of the PRINCE2 system. They are the decisive factors for the success of the project.
  • The course of the project according to the PRINCE2 method follows a procedure. The flow description of this procedure embodies processes. These are summarized in the PRINCE2 process model.
  • Topic blocks or core topics define technical content, for example, how the organizational structure is set up or how risk management is to be carried out.

PRINCE2 is based on

7 Basic principles7 Core topics7 Processes
➔ Ongoing business justification➔ Business case        ➔ SU: Preparing a project
➔ Learning from experience➔ Organization➔ DP: Steering a project
➔ Defined roles and responsibilities➔ Quality➔ IP: Initiating a project
➔ Controlling via management phases➔ Plans➔ CS: Controlling a phase
➔ Controlling according to the exception principle➔ Risks➔ SB: Management of a phase transition
➔ Product orientation➔ Changes➔ MP: Managing product delivery
➔ Adapting to the project environment➔ Progress➔ CP: Completing a project

The fourth building block that makes up the framework is its flexible adaptability to the respective project structure and project environment. The PRINCE2 method is highly scalable and applicable to very small to very large projects. For example, depending on the requirements of the project, different roles can be added or combined in different compositions. Adaptability also includes the fact that PRINCE2 can be combined with other methods and frameworks, for example with Kanban as a project implementation approach for workflow control or with Scrum, as in PRINCE2 Agile.

The 7 basic principles of the PRINCE2 method

The seven basic principles represent unconditional success factors based on user experience (best practice), which are necessary to be able to successfully carry out and complete a project.

PRINCE2 Basic Principle 1: Ongoing Business Justification

Every project must

  • have a clear reason,
  • have a definable need, and
  • bring a sustainable benefit to the customer.

At any time during the course of the project, it must be possible to see why it made sense to have started the project and why it is justified to continue it.

The basic idea of PRINCE2 is that a project has a business justification at all times. This ensures that a project is only carried out or continued if a benefit is derived from it.

PRINCE2 Basic Principle 2: Learning from Experience

In each project step in the PRINCE2 process, it is important to record learnings and make them directly usable for the further course of the project, for parallel and future projects.

PRINCE2 Basic Principle 3: Defined Roles and Responsibilities

Roles, functions, responsibilities and competencies within the project organization must be clearly defined before the project begins. Only in this way can the different interests of the various stakeholders (clients, users, internal and external suppliers) be represented.

PRINCE2 Basic Principle 4: Control via Management Phases

A project is easier to manage if it is divided into different phases. Each phase ends in an evaluation in which the steering committee reviews progress, project plan and business case, among other things. This can also lead to the project being cancelled. Detailed planning for the next management phase does not take place until the previous phase is completed, in order to be able to directly incorporate what has been learned and ideally adapt the planning to the current situation.

PRINCE2 Basic Principle 5: Management by Exception

This principle serves to make the use of working time as efficient as possible. An escalation or decision is not necessary for every small deviation from the specifications. Escalations should only become necessary when exceptional situations arise. This is possible by defining permissible deviations via the fundamental aspects of project control.

It is therefore a matter of controlling with tolerances, which gives project management freedom. This means that work can continue even if there are slight deviations from the specifications. Such tolerance corridors can be defined for all project dimensions (time, costs, scope, quality, expected benefits, risk).

PRINCE2 Basic Principle 6: Product Orientation

A clear idea of the end product of the project is necessary in order to easily define the individual quality requirements. In the PRINCE2 method, the end product is called the "project end product". It is defined at the beginning and divided into different sub-products. Each sub-product is described as an individual product and represents the specification for implementation. Everything that is created during the project is called a product. For example, the project management documentation is a management product. The products that represent the goal of the project are called specialist products.

PRINCE2 Basic Principle 7: Adapt to the project environment

The PRINCE2 method is a universal project management method. PRINCE2 is applicable to any

  • Project environment
  • Project size
  • Complexity
  • Priority
  • Team capability
  • Risk situation
  • Project type
  • Cultural environment
  • Geographical location

Therefore, PRINCE2 must be adapted to the individual requirements of the project beforehand. It is a matter of defining in advance the necessary and correct level of control for the project. The adaptation concerns the three elements of principles, topics and processes in equal measure. Nothing may be left out, but process steps can be combined or extended, for example. Roles can be filled individually or bundled into one person for smaller projects. Minimum requirements for customization are defined for the topics.

The 7 themes of the PRINCE2 method

The technical knowledge required to carry out a project according to the PRINCE2 method is recorded in the topics. They describe certain aspects of daily project management in detail, i.e. they define how to act in which situation and by whom. Everyone who participates in the project must have internalized the topics.

  1. Business Case: Form in which the justification for the project is described (cost-benefit calculation or strategic justification).
  2. Organization: definition of the organizational model with roles and responsibilities
  3. Quality: planning and control of project objectives (description of concrete checks and measures to ensure the quality of project implementation)
  4. Plans: planning of contents and processes (project plans, phase plans, etc.)
  5. Risks: risk management for safeguarding and description of measures
  6. Changes: Dealing with changes
  7. Progress: controlling the progress of the project (reporting)

The 7 phase process of the PRINCE2 method

The process model of the PRINCE2 method comprises seven phases, which are primarily concerned with the holistic management of the project.

1. SU: Preparing a project

This process ensures, among other things, that the project has a clear objective, and that there is a clearly defined client and project manager. A project description is created.

2. DP: Steering the project

Project steering is required from the beginning to the end of the project. Steering committee, client or main decision-making body starts the project, decides on the next phases, responds to escalations, etc. The project board decides what it must do to organize and execute each approved project and what it will delegate to the project manager.

3. IP: Initiate the project

The project manager prepares project initiation documentation with the planning of the activity in the project, including the project plan and baselines for the performance targets of time, cost, quality, scope, risk and benefit. The project board approves the project plan.

4. CS: Control a phase

The project manager puts together work packages and hands them over to team managers or assigns them to teams. He monitors the progress of the work, helps if necessary or corrects errors. Team managers coordinate the daily work and are the link between project manager and project teams.

5. MP: Manage product delivery

The Project Manager reviews project progress against the project brief and ensures deliverables meet quality requirements. The project board reviews completed work packages, accepts them or requests revisions/changes. How product development and delivery should be done cannot be defined universally by the PRINCE2 method. Agile frameworks can of course be incorporated here during implementation.

6. SB: Management of a phase transition

Project managers and project board/steering committee review project progress as planned and conformance to requirements after each phase. Project managers hold a review with the project team to capture any lessons learned and improve the next phase. The project board decides whether to continue the project. Detailed planning for the following phase is done (resource planning, detailed schedule and time planning).

7. CP: Completing the project

The project is brought to a clean conclusion, the product handover is made, a final evaluation is carried out, the documentation and the final report are prepared, and the team and the project manager are relieved. Findings from the project are processed and made available for a continuous improvement cycle.

Propagated strengths and advantages of the PRINCE2 method

PRINCE2 can be applied to projects of any type, size, organization, geography, and culture.
PRINCE2 delivers standardized projects that have a uniform approach, vocabulary, and documents. Anyone familiar with a method can quickly find their way around a carefully managed PRINCE2 project.
The guiding principle in PRINCE2 is management by exception. Thus, project managers can carry out their work without unnecessary interference and higher-level managers only need to intervene at points where the project is running outside the tolerance limits.
Templates with the required substructures are available for each document type required by PRINCE2. This results in standardized and complete documentation.
With product-based planning, PRINCE2 provides its own technique of planning with integrated requirements analysis. This reduces the probability that projects are started under false premises and subsequently fail.

Propagated weaknesses and disadvantages of the PRINCE2 method

Only PRINCE2-specific techniques are described. However, it may well be necessary for project management staff to build up further knowledge in order to apply commonly used techniques such as critical path analysis or earned value analysis.
Softskills/leadership qualities as another important qualification for the project manager are not directly considered in PRINCE2.

Which project management software is suitable for the PRINCE2 method?

If you are looking for project management software that can map the PRINCE2 method in the best possible way, without you having to make concessions or even forego certain PRINCE2-specific functions, you should already pay attention to corresponding functions when selecting the software. As our current market overview and project management software comparison show, not all popular and well-known project management software is suitable for implementing projects according to PRINCE2. When selecting project management software, follow our 9-step plan to evaluate in a targeted manner and make the right decision in the long term.

Projektron BCS not only fully supports project management according to the PRINCE2 method, but even provides a suitable wizard that supports you right from the start when planning your projects according to PRINCE2 and reliably accompanies them right through to the completion of a project. The PRINCE2 functions in Projektron BCS include:

  • A quality register in which you define criteria for your project success
  • Tolerance limits that you can define for your project values together with the steering committee
  • Comprehensive planning tools for the rough and detailed planning of your project phases
  • Specific resource management with resource preview
  • Change management via open items that the steering committee can review and accept with a click of the mouse.
  • Report generator, for example for your business case
  • Easy assignment of project roles and display as an organization chart
  • Graphical network diagram for related products with predecessor-successor relationships

Discover Projektron BCS as PRINCE2 software and test BCS right now without obligation!


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Apply PRINCE2 method: Certification

Now that you know the most important things about PRINCE2, you're probably asking yourself, "How can I apply the PRINCE2 method to my projects?"

PRINCE2 as a process model is protected by copyright. Using it as a method and applying the PRINCE2 techniques, however, is royalty-free. To become PRINCE2 qualified, you must be officially certified. Within PRINCE2, there are different levels of certification and even two different certification tracks. One is for the classic PRINCE2 method and the other is for PRINCE2 Agile.

You can undergo training and certification at three qualification levels for a fee:

  • PRINCE2 Foundation: Introduction to PRINCE2 fundamentals, topics and processes.
  • PRINCE2 Practitioner: Requires passing the PRINCE2 Foundation exam and is aimed at advanced users.
  • PRINCE2 Professional: highest possible certification

Further information on the method and certification can be found on the pages of the rights holder of PRINCE2, Axelos Ltd.

Compact: Common project management methods and the basic idea of the PRINCE2 method

In general, a project is considered successful if it is completed on time, does not cost more than planned, and if the result meets the client's expectations. The success of a project is therefore determined by the benefits and the costs of a project. In order to ensure the success of a project, project management methods are used to ensure that all participants have the same idea of how to proceed and organize the project, who is responsible for what and what results are expected.

Currently, three main approaches to project management have become established, each defining their own methodological approaches and certification programs for project managers:

  • PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge) is a collection of project management techniques from the U.S. Project Management Institute (PMI) - and is accordingly besponders in the larger companies in the United States.
  • ICB (IPMA Competence Baseline) is a collection of knowledge and experience areas around project management published by the European initiative IPMA (International Project Managers Association) - rather represented in Europe.
  • PRINCE2 (PRojects IN Controlled Environments) was developed as a methodological approach for managing British government projects and was originally focused on IT projects. Later, the model was formulated independently of specific industries and projects and then published as PRINCE2 in 1996. Since then, the model has been continuously developed and is steadily gaining in importance, not only in the public sector.

About the author

The employees in the user consulting department know the functions and modules of Projektron BCS like the back of their hand. They also know about the needs and requirements of each individual customer for project management software. With the experience of over 1,000 successful product launches, they are the experts in understanding customer requirements and translating customer-specific workflows into the functionality of Projektron BCS.



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