The PRINCE2 project management methodology recommends 26 management products to regulate the capturing and communication of information on a PRINCE2 project. Best Management Practice, which provides guidance and resources on using management methodologies such as PRINCE2, has developed official templates for each of these management products, based on the management product descriptions provided in the PRINCE2 course manual.
PRINCE2 Management Products
The purpose of the PRINCE2 management products is to facilitate and guarantee the appropriate storage and reporting of information about project activity. For example, the PRINCE2 Issue Register is intended to “capture and maintain information on all of the issues that are being formally managed.”
As this definition suggests, the application of a PRINCE2 management product is, in part, down to the judgement of the individual project manager. This contributes toward the PRINCE2 principle ‘tailor to suit the project environment’, i.e., the understanding that since no two projects are identical, any project management methodology must be flexible, and that it is largely the project manager who tailors the theory to the practice.
There are, in fact, several different kinds of triggers for using a PRINCE2 management product:
- The project reaches a set point in the PRINCE2 project lifecycle.
- Reports, such as the End Stage Report, which must be submitted by the project manager to the Project Board at the end of each management stage.
- Documents that need to be baselined before certain activities can take place, such as plans (e.g., the Project Plan, Stage Plans, etc.), which must be agreed between the Project Manager and the Project Board before planned project activity can be undertaken.
- Strategies and registers that need to be in place prior to starting project activities, to ensure effective project management.
- The project reaches a set point defined by the Project Board or the project manager.
- E.g., the Highlight Report (submitted by the project manager to the Project Board) and the Checkpoint Report (written by team managers, in order to keep project managers up-to-date with regard to work packages.
- Something happens, or does not happen (or is forecast to happen/not happen), which triggers the creation of a management report.
- E.g., the Issue Report, the Exception Report, the Exception Plan.
As pointed out above, flexibility and adaptation are key principles of the PRINCE2 project management methodology. The purpose of the PRINCE2 templates, therefore, is not to restrict, or to force information into unsuitable categories, but to ensure that the project manager and project team have accounted for all of the information that might be considered important.
Let us consider what is included in the official PRINCE2 template for the Business Case, one of the most important PRINCE2 management products.
The first page contains essential information for identifying and authorizing the document: the project name and client, the author and owner of the business case, and the revision, approval, and distribution history of the document.
The following page of the PRINCE2 Business Case template provides an overview of the management product. This information is derived from the PRINCE2 manual (Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2), and can be summarized as follows: purpose (to document continued justification of a project), contents, derivation, format, and quality criteria.
The remainder of this PRINCE2 template is spaced into sections for detailing each element of the “contents”:
- Executive Summary
- Business Options
- Expected Benefits
- Expected Dis-benefits
- Investment Appraisal
- Major Risks
Each of these sections contains basic instructions for the user, such as, for Business Options: analyze and make reasoned recommendations for the basic business options, which are to do nothing, do the minimum, or do something. It is these minimalist instructions that make the PRINCE2 template as adaptable as possible, while ensuring that important aspects of the management product are considered.
Using a PRINCE2 template is not essential, but it is recommended as a way for the project manager to ensure compliance with the methodology, and to avoid neglecting best practices that might, although non-obvious, be essential to effective project management.