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Understand PRINCE2® - Methods Project Management

Understand PRINCE2®

Understand PRINCE2®

Welcome to this overview to understand PRINCE2®

Useful before a certification to succeed the exam and useful after to remind key definitions

The idea is not to provide a complete course, you will easily find elsewhere, but recall the very key elements so anyone (PRINCE2® certified or not) can understand the services we provide on this website



What is a project according to PRINCE2® ?

A project is a temporary organization that is created for the purpose of delivering one or more business products according to an agreed Business Case


Management products

They help you fulfil the project, and finding information to fill in their content give structure to your approach

Baselines establishes what must be done

Registers/logs are keeping dynamic informations about the project

Reports analyse a situation in reaction about a situation or are time-driven

Example: the project plan to build a house


Deliverables or specialist product

They are outputs of the project to be delivered and used by your client

Example: the house you build and all its subcomponents

Not to be confused with management products

Example: the house built for you clients and all the components to build it (beam, windows…)


The 6 project objectives, variables, tolerances

Time, cost, scope, risk, quality, benefits


The 5 characteristics of a project

Or what makes your initiative a project ?

Change: The project introduces a change

Temporary: Once the change is implemented, business as usual takes over

Ex: frequent upgrades to software cannot be considered as a project, only a major change of version might be

Cross-functional: different people working together with different motivations and goals acros the organisation

Unique: Every projects are unique and using the same pattern of activity may deliver different results due to the different teams engaged, locations

Uncertain: threats and opportunities will alter the result expected


Quality expectation

Statement about the quality expected from the project product captured in discussions with the customer and refined in the Project Product Description


Acceptance criteria

Measurable and prioritized list of attributes required for products to be acceptable to key stakeholders


Work Package

Set of relevant information for the creation of one or more products, that confirms an agreement between the Project Manager and Team Manager for the product delivery



PRINCE2 (PRojects IN Controlled Environment) is an internationally recognized method

PRINCE2®  is the world most popular project management methodology

IT can be used for any type of Projects, no matter the industry or business size

It is the property of AXELOS and is free of use

PRINCE2® was born in the 90′ and evolved until the latest version of 2009

PRINCE2® is assuming a customer/supplier environment even if both roles can be within the same company


The method is made of 4 integrated elements

The Principles

The Processes

The Themes

Tailoring PRINCE2 ® to the project environment

(Understand tailor to business environment, not to be confused with the 7th Principle using the exact same terms)


The principles are the core element of PRINCE2



Continued business justification

What justifies your project should always be approved and documented

This justification is must be valid to start it and remain valid until the end

Even compliance project are justified because they simply enable you to carry on your activity respecting the law


Learn from Experience

When you start a project, try to be inspired as much as possible from previous project, even made by others

As the project progress, keep learning, evolving, improving during its life

This reduces the impact of involving unexperienced team as every project is unique and temporary

At the closure pass on lessons learns to the entire company


Defined roles and responsibilities

Everyone must know for what he is accountable for

Identify the right persons to be involved

The 3 different interest of the primary stakeholders (Business, User, Supplier) must be represented and balanced effectively in the management team


Manage by stages

Breaking down a project by stages (minimum 2) provide senior management with control points to assess the viability and make decisions as early as possible

Breaking down a project must be done at a reasonable level of details, manageable and foreseeable


Manage by Exception

It enables efficient use of management time without removing controls

Delegate from one management level to the next one by setting tolerances over 6 objectives, time, cost, quality, scope, risk, benefit

Decision are made at the right management level

If the tolerances are forecast to be exceeded, the delegated level must immediately refer up to next management layer


Focus on products

A project must be output oriented, define the products to create before the activities to produce them

There must be a common understanding about the quality expectations of stakeholders and the measurable acceptance criteria against it

Without this Principle, projects are exposed to major risks like acceptance disputes, rework


Tailor to suit the project environment

The wording used for this principle is the same than the 4th integrated element but; this Principle means PRINCE2 is not applied in a robotic way

If for example you manage 4 projects at the same time, you have 4 different ways to apply PRINCE2, one for each project

An active decision is to made between the project board and project manager on how the method will be applied for each project



Processes are structured set of activities designed to accomplish a specific objective

Reproduced under licence from AXELOS

Starting up a project

If you start a project with a deep study and realize after a while the project is not worthwhile, you would have lost time/money/effort

The purpose of Starting up is to ensure prerequisites for a deeper study (Initiating a project) are in place and avoid any poorly projects to ever being initiated


  • Appoint the Executive and the Project Manager
  • Capture previous lessons
  • Design and appoint the project management team
  • Prepare the outline Business Case
  • Select the project approach and assemble the project brief
  • Plan the initiation stage


Directing a project

The purpose is to enable the project board to be accountable for project by making key decisions at key moments while delegating day-to-day management to the project manager


  • Authorize initiation
  • Authorize the project
  • Authorize a Stage or Exception Plan
  • Giving ad hoc direction
  • Authorize project closure


Initiating a project

Project can fail if they are not built on solid foundation

The purpose of initiating a project is to establish solid foundations for the project before starting the delivery


  • Prepare the Risk Management Strategy
  • Prepare the Configuration Management Strategy
  • Prepare the Quality Management Strategy
  • Prepare the Communication Management Strategy
  • Set up the project controls
  • Create the Project Plan
  • Refine the Business Case
  • Assemble the Project Initiation Documentation


Controlling a stage

The day-to-day activities of the project manager are handled by this process

The purpose is to assign work to be done by team manager(s), monitor such work, deal with issues, report progress to the project board and keep the stage within the granted tolerances by the board


  • Authorize a Work Package
  • Review Work Package status
  • Receive completed Work Package
  • Review stage status
  • Report highlights
  • Capture and examine issues and risks
  • Escalate issues and risks
  • Take corrective action


Managing product delivery

PRINCE2 is based on a customer/supplier environment

The purpose of Managing product delivery process is to control the link between the Project Manager and Team Manager with FORMAL requirements on accepting, executing and delivering project work

It is in this process that the deliverables are created on the supplier side.

PRINCE2 does not describe how the team manager has to deliver and there are 3 main activities

So this process could be done outside the company by a subcontractor


  • Accept a Work Package
  • Execute a Work Package
  • Deliver a Work Package


Managing stage boundary

Splitting a project into management stage enable the project board to control the project at key moment

The purpose of Managing a stage boundary is for the Project manager to provide sufficient information to the Project Board so that it can review the success of the current stage, approve the next, review and update the plan and confirm the continued justification of the project


  • Plan the next stage
  • Update the Project Plan
  • Update the Business Case
  • Report Stage End
  • Produce an Exception Plan


Closing a project

Projects are temporary and to avoid any potential dispute over the deliverable, the purpose of the process closing a project is to:

Provide a fix point at which acceptance for the project product is confirmed, and to recognize that objectives set out in the Initiating a project process have been achieved and that the project has nothing more to contribute before it is disbanded


  • Prepare planned closure
  • Prepare premature closure
  • Hand over products
  • Evaluate the project
  • Recommend project closure



Themes are skills or  aspects of project management that should be addressed continually


Business Case

It is to establish mechanisms to judge whether the project is (and remains) desirable, viable and achievable as a means to support decision making in its (continued) investment.

No Business Case, no project !



This theme purpose is to define and establish the project’s structure of accountability and responsibilities (the who?)

Because projects are most of the time cross-functional, the normal line of structure is not suitable and a temporary accountability structure is required to manage the project effectively



The purpose is to define and implement the means by which the project will create and verify products that are fit for purpose.



The purpose of the Plans theme is: to facilitate communication and control by defining the means of delivering the products (the where and how, by whom, and estimating the when and how much).



The purpose of the Risk theme is: to identify, assess and control uncertainty and, as a result, improve the ability of the project to succeed



The purpose of the Change theme is: to identify, assess and control any potential and approved changes to the baseline.



The purpose of the Progress theme is: to establish mechanisms to monitor and compare actual achievements against those planned; provide a forecast for the project objectives and the project’s continued viability; and control any unacceptable deviations.



Certainly the most difficult integrated element and the main reason for this website

It could be useful to wonder how the method is applied at each Stage boundaries, with a survey for example



No matter how you adapt the method to your company you must make sure they are ALL applied to your project, otherwise you might face some inconsistencies



They are made of activities that must be achieved. Performing those activities will enable you to apply the themes across the lifecycle of the project

Most of them are done by the Project Manager but tailoring PRINCE2 to your company enables those activities to be performed by other stakeholders

Example: Starting Up process performed by the Programme Management



All the Themes must be fulfilled to run your project in a professional manner

Themes are designed to link together and if you follow the processes you will apply the themes

Themes must always be applied to all projects, the depth of their application depends on the environment and project factors

Simple Theme application for simple project, deep application for complex project


Example: your project to wake up in the morning can required the application of the themes risk

If the threat of not waking up becomes a reality you will be late…

You can apply 0.1% of PRINCE2 risk theme setting up 3 alarms to reduce this threat

If you are building a nuclear power plant, you will need a little bit more of a work on this theme



You can change the vocabulary

Adapt the processes

The minimum stakeholders might be two people, the executive and a Project manager





(Based on AXELOS PRINCE2® material. Reproduced under licence from AXELOS)


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©2024 Developed with patience, love, AgilePM® and a bit of Prince2® by Methods Services LTD, London



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