What is it?
Prince (projects in controlled environments) is a structured project management method. Originally developed for the UK government to keep a handle on large IT projects, Prince has spread to the private sector and is also used by governments and businesses abroad. The Prince methodology is freely available in the public domain for £55 at HMSO or at a good local library, but skilled Prince practitioners are expensive.
Where did it originate?
Large IT projects have always had a tendency to spiral out of control. Prince was developed by the government's Central Computer and Technology Agency, now part of the Office of Government Commerce. It was based on Prompt, a project management method created by Simpact Systems in 1975 and adopted by the CCTA in 1979. In 1989 Prince replaced Prompt as the standard on all government IT projects.
In 1996, a consortium of about 150 public and private sector organisations came up with Prince2. This has a much broader application: it can be used for non-IT projects and can be tailored to meet different requirements.
What is it for?
Prince is a true product of the 1980s, taking a business-based approach to product management. The customer specifies the desired outcome and pays for it, and a supplier provides the skills, resourcesand deliverables. The customer can be external or within the same organisation or department.
Prince is process-based and defines what activities are to be carried out at each stage and who is responsible for them. End-users are involved throughout. There is a big emphasis on progress monitoring and management information.
What makes it special?
Being a de facto standard and in the public domain, Prince has a huge user base and is widely supported through active and independent user groups.
Its popularity may be due to its use in UK government IT projects, which are a shining beacon to the rest of the world and are never known to run over time or over budget. Or maybe not.
How difficult is it to master?
The Prince2 foundation exam cannot be that difficult - it has a 99% pass rate. Training takes three days and costs £1,150, or you can get CD-based multimedia training. From then on it gets increasingly demanding. Fewer than 75% of candidates pass the Prince2 practitioner exam. To become a Prince2 trainer you must have extensive experience both in Prince2 and project management.
Where is it used?
Users include the Cheshire Constabulary, Reading Borough Council and Ericsson Services in Ireland.
What systems does it run on?
Being non-proprietary, you can use it with anything you wish.
Not many people know that...
According to the project management method formerly known as Prompt, "a project is a finite process with a definite start and end".
What is coming up?
A book called Planning for People Issues and Prince, covering essential topics such as "politics, motivation, absence, incompetence and disagreement". All human life is in there.
This was first published in June 2003