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 In 1997 SPOCE ran the first PRINC2 course with exams    |    In 2000 SPOCE ran the first MSP course with exams    |    In 2003 SPOCE delivered the first PRINCE2 Practitioner level distance learning product    |    In 2006 SPOCE delivered the first MSP accredited distance learning product    |    More  people are trained in PRINCE2 using SPOCE materials than any other materials    |    Over a quarter of all ATOs have licensed SPOCE products   |   SPOCE have more PRINCE2 Approved Trainers registered than any other ATO 

        APMG PRINCE2 Certificate No. 001

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An overview of the PRINCE2TM method

In addition to this text, you can read about the PRINCE2 exams and partnerships by clicking here


1. This paper provides an overview of the PRINCE2 Project Management methodology. PRINCE (PRojects IN Controlled Environments) is a structured method for effective management of any size or type of project. It is the standard method for use in UK Government Departments and is used increasingly in the private sector, NHS and Local Government. An increasing number of overseas Governments and multi-national companies have adopted the method, or integrated it within their existing project management approaches.



2. The benefits of using PRINCE2 are that it:


    * identifies management, specialist and quality Products/Deliverables and helps ensure that they are produced on time and to budget; focuses attention on the quality of Products/Deliverables;

    * separates the management and specialist aspects of Organisation, Planning and Control;

    * facilitates controls at all levels;

    * makes the project’s progress more visible to management;

    * provides a communication medium for all project staff;

    * ensures that work progresses in the correct sequence;

    * involves senior management in the project at the right time and in the right place;

    * allows the project to be stopped and, if required, re-started completely under management control, at any time in the project’s life;

    * has a well established User Group dedicated to the support, promotion and strengthening of the method.


Project Structures

3. In PRINCE2, each project which is undertaken must address all the Processes concerned with establishing an effective project management environment; have a stated business case indicating the benefits and risks of the venture; a properly defined and unique set of Products/Deliverables; a corresponding set of activities to construct the Products; appropriate resources to undertake the activities; a finite life span; suitable arrangements for control; an organisational structure with defined responsibilities; and a set of processes with associated techniques which will help plan and control the project and bring it to a successful conclusion.

4. A PRINCE2 project is divided into a number of stages, each forming a distinct unit for management purposes. Like the project, a stage is driven by a series of sub-processes, has a defined set of products and activities, a finite life span, control elements, and an organisational structure. The delivery of these products, to the agreed quality standards, marks the completion of the stage.

5. PRINCE2 defines the organisation of the project and its stages, the processes which drive the undertaking, the structure and content of the project plans, some basic project management techniques and a set of controls which ensure that the project is proceeding to plan. These, together with the products of the project and the activities which produce them, the project business case, all encompassed within a quality management framework, make up the PRINCE2 environment.

6. All products of a PRINCE2 project are filed within a defined filing structure the "Configuration". Management and Specialist products are identified and filed separately.

7. The PRINCE2 framework provides the flexibility to set management stage boundaries which are appropriate to the needs of the project. Management Stage boundaries are chosen according to:

    * the sequence of production of Products/Deliverables;

    * the grouping of Products into self contained sets or associated Processes;

    * natural decision points for review;

    * The risks and business sensitivity of the project;

    * the completion of one or more discrete Processes.

8. The project stages correspond to the steps in the natural project life cycle towards the eventual outcome. Thus the stage boundaries are normally defined to correspond to the completion of the major Products to be built.

9. Whatever the nature of the project, it is advisable to define one or more planning and/or definition stages in the early part of the project's life. PRINCE2 requires two processes to cater for this - Starting a Project (where the early foundations are laid) and Initiating a Project (where management commit to the undertaking and a baseline is produced. This may take the form of a Feasibility, Investigation or Definition Study, providing a choice of options and a firm recommendation to proceed (or not!), allowing a management review before any commitment to implementation stage(s) and the associated resources and costs

10. PRINCE2 recognises that few projects can be completed entirely in isolation. The outputs from one project may be used as input by another project. There may be other dependencies between projects, such as the use of shared resources. PRINCE2, therefore, provides a mechanism for defining the boundary of a project and its relationship to other projects. In defining the boundary of a project, as with a stage, the emphasis is always on the Products which the project is required to deliver.

11. The PRINCE2 methodology applies three key elements to each project and to the stages within a project. These are:



    * Starting Up A Project (SU);

    * Initiating A Project (IP);

    * Directing A Project (DP);

    * Managing Stage Boundaries (SB);

    * Controlling A Stage (CS);

    *Managing Product Delivery (MP);

    * Closing A Project (CP);

    + Planning (PL) - also a Component and Technique




    * Business Case;

    * Organisation;

    * Planning (also a Process);

    * Controls;

    * Management of Risk;

    * Quality In A Project Environment;

    * Configuration Management;

    * Change Control;



    * Product-Based Planning;

    * Change Controls;

    * Quality Reviews;



12. The Processes state the minimum content that can be expected to be found in a PRINCE2 project. Exactly how the Processes are addressed within any given project is the responsibility of the organisation’s senior management and the Project Manager, but the method requires that each Process is reflected within the project one way or another.

13. The seven fundamental Processes have been listed earlier; Planning is also a Process, which is iterated and has impact across the whole of the project throughout its life. All the Processes link to Techniques, some of which are described within the method. It is anticipated that most organisations will already be using some specific techniques and PRINCE2 encourages the continued use of these where they provide value to the management decision making process. Each Process is defined in the following terms:


      * The Fundamental Principles underpinning the Process;

      * The Context within which the Process operates;

      * An Overview of the Process;

      * Responsibilities identifying accountability for the Process;

      * The Information Needs required for the Process to function effectively;

      * The Key Criteria which will influence the success or failure of the Process;

      * Hints and Tips for carrying out the Process in the best way.


14. The Process-based approach is a novel feature in PRINCE2 and is the area which most differentiates it from version 1 of the method. The flexibility of the method is, however, underlined by allowing implementing organisations to choose their own destiny in terms of identifying how to meet the requirements of any given Process. In most organisations there will be little need to make changes to the way they are operating, provided effective project management through the use of PRINCE v1 compliant procedures are already in place.


The Organisation Component

15. The organisation and effective use of people assigned to manage a project need to be considered from the view point both of their specialist skills and their individual personalities. Responsibilities need to be defined within a team structure to ensure that management is both efficient and responsive.

16. Within PRINCE2, responsibilities are defined in terms of roles, rather than individuals. Assignment of roles to individuals is a decision for each project to take, and the same individual may be assigned to more than one role, or to different roles at different stages of the project.


The Project Board

17. The Project Board is the ultimate authority for the project and is normally appointed by senior management (often at Director-level) to take overall responsibility and control of a PRINCE2 project. The Project Board consists of three senior management roles, each representing major project interests.

    * Executive - appointed by corporate/programme management to provide overall project guidance and assessment throughout. The Executive represents the interests of the business in the project.

    * Senior User/Customer - representing users or customers of the outcome or the major products from the project.

    * Senior Supplier - representing areas which have responsibility for providing the specialist “know-how” and/or committing Supplier resources for the solution.


Project Manager

18. A Project Manager will normally be appointed to assume day to day responsibility for planning and management of the project throughout all its stages. The Project Manager takes direction from the Project Board and is responsible for managing the Processes, planning and delivering the products of the project, on-time, within budget, meeting the technical and quality criteria agreed with the Project Board.


The Team Manager

19. In a large or complex project, one or more Team Managers may be assigned the responsibility for ensuring that the products of one or more particular specialist stages of work are produced on schedule, to the defined and agreed quality standards, and within budget.

20. Depending on the resources required and/or skills available, the Project Board may choose to appoint:

    * one Project Manager, supported by a Team Manager for each major area of specialist activity;

    * one Project Manager who also takes on the role of Team Manager throughout the project;


(Specialist) Teams

21. The Project and/or Team Manager have responsibility for Teams of specialist staff, tasked to carry out the activities and produce the Products of the stage. The team organisation, responsibility definitions and the allocation of these responsibilities to individuals will depend upon the size and nature of the project and the skill mix available. PRINCE2 recognises the need to establish Team Manager roles where appropriate; Team Manager and Team Leader roles may be synonymous.


Project Assurance

22. PRINCE2 separates the Project Assurance function from the Project Support function. The Project Board have responsibility and accountability for Project Assurance. Depending on the size, scope, risk and profile of the project, and their own knowledge, skills and time available, they may choose to delegate responsibility for Project Assurance to others within the organisation. However, accountability for Project Assurance rests with the Project Board and they are not able to delegate this. Project Assurance may not be delegated to the Project Manager.

23. Project Assurance appears in two forms:

    * External Assurance to confirm that the project is following overall and corporate standards (eg the published Quality Management System, or particular accounting conventions) and the organisation will usually have an audit function already in place to check these aspects.

    * Internal Assurance to verify that the project is delivering Products/Deliverables that meet the agreed Quality Criteria and that internal project standards are being followed. Internal Assurance is ultimately the responsibility of the Project Board.


Project Support

24. Within PRINCE2, Project Support will only exist where there is a perceived need for it. Unlike version 1 of the method, a Project Manager may well find that the Project Board see no scope for any administrative support and that any day-to-day assistance that might be needed will need to be on a “grace and favour” basis.

25. Where a project does warrant the appointment of a Project Support function, the individual(s) selected will report directly to the Project Manager. There is no scope for combining the Project Support and Project Assurance function as was the case in version 1.


Project Support Office

26. A Project Support Office might well evolve in a multi project environment, to support a number of projects. The methodology recognises the possibility of a transition from a number of Project Support Teams to a central Project Support Office where the number of projects under development warrants it. The resultant Project Support Office will be able to provide a centre of expertise for all project management aspects within the organisation/site, delivering an internal consultancy service where required by Project Board members, Project Managers and project team members.



27. Estimating, planning and re-planning are constant and key activities when managing any project. PRINCE2 provides a structure for preparing and maintaining plans at appropriate levels throughout the life of a project. Plans are prepared for the Project as a whole, for each stage within the project and, optionally, for the teams’ work within each stage. There is also an Exception planning process to handle divergences from the original plan. The PRINCE2 method includes Techniques for Product/Deliverable planning, Activity planning Resource planning and Quality planning.


Products/Deliverables and Activities

28. PRINCE2 provides a set of planning techniques which give structure to the project. The key to PRINCE2 planning is the identification and definition of the Products required. From this comes an analysis of the work (ie the activities) required to generate these products, and the sequencing of the work.

29. PRINCE2 makes a distinction between management activities, specialist activities and quality activities. This is partly because these are usually the concern of different groups of people, but also to ensure that management activities are not overlooked in planning and estimating.

30. Management activities are concerned with planning, monitoring and reporting the work of the project, in both normal and exceptional situations. They produce management products in the form of plans, reports and other control documents. Management activities include the planning and control of all specialist activities on the project. Although influenced by the specialist content, there is a similar pattern of management tasks on any PRINCE2 project.

31. Conversely, the specialist activities undertaken by a project are determined entirely by the scope and objectives of the project. The specialist activities describe the work needed to produce the products required from the project.

32. The Specialist Products/Deliverables required by the user/customer are identified and defined at the start of the project by the Project Manager and endorsed by the Project Board. Additional Specialist Products may be defined by the strategy appropriate to a particular stage of the project; specialist activities may also be prescribed by an organisation’s own particular technical strategy. PRINCE2 therefore acknowledges the need for flexibility in the definition of specialist activities and the corresponding Products.

33. Quality activities may be performed by anyone who is able to make a contribution to the Product under review. Individuals within the project and host organisation as well as people external to the organisation are all appropriate. Quality activities must be planned for early in the life of the project.

34. The PRINCE2 Product planning techniques require every project to be described and defined in terms of its Products or Deliverables. This is a very effective way to ensure full understanding of what is required and to ensure that, as far as possible, all angles are covered.


Planning for the Delivery of Specialist Products

35. PRINCE2 Plans are concerned with the Products to be delivered and with the activities necessary to ensure that these Products emerge on time and to the required quality standards.

36. The project Products are identified as a first step in planning; definition of each product (via the PRINCE2 Product Description) enables its make-up and quality requirements to be documented and properly understood. A Product Breakdown Structure illustrates the hierarchical make-up of the complete set of project products and a Product Flow Diagram provides a view of the relationship each product has with others, within and outside of the project.

37. The Project Timescale or Gantt Plan charts the major activities of the project. It is usually derived from the Dependency Network (PERT Network) which shows the relationships that exist between project activities. It is used with the Project Resource Plan to monitor progress on the project as a whole. It also addresses planning requirements related to Quality Control and Configuration Management.

38. A Stage-level Gantt Plan shows the products, activities and quality controls for each stage of the project. The Stage-level Gantt Plan is produced and approved at the end of the previous stage (the plan for the first stage is prepared with the project plan).

39. Detailed Gantt Plans can be expected to exist in most projects, to give a detailed breakdown of particular major activities These are termed “Team Plans”.

40. Lower level Plans (or Work to Lists), if required, are derived from the Stage and Team Plans to allocate detailed activities (and Products/Deliverables) to particular members of a Specialist Stage Team. Although this level of plan is not formally included in PRINCE2 they may be utilised if required.


Resource Planning

41. Resource Plans are concerned with managing the funding and effort resources of the project. They are derived from the corresponding Gantt Plans.

42. The Resource Plan for the project identifies the type, amount and cost of the resources required by the project related to each stage of the work. It will also identify equipment, building, and fixed-price costs associated with the project. The intention is to provide a complete resource and financial picture of the undertaking.

43. A more detailed Resource Plan at Stage Level identifies the resources required by the particular stage. It defines the budget required by the stage and is used to report actual expenditure and resource usage against plan.

44. More detailed Resource Plans at the Team Level will be produced when required, to plan and control a particular major activity, and the associated team workplans and Products.


Quality Planning - BS/EN/ISO9000

45. Action must be taken at the planning stage to ensure that the project can deliver Products to the required quality. Quality Criteria must be defined and agreed, and incorporated into a Product Description for each Product identified; a Project Quality Plan must be defined, published and adopted; Quality Review procedures must be established and staff trained; review activities must be properly resourced. Whatever action is proposed to build quality into the project, the measures must be consistent with any published Quality Management System (QMS) that is already in effect. PRINCE2 has been designed to comply with the BS/EN/ISO9000 Quality Management Standard and with BS6079 the Project management Standard, all three being Process-driven; the foundation for quality and effective, modern project management is therefore integral and inherent in PRINCE2.

46. The results of the quality planning activity must be integrated into the Gantt and Resource Plans at each level. Just as quality must be built into the Products, so must quality control be built into the plans.

47. The Project Level plan sets the overall quality approach for the entire project. It defines the standards to be followed and the quality criteria for the major products. It also identifies external constraints that may apply to the project, such as a specific Configuration Management Method.

48. The Stage Level plan identifies the quality criteria, methods and review guidelines for each Product produced during the stage.

49. A Team plan might be required for specific individual activities such as carrying out interviews within a particular user/customer area. The Project Manager is responsible for deciding whether any plans below stage-level are required; this decision will be endorsed by the Project Board at the Project Initiation or End-Stage Assessment meeting.


Tolerance and Planning

50. The Project Board sets tolerances for Stage Plans. These define the limits of timescale and cost (or sometimes effort) within which the Project Manager can operate without further reference to the Project Board.

51. An Exception Report and, subsequently, if required by the Project Board, an Exception Plan is produced in situations where costs or timescales are forecast to be exceeded beyond the tolerances set by the Project Board. The Exception Report describes the cause of the deviation from plan and its consequences and recommends corrective action to the Project Board. Once considered and approved by the Project Board, the Exception Plan replaces the remainder of the current Stage Plan.


The Controls Component

52. Regular and formal monitoring of actual progress against plan is essential to ensure the timeliness, cost control and quality of the system or undertaking being developed. PRINCE2 provides a support structure of Management and Product oriented controls to monitor progress, supported by a reporting procedure which enables re-planning or other appropriate corrective action to be taken.


Management Controls

53. PRINCE2 provides a structure of management controls to be applied throughout the project. These controls cover all aspects of project activity and, at the highest level, allow senior management to assess project achievement and status prior to committing further expenditure. Controls are applied through meetings of (customer) project management and (supplier) project staff, with each meeting producing a set of pre defined outputs. Management Controls are defined at Project Initiation to ensure that the project is set up with clear Terms of Reference, incorporating agreed and measurable Objectives and an adequate management structure. Including Project Initiation, there are 5 key management controls - End Stage & Exception Assessments, Project Closure, and Tolerance.


Project Initiation

54. To ensure a firm foundation and to provide a positive start to the project, ensuring that the terms of reference, objectives, plans and controls, business risks, benefits and financial return, organisation structure and job definitions are clearly defined, published, understood and agreed.

This early stage is very important and is the result of two Processes - Starting A Project and Initiating A Project. The key output is a Project Initiation Document which can be used to Baseline the project.


End Stage Assessment (ESA)

55. This is a required management control and occurs at the end of each stage. It consists of a formal presentation to the Project Board of the current project status, and reviews the overall business case (benefits and risks). The approval of the proposed Resource and Timescale (Gantt) Plans for the next stage is also obtained. Project Board approval, with agreement by all the members, must be obtained before the project can proceed to the next stage.


Tolerance & Exception Assessment (EXA)

56. This will be held to review an Exception Plan which will be produced if the project has deviated from the original, approved, plans and a significant departure from plan has occurred. The measure of a “significant departure” is that the Tolerance stated by the Project Board at the beginning of the management stage has been, or is likely to be, exceeded.

57. Tolerance is variable and will be assigned to each project stage to reflect the respective business risk, but a rule of thumb is that Time Tolerance of plus/minus 1 week and Cost Tolerance of plus/minus 10% is generally about right.


Project Closure

58. A final review of the project's work is held, usually (but not necessarily) in the form of a Project Board meeting. This is similar to a stage assessment but relates to the entire project rather than a single stage. The objective is to ensure that all the project Products/Deliverables have been satisfactorily delivered to their stated quality standard and that the project documentation is complete. A review of the project management standards and approaches used by the project will be carried out and a Lessons Learned Report produced for consideration by the Project Board. This report records what has been learned from using the PRINCE2 project management and quality management standards for the project and is created during the “Initiating A Project” process and “populated” as the project progresses; it will eventually be sent to the organisation’s Quality Manager.

59. Recommendations will also be made for Follow-on Actions to record and trigger further work which is recommended following the closure of the project.


Product/Deliverables/Outputs Controls

60. Quality and specialist controls are applied to specific products rather than to the overall output of a stage or project. The aim is to identify and correct errors as early as possible in the development process. They will usually take the form of a formal or informal quality review, whatever is specified in the Product Description.

61. Quality control may take many forms from a visual inspection, through a test programme, to a formal meeting. These are all Techniques and PRINCE2 describes some, but not all that might be available - the selection of appropriate Techniques is left to the implementing organisation. However, one of the most powerful Technique is the Quality review which has been successfully used in PRINCE version 1 projects for a number of years.


Quality Controls - Quality Review

62. At each Quality Review, appropriate provider and user/customer staff are designated to examine a Product to ensure that it is complete and correct; these “appropriate resources” are identified in the Stage-level Plan and the corresponding Product Description. The Product is reviewed against defined quality criteria contained within the Product Description, which assures its technical integrity and its compliance with user/customer requirements; It is thereafter subject to formal change control procedures.

63. This principle applies to informal quality reviews (for example a test, visual inspection, or desk-check) and to formal quality reviews where 2-3 reviewers meet with the author of the product under the chair of a suitably senior person to “walk-through” the product.



64. This is a regular (possibly weekly) specialist and management control point. Checkpoints are usually (but not necessarily) conducted by the Project Manager or Team Manager, together with (Specialist) Teams. They provide the basic information used to measure actual achievement against plan, and to agree on the content of the next period of work for each team member. Checkpoints will commonly take the form of a brief (40 minutes maximum) meeting but as the Checkpoint is essentially a communication device, other methods such as telephone, facsimile, E-Mail, video conferencing, are all viable options.


Change Controls

65. Unplanned situations relating to changes to one or more Products need to be captured as “Issues” relating to the project. Examples of this are good ideas that project team members identify, resource changes, errors discovered in a finished product, and departures from the agreed specification. Because the situation is unplanned, it needs to be recorded and action agreed, in order to contain the impact and prevent wider divergence from plans. Issues are best handled within the framework of a formal Configuration Management scheme.


Configuration Management

66. A Configuration Management Method (CMM) controls the development of products by providing a formal mechanism for labelling products, their development status, and the relationship between them. PRINCE2 does not define or recommend a specific CMM but emphasises the need for a suitable system.



67. To make the most effective use of PRINCE2, each organisation should consider appointing a PRINCE2 Coordinator with sufficient authority and experience to perform the role specified below.

PRINCE2 Coordinator Prime Responsibility

68. The PRINCE2 Co-ordinator’s main function is to be an internal consultant for PRINCE2 projects, to ensure the smooth introduction and the continuing effective use of the PRINCE2 methodology.

    Main Tasks

      * to develop expertise in PRINCE2 so that the site can become self sufficient in terms of support;

      * to administer and monitor the implementation of PRINCE2 to ensure that it meets the need;

      * to ensure that the methodology continues to be used in accordance with agreed standards;

      * to ensure that managers of future projects are aware of the methodology and that proper consideration is given to its use;

      * to identify training needs and to plan and organise training, including the presentation of team courses and management overviews;

      * to act as a liaison point for all PRINCE2 aspects and with the PRINCE2 User Group;

      * to provide a focal point for PRINCE2 advice and support.


Further Information

69. For more general information refer to the PRINCE2 documentation. Specific questions may be answered by referring to each particular section, especially in “Hints and Tips”.


Software Support for PRINCE2

70. A number of support tools are available, including LaunchPad Template Manager. These packages provide an excellent introduction to PRINCE2 and can also be used to launch specific software applications such as Microsoft Office Applications and PRINCE2 templates.  More information is available at


Minor Projects

71. For the very smallest of projects, a fully scaled down method (Mini-Method) is available. The method provides a framework suitable for work which otherwise might be considered to be too small to plan or control. A Mini-Method project will contain a Management Summary and Product Description and, if necessary, a Risk Assessment.  Planning a Mini-Method project usually takes less than two hours.

72. The Mini-Method is available only from SPOCE Project Management Limited - at no charge!  Contact us for details.