The prince of project management tools

Prince2 can be a lifesaver, some say

When computing is given substantial coverage in the mainstream media it’s often because an IT project has failed — and when that happens it’s usually a big failure.

While having the right project manager, the right people and enough resources are key, experts also say using a tried and true project methodology is vital. This will ensure you have clear goals and objectives, a sensible timeframe and enough resources.

According to an article on SiliconRepublic by Gordon Smith, using a methodology means everybody is using the same language and there’s less likelihood of misunderstandings.

Prince2 (Projects IN Controlled Environments), which originated in the UK, is becoming an increasingly popular framework for projects. It is owned and used by the UK government but is also increasingly being used by the private sector worldwide. Browsing through vacant jobs in New Zealand will reveal that experience and qualifications in Prince2 are now preferred in many cases.

Writing on, Andy McCue says some of the failures Prince2 is trying to overcome include a lack of co-ordination and communication, poor estimation of deadlines and costs, inadequate planning and a lack of quality control.

According to SiliconRepublic’s Smith, Prince2 also helps focus on the business justification for the project, asking whether it’s addressing the right problem.

He explains that Prince2 has four phases to help achieve the above: First, definition; second, planning; third, implementation; and, fourth, closure.

He points out that Prince2 can be flexible when change needs to happen.

“But having a methodology means that at least the change can be controlled and there’s a clear understanding of how it will affect the project plan, the end product or the quality expectations.”

The framework can also be used formally or informally, depending on what is most suitable for the project. For example, a status report is an important part of Prince2, allowing the project manager to keep the customer informed.

“The frequency of contact will depend to a large extent on the complexity of the undertaking — it could be anything from a monthly briefing to a weekly 60-second phone call,” writes Smith.’s McCue says the core principle of Prince2 is that every project has a finite start and end, a defined amount of resources, and an organisational structure with everyone involved having clear responsibilities.

Under Prince2 a project board is set up — which the project manager reports to — and this includes customer, user, supplier and specialist representatives. If there are any problems, the board decides what should happen.

At present the British government owns Prince2. However, recent talk of the British government making government data available for free has had some people speculating that this could change how Prince2’s rights are handled.

An article on the ITSM Portal suggests it would be available for free.

“If other frameworks like COBIT or TOGAF can be downloaded freely from the internet, then why can’t ITIL or PRINCE2? It would surely be the best way to share best practices, documented in these frameworks, and have the people profit from that; after all, the data were developed with the taxpayer’s money.”

• To be a registered Prince2 practitioner you have to pass two exams — the Foundation and Practitioner Exams. Both the examinations and training for them are available in New Zealand.

• This is Mills’ final column

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