From Academic Kids

PRINCE2, or Projects in a Controlled Environment, is a project management method. It covers the managing, controlling and organizing of a project.



PRINCE (Projects in Controlled Environments) is a project management methodology for the organisation, management and control of projects. It was initially developed in 1989 by the Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA) as a UK Government standard for information technology (IT) project management; however, it soon became regularly applied outside the purely IT environment.

PRINCE2 was released in 1996 as a generic project management method. PRINCE2 has become increasingly popular and is now the de facto standard for project management in the UK. Its use has spread beyond the UK to more than 50 other countries. The most current revision was released in 2002 by the Office for Government Commerce (OGC), which has replaced the CCTA.


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Diagram showing PRINCE2 processes. The arrows represent flows of information.

PRINCE2 is a process based approach to project management. It consists of eight high level processes:

  • Directing a project (DP)
  • Planning (PL)
  • Starting up a project (SU)
  • Initiating a project (IP)
  • Controlling a stage (CS)
  • Managing product delivery (MP)
  • Managing stage boundaries (SB)
  • Closing a project (CP)

The processes Starting up a project, Initiating a project and Closing a project are specific phases in a project. Three processes are involved in the implementation phase - Controlling a stage, Managing product delivery and Managing stage boundaries. The process Directing a project applies for the length of the project, while Planning applies for all phases except the final one - Closing a project.

A PRINCE2 project must consist of at least two phases, but will typically contain four:

  • Starting a project
  • Initiating a project
  • Implementation
  • Closing a project.

The implementation phase can be broken up into multiple stages if, as is often the case, it proves sensible.

Starting up a project

The purpose of this process is to set the project up in the right way. It is a pre-project process that ascertains if the project would be worthwhile and viable before seeking commitment of resources. Its major input is the Project Mandate. It involves identifying the senior decision makers required to make up the project board who will oversee the project. The project board selects a project manager. The reasons for the project are outlined in a Project Brief. The project approach is decided, as is the plan for the initiation stage, to give the project a firm foundation.

The actual elements of Starting Up a Project are:

  • SU1. Appointing a Project Executive and a Project Manager
  • SU2. Designing a Project Management Team
  • SU3. Appointing a Project Management Team
  • SU4. Preparing a Project Brief
  • SU5. Defining Project Approach
  • SU6. Planning Initiation Stage

Directing a project

This process defines the functions of the Project Board who are responsible for the project. The project manager keeps the Project Board informed with regular reports, who leave the day to day management of the project to the Project Manager. They only become involved at stage boundaries when they must approve progress so far and give the go ahead to the next stage. A fundamental principle of PRINCE2 is management by exception, which means the only other time the Project Board make decisions about the project is when the project is forecast to go off course.

The actual elements of Directing a Project are:

  • DP1. Authorising Initiation
  • DP2. Authorising a Project
  • DP3. Authorising a Stage or Exception Plan
  • DP4. Giving Ad Hoc Direction
  • DP5. Confirming Project Closure


Planning is a process involved throughout the project's life-cycle.

The actual elements of Planning are:

  • PL1. Designing a Plan
  • PL2. Defining and Analysing Products
  • PL3. Identifying Activities and Dependencies
  • PL4. Estimating
  • PL5. Scheduling
  • PL6. Analysing Risks
  • PL7. Completing a Plan

Initiating a project

In order for a project to be approved it must be carefully planned to show how it will meet its goals. This requires making detailed estimations of costs. These go together to create the main product of this process, the PID or Project Inititiation Document, which must be approved by the Project Board before implementation can commence.

The actual elements of Initiating a Project are:

  • IP1. Planning Quality
  • IP2. Planning a Project
  • IP3. Refining the Business Case and Risks
  • IP4. Setting Up Project Controls
  • IP5. Setting Up Project Files
  • IP6. Assembling a Project Initiation Document (PID)

Controlling a stage

PRINCE2 projects are divided into stages so the project can be more easily managed and controlled. The exact number of stages is not fixed; it depends on the size of the project and the degree of risk. This process cover the day-to-day management of the project by the Project Manager.

The actual elements of Controlling a Stage are:

  • CS1. Authorising Work Package
  • CS2. Assessing Progress
  • CS3. Capturing Project Issues
  • CS4. Examining Project Issues
  • CS5. Reviewing Stage Status
  • CS6. Reporting Highlights
  • CS7. Taking Corrective Action
  • CS8. Escalating Project Issues
  • CS9. Receiving Completed Work Package

Managing product delivery

PRINCE2 is a product based system. A product can be a physical thing like a book, or it could be a more intangible thing like a service agreement. In fact everything created by PRINCE2 including documents is a product. Products can be created by anyone including external suppliers. This process creates the products of the project and is where most of its resources are used.

The actual elements of Managing Product Delivery are:

  • MP1. Accepting a Work Package
  • MP2. Executing a Work Package
  • MP3. Delivering a Work Package

Managing stage boundaries

According to PRINCE2 principles, each stage must be completed and approved by the project board before the go ahead is given to proceed to the next stage.

The actual elements of Managing Stage Boundaries are:

  • SB1. Planning a Stage
  • SB2. Updating a Project Plan
  • SB3. Updating a Project Business Case
  • SB4. Updating the Risk Log
  • SB5. Reporting Stage End
  • SB6. Producing an Exception Plan

Closing a project

Another principle of PRINCE2 is that projects must be closed down in a controlled and orderly way. This involves evaluating the project's result (The Post Project Review). Any lessons learned are recorded, a handover document is created if necessary and a post implementation review is planned.

The actual elements of Closing a Project are:

  • CP1. Decommissioning a Project
  • CP2. Identifying Follow-on Actions
  • CP3. Project Evaluation Review


PRINCE2 recognises eight key concepts or what it calls components in project management:

Business Case

The purpose of the Business Case is to justify the project – it drives the business process and ensures the project’s progress is aligned with the business’ objectives. The Business Case must be valid for life of project. The owner of the business case is the project’s Executive. A major input to the business case will be the project mandate.

The Organisation

Defines all the roles and responsibilities for the people managing and executing the project. PRINCE2 assumes that projects take place in a Customer – Supplier environment.

The main roles are:

  • Project Board
    • Executive
    • Senior User
    • Senior Supplier
  • Project Manager
  • Project Assurance
  • Optional roles are:
    • Team Manager
    • Project Support


PRINCE2 plans need to be approved before they are put into action. There are 3 levels of plan:

  • Project Plans
  • Stage Plans
  • Team Plans

A fourth type of plan, an exception plan, is used to replace the stage plan when a project deviation occurs.


Controls ensure the right projects are produced at the right time and that the project remains viable against the business case. PRINCE2 uses management by exception. Therefore there is no standard requirement to hold meetings with the Project Board, who will be informed immediately if there are exceptions. The main types of control used are:

  • Project initiation
  • Highlight reports
  • Exceptions reports
  • Exception assessment
  • End stage assessment
  • Project closure
  • Tolerance

Management of Risk

Projects are unique undertakings and therefore are subject to unpredictability. Risk is “uncertainty of outcome”. The management of risk is about keeping risks within acceptable bounds, in an efficient and cost effective manner.

Risk management has 3 main principles:

  • Risk Tolerance
  • Risk Responsibility
  • Risk Ownership

Quality in a Project Environment

The aim of a project is to produce products that are fit for purpose and satisfy the needs and expectations of the customer. The quality expectations are stated in the Project Mandate, Project Brief and the PID. There are 4 main elements that make up quality management:

  • Quality Management System
  • Quality Assurance Function
  • Quality Planning
  • Quality Control

Configuration Management

Configuration management is concerned with controlling all of the products of the project. A configuration is a logically related set of products that need to be managed as a composite set. In project management terms, this means all the products and deliverables of the project.

Configuration management consists of 5 main functions:

  • Planning
  • Identification
  • Control
  • Status Accounting
  • Verification

Change Control

Controlling change is dealt with by the technique change control (see below).


PRINCE2 identifies three specific techniques for use on projects.

Product based planning

PRINCE2 uses product based planning as opposed to activity based planning. i.e. PRINCE2 plans and measures progress against objectively measurable products (e.g. "the wall") rather than more subjectively defined and measured activities (e.g. "50% of building the wall").

Product based planning involves the production of:

Change control

In PRINCE2 all changes are treated as Project Issues, of which there are three types:

  • Request for change. This is raised for a change to a requirement or product.
  • Off specification. This is where a product fails to meet a requirement.
  • Query

All project issues are the responsibility of the Project Manager and are recorded in an Issues Log. Requests for change must be approved by the Project Board, who will require an impact analysis of the change. Off specifications can be dealt with directly by the project manager if they fall within pre-determined tolerance limits. The project board can approve an off specification without any change, known as a concession.

Quality reviews

PRINCE2 requires products to be reviewed for quality. This takes place in a quality review meeting, which identifies errors in the product. The quality review meeting will not attempt to solve the problems it identifies.


PRINCE2 has a number of strengths:

  • It produces highly standardised projects which share a common approach, vocabulary and documents. Consequently it is a transferable skill and anyone familiar with a method can quickly be brought up to speed on a properly applied PRINCE2 project.
  • It is a method which embodies best practise in project management
  • It enshrines management by exception as a guiding rule, which allows the Project Manager to do their job without undue interference, while at the same time involving higher level managers when things go badly off plan or in PRINCE terms out of tolerance.
  • It provides a controlled start, middle and end of projects
  • Each type of document required by PRINCE2 is supplied as a template, which includes required sub-headings which produces easily comprehensible, standardised and complete documentation.


PRINCE2 has the following weaknesses:

  • A number of organisations suffer from PINO (Prince In Name Only), carelessly picking and choosing from the methodology, thereby failing to abide by its key principles.
  • PRINCE2 is strongly document centric in order to provide good control. However, in some organisations the documents become ends in themselves, and the actual projects themselves falter.
  • Similarly, PRINCE2 stresses the need for good organisation and regular meetings between stakeholders. In some organisations this has degenerated into too many meetings and too little work.
  • PRINCE2 provides no explicit treatment of requirements analysis. It is an implementation methodology, which can lead to projects being adopted on false premises, and thereby inevitably failing.
  • If too strictly applied PRINCE2 can be far too heavy duty an approach for small projects.


There are two examinations in PRINCE2

Foundation Examination

This is a knowledge check on the PRINCE2 manual and its project management methodology, taken through a one-hour multiple choice paper, composed of 75 questions. Candidates must achieve 38 correct answers to pass.

Practitioner Examination

Candidates for the PRINCE2 Practitioner examination must first have passed the Foundation examination. The Practitioner exam is a three-hour case-based examination, with a scenario background and 3 questions. Anyone taking this examination should be able to apply PRINCE2 to the running and management of a project.

Accredited Training Organisations

To train people for either of the PRINCE2 examinations, training organisations need to be properly accredited by the Office of Government Commerce's partner, the APM Group. Secuirty

See also


  • The Stationery Office. Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2. ISBN 0113308914 (Official PRINCE2 publication)
  • The Stationery Office. Tailoring PRINCE2. ISBN 0113308973 (How to adapt PRINCE2 to your particular situation)

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