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What is PRINCE2?

~ By Duncan Haughey

PRINCE2 logo

Projects in Controlled Environments or PRINCE2 for short has become one of the most popular and widely used project management methodologies available today. Employed by both the public and private sectors, it has become the de-facto standard for project management in the UK.

Following the success in the UK, interest has spread across the globe. Countries in which PRINCE2 is becoming established include the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Spain, South Africa, Australia, and the United States.

What Does the 2 in PRINCE2 Refer To?

PRINCE2 has its roots as far back as 1975 in the PROMPTII methodology. PRINCE replaced PROMPTII in 1989, becoming the UK standard for all government information systems projects. In 1996, the methodology was re-launched as a generic project management methodology for all UK government projects, hence the 2.

Why Was PRINCE Introduced?

It's true to say the public sector has hardly covered itself in glory with its ability to deliver projects on time, within budget, scope and to the right quality. PRINCE and later PRINCE2 were introduced to address the common causes of project failure.

How Does PRINCE2 Work?

PRINCE2 is a best practice framework that helps managers deliver projects on time and within budget. It divides projects into clearly defined stages with a start, middle and end. It focuses on the delivery of products rather than carrying out activities. Every project must have a business case, and plan that is periodically reviewed to check the project is still viable.

A PRINCE2 project has the following characteristics:

  • A defined lifecycle
  • Defined and measurable business products
  • A corresponding set of activities to achieve the business products
  • Specified amount of resources
  • An organisation structure, with defined responsibilities, to manage the project

How Does PRINCE2 Structure a Project?

Core to the methodology is the Project Board, made up of the customer, user representative and supplier. The project manager reports to this board through regular status reports. If there are problems on the project, the board decide how the project should proceed.

What Are the Benefits of PRINCE2?

PRINCE2 is about doing the right projects, at the right time, for the right reasons. It gives you standard systems, procedures and language for projects. PRINCE2 also provides:

  • Better control and use of resources
  • A means for managing risks and issues
  • Flexible decision points
  • Regular reviews of progress against the project plan and business case
  • Assurance that the project continues to have a business justification
  • Early visibility of possible problems
  • Good communications between the project team and other stakeholders
  • A mechanism for managing deviations from the project plan
  • A process for capturing lessons learned

Putting all of this together should enable you to save time and money while delivering projects more efficiently.

How Do I Become Accredited?

If you want to become a registered PRINCE2 practitioner, there are two exams to sit, the Foundation and Practitioner exams. Many accredited training organisations exist offering courses ranging from 2-day Foundation, 3-day Practitioner to 1-day refresher courses.

The Foundation exam is 75 multiple choice questions and lasts an hour. The Practitioner exam is eight questions and takes two-and-a-half-hours.

The format of the Foundation exam is:

  • Multiple choice
  • One-hour duration
  • 75 questions
  • 5 questions to be trial and not counted in scores
  • 35 correct answers (out of 70 available) required to pass (50%)
  • Closed-book examination

The format of the Practitioner exam is:

  • Objective testing
  • Eight questions with ten items per question, each worth one mark
  • Each of the eight questions is worth ten marks
  • An overall score of 44 out of a possible 80 marks required to pass (55%)
  • Two-and-a-half-hours duration, no additional reading time
  • Open-book examination (only the PRINCE2 Manual is allowed)

Most training organisations offer packages that include the exams on the last day, although the exams can be taken at a later date either together or separately.

If you're looking to run successful projects, then PRINCE2 is an excellent choice.


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