Published here August, 2006.  

Introduction | Book Structure
What We Liked: Content Consistency and Structure
What We Liked: Process Relationships
What We Liked: Planning and Scheduling | PART 2

In this Part 1 of our two-part paper we will introduce the PRINCE2 project management methodology, the book's structure and what we liked. In Part 2 we'll cover some special concepts specific to PRINCE2, some of the downsides we see from our perspective, and we'll finish with our summary conclusions.


For those not familiar with this book, the Office of Government Commerce (OGC, UK) publishes Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2. It is a prescriptive manual describing in detail a structured method for the effective management of a project. The latest version contains 456 pages, a 12% increase over its 2002 predecessor. PRINCE2 is a widely recognized de facto standard used extensively by governments and the private sector in the UK and around the world, see Figure 1.

Figure 1
Figure 1

The widespread use of PRINCE2 owes much to the fact that it can be tailored and scaled to all manner of projects and situations. According to the APM Group:[1]

It has become an international standard, with organizations around the world using it as their preferred approach to managing projects. This is reflected in the fact that:

  • The PRINCE2 Manual is currently available in English, Danish and Mandarin Chinese, and is being translated into Dutch, French, German, Polish and Spanish
  • The PRINCE2 Pocketbook has been translated into Italian and is currently being translated into French and German
  • The PRINCE2 Glossary of Terms is available in English, Arabic, Bulgarian, Danish, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, Russian, Polish, Spanish and Vietnamese.

The method was first promulgated around 1989 and has since gone through a number of incarnations. We last reviewed PRINCE2 in some detail in its 2002 Edition back in November 2002 - see However, we did so to draw a comparison with the Project Management Institute's Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge.

Since then, the Guide has been updated to its third revision (2004) and PRINCE2 was updated to its latest revision last year. We reviewed the 2004 version of the Guide in considerable depth in papers from March to May 2005 - see Moreover, the team leader of the latest PRINCE2 update, Colin Bentley, has written his own comparison between the latest versions of the two documents - see So now we feel it is appropriate to examine the latest version of PRINCE2, in its own right.

"PRINCE" stands for PRojects IN Controlled Environments and is described as a structured method for effective project management. It is based on the experiences of scores of projects, project managers and project team who have contributed, some from their mistakes or omissions, others from their successes.[2] According to the Foreword, it is recognized as a world-class international product and is the standard method for project management, not least because it embodies many years of good practice in project management and provides a flexible and adaptable approach to suit all projects.[3]

The manual itself is limited in its scope first because it draws a distinction between "product life span" and "project life cycle" as shown in Figure 2. From the manual's perspective, the latter is only a small part of the former and consequently only covers the execution period of the project. This is so even though the "Business Case drives all the project management processes, from initial project set-up through to successful finish",[4] it, together with the development of the solution to the need and intermediate-level planning, are not included under the terms of the manual. It may be concluded that, in PRINCE2's view, the project does not start until the earlier work, including any feasibility studies, and so on, actually move into formal and physical execution.

Figure 2: The product life span and project life cycle ranges in PRINCE2
Figure 2: The product life span and project life cycle ranges in PRINCE2[5]

For direction on managing the earlier parts of a project, or "pre-project" in PRINCE2 terms, you must refer to a companion document, Managing Successful Programmes (MSP), also published by OGC. We reviewed this document in March 2006 - see As the MSP name implies, this volume is focused on managing collections of projects such as "Making and delivering"; "Organizational Change"; and "External societal change" projects. That means that the "front end" of these projects do not receive dedicated attention as they tend to do in North America, but rather as a part of, and in competition with, any and all other projects that are being contemplated.

Second, as it says in the text, "PRINCE2 assumes that the project is run within the context of a contract".[6] This statement is made in the discussion of purchasing so it obviously contemplates a legal contract. However, elsewhere there seems to be some ambivalence over this, where the context suggests the possibility of an "internal" commitment between divisions of a large organization. In short, the methodology does not appear to be suited to the large number of relatively modest in-house IS/IT projects in corporate IT departments.

Third, the general tone of the content suggests application to projects of significant value or complexity conducted under rigorous conditions of "high ceremony". These are projects such as you may find in governments at all levels, the process industries, engineering and construction companies, and the like. Indeed, PRINCE2 observes that: "Without a project management method, projects are rarely completed on time and within acceptable cost - and this is especially true of large projects.[7] However, PRINCE2 does say: "tailoring the method to suit the circumstances of a particular project is critical to its successful use."[8] In fact, where applicable, the standard format of the process descriptions includes a comment on "scalability".


1. Embedding Best Practice, The APM Group Ltd, UK, June 2006
2. PRINCE2, 2005 Edition, Office of government Commerce, UK, 2005, p1
3. Ibid, p v
4. Ibid
5. Ibid, Figure 2.1, p8
6. Ibid, p8
7. Ibid, p2
8. Ibid, p9
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