Managing Project Communication Using PRINCE2® – Part 3 of 3

We discussed communications planning and implementation of a PRINCE2 project’s Communications Management Strategy in my previous two posts.  There is a third key piece to this communications puzzle, though. Effective project managers must be able to receive, distribute and report timely and relevant project information.  There are seven PRINCE2 management products that allow the project manager to do exactly that!  Let’s step through these products in a bit more detail…

1. Communication Management Strategy

The Communication Management Strategy contains a description of the means and frequency of communication to parties both internal and external to the project. It facilitates the engagement with stakeholders through the establishment of a controlled and bi-directional flow of information.  It is typically derived from any corporate communications policies (e.g. rules for disclosure for publicly listed companies) and from any program-level information management strategies, if they exist.  Some of its contents are also built using facilitated workshops and informal discussions with stakeholders as well as the results of project stakeholder analysis.  It can take a number of formats including a stand-alone product or a section of the Project Initiation Document (PID).  It can be a document, spreadsheet or mind map as well as an entry in a project management tool. 

2. Highlight Report

The regularly scheduled Highlight Report from the Project Manager provides the Project Board and other stakeholders with a summary of the stage status at intervals defined by them.  The Project Board uses the report to monitor stage and project progress.  The Project Manager also uses this report to advise the Project Board of any potential problems or areas where the Project Board could be of assistance. The Highlight Report is a time-driven management product in PRINCE2. A Highlight Report can take a number of formats, including a presentation by the Project Manager to the Project Board in a physical meeting or a conference call.  It can be a document or email message issued to the Project Board or simply an entry in a project management tool.

3. Checkpoint Report

The Checkpoint Report is used to report the status of the Work Package, at the frequency defined in that Work Package.  This report is provided from the Team Managers or team members to the Project Manager.  The Checkpoint Report is a time-driven management product in PRINCE2. It  is typically derived from information contained in the Work Package being worked on or just completed, the Team Plan and its actuals and any previous Checkpoint Reports.  A Checkpoint Report can take a number of formats, including an oral report to the Project Manager, a presentation at a progress review, a document or email issued to the Project Manager or simply an entry in a project management tool.

4. End Stage Report

The End Stage Report provides a summary of management stage progress to date, the overall project situation, and sufficient information to ask for a Project Board decision on what to do next in the project. The Project Board uses the information in the End Stage Report in tandem with the next Stage Plan to decide what action to take with the project: for example, authorize the next stage, amend the project scope, or stop the project.  It can take a number of formats, including a presentation to the Project Board in a physical meeting or a conference call.  It can be a document or an email message issued to the Project Board or simply an entry in a project management tool. 

5. End Project Report

The End Project Report is used during project closure to review how the project performed against the version of the Project Initiation Documentation (PID) that was used to authorize it.  It also allows the Project Manager to pass on any lessons learned that can be usefully applied to other projects as well as the details of any unfinished work, ongoing risks or potential product modifications to the group charged with future support of the project’s products in their operational life. It can take a number of formats, including a presentation to the Project Board via a physical meeting or a conference call.  It can be a document or email issued to the Project Board or simply an entry in a project management tool. 

6. Exception Report

An Exception Report is produced when a Stage Plan or Project Plan is forecast to exceed its agreed-upon tolerance levels.  This report is prepared by the Project Manager in order to inform the Project Board of the situation, and to offer options and recommendations for the way to proceed.  It can take a number of formats including an issue raised at a progress review meeting or conference call, a document or email issued to the next-higher level of management or an entry in a project management tool.  For urgent exceptions, it is recommended that the Exception Report be presented orally in the first instance, and then followed up in the agreed documented format so as not to delay advising the next-higher level of management of the exception.

7. Lessons Report

The Lessons Report is used to pass on any lessons that can be usefully applied to other projects.  This allows positive lessons become embedded in the organization’s way of working, and allows the organization to avoid any negative lessons on future projects.  It can be created at any time in a project and should not necessarily wait until the end.  Typically, this report should be included as part of the End Stage Report and End Project Report.   It can take a number of formats including an oral report to the Project Board in person or on the phone, a presentation at a progress review meeting or call, a document or email issued to the Project Board or simply an entry in a project management tool.

These seven management products define and drive effective project communications across the life cycle.  I strongly recommend them!

Remember, 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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