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PRINCE2, a method in the making

As project managers, it is likely that you are aware of the PRINCE2 methodology; perhaps you use it daily. The history of PRINCE2 reveals its IT and government roots, but its development reflects the continuous input from users and industry to its present form suitable for any project. The efficacy of PRINCE2 relies upon active engagement with the methodology by project managers. Project managers in turn rely upon their organisations to support them as they deliver change and benefits.

In the 1970s the UK Government saw the need for an IT project management standard and CCTA (the UK Government’s Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency) adopted PROMPT. In 1989, PRINCE (PRojects IN Controlled Environments) was developed from this method, which in turn became PRINCE2 in 1996. The development of PRINCE2 from PRINCE, was facilitated by users, project management specialists and a review panel of 150 organisations both public and private.

PRINCE2 is a structured project management method with a focus on the business case, the promotion of consistency in projects, the cataloguing of lessons learnt, common vocabulary and the representation by stakeholders in the project planning. Although the roots of PRINCE2 were in IT, it is now a generic best practice tool, flexible enough to be tailored to any organisation and project.

PRINCE2 is owned by the Office of Government Commerce (OGC), which is now part of the Efficiency and Reform Group within the UK Government’s Cabinet Office. The OGC also has methodologies around program and value management, risk, PMO-type offices, and portfolio management. PRINCE2 foundation and practitioner qualifications are available Australia-wide through accredited training organisations.

How effective is PRINCE2?

The Queensland University of Technology (QUT) undertook an empirical study into the impact of PRINCE2 on project performance in 2010. In parallel, the study also researched the project performance of other unspecified (non‐PRINCE2) contemporary project management frameworks.

The research participants were either PRINCE2 practitioners or project managers using another project management framework, with two or more years’ recent project management experience. Participants, mostly in the ICT, construction and transport industries, were from the UK, Europe, USA and Australia.

In summarising the findings, the researchers found that PRINCE2 is perceived as a very robust, comprehensive and pragmatic project management framework. Problems and issues which impede success of projects using PRINCE2 are organisational not methodological.

The dominant issue identified by participants was poor project sponsor/board performance and a reflection that organisations either do not know how, or do not possess the commitment, to properly implement PRINCE2.

This study, with a range of other relevant findings, provides a welcome point of reference for future development of the methodology. The study may be viewed in full and downloaded at the official PRINCE2 website.

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Gabrielle Morrison is the external relations manager of PRINCE2 training accreditation organisation APMG-Australasia (www.apmg-international.com/apmg-australasia).
has written 1 articles for us.

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