Completing the Trio: The 7 PRINCE2® Processes

Well, we have looked at the themes and principles of PRINCE2 (Projects in a Controlled Environments).  Now it’s time to look at the third member of this terrible trio, the seven processes!  

PRINCE2 uses processes to define a set of structured activities that direct, manage and ultimately deliver a successful project.  Each defined PRINCE2 process accomplishes a specific project objective by taking one or more inputs, applying the defined activities to those inputs, and turning the inputs into one or more defined outputs.  The activities found in each process create a set of recommended actions to be taken by the project management team.  These activities within each given process may be run alone or in parallel. The processes are aligned with the management levels found in the organization.

Starting Up a Project (SU)

The Starting up a Project process answers the question: “Do we have a viable and worthwhile project?”  This process ensures that all prerequisites are in place in order to make an informed decision about commencing a project.  The pre-project activities found in this process are not intended to be lengthy or time-consuming.  Most of these activities are performed by corporate and programme management, the Executive and the Project Manager.   The key input to this process is a mandate from corporate or program management “triggering” the pre-project activities.  SU activities deal with building the project management team, justifying why the work is worth doing and selecting the project approach.  The key output from the SU process is a request to initiate a project provided to the Project Board, presented along with the Initiation Stage Plan and the Project Brief. 

Initiating a Project (IP)

The Initiating a Project establishes a firm foundation for achieving a successful project.  The Initiation Stage allows the Project Manager to create a suite of management products that control, define and plan the scope of work required to deliver the project’s products.   This process allows the Project Board to take the provided information and decide if the project is sufficiently aligned with corporate or programme objectives to authorize its continuation.   IP is triggered by authorization from the Project Board to initiate the project.  IP activities performed by the Project Manager include preparing the strategies governing managing risks, CM, quality and communications, setting up the project controls, creating the plans and assembling the Project Initiation Document (PID) by aggregating management products created during the Initiation Stage. The key output from the IP process is requesting authority to deliver the project provided to the Project Board, along with the Project Initiation Document (PID) and the Next Stage Plan.

Controlling a Stage (CS)

The Controlling a Stage (CS) process drives the project manager’s “day job” activities when they are managing, monitoring and controlling project work.  The activities focus on three areas as the products for a management stage are being delivered: (1) authorizing the work to be done, (2) monitoring, reviewing and reporting stage status and (3) dealing with project issues and risks and taking corrective action.   

This process is normally used for each delivery or management stage that occurs after the Project Board authorizes the project at the end of the Initiation Stage.  Towards the end of each stage except the final stage, activities in the Managing Stage Boundaries process will be used to report on completion of the current stage and to plan the next stage.  In the final delivery stage of a PRINCE2 project, the Closing a Project process is invoked when the work is complete or if the project is prematurely terminated.  Every PRINCE2 project contains at least two stages: the Initiation Stage and one other.  CS activities focus on dealing with the specialist work using work packages, monitoring, reporting and dealing with issues and risks.  Specialist products for the management stage are delivered, verified and accepted and the next stage is planned for and approved for all stages except the last stage of the project.   

Managing Product Delivery (MP)

The Managing Product Delivery (MP) process controls the link between the Project Manager and the Team Managers by placing formal requirements on accepting, executing and delivering project work.   This process ensures that the team is working on products that are authorized and agreed upon.  These products must be clearly specified, understood and delivered to expectations and within tolerance.  Team Managers provide the Project Manager with regular progress reports about the team’s work.   Teams may be internal or external to the organization. MP is triggered by receipt of one or more authorized Work Packages from the Project Manager to the Team Manager.  When a work package is completed, it is handed back to the Project Manager.  

Managing Stage Boundaries (SB)

The Managing Stage Boundaries process allows the Project Manager to provide the Project Board with sufficient information so they can review the success of the current stage and make key decisions at or near the end of each management stage of the project.  Decisions include approving the next Stage Plan, reviewing an updated Project Plan, requesting an Exception Plan and confirming the continued business justification and acceptability of the project risks.  SB activities take place at or near the end of a stage or when the current stage has exceeded tolerance and is in exception.

Closing a Project (CP)

The Closing a Project (CP) process provides an orderly end to a project, recognizing that the objectives in the PID have been achieved.   When the project successfully completes, user acceptance of the project’s products are confirmed, project performance is evaluated and benefits achieved to date are assessed.  Any open issues or risks are collected as follow-on action recommendations to be dealt with after implementation.   Activities in this process may also be performed when a project has been prematurely terminated for some reason. CP takes place at the end of the final stage of a PRINCE2 project or when premature termination has occurred.  CP results in the Project Board’s authorization to close the project.  

Directing a Project (DP)

The Directing a Project process is triggered by the request from Starting up a Project to initiate a project.  This process is active throughout the remainder of the project life cycle, enabling the project board to make key decisions and exercise overall project control.  The Project Board manages by exception, monitoring via reports and controls through a small number of decision points and providing direction and guidance to the Project Manager.  The Project Manager has the responsibility for ‘day-to-day’ management of the project.    

The PRINCE2 processes provide the project manager and the project team with a step-wise progression (a road map!) through the project life cycle from a controlled start through a controlled middle and on to a controlled end.   Each process comes complete with recommended activities, products and the related responsibilities for who does what when.  When the processes are integrated properly with the themes and principles you get a powerful and pragmatic approach to managing successful projects!

A copy of the PRINCE2 method is required reference material in any project manager’s bookshelf!  The method is documented in the OGC publication Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2” which is officially published by TSO.  Serious project managers seeking to enhance their knowledge, skills and professional credibility target should consider PRINCE2 certification.  Learning Tree offers two excellent certification courses for folks interested in becoming a certified practitioner of PRINCE2 or simply starting with the Foundation certification.    

Susan Weese

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