Project Management Basics (According to Prince2)

Throughout my career, most of the projects I’ve done were based on the Prince2 project management methodology. However, Prince2 is so vast that it’s best to use it as a framework and choose the parts that are relevant to your projects. I’ve managed projects that took a week to complete, as well as those that took multiple years. Both extremes can be managed using the Prince2 methodology, but in the former example, only a few parts of the method are used, while in the latter, a more strict approach is necessary. Let me give you a brief introduction to how Prince2 works:

But First, What Is a Project?

According to Wikipedia, a project consists of a concrete and organized effort motivated by a perceived opportunity to address a problem, a need, a desire, or a source of discomfort. It seeks to realize a unique and innovative deliverable, such as a product, a service, a process, or, in some cases, scientific research. Each project has a beginning and an end, making it a closed dynamic system.


It All Starts with a New Idea

A project always begins with an idea. Someone with authority thinks that it would be good to bring about some change to the organization. These ideas typically come from corporate (senior management), program (program management), or customer (a customer requesting something from you). Prince2 calls this the corporate/program/customer construction (CPC).

The idea could be software used in the company that is about to reach the end of its life, so an upgrade is necessary, or an event that someone wishes to organize, such as the launch of a new product or a new building to benefit the organization’s needs. Let’s say that perhaps only 1 or 2 out of 10 ideas actually come to fruition. What happens to those ideas, and how are they validated against the organization’s needs and available budget? That’s the next step.

CPC Appoints an Executive

The executive is the person who owns the business case. In small projects, this executive can easily be the CPC itself, but in larger projects, this role is delegated to someone with the authority and autonomy to oversee the project. The executive is not the person who performs the project’s daily tasks, but they are the “boss” of the project. The executive must appoint three other roles to continue the project:

  • The Project Manager
  • The Senior User(s)
  • The Senior Supplier(s)

Before I describe the project manager, let me first describe the other two: the senior user(s) and senior supplier(s). Together with the executive, they form the project board (also known as the steering committee). The project board directs and makes informed decisions. That is why one or more senior users are needed. Senior users represent the people who will ultimately use the product or service. Therefore, they must fully understand the requirements and ensure that all project needs are met. The senior users can typically be the head of sales with one or two colleagues when the project is used to create a new sales application. Meanwhile, the senior supplier(s) are the people responsible for actually making the product or service. It is their job to ensure that all promises are possible within the project’s scope and budget.

The project manager is the person who runs the project. They first receive the project mandate, also known as the initial idea. This mandate can be in the form of a note on a post-it, a discussion during a meeting, or an actual written document describing the idea. It’s their job to figure out, with input from other people, whether the project mandate