Project Management

Cheat Sheet: Prince2

A good start for avoiding IT project disasters...

Prince2? Has the diminutive popstar changed his name again?
Funny. But no, it's got nothing to do with him.

So what is Prince2 then?
It is one of the most widely used project management methodologies around and stands for Projects IN a Controlled Environment. It is used by both the public and private sectors, is regarded as the UK's de facto project management standard, and is increasingly being adopted internationally.

What happened to Prince1?
Prince was first developed in 1989 by the Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA), the organisation that has since become UK government procurement body the Office of Government Commerce. Prince was initially developed specifically for IT project management but was enhanced in 1996 to become Prince2 as a generic project management methodology with more emphasis on process and business benefits.

Why was it introduced?
The public sector - as you may have noticed - doesn't exactly have a great track record where it comes to delivering IT projects on time or within budget. Prince, and its successor Prince2, were designed to address some of the common causes of project failure.

You what…?

Bust through tech jargon with silicon.com's Cheat Sheets.

Some of those causes of failure are a lack of co-ordination of resources and tasks, a lack of communication with users leading to products not delivering what they were supposed to, poor estimation of project duration and costs, inadequate planning and a lack of quality control.

The OGC says: "Without a project management method, projects are rarely completed on time and within acceptable cost - this is especially true of large projects."

How does Prince2 work?
Essentially it is a methodology that uses a set of best-practice guidelines to help managers deliver projects on time and within budget. The core principles are that every project has a finite start and end, a defined amount of resources, and an organisation structure with everyone involved in the project having clearly defined responsibilities. The principles also ensure that the project remains viable in terms of costs, business benefits and user requirements during its lifecycle by incorporating regular reviews of progress against the project plan.

So how do you structure a project using Prince2?
Each project should have a project board consisting of the customer paying for it, someone representing the user, and a supplier or specialist. The project manager will report into this board regularly on progress and any problems, and the board will then make decisions on how the project should proceed.

There may also be a separate project assurance team, again representing the customer, user and supplier, that will check the project is still viable and delivering what it promised.

Well it all sounds good, common-sense stuff. Can anyone just use it or do you need a qualification?
If you want to be a registered Prince2 practioner then you have to sit - and pass - two exams. You can either teach yourself or take a course with any number of accredited training organisations.

How long does that take and, more importantly, how much does it cost?
The foundation exam is a one-hour, multiple choice exam, while the practitioner test is a three-hour, essay-type exam. If the exams are taken at an open centre it costs £475 to sit them. The accredited training organisations, however, offer some courses that include the exam entry fee. The exams can be sat in the same week or split months apart.

OK, where can I find out more?
There's loads of information on how it works through the OGC's website while the OGC's partner, the Association for Project Management (APM) Group, also has a Prince2 website with details of training and certification.

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