What is PRINCE2

PRINCE2 is a structured approach to project management. In PRINCE2, all project deliverables are called products. PRINCE2 focuses on the definition and delivery of all products in a project, in particular their quality requirements. As such, it defines a successful project as being output-oriented (not activity- or task-oriented). The outputs are an agreed set of products that define the scope of the project and provides the basis for planning and control.

PRINCE2, a structured approach 


In PRINCE2 projects sets of rules (called “approaches”) are set to define how to coordinate people and activities, how to design and supervise product delivery, and what to do if products and therefore the scope of the project has to be adjusted.

In the PRINCE2 method, each PRINCE2 process is specified with its key inputs and outputs and with specific goals and activities to be carried out to deliver a project's outcomes as defined by its Business Case. This allows for continuous assessment and adjustment when deviation from the Business Case is required.

PRINCE2 provides a common language for all participants in the project. The governance framework of PRINCE2 – its roles and responsibilities – are fully described and require tailoring to suit the complexity of the project and skills of the organization.

PRINCE2 Integrated Elements

PRINCE2 is based on seven principles (continued business justification, learn from experience, defined roles and responsibilities, manage by stages, manage by exception, focus on products and tailored to suit the project environment), seven themes (business case, organization, quality, plans, risk, change and progress) and seven processes.

Six aspects of PRINCE2 Project Performance

PRINCE2 is an acronym for Projects IN Controlled Environments. The six aspects of project performance to be managed are: Cost, Timescales, Quality, Scope, Risk and Benefits. In PRINCE2, the Project Manager’s role is to plan, delegate, monitor and control all of these six aspects of project performance.

Project Management in PRINCE2

PRINCE2 does not give any guidance on specialist work like engineering models, detailed techniques like critical path analysis (except for techniques that have a specific PRINCE2 approach) or leadership capabilities. As PRINCE2 is not a product development methodology, it can be used in combination with both waterfall and Agile based approaches. A separate article is dedicated to PRINE2 Agile and SCRUM.

PRINCE2 offers two different levels of training and certification: PRINCE2 Foundation and PRINCE2 Practitioner.

PRINCE2 is often compared with PMBOK, Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, by the Project Management Intitute (PMI). This is like comparing apples and oranges. PMBOK is Knowledge based with focus on the project management role and the tools, techniques and best practices to apply in this role. PRINCE2 on the other hand is based on a set of principles, covers the complete governance model of a project and is process oriented.

Why is PRINCE2 sometimes misunderstood?

PRINCE2 is often misunderstood by both practitioners and stakeholders, who may have different expectations and interpretations of the method. Some of the common misunderstandings are:

  • PRINCE2 is a rigid and bureaucratic method that does not allow for creativity and innovation.
  • PRINCE2 is a one-size-fits-all solution that can be applied to any project regardless of its context and complexity.
  • PRINCE2 is a prescriptive and detailed method that requires a lot of documentation and reporting.

These misunderstandings can lead to overcomplication of projects, as the project team may try to follow the method too rigidly or too loosely, or use unnecessary or inappropriate tools and techniques. Overcomplication can result in wasted time and resources, confusion and frustration, poor quality and outcomes, and increased risks and issues.

How to avoid overcomplication and keep it simple?

To avoid overcomplication and keep it simple, users of PRINCE2 should follow these tips:

  • Understand the principles, themes and processes of PRINCE2 and how they relate to each other and to the project environment.
  • Adapt the method to suit the specific needs and characteristics of the project, using the tailoring guidance provided by PRINCE2.
  • Focus on the purpose and benefits of the project, not on the method itself.
  • Use the minimum amount of documentation and reporting that is necessary and useful for the project, and make it clear and concise.
  • Communicate effectively and regularly with the project stakeholders, and manage their expectations and involvement.
  • Review and learn from the project performance and feedback, and apply the lessons learned to improve the project and the method.


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