PRINCE2: 2009 Project™, are we ready?

PRINCE2 ® the de facto method developed and used extensively by the UK government and widely recognised and used in the private sector, both in the UK and internationally is having a facelift.

Since its introduction in 1989 as a UK government standard for IT project management, PRINCE has been taken on by both the public and commercial sectors. PRINCE® (Projects IN Controlled Environments) is a widely used project management method that can navigate users through all the essentials for running a successful project. It is positioned as a flexible method and although originally designed for the management of IT projects, it is now aimed at all other types of projects too.

PRINCE2: 2009The process of refresh has retained the number “2” and has been run under the banner of PRINCE2: 2009 Project™, led by the lead author Andy Murray who was appointed in May 2008. The update was scheduled for a Q1 2009 launch, after slippage the official launch of the update is now set for 16th June 2009.

The update has been driven by two main bodies of input, firstly the OGC (Office of Government Commerce) who manage the crown copyright and secondly the inputs from a public consultation exercise. According to Murray and materials released during the process the OGC were looking for the methodology to be simplified, slimmed down and evolved to meet the demand for a universal method suitable for application in any environment / geography. Public inputs were looking for more scalability, alignment and added value. There was also a desire to align the product with other OGC offerings.

So having taken in the requests, the project team have developed and tested what they position as a “radical evolution” of the PRINCE2® method which they believe will make it more fit for purpose. The proposed integrated set of products will be contained in a “knowledge centre” and have accompanying guides and of course training materials.

They have taken the PRINCE2® method and for ease of use created two sets of documentation which are set to address the two primary user groups. Those responsible for Managing and those responsible for Directing projects will each have a method for executing “successful projects using PRINCE2®”. These contain practical guidance for the reader which is lifecycle, key theme, context and role based along with Trouble-shooting and cross references to other bodies of knowledge.

For the first time the group have looked at the project environment and defined what they believe are the “principles” of a PRINCE2® environment. The seven principles being;

  • Business Justification
  • Roles & Responsibilities
  • Product Focus
  • Managed by stages
  • Management of Risk
  • Scaling & tailoring
  • Learning lessons

The aim being, that when the method as applied in a user environment is tested a gainst th PRINCE2: 2009 ese principles it will be very easy to identify the environment as being or not being PRINCE2® . The team believe that the seven principles are universal, self-validating and empowering, in that they have been shown in the past to be required elements of a method that affords true project control.

In order to rationalise and simplify the method, the team have also introduced seven key themes (replacing the 8 components) in the latest update. They are seen as ever present aspects of project management that need to be continually addressed during the lifecycle of a well controlled project. Essentially they are the Why? Where? What? How? And When of a project.

  • Business Case
  • Organisation
  • Plans
  • Risk
  • Progress
  • Quality
  • Issues and Changes

In terms of the process map, the update also sees a reduction to seven processes (starting to see a theme here?) from the eight contained in the original PRINCE2 . PL or Planning has been recognised as a common, iterative process which should be embedded throughout the project and as such no longer demands its own event.

For simplification and ease of use the 45 sub-processes have been removed so that the focus remains on activity and the three techniques and replaced with cross-references to other BoK’s (Bodies of Knowledge)

To support the desire to enhance the “scale and tailor” requirement the management products have been rationalised from 36 to 25 base products.

As with any new OGC product there has been lots of attention given to the exam strategy which of course is the revenue opportunity associated with the update and the TSO and APM-Group who are the OGC’s delivery partners.

Concerns that they looked to address included;

  • Gathering of validity evidence
  • Standard setting for pass mark
  • Foundation tests recall rather than understanding
  • Practitioner too difficult

Based on information available, the new foundation exam will focus on 15 syllabus areas, with equal emphasis and difficulty. It will contain 76 questions with a greater emphasis on understanding and require a 50% pass mark.

Similarly, the new practitioner exam will focus on 15 syllabus areas, with equal emphasis and difficulty. It will contain 9 questions with a focus on the 7 themes and a requirement to answer 2 from 3 of the process questions. The pass mark is unknown at this point.

Richard Pharro, CEO of The APM Group has stated that;

“Both the Foundation and Practitioner Examinations will be based on the new ‘Managing Projects’ manual and will not include material from the new ‘Directing Projects’ book.”

“The PRINCE2 Foundation and Practitioner examinations will remain very much the same as they are now. All candidates who have taken their examination on the earlier edition of the method will find their qualification remains valid until they need to re-register.”

The 2009 exams will be available from June 2009 through the usual ATOs (Accredited Training Organisations) and re-registration exams will also be available based on the update. It would appear that there will be a crossover period for exams of three months after the launch – where exams will be issued on either the 2005 or 2009 version of the manual. After this, exams will be based on the 2009 manual only.

Training will be available in Chinese – Mandarin, Danish, Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Spanish – Castilian.

Depending on demand, an examination based on the ‘Directing’ manual may be developed and launched towards the end of 2009.

So what do I think?

Based on the limited information that is available in the public domain at this stage we look forward to seeing the new documentation and the detail included.

It is very interesting to see the introductions of “principles” which can be applied to an environment to test its princeness and I look forward to seeing how this is used in the real world where if we were to believe it everyone is doing Prince.

The acknowledgement of “Scaling & Tailoring” is an interesting recognition of a major concern that I and many others have had over the years. It will be interesting to see if this reduces the number of projects that are over processed and princed to death.

The desire to make the methodology more simplified, slimmed down and evolved to meet the demand for a universal method suitable for application in any environment / geography is interesting. Again cultural differences make interesting demands on any methodology which seeks a global audience. My cynical side would question if this desire to expand globally is driven by the desire to pass on the UK’s excellence in delivering projects (except all those in the news that we don’t seem to be doing very well) or something driven by the desire to maximise revenue opportunities as the UK market reaches a plateau by opening up new markets?

In terms of training, I still can’t get over the 50% pass mark and still stand by my previous post “update of PRINCE2” where I had a Victor Meldrew moment about dumbing down. Again the new release will offer new opportunities for the ATOs to attract and process more people through the programme. Not only that, they have a potentially new audience now that the method is split! And finally, an update will be available for all those people who need to re-sit their practitioner exam as their accreditation expires. (Do people really do this?)

So, with just over a month to go to launch, I look forward to handing more money over to the TSO for the updated materials and just as importantly any comments you may have.



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  1. Hi,

    Thanks for the roundup of changes, very useful. I’m also looking forward to seeing how the concept of an environment’s “princeness” (or maybe how princely it is…) plays out in the real world.

    I’m also interested in the new split between Managing and Directing, though I remain to be convinced it will make any difference to the practical reality of project managers explaining the roles and responsibilities to their board members!

    And like you, I’m not convinced by the multiple choice format of the exams now.

  2. Good update, many thanks.

    If your dates are correct I cannot but worry! The organisation responsible for project management has a delivery date in Q1 of 2009. This has now slipped to Q2 2009.June 16 to be precise.

    Are they any good at projects and what example have they set?

    Ron Rosenhead

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