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Jim Owens: PRINCE2(TM) History and Overview


I was often asked questions about the Prince2 methodology, so I thought I should jot down a few notes on it.
The project Management methodology PRINCE2 started life in 1975 as PROMPT2 (Project, Resource, Organisation, Management and Planning Technique) developed by Simpact Systems Ltd, a UK company. Four years later in 1979 PROMPT2 was adopted by another UK Company CCTA (Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency), now part of the Office of Government Commerce (OGC), who modified and renamed the methodology to PRINCE (Projects In Controlled Environments) in 1989, following input from around 150 European organizations, and used it as the standard methodology for all government information systems projects.

In 1996 CCTA released PRINCE2, as the standard
methodology for managing all projects in the UK

2005 saw the release of a significant update of
the PRINCE2 documentation.
PRINCE2 itself is actually in the public domain,
so it is not restricted to a particular vendor,
however there are many training organisations
around to world to assist with accreditation.

There are two accreditation levels, “Foundation”,
a one-hour multiple-choice exam, and
“Practitioner”, a three-hour written exam. The Practitioner
exam is open-book.
Whist preparation courses are available around
the world; they are not mandatory for attempting
the exams.

Project managers often ask what the difference is
between PMBOK (a guide to the Project Management
Body Of Knowledge, the ANSI standard for project
management, produced by PMI) and PRINCE2. You can
think of it this way, PMBOK tells you what a
project manager should know to manage a project
successfully, PRINCE2 tells you what you should do.

There is often a misconception that PRINCE2 is
applicable only to IT projects. Although that was
the case in the early days, that is no longer

PRINCE2 is a process-driven project management
method, but pne of its weaknesses comes from its a
high degree of scalability and applicability of
modules that it can lead to a project becoming
what has been dubbed a “PINO”, a PRINCE In Name


The PRINCE2 methodology comprises forty-five
sub-processes organized into eight high level
Processes. Each process has key inputs and outputs,
together with the specific objectives, activities and

1.SU Starting Up a Project

2.PL Planning

3.IP Initiating a Project

4.DP Directing a Project

5.CS Controlling a Stage

6.MP Managing Product Delivery

7.SB Managing Stage Boundaries

8.CP Closing a Project

SU – Starting up a project
The project brief (charter) is formulated,
including the outline scope of the project (what will
be/not be included in the project) and its
justification. This phase also appoints the team, and
lays out the project management approach to be
taken. Once this stage has been signed off by the
Board, the preliminary project officially exists,
but is not yet initiated.

PL – Planning a project
The activities necessary to produce the product
of the project are identified. This is critical
because the PRINCE2 methodology strongly recommends
a product-based approach. Next, the effort for
each activity is estimated and combined in a
schedule. Risk are evaluated and recorded and planned
for in the Risk Log, and the reporting format for
the rest of the project determined.

IP – Initiating a project
The oupouts of the previous stages are considered
and enhanced to form a Business Case (a Business
Case is mandatory for each project). Due
consideration is given to the project management and
controlling approach and quality standards to be
followed. The Project Initiation Document (PID) is
produced and submitted to the board for project

DP – Directing a project
This is where a lot of the “real” project
management happens. Stages can be authorized, or the
plans can be amended (and reauthorized) to allow for
risk events, slippages, scope changes and so on.
If a project has “gone wrong” and is
unrecoverable, it is during this process that a decision to
terminate may be made.

CS – Controlling a stage
Projects, especially large or complex projects
are often decomposed to stages, each stage being
managed as almost a separate project. This stage
also monitor progress and reports to the Board.
Issues (acrualised risks) from these stages are
dealth with or (where predefined triggers are met)
excalated to the Board.

MP – Managing product delivery
Work packages need to be ececuted, delivered and
accepted (by comparison with the project plan,
including the product scope statement adn quality

SB – Managing stage boundaries
A stage boundary is the final part of a stage, so
when a proect is divided into stages, this
process defines what must happen towards the end of a
stage and how the subsequent stage is actioned (or
current stage corrected, if it fails the quality
checks). The information from the stage end is
fed back through the communication plan.

CP – Closing a project
Formally end the project and free up remaining
project resources. Measure the degree of success of
the project and record the Lessons Learned report
produced for analysis of this project and for
planning future projects. Officially accept the
product of the project.


PRINCE2 projects are usually in four PHASES:

1. Starting a project

2. Initiating a project

3. Implementation

4. Closing a project

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