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Is the PRINCE2 Project Board essential?

Simon Buehring
July 5, 2012

Central to the PRINCE2 conception of project management is a group of individuals who do not constitute part of the project team: the Project Board. How is this possible? The Project Board, by definition, is not involved in the day-to-day running of the project. Surely a project management methodology should focus on the tasks of those engaged in managing the project, such as the project manager and the project team?

Yet, although the Project Board is not directly involved in daily project management duties, it is accountable—to program management, corporate management, and external stakeholders—for the ultimate success of the project. On this account, the Project Board has a distinct interest in monitoring and even influencing project progress. The PRINCE2 project management guidelines therefore contain a detailed analysis and framework for the function and role of the Project Board within a PRINCE2 project.

Functions of the PRINCE2 Project Board

Based on the discussion in the official PRINCE2 manual, Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2, the activities of the Project Board can be categorised into several basic functions:

  • Acting as a point of communication between higher and lower management levels (i.e. corporate/program management, and the project manager);
  • Approval and authorisation;
  • Supervising project manager;
  • Project Assurance;
  • Change Authority.

Project Assurance and Change Authority can both be delegated by the Project Board to appropriate individuals or committees. They entail, respectively, providing assurance that the project has produced all of its required products and met the acceptance criteria, and evaluating/approving any request for change. While these functions are the responsibility of the Project Board, they are not intrinsic to its role, and hence (unlike the first three bullet points) can be delegated out.

In what follows we shall discuss the first three categories, which represent loosely separated (and inevitably interrelated) bundles of activities that the PRINCE2 project management guidance assigns to the Project Board.

Communication between higher and lower management levels

A key function of the Project Board is to act as a point of communication for program/corporate management and stakeholders, and the project manager and project team. This includes confirmation of project tolerances, sharing documents such as Lessons Reports and the Benefits Review Plan with program/corporate management, and responding to ad hoc requests for advice from the project manager.

The Project Board is no mere messenger service. Its communication function is crucial to ensuring that all the relevant individuals and organisations are on board with, and aware of, what is expected of the project, specifically in terms of what the project will produce, and within what limitations (i.e. the project tolerances). Without this mediation, the project has little hope of satisfying the expectations of all involved.

Higher management levels:

  • Confirm project tolerances
  • Communicate with stakeholders (including program/corporate management)
  • Authorise distribution of Lessons Reports to program/corporate management
  • Transfer responsibility for Benefits Review Plan to program/corporate management
  • Send project closure notification to program/corporate management

Lower management levels

  • Supervise project manager (see below)
  • Respond to requests for advice
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Simon Buehring
Simon Buehring is an experienced project manager, consultant and trainer, with extensive experience in the IT industry. He is the managing director of Knowledge Train, which offers PRINCE2 online courses. Contact him via email info@knowledgetrain.co.uk.
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