Wednesday, 25 August 2010

PRINCE2: Structure, Principles, Success.

When using PRINCE2 it is important to understand the difference between processes and themes, but more so you should understand the seven key principles. These are not rules, or strict guidelines, but contributing factors which make a project sufficiently more successful.

Themes dictate what we have to manage or create in order to complete a project successfully. Many of the processes we will describe later will use one (or more) themes. However, while we may be able to generalise each theme in a specific way- the level of detail required in each project will be vastly different.
This is because, with such a generic process, we cannot assume what the level of detail will be for any given project (nor should we). Therefore it's best to leave that to the individual project managers and to provide a strong, flexible and versatile framework.

Each process details one of the activities in the project but not necessarily the order. It can be said that the order of standard processes is not overly important, either, as long as they are all finished by the end of the project end date.
However, the ordering of main processes is very important as this provides a schedule for when to do activities and provides a timeline for the project.

Referring back to the opening, the seven key PRINCE2 principles are:
  • continued business justification
  • learn from experience
  • defined roles and responsibilities
  • manage by stages
  • manage by exception
  • focus on products
  • tailor to suit the project environment

Continued business justification.
Business justification is quite simply the continual reasoning of why we are undertaking this project. If we lose sight of the project aims, or we continue projects with few real benefits, then the project will succumb to failure or continue but prove to be incredibly costly.
It's always the best idea to keep a grip on why you are doing the project in the first, as without the project the rest of the PRINCE2 framework is inconsequential. Even forced changes such as updated legislation will require some justification, albeit not as much as optional projects.

Learn from experience.
Learning from experience is quite self-explanatory in that we look at other projects, products and similar processes to identify where the mistakes were. If we can eliminate some of these mistakes this could prove to cut costs, time and hassle when it comes to producing the product.
Therefore, research not only into the product you are designing but what has come before it. If you know there is an inherent weakness in one stage or in one component then find an alternative, research into other methods or simply reconsider the project altogether.

Defined roles and responsibilities.
Defining roles and responsibilites has a two-fold effect. Not only do we have the right people (or the best people) for the job in the right place, we can also save on unnecessary hangups and hassle.
If the structure is truly transparent then the process can run much faster, should there be any kind of problem the staff will know where to go and who to talk to.
Throughout the process there will be contributions from various stakeholders (internally and externally) which will require some responsibility, someone will have to make sure that the needs of all interested parties are met. Meeting some requirements is not effective enough.

Manage by stages.
Managing by stages allows us to break down the biggest problem we have with projects- the project itself.
It wouldn't be possible to work on the entire project all at once, nor would it be prudent to do so, therefore we need to break the project down into smaller stages and work through those. Slotting those stages into an overall framework which will hopefully be successful.
Another key reason for managing by stages is the number of people involved at the end of a stage. We can't simply say that as Part A is done now we should move to Part B. There are factors that need to be checked, decisions to be made and the overall decision of whether this is still viable.

Manage by exception.
Managing by exception mostly involves a great deal of delegation. It is not possible for one person to do everything all of the time, therefore we need to break things down into smaller segments and assign them to certain staff. To make this more effective we will also use a series of tolerances.
These are designed to keep the project running on time and to the correct standard, but equally, should they not be met they can be raised to the next level of management.

Focus on products.
Focusing on products is rather the heart of any good project. With this we put greater attention on the product itself, not the activities to create it, which means from the very start the focus is on a quality product.
Therefore, in each stage and each process we are looking at what makes a good product and are building our project around that. Were it to be the reverse we would create a highly-efficiently produced inferior product that doesn't meet our aims.
This can also solve disputes as when using this approach we will always have a near-perfect image in our mind of what the product will be. Thereby, should anyone question it- we will know the answers.

Tailor to suit the project environment.
Tailoring to suit the project environment is why PRINCE2 works as well as it does. The only way such a universal and generic process can work is to be focused, and in order to be focused it needs to be tailored to the expectations of the project.
It wouldn't work if we blanketed several "standard" options without realising the real options available to us, nor would it work if we just used the basic idea of PRINCE2 but none of the methodology.
In order for it to truly be a great project it has to be tailored to every aspect of the product and the organisation that creates it, without this, the project could succeed but to an inferior standard.

This was rather a long post today but covers one of the deepest aspects of PRINCE2. Next week we shall continue and eventually round up the topics to do with this form of project management- until then, thank you for reading!

All information presented here is © copyright Carkean Solutions Ltd., 2010 - Not to be used without our permission - The views expressed here are the views of an individual not the corporation

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