Saturday, December 27, 2014

PRINCE2 Governance: Who is Accountable for the Project Plan?

Approved PRINCE2 Project Plan
Some Executives have the perception that a project plan is something they order from the Project Manager. The Project Manager is then challenged to tune the project plan to shorter timelines and lower cost. The result is an unrealistic plan, and the Project Manager is held accountable to deliver on it. No wonder many project managers are stressed and burned out.

If this scenario sounds familiar, you should read on, because the PRINCE2 Organization and Planning Themes are really a great help in these situations – especially if you understand how to utilize them. The key trick is to get the Senior Supplier to take ownership of the realism of the plan – and this is how you do it:

Friday, December 26, 2014

Avoid the “Risk Management by Reporting” Syndrome

A risk is an uncertain event that, should it occur, will have an effect on the achievement of the project’s objectives. A threat is a risk that could have a negative impact on objectives.
PRINCE2 Risk Theme
In some project environments, the main identified threats are realized more as a rule than an exception. This can happen despite diligent use of Risk Registers and appropriate risk reporting. At a glance, such a project might appear to use PRINCE2 risk processes, but when reviewed in more detail, a typical risk management syndrome will appear:

Thursday, December 25, 2014

A Couple of PRINCE2 Business Case Traps

First, the Business Case is more than a Net Present Value (NPV) or Payback calculation. Some think a Business Case is a calculated number, but that is only a minor piece of the definition.

The PRINCE2 Business Case captures the reasoning for initiating a project. The Business Cases is created to help decision-makers ensure that the proposed initiative will have value and relative priority compared to alternative initiatives based on the objectives and expected benefits laid out in the business case.

There is a couple of business case traps you should avoid:

The PRINCE2 Project Manager – King or Facilitator

There seems to be two types of project philosophies:
  1. You build a project kingdom where the project manager is the King.
  2. You build a project and line organization matrix where the project manager is the facilitator.
So which one of these philosophies is a PRINE2 match? Which philosophy will fit your organization? Where do you want decisions to be made and who is accountable? Some management consultants will argue that “The Project Manager needs to be King”, but is this really true? Here is PRINCE2’s answer:

Thursday, December 18, 2014

PRINCE2 Project Board - Can I have Two Senior Users?

- and what about multiple Senior Suppliers?

PRINCE2 recommends for completeness the Project Board should include representation from each of the business, user and supplier interests at all times. The Executive is looking after the business interests and is the single point of accountability. By definition, there should be one, and only one, Executive as you cannot have multiple single points of accountability.

In a PRINCE2 project, the Executive appoints the rest of the board and needs to evaluate completeness and balance of user and supplier interests. The members appointed should be senior enough to make strategic decisions, with the authority to make those decisions and with sufficient control of resources to provide the solutions. According to PRINCE2, can and should the Executive appoint more than one Senior User if multiple user groups need to be represented? And should the Executive appoint more than one Senior Supplier if groups of specialists in the project come from different parts of the organization (or from different organizations)?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Combining PRINCE2 Roles? Watch Out!!

One of the PRINCE2 strengths is the clarity of the roles. One of the seven PRINCE2 principles is to make sure you have defined and agreed roles and responsibilities.

In some PRINCE2 projects, it is tempting to have one single person covering more than one role. This can make sense if the project is of limited size or a certain individual has a unique combination of skills you want to get the most out of. But be aware, there are some traps:

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Why the PRINCE2 Naysayers are Wrong

As a PRINCE2 project manager, the head of a Project Management Office implementing PRINCE2 or just a PRINCE2 supporter and stakeholder, you will for sure be challenged by “the Dark Side” – the PRINCE2 Naysayers. Here are some of the most common naysayer phrases:   
Argument 1: There is so much document overhead involved in a PRINCE2 project.

Argument 2: There are too many processes, sub-processes, themes and roles. You drown the organization in process.

Argument 3: Why fool ourselves? We cannot control the environment.

Argument 4: PRINCE2 does not embrace change.

Argument 5: PRINCE2 does not address requirement management.

Argument 6: The PRINCE2 Project Board dilutes accountability. We don’t need more boards and committees, we need clarify of responsibilities.

Heard any of these? Well, here is why they are wrong:

Agile, PRINCE2 and Scrum

Scrum is an iterative and incremental agile software development framework for managing product development.  Like other agile development methods, it embraces an adaptive and iterative approach. Scrum embraces change and has an empirical approach – accepting that not everything can be defined up front.

Many make the assumption that the attributes of Scrum are incompatible with PRINCE2. Those who are not deep into PRINCE2 can be lead to believe that PRINCE2 requires a waterfall approach and that PRINCE2 is a method resisting change to scope. This is not correct. PRINCE2 and Scrum are fully compatible, and this is why:

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Most Important Project Success Factor

The CHAOS Manifesto from StandishGroup is summarizing research findings based on a database of 50 000 projects. Not surprisingly, the research shows that small projects are more likely to succeed than large projects, and maybe a bit less obvious, that more projects have overrun on time versus overrun on cost.

One of the most interesting sections of the CHAOS Manifesto is the rating of success factors for projects. The result is not surprising as it is in line with other research done on success of projects:

What is a PRINCE2 product?

Product Breakdown Structure of PRINCE2Understanding the concept of a PRINCE2 product can be one of the early challenges if you are quite new to PRINCE2. Comprehending what a PRINCE2 product truly is, is a necessity if you aspire to master the PRINCE2 project management method.

A PRINCE2 product can be anything produced in a project. A product is the same as a deliverable, and it includes everything made by the project manager and specialists throughout the project. Is someone writing a requirement document? That document is a PRINCE2 product. Is someone making a list of users to be training to use whatever you are building? Well, that list is a product.

What is PRINCE2 - really?

Are all definitions of the PRINCE2 Project Management method almost impossible to understand? At first products, processes and themes can be very confusing, but this tribal language can be learned.

To put is simple, PRINCE2 is guiding you on how to govern and manage a project. There are no project templates and not really any tools and tactical techniques in PRINCE2, so why bother? You do need your project templates, tools and techniques, but your project will not succeed unless you can execute it is a smart way.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

To the Point PRINCE2 Highlight Reporting.

PRINCE2 Highlight Reporting is one of the easiest and most useful PRINCE2 concepts to implement early. If your organization is not running PRINCE2 yet, highlight reporting is something you can introduce without even mentioning PRINCE2.

The PRINCE2 Highlight reports lose some of their objective value without having Project Briefs, PIDs and Stage Plans to report against, but getting a standardized report in place for all projects has a value regardless. So what does a good PRINE2 Project Highlight Report look like?

Balance the PRINCE2 Project Board

Categories of PRINCE2 StakeholdersResearch has shown that the most important factor to a project’s success is an engaged Executive with the authority to get things done. The PRINCE2 Project Board is not a democracy controlled by vote. The Executive, who is ultimately responsible, chairs the Project Board, but the Project Board needs to be balanced with all three stakeholder categories:
  • Business – The Executive representing the business needs
  • User – The Senior User representing the users of the project output.
  • Supplier – The Senior Supplier representing those who will create the project’s output. 
The Project Board is responsible for the overall direction and management of the Project. Some PRINCE2 projects struggle because the Project Board is not functioning well. Here are some of the pitfalls:

Saturday, December 13, 2014

All the PRINCE2 logs and registers - can it be simplified?

Overwhelmed by all the suggested documents, register and logs in the PRINCE2 project management framework? Risk Register, Quality Register, Issue Register, Lessons Log, Daily Log and Configuration Item Records. It can look like an overwhelming number of documents, but there is a way to keep this simple:

Can I Use Simplified PRINCE2 Templates?

Do I need generic and extensive PRINCE2 document templates, or can I simplify and use one page tables or PowerPoint slides? PRINCE2 doesn’t give you a direct answer, but a clear hint is given: Tailor to suit the environment

The number 7 PRINCE2 principle is telling you to scale the project framework to the level needed to stay in control. So what does that tell us about which style of templates to use?

Warning: PRINCE2 is not a Development Methodology

Some PRINCE2 projects fail, and some PRINCE2 implementation initiatives fail, because people don’t understand the difference between PRINCE2 as a project management method and a development/implementation methodology.

IT System Implementations, Infrastructure Projects and Product Development Projects all need a structured approach to analyzing the needs, managing requirements, designing the solution and implementing it. This is not what PRINCE2 is giving you. PRINCE2 is very good at showing you how the project should be organized and how to run the general project processes, but it doesn’t give you any tools to gather or document detailed requirements, user stories or backlogs. So what do you need to do?

Friday, December 12, 2014

Scaling a PRINCE2 Project

PRINCE2 is an acronym for PRojects IN Controlled Environments, version 2, but how controlled do you need the environment to be? Well, that all depends on a lot of factors. Understanding your stakeholder’s risk appetite and the risk level in your project is a good start.

Are you working with new technologies on a strict timeline reporting to a nervous Project Board? If so, you need to put extra effort into controlling you environment. Here are your and the Project Board’s options:   

PRINCE2 Benefits Management

Your PRINCE2 projects will produce some outputs, these outputs should give the organization the desired outcomes which are measured in benefits. In the end, these benefits are what your Senior User is looking for, and they are the foundation for the Executive’s Business Case.

Having a running dialogue with your Project Board on how these benefits are to be realized is a good way of showing that you understand and care about the business objectives. As a PRINCE2 project manager, you risk being viewed as document and process centric, but you have two excellent tools to help you show business interest:

Don’t Deliver PRINCE2 Shocks

Many PRINCE2 implementation initiatives fail because executives get overwhelmed by the documents and processes. They are asked to review and approve document after document without truly understanding the purpose. An over eager, newly certified PRINCE2 project manager can make things even worse by exaggerating the volume and granularity of information. So what should you do?

Here are four advices:

Shake Hands with the Team Manager

Your success as a Project Manager is depending on others – first and foremost your Team Managers. Without your teams, nothing is produced. But how do you get commitment from your Team Managers to produce what is needed, with the quality agreed, in time and on budget? PRINCE2 has a clear recommendation:

PRINCE2 Advice: Make the Project Board’s Job Easy

You will not be able to succeed with your project or your PRINCE2 implementation in your organization if you cannot get the support from your Project Board(s). If you want to please the Project Board, you need to make it easy to be a Project Board member. Here are a few advices:   

A Helicopter Escape from the Jungle of Details..

A PRINCE2 Helicopter Escape from the Jungle of Details..
When running a PRINCE2 project, with all the needed processes and documents, you risk drowning yourself and your stakeholders in a jungle of details and paper. All the information your trying to organize is most likely needed, so the easy answer is not to drop Project Initiation Documents, Products Descriptions and Stage Plans. These documents are there for a good reasons, but what should you do then?

PRINCE2 Advice: Don’t Get Stuck in Brief Mode

Starting Up a PRINCE2 ProjectHave your PRINCE2 project got information missing to get the perfect Project Brief? You should consider dropping it and move ahead. Keep the purpose of the PRINCE2 Project Brief in mind: Collect the information needed to support an informed decision on whether to start the project or not. Will the missing information make a difference to this decision?

How Long is a PRINCE2 Stage?

Stage of a PRINCE2 ProjectA PRINCE2 stage is a section of a Project the Project Manager is managing on behalf of the Project Board.  There is no recommended duration of a PRINCE2 Stage. The shorter a stage is, the more control you apply. Longer stages will give you a project with less overhead, but it is also more risky.

In unclear or high risk environments, your stages should be short. In known terrain with a group of experts you trust, the stages can be long.
It is difficult to come with a specific recommendation, but for an average project with total duration of approximately 12 months, this could make sense:

Thursday, December 11, 2014

PRINCE2 for Dummies

PRINCE2 in a Peanut Shell
PRINCE2 is quite an extensive Project Management method. The flexibility of PRINCE2 makes it quite difficult to master in the beginning. Do you think a 400 page PRINCE2 Manual is a bit much to relate to? Do you want a short-short version of PRINCE2? Here you go, PRINCE2 in a peanut shell:

PRINCE2 Key to Success: It is not about Documents and Processes

PRINCE2 Document When implementing PRINCE2 in the organization, it is important to not overwhelm people with documents and process talk. This can lead to resistance and push back from all levels in the organization and eventually stamp the framework as a failure.

Your First PRINCE2 Plan – Initiation Stage Plan

PRINCE2 Initiation Stage PlanPRINCE2 recommends three level of plans:

1.       Project Plans.
2.       Stage Plans
3.       Team Plans.

The very first plan you make is the stage plan for the Initiation Stage. It is essentially a plan for the planning of the project.

Outputs, Outcomes and Benefits

PRINCE2 Outputs vs Outcomes vs Benefits
PRINCE2 has clear and explicit definitions of the terms Outputs, Outcomes and Benefits. These are essential to understand when establishing PRINCE2 building blocks like a Business Case or a Project Brief.

PRINCE2 Business Case Template

Business Case of PRINCE2One of the PRINCE2 principles is that a project must at any time have a continued business justification. A Business Case is used to document this justification based on the estimated cost against the anticipated benefits to be gained.

PID - The PRINCE2 Project Contract

PRINCE2 PIDBefore involving a full team of specialists, spending time on money to develop the project outputs, direction and rules need to be set for the project, and a plan should be approved by the Project Board. This is documented in the Project Initiation Document (PID)

Beyond PRINCE2 II: Managing Successful Programmes (MSP)

Did you know that there is a framework above PRINCE2 focusing on realizing new business capabilities.


Large, complex deliveries are often broken down into manageable, inter-related projects. For those managing this overall delivery the principles of programme management are key to delivering on time and within budget.

Beyond PRINCE2: Managing Project Portfolio

Does your organization have overview and control of the project portfolio. Here are some recommended first steps:
  1. Organize the organization’s project portfolio in a single place.
  2. Establish a portfolio delivery plan and monitor progress.
  3. Track project performance and compare to forecast. Store results and learnings.
  4. Review and identify dependencies
  5. Establish clear governance structures for stakeholders to understand governance of the project portfolio.
  6. Define a standard set of investment criteria to be used to appraisal and prioritization.
  7. Apply phased releases of funding based on project life-cycle
This guidance is aimed at the decision makers who have to prioritise investment across an organization's programmes and projects.

Warning: Product Description is not a Functional Requirement Specification

Requirements vs PRINCE2Do you have a project developing a new product, website or IT system? A common misconception is that a PRINCE2 product description or project product description (PPD) is the Functional Requirement Specification for what you are building. Well, it is not. Here is “definition for dummies”:

The Project Mandate

Do I need a template for a Project mandate? No, not really. There are no format or content recommendations to the Project Mandate in PRINCE2. But, if you are able to standardize a project mandate approach in your organization, you should use the opportunity to make sure the project mandates capture information in a way that makes it easy build on in the Project Brief. Why not use the first part of the Project Definition? That is what the suggested Project Mandate template in the PRINCE2 Templates section is doing.

PRINCE2 MandateThe Project Mandate triggers a controlled Starting Up process in a PRINCE2 project. The Project Mandate doesn't officially start the project. This sounds like a paradox, but the project doesn't start until  the Starting Up process is completed and Project Brief, Outline Business Case and Initiation Stage Plan are all approved.

PRINCE2 Project Brief Template


Template PRINCE2 Project Brief
PRINCE2 Project Brief Template
A quality start up process is laying the foundation for a successful project. Do we have alignment on what the scope is and who the stakeholders are?

On the PRINCE2 Templates page you can find a Project Brief Template. Use this to document the start up process. Make sure it is reviewed and approved by the Project Board. That is your Foundation for success.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

PPD Acceptance criteria - your best PRINCE2 friend

Appeptance Criteria PRINCE2How do you know when your project is completed and can be closed? Does it drag on and on? The acceptance criteria, and the project product description (PPD) in the Project Brief and Project Initiation Document (PID), should be your best PRINCE2 friend.

Spend some extra time on this chapter in the start up, and you will benefit later. So what are examples of acceptance criteria? Maybe you have some of these:
- Technical requirements verified by the test lab.
- User requirements confirmed by executing a validation protocol at the beta sites
- 10 successful sales transactions validated.
- Internal users are trained and have been granted access.
- Operation and maintenance documentation has been reviewed and approved.