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PRINCE2 in 1000 Words

White Paper

PRINCE2 in 1000 Words

White Paper

  • White Paper
  • Business solutions
  • Project management
  • Project progress
  • Project planning

Author  Andy Murray

November 20, 2020 |

 7 min read

  • White Paper
  • Business solutions
  • Project management
  • Project progress
  • Project planning

In 1,000 words, this paper explores the benefits of using PRINCE2 and offers a product focus showing how all parties can deliver to agreed quality standards.

What is PRINCE2?

PRINCE2 is a non-proprietary method used extensively in more than 150 countries around the world, and its take-up grows daily. It is widely considered as the leading method in project management, with more than two million certifications taken worldwide and in excess of 20,000 organizations already benefiting from its pioneering and trusted approach. This is largely due to the fact that PRINCE2 is truly generic and universal: it can be applied to any project regardless of scale, type, organization, geography or culture.

PRINCE2 comprises a set of principles, a set of control themes, a process lifecycle and guidance on matching the method to the project’s environment. PRINCE2 provides a process model for managing a project. This consists of a set of activities that are required to direct, manage and deliver a project.

Benefits of PRINCE2

PRINCE2 provides the following benefits:

  • It can be applied to any type of project
  • It provides a common vocabulary and approach
  • It integrates easily with industry-specific models
  • The product focus clarifies for all parties what the project will deliver to agreed quality standards
  • It applies ‘management by exception’ providing efficient use of senior management time
  • It ensures a focus on the continuing viability of the project
  • There are scores of accredited training and consultancy organizations operating worldwide, which can supply expert support for PRINCE2 projects or for organizations planning to adopt PRINCE2
  • It provides explicit definitions of roles and responsibilities so that everyone understands what is expected of them and what to expect of others.


The seven PRINCE2 principles are the guiding obligations for best practice that a project should follow if it is using PRINCE2. These are derived from lessons, both good and bad, that have affected project success.

The principles provide a framework of best practice for those people involved in a project – ensuring that the method is not applied in an overly prescriptive way or in name only, but applied in a way sufficient to contribute to the success of the project.

Continued business justificationA PRINCE2 project has continued
business justification
Learn from experiencePRINCE2 project teams learn from previous experience:
lessons are sought, recorded and acted upon throughout the life
of the project
Defined roles and responsibilitiesA PRINCE2 project has defined and agreed roles and responsibilities
with an organizational structure that engages the business, user and
supplier stakeholder interests
Manage by stagesA PRINCE2 project is planned, monitored and controlled, management
stage by management stage
Manage by exceptionA PRINCE2 project has defined tolerances for each project objective,
to establish limits of delegated authority
Focus on productsA PRINCE2 project focuses on the definition and delivery
of products, in particular their quality requirements
Tailor to suit the project environmentPRINCE2 is tailored to suit the project environment, size, complexity,
importance, team capability and risk


The seven PRINCE2 themes are those aspects of project management that need to be addressed continually throughout the project lifecycle (i.e. not once only). They provide guidance on how the process should be performed. For example, numerous processes in PRINCE2 involve creating or approving plans and explanatory guidance on this can be found in the plans theme.

The set of PRINCE2 themes describes:

  • How baselines for benefits, risks, scope, quality, cost and time are established (in the business case, quality and plans themes)
  • How the project management team monitors and controls the work as the project progresses (in the progress, quality, change and risk themes).

The organization theme supports the other themes with a structure of roles and responsibilities with clear paths for delegation and escalation.

Questions answered by the theme
Business caseWhy?
PlansHow? How much? When?
RiskWhat if?
ChangeWhat's the impact?
ProgressWhere are we now? Where are we going?


PRINCE2 provides a process model for managing a project. This consists of a set of activities that are required to direct, manage and deliver a project.

Starting up a project:

covers the pre-project activities required to commission the project and to gain commitment from corporate or programme management to invest in project initiation by answering the question: ‘do we have a viable and worthwhile project?’

Directing a project:

describes the project board’s activities in exercising overall project control. The activities focus on the decision making necessary for project board members to fulfil their accountabilities successfully while delegating the day-to-day management of the project to the project manager.

Initiating a project:

describes the activities the project manager must lead in order to establish the project on a sound foundation. Every PRINCE2 project has an initiation stage. The key deliverable from this stage is the project initiation documentation, which includes an overall project plan and defines baselines for the six project performance targets of time, cost, quality, scope, risk and benefits.

Managing a stage boundary:

describes the activities the project manager must undertake to provide the project board with sufficient information to enable it to review the success of the current stage, approve the next stage plan, review the updated project plan and confirm continued business justification and acceptability of the risks.

Controlling a stage:

describes how the project manager manages the project execution/delivery activity during a stage, and reports progress and exceptions to the project board.

Managing product delivery:

addresses the team manager’s role in supervising the detailed work of creating the project’s products and provides the link between the project manager and the teams undertaking the project work.

Closing a project:

describes the closure activity towards the end of the final stage of the project. The project manager leads the process which provides for an orderly decommissioning, including any remaining project acceptance and handover requirements.


The Project Environment

It is a PRINCE2 principle that the method must be tailored to suit the particular project context.

Tailoring refers to the measures taken to apply the method properly to an individual project, ensuring that the amount of governance, planning and control is appropriate – neither too burdensome for a simple project nor too informal for a large or complex project. The adoption of PRINCE2 across an organization is known as embedding.

Tailoring and embedding PRINCE2

Embedding (done by the organization to adopt PRINCE2)
Tailoring (done by the project management
team to adapt the method to the context
of a specific project)
Focus on:
  • Process responsibilities
  • Scaling rules/guidance (e.g. scorecard)
  • Standards (templates, definitions)
  • Training and development
  • Integration with business processes
  • Tools
  • Process assurance.
Focus on:
  • Adapting the themes (through the strategies and controls)
  • Incorporating specific terms/language
  • Revising the product descriptions for the management products
  • Revising the role descriptions for the PRINCE2 project roles
  • Adjusting the process to match the above.

Nine people all sat around a meeting table talking, some using laptops


Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2®, TSO, 2007 edition.

Directing Successful Projects with PRINCE2®, TSO, 2008 edition.

Effective Project Management; the PRINCE2® method, TSO, 2020

About the author

Andy Murray is a chartered director and management consultant who delivers strategic change through Project, Programme and Portfolio Management, with over 30 years of varied experience (public sector/ private sector, SME/corporate, domestic/international). He has a focus on project governance, the treatment of inherent project complexity and organizational development of project capability.

Andy is a respected author, having worked with HM Treasury, Cabinet Office, the Association for Project Management (APM) and Axelos to develop best practice guidance on their behalf. He was cited in the Sunday Telegraph’s business supplement as one of the most influential people in project management. Andy is a collaborative and inclusive senior leader with a track record of building high-performing teams both within his organization, across partnerships and with voluntary groups. He is the Executive Director of the Major Projects Association (MPA) and a freelance consultant and non-exec (proprietor of the Project Non-Exec Ltd).

PRINCE2 In One Thousand Words