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Hot skills: Make the most of project challenges with Prince2

Nick Langley

What is it?

Prince2 is the world's most widely used project management methodology. Originally developed for UK government IT projects, its use has been widened to large projects of all kinds, and it has been taken up internationally in more than 50 countries, in both public and private sectors.

Prince stands for Projects in Controlled Environments. Prince was developed at a time when the UK government was outsourcing an increasing amount of its work, and the methodology incorporates much best practice on the integration of internal teams and external agencies.

The focus throughout Prince2 is on the business case, which describes the rationale and business justification for the project. The business case drives all the project management processes, from initial project set-up through to completion.

Where did it originate?

Prince was developed in 1989 by the Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (now part of the Office of Government Commerce) as the UK standard for IT project management.

Prince2, released in 1996, recognised the wider use of Prince by making it a generic project management methodology.

What's it for?

Prince2 takes a process approach to project management, fitting each process into a framework of essential components that need to be applied throughout the project.

Short overviews of Prince2 seem to state the painfully obvious, but the genius of Prince2 is in the detail. In an ideal world, Prince2 would ensure that every step within the project lifecycle is completed meticulously, on time, by the right person and using the right resources.

However, the methodology does not address leadership and people management. It is used with other project management techniques such as Gantt charts, and there is a link to Microsoft Project.

What makes it special?

Prince helps users to manage risk, control quality and change, and "make the most of challenging situations and opportunities that arise within a project", according to the Office of Government Commerce.

How difficult is it to master?

The Office of Government Commerce describes Prince2 as "simple to follow". There are various courses available from academic and commercial providers. They range in length from an intensive five days to six weeks-plus.

Where is it used?

Outside central government, local authorities and public sector organisations such as police forces, Prince is used by telecoms companies, banks and other large commercial organisations. It is also used in enterprise resource planning implementations.

The latest version of Prince2 was released in 2005.

Training

The Stationery Office publishes the core training text - Managing Successful Projects with Prince2 - and other guides to applying and tailoring Prince2. The official Office of Government Commerce Prince2 site has links to books and other resources.

There are two qualifications at foundation and practitioner levels. The APM Group accredits organisations and individuals, and it has a list of accredited course providers. These vary from institutional sources - the British Computer Society, Open University and Cranfield University - to commercial IT training companies, and specialist project management consultancies.

The cheapest training and certification option is to buy APMG's Core Prince2 Exam Book Bundle, and then take an Open Centre examination.

www.ogc.gov.uk/methods_prince_2.asp

www.prince2.org.uk

Rates of pay

Salaries for IT professionals with Prince2 skills range from £30,000 for those with a few years' project management experience to £70,000-plus for the most senior project managers.

 

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