Using Packing Slips to Tailor PRINCE2®

Tailoring PRINCE2 ensures that planning, control, governance and use of themes/processes are done correctly on a project.  Tailoring is done by the project management team to adapt the method to their specific projects, focusing on adapting the themes through the strategies and controls, incorporating specific terms and language, revising the management product and project role descriptions and adjusting the processes to match the tailoring that was done.

Packing slips are like building a Bill of Materials (BOM) for the PRINCE2 project management documentation and (optionally) the technical or specialist documents and artifacts required for a particular project. A packing slip provides a list of required and optional PRINCE2 management products for each defined project category.  Packing slips may also be used as checklists during the project.  They can easily be designed to indicate where each of the required management products are created, updated, reviewed, approved and closed out by the project manager and the project management team and who is responsible for the action being taken.

I recommend that your packing slips be divided into high-level project life cycle phases: the pre-project activities (SU), the initiation stage activities (IP), the one to many management stages where the actual technical or specialist work of the project is being performed (handled by the CS, SB and MP processes) and the project management activities related to closing a project (CP).

We discussed the PRINCE2 project types in a previous post. My four generic project categories closely align with the PRINCE2 recommendations for tailoring the method.  The PRINCE2 project types are named the same as my example – major, normal, simple and service request projects. You will need to define the ranges for your project criteria. My four generic project categories closely align with the PRINCE2 recommendations for tailoring the method.  The PRINCE2 project types are named the same as my example – major, normal, simple and service request projects.  Let’s take a look now at how we might apply packing sips to each of these categories.

Major Projects

Major projects are significant and complex work efforts for your organization. To me, a major project requires additional augmentation and formality as part of the standard PRINCE2 method given its high levels of risk, visibility and importance in the organization.  These projects require impeccable project management to accompany the specialist or technical work activities.  A major project has considerable strategic importance to the business, and usually has the associated high project costs for development and implementation.  The Business Case and the Benefits Review Plan will be quite important across the project life cycle.      

From a PRINCE2 perspective, a major project is performed in multiple delivery stages over a longer period of time.  There are typically a number of senior-level Team Managers reporting to the Project Manager, and Project Support is done as a separate role.  Since the project can cross internal and external areas of the organization, the Project Board will be more complex with more than one Senior User and Senior Supplier or a committee performing these roles.  There is typically only one full-time, senior level Project Manager found on a major project.

Major projects will require all three levels of plan: project, stage and team.  In addition, all individual management products will be created and used as separate formal documents and spreadsheets.  A number of non-management products will also be required. I recommend that a major project use all required PRINCE2 management products as formal, standalone deliverables.  These deliverables are typically documents or spreadsheets, and are placed under formal change control.  While major projects require more documentation and formal communication, informal communications such as email, short meetings and conversations are also highly recommended.

Normal Projects

Normal projects are less complex and costly than major projects, and carry some significance to the organization and tend to be more straightforward efforts.    In many ways, a normal project is supported by a “typical” PRINCE2 project management method implementation.  PRINCE2 recommends a standard Project Board for normal projects.  The associated project assurance responsibilities may be delegated to others.  Team managers and project support are usually assigned as separate roles, and the project manager should be somewhat experienced. 

From a PRINCE2 perspective, normal projects combine management products for efficiency given the nature of the projects themselves.  The project manager is still full-time, and does not typically perform and specialist work as a team member.  Normal projects contain multiple delivery stages and usually require all three levels of plan: project, stage and team.  In addition, the set of PRINCE2 management products will be created and combined into a number of formal documents and spreadsheets.  A few non-management products will also be required.

The set of management products for a normal project combine some of the required PRINCE2 products together.  The Project Initiation Document (PID) is typically developed as a set of documents, and some management products may be created as email messages, simple documents or spreadsheets.  The contents contained in each of the combined management products are not repeated in the packing slip, although they are present across all phases of the project life cycle.  

Simple Projects

Simple projects require a less-formal approach to project management. They are managed using a smaller set of management products than a standard PRINCE2 project given its low levels of risk, cost, visibility and complexity.  These projects require minimal project management to accompany the specialist or technical work activities.   The total effort for simple projects is estimated in person-weeks and typically involves a moderate investment of capital funds. 

From a PRINCE2 perspective, a simple project is performed in a single delivery stage following a brief initiation stage.  There are no Team Managers or Project Support staff members reporting to the Project Manager, who is responsible for both these roles.  The project is confined to a single organization and a single site, so the Project Board is streamlined with the Executive taking on the role of the Senior User.   There is only one Project Manager found on a simple project, and they may be performing specialist work in addition to their project management duties.

The four management products for a simple project combine all required PRINCE2 products in a condensed format: the PID, a Daily Log, Highlight reports and an End Project Report.  The PID is typically developed as a set of presentation slides, and the other 3 products are managed as email messages, simple documents or spreadsheets. 

Service Requests

Service requests are operations, maintenance and support activities that are managed as though they are projects.  Their costs are usually addressed within the operations budget.  A service request is managed as a project although it does not meet the traditional definition of one.   Service requests are opened for existing production systems that are being supported and maintained by the organization.   Service requests use a subset of PRINCE2 management products that focus on performing specialist or technical work with minimal project management activities.    

From a PRINCE2 perspective, a service request is regarded as maintenance activities needed to “keep the lights on” and uses the technical components of PRINCE2 to help get that work agreed-upon and accomplished.

The packing slip for a service request is a small subset of management products from PRINCE2.  The requirement for addressing all PRINCE2 management products is not met by a service request, as it is not actually a project.  A service request uses Work Packages, Product Descriptions, the Daily Log, and Checkpoint Reports to focus on the quality criteria and status of the specialist work that is taking place.

There are many tailoring options that you can define and use across the 4 PRINCE2 project categories.  Remember to align the focus and intent of your packing slips and required documentation with the 7 themes, the 7 processes and the defined project management team roles and responsibilities.   PRINCE2 works quite nicely when you tailor the method to fit your projects.  Packing slips enable you to create just enough documentation to get the job done right.

Happy packing!

Susan Weese

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