01 901 2014

PRINCE2 ® – It’s viability that counts

PRINCE2® is a registered trade mark of AXELOS Limited, used under permission of AXELOS Limited. All rights reserved.

PRINCE2 is a best practice methodology proven in practice over many years. The methodology is used to deliver products on time and to cost and deliver change in organisations in a structured manner. A defining feature of Prince2 is its principled based approach to managing projects. But what does this mean?

A principled approach focuses on a few fundamentals and is not prescriptive. It is descriptive, meaning the manual is heavy, but not a lot is mandatory. The principles are one of the few aspects of Prince2 that are mandatory for a project to be referred to as a Prince2 project.

The principles (7) are in essence, a guiding light for the project manager and if adhered to throughout the project, will result in a well-managed project that will be viable for the business.

In my opinion, the first and most important principle of Prince2 is to do with viability. This states that a project must have ‘continued business justification.

It may seem obvious to many that a project should not be chartered if it does not offer real benefits to the business but in reality many projects represent a viable proposition to the business at the outset and have many defined benefits, however by the time the project is completed these benefits are no longer achievable, are redundant, or don’t apply. In fact the project may have run out of viability long before its completion.

The Prince2 principle of continued business justification focuses the project manager and project sponsor (executive) on ensuring the project is only started if viable and ensures that viability is maintained throughout its lifecycle. But how does it do this?

For a Prince2 project to adhere to the principle of continued business justification the following must apply:

  • There must be a reason to start the project
  • The business case must be documented and approved
  • The business case must be revisited and re-evaluated during the project

Let’s consider a simple example most can relate to.

You are managing a project for a family to build their new home. The family see the benefits to them including safety, security, warmth, and ability to raise a family in the house. The family have made the decision to include two bedrooms in the house to cater for parents and children. During the project, which will take 12 months to complete, the economic situation changes and the family unexpectedly have to provide for another person (grandparent) in the house.

But the project proceeds as planned driven by the benefits identified at the outset. At the end of the project when the family are reviewing what is built and the value of it to them (the benefits) they now realise the house will not provide enough space to suit their needs.

If the project was managed using the Prince2 methodology with its focus on continued business justification, the business case would have been reviewed at defined intervals during the project. This would have highlighted that the project as planned was not viable due to inadequate space for the family. At that point the project could have been changed to deliver more space or abandoned saving the family the cost of delivering a house which was not fit for purpose (viable).

The Prince2 focus on project viability is one of the many aspects of the methodology which makes it so successful for all types of projects in all sectors. A lot may go wrong with your projects but if you can ensure they remain viable to your business they will always be considered a success.