Perhaps the single greatest strength of PRINCE2
is its expectation that the major decisions about a project must be based upon a robust business case. This means that a clear understanding of the benefits versus the costs, timescales and risks are required. This understanding is developed prior to the project and is refined in more detail during its initiation stage. It is then maintained and updated on a stage-by-stage basis as revised forecasts for the project become known.This ensures that the project is always seen as a means to an end, rather than an end in itself. PRINCE2 describes explicit responsibilities for developing, maintaining and approving the business case 
.Prior to the 6th edition of the PMBOK® Guide
, the business case was only described in a cursory way. Since the 6th edition, the PMBOK® Guide
has taken on board much of the guidance about the business case which has been in PRINCE2 since its inception.In its business case theme, PRINCE2 also describes the importance of measuring the performance of the project’s products in their operational life. This helps the organization understand whether the forecasted benefits are, in fact, being realized. To help the organization plan how to measure and who will measure the benefits after the project closes, a benefits management approach is recommended to be created whilst initiating the project.Similar to how it has adopted much of what PRINCE2 describes in relation to the business case, the 6th edition of the PMBOK® Guide
also has introduced the concept of a Project Benefits Management Plan, very similar to the benefits management approach in PRINCE2.
Project management team roles
A second major strength of PRINCE2 is its detailed and wide-ranging description of multiple project management team roles. Whereas in the PMBOK® Guide
the emphasis is mainly on what the project manager does, in PRINCE2 there is a whole chapter 
providing detailed descriptions of the responsibilities for a total of 9 different project management team roles. The different roles can be seen in the diagram below.
|PRINCE2 project management team roles||PMBOK® Guide equivalent|
|project board||No equivalent|
|senior user||No equivalent|
|senior supplier||No equivalent|
|project assurance||No equivalent|
|project manager||Project Manager|
|team manager||No equivalent|
|project support||Project Management Office (PMO)|
|change authority||Change control board (CCB)|
Sharing and combining roles
Some of these roles can be shared i.e. performed by 2 or more individuals, and some of the roles can be combined i.e. one individual can perform 2 or more roles. Whether or not roles are shared and/or combined in PRINCE2 depends upon the needs of your project, but all the defined responsibilities must be allocated to someone.
Levels of management
These roles in PRINCE2 are divided into 3 levels. The bottom (delivering) level is represented by the team manager role, the middle (managing) level by the project manager, and the highest (directing) level by the project board role. The latter role is comprised of 3 separate roles, each representing the major project stakeholders of business, user and supplier.The project board in turn, reports to a 4th higher level known as corporate or programme management, although this latter level is not regarded as being part of the project management team.
Other roles to complete the project management team include project support, change authority and project assurance roles.
PRINCE2 is based upon a simple assumption – that a project is based upon a customer/supplier relationship. This means every project is commissioned and paid for by the customer, who also specify what is required. The supplier delivers what is required within the agreed constraints of cost and time. PRINCE2 doesn’t care if the supplier is internal or external to the customer organization.
Team manager role
The team manager role, which is responsible for delivering products to the project, therefore works for the supplier organization. The project manager, who works for the customer organization, controls the work done by team managers via the use of work packages.
Project manager role
The project manager manages day-to-day within agreed constraints, known as tolerances in PRINCE2. These exist for time, cost, scope, quality, risk and benefits. In addition to controlling the work done by teams, the project manager is also responsible for managing issues and risks, taking corrective action (within tolerance) and reporting progress to the project board.
Project board role
The project board is responsible for approving plans for each stage of the project and also for the project as a whole. PRINCE2 recommends a project is broken up into a minimum of 2 management stages, each one coinciding with a ’go/no-go’ decision. This decision is based upon reviewing and approving an updated business case which outlines the benefits versus the costs, timescales and risks. So long as the project remains a worthwhile investment, the next stage can be authorized. The project board informs corporate management of progress.If a plan or any other project management document or artefact needs approving, PRINCE2 clearly defines the responsibility.
A third major strength of PRINCE2 are its processes. The first thing to say here is that a process in PRINCE2 is not the same as a process in the PMBOK® Guide
. A PRINCE2 process is more akin to a Process Group in the PMBOK® Guide
and there are 7 of them. The processes are integrated with the 7 PRINCE2 themes to form a methodology which can be used to manage any type of project.You can see from the diagram below the 7 PRINCE2 processes
. The diagram also shows which aspects of the process model are covered by the PMBOK®
Guide (essentially just the managing level performed by the project manager). The processes in PRINCE2 cover all 4 management levels.
Starting up a project
The first process, called ‘starting up a project’ is actually done before the project begins and is closely related to the Initiating Process Group in the PMBOK® Guide
.It’s where an understanding is developed of several things: the reasons for doing the project and how the project fits in with any corporate strategies; who will be involved in taking decisions; what will be delivered and how. These things get written into a project brief. The project management team is appointed. A plan for the first (initiation) stage is developed.The project brief and stage plan then go to the project board for approval. If the project sounds like a sensible idea, the project board can approve the project brief and stage plan and proceed to the first (initiation) stage. Otherwise, no further work is done. The decision by the project board to authorize this first stage is taken in the ‘directing a project’ process. It is the only process performed by the project board.
Directing a project
The ‘directing a project’ process does not have an equivalent process group in the PMBOK® Guide
. That’s because ‘directing a project’ is performed by the project board which does not have an equivalent role in PMBOK® Guide
. The main decision-maker on a PRINCE2 project board is the executive role, which equates to the Project Sponsor.In PRINCE2, the project board are responsible for taking the major decisions on the project including approving the project plan and stage plans and committing the required resources, approving the project brief (equivalent to Project Charter) and approving the project initiation documentation (equivalent to Project Management Plan). It is also responsible for taking decisions about escalated issues and risks, and for directing the project manager.The project board ‘manages by exception’ by delegating day-to-day management to the project manager. It does this by setting tolerances for the main project targets of time, cost, scope, quality, benefits and risks. Providing the plan can be achieved within the delegated tolerances, the project manager does not need to defer to the project board for a decision. This therefore is a very efficient use of senior manager’s time because there is no need for regular progress meetings. Instead the project board is kept informed of progress via regular reports.
Initiating a project
The ‘initiating a project’ process is where much more detailed planning work is done and is akin to the Planning Process Group in the PMBOK® Guide
. The main output is the project initiation documentation (PID) (equivalent to the Project Management Plan in the PMBOK® Guide
). It contains management approaches for change control, risk, quality and communications, the project controls, the project plan and detailed business case. The PID contains everything required for the project board to decide whether to authorize the project.
Controlling a stage
Assuming the project and next stage are authorized, the next process to be performed is controlling a stage. This is performed by the project manager who manages issues and risks, manages the work done by teams, reports progress to the project board and takes corrective action within tolerances.
Managing product delivery
At the same time as the project manager is performing the ‘controlling a stage’ process, the team manager performs the ‘managing product delivery’ process. It’s in this process where the deliverables (products) specified by the customer are developed, tested and, where required, are handed over to the customer.The team manager role is employed by the supplier and PRINCE2 does not try to prescribe the detailed steps which are often performed by such suppliers. PRINCE2 describes the project management processes to be performed, not the development processes. This means that the team manager could be managing the development work of his/her team using agile approaches such as Scrum, and this fits in easily with the PRINCE2 model
.Both the ‘controlling a stage’ and ‘managing product delivery’ processes taken together are equivalent to the Executing and Monitoring & Controlling Process Groups in the PMBOK® Guide
Managing a stage boundary
Before the end of evert stage except the final stage, the Managing a Stage Boundary process is performed. This is where the project manager revises the project plan and business case and writes an end stage report. The first time this process is performed, there won’t be any revisions to the project plan or business case, so it will mainly focus on the report. The outputs of this process are given to the project board for a ‘go/no-go’ decision about whether to proceed to the next stage or not. If the decision is ‘no go’ then the project is prematurely closed.
Closing a project
If it’s the final stage, the project manager performs the ‘closing a project’ process rather than the ‘managing a stage boundary’ process. Closing a project is where products are formally accepted by the customer, lessons are reported, the performance of the project is evaluated, and follow-on actions are documented. The ‘closing a project’ process is akin to the Closing Process Group in the PMBOK® Guide
.The final decision to authorize project closure is for the project board. The newly handed-over products then become part of the operational environment and benefits are now expected to be realized. The measurement of these benefits is covered by a benefits management approach.You can see then from this short summary that PRINCE2 very clearly defines which role is responsible and when. Each process is broken down into several activities (akin to processes in the PMBOK® Guide
), each one stating the outputs expected, which role is responsible and when.I have delivered quite a lot of PRINCE2 training courses in Asia over recent years and many of my students were already familiar with the PMBOK® Guide
. Whenever I have asked them which process model they find easiest to understand and to apply, the answer always has been PRINCE2.The general view after attending a 5-day PMP®
training course was that students were no nearer understanding what they should do on their project when they returned to work the following week than they were before the course. Maybe that’s down to the poor quality of the teaching of the subject matter, but I suspect it is due to the lack of clear responsibilities in the PMBOK® Guide
and the confusing and overly-complex nature of the processes defined within it.
One further strength of PRINCE2 is its definition of its 26 management products. These might be reports, registers, logs and plans which are used by the project management team to help plan, manage and control the project. These management products contain useful project management information that is used when taking decisions on the project.PRINCE2 makes recommendations and gives guidance about what information is useful to include in these management products. This guidance is also closely integrated with the process descriptions in that it is clearly described which member of the project management team is responsible (and when) for creating, updating, reviewing or approving such management products.If desired, the descriptions of the 26 management products can be used as templates for creating these products on projects. However, as one of the 4 integrated elements of PRINCE2 is to tailor the method to suit the needs of the project, care must be taken to ensure that these templates do not get used robotically and thought must be given as to how they can be tailored to suit the needs of a project.
When the most recent version of PRINCE2 was released in 2017, it contained much more practical guidance about tailoring the method to suit the needs of the project. A lot of the guidance was in relation to managing agile projects. This further strengthened PRINCE2
as the project management methodology of choice since it reflected changes which have happened in project management over recent years.