PRINCE2 (PRojects IN Controlled Environments) is a process-based method for effective project management. PRINCE2 is a de facto standard used extensively by the UK Government and is widely recognised and used in the private sector, both in the UK and internationally.
Before we go into the specifics of PRINCE2, there are some general points about the subject of project management which should help put everything into context.
Whenever we decide we want to do something, go somewhere, build something, or achieve something, we need to know the answer to some questions:
What are we trying to do?
When will we start?
What do we need?
Can we do it alone, or do we need help?
How long will it take?
How much will it cost?
These are the usual questions asked at the start of any project, and the answers are the building blocks of project management – defining what we want to do and working out the best way we can do it.
Structured project management means managing the project in a logical, organised way, following defined steps. A structured project management method like PRINCE2 is the written description of this logical, organised approach.
We know from experience that projects which aren’t organised and controlled properly usually go disastrously wrong. London Ambulance and Channel Tunnel, for example, both experienced very public problems of systems not working properly and huge overspend. Structured project management methods have been developed to try to prevent such disasters.
The PRINCE2 Methodology says that a project should have:
An organised and controlled start ie. organise and plan things properly before leaping in
An organised and controlled middle ie. when the project has started, make sure it continues to be organised and controlled
An organised and controlled end ie. when you’ve got what you want and the project has finished, tidy up the loose ends.
In order to describe what a project should do and when, PRINCE2 has a series of processes which cover all the activities needed on a project, from starting up to closing down.