What We Liked: Planning and Scheduling
Product-based planning, rather than activity-based, is a key feature of PRINCE2, providing a focus on the products to be delivered and their quality. It forms an integral part of the Planning (PL) process and leads into the use of other generic techniques such as network planning and Gantt charts. It provides a product-based framework that can be applied to any project to give a logical sequence to the project's work. A "product" may be a tangible one, such as a machine, a document or a piece of software; or it may be intangible, such as a culture change or a different organizational structure. We would argue that software is an "intangible" product, but we'll let that pass.
PRINCE2 describes four products created as a result of the PL technique:
- A Final Product Description for the project
- A Product Breakdown Structure
- Individual Product Descriptions
- A Product Flow Diagram
Each product is described in some detail in text that has been substantially rearranged and re-written since the 2002 PRINCE2 version. The examples and illustrations have also been elaborated.
Writing a clear, complete and unambiguous individual product description is a tremendous aid to its successful creation. The corollary is, of course, that if it is not possible to write the description, then more work, or another iteration, is necessary to ferret out the required information. Sometimes it is easier to identify the Individual Product Descriptions by working backwards from the Final Product Description, rather like developing a schedule with a fixed end date. Once created, the Individual Product descriptions are re-ordered into their logical sequence to form the Product Flow Diagram. The Product Flow diagram is then used to identify the activities needed to take one product, or set of products, and turn it into the next product or set of products in the sequence.
This feels counter intuitive to those who are used to creating activity flow diagrams. Obviously, every product must be included to capture every activity. The converse is that no activity is necessary unless it contributes to the final product outcome. A correctly formed product flow diagram, therefore, not only identifies the activities involved but also leads to a network dependency-based schedule or Gantt chart. PRINCE2 provides a good explanation of the technique and specifies the associated documentation to go with it.
In Part 2
Next month, in Part 2, we'll cover some special concepts
specific to the methodology, some of the downsides we see from our perspective, and
then we'll finish with our summary conclusions.
24. Ibid, p291
25. Ibid, p293
26. Ibid, p293
27. Ibid, p176