31 Oct 2015

The Foundation for PRINCE2 Project Success

Posted by prince2guest

The Foundation for PRINCE2 Project Success

Successful project delivery seems to elude many project managers both professional and amateur. This post hopes to promote some discussion on how the success of a project is shaped during its initiation.

PRINCE2 starts by defining Projects as “a temporary organization that is created for the purpose of delivering one of business products according to an agreed Business Case.”

PMI (Project Management Institute) defines a project as: “A temporary endeavour undertaken to create a unique product, service or result”

Either of these standards provides definitions that focus on the temporary nature and the unique product or outcome. This temporary nature and uniqueness often requires people who are going to come together temporarily and collaborate to build or achieve the unique result.

Instantly we are thinking (well those who are PM minded); how do we identify the people/resources needed, how do I communicate the need to collaborate and ensure they all understand the objectives, scope of the products/results/outcome, the constraints we have to work within such as time, cost and quality?

The simple answer is you need to conduct some sort of pre-project planning and project initiation in order to answer those questions and establish the temporary infrastructure for the team to operate within.

2 of PRINCE2’s 7 Processes are dedicated to pre-project planning and project initiation

Starting Up a ProjectPRINCE2 Project Foundations

‘Starting Up a Project’ helps to build the foundations for the project. The process produces six key elements:

  • Designing and appointing the project management team
  • Lessons from previous projects
  • An Outline Business Case
  • A description of the Project’s final deliverable
  • A Project Brief document
  • The Plan for the Initiation Stage

There are several tips for scaling the process depending on the possible initiation point:

  1. In a standalone project then all the steps of the process can be applied.
  2. If the project is part of a program the program can pass down much documentation and program management may have already have made many decisions which might be left to the stand-alone project. In this case this process can just be a check to whether any more work needs to be done on the start-up products.
  3. The 3rd possibility is that the project is very small. In such cases the process can be usually be handled in an informal manner, possibly just taking a few minutes.

Initiating a Project

This process aims at laying the foundations for the delivery of the project products/outcomes. It follows the Starting Up a project process. Its purpose is to draw up the contract (known as the Project Initiation Document or PID) between the project board and the project manager and the organization receiving the products so there is a common understanding of:

  • The reasons for doing the project
  • What key products the project will produce
  • How and when these will be delivered and at what cost
  • The scope of what is to be done
  • Any constraints that apply to the product/outcome
  • Any constraints that apply to the project
  • Who is involved in project decision-making
  • How the quality required by the customers will be achieved
  • What risks the project will be facing
  • How is the project to be controlled through governance structures
  • Who will receive what communications
  • The production of plans in detail for next stage and in outline for the rest of the project

The PRINCE2 manual provides advice on scalability similar to Starting Up a Project.

The activities within Initiating a Project are:

  1. Prepare the Risk Management Approach
  2. Prepare the Quality Management Approach
  3. Prepare the Change Control Approach
  4. Prepare the Communication Management Approach
  5. Set up the project controls
  6. Create the Project Plan
  7. Refine the Business Case
  8. Assemble Project Initiation Document

In PRINCE2, the Project Board is the group responsible for ensuring project goals are achieved and providing support for addressing project risks and issues.


Project initiation provides a firm foundation for a project’s success and research by NASA on project planning has shown that project success depends on sound planning during project initiation.

A controlled start depends on establishing the core structures and products that will be used to manage the delivery of the project’s products / outcomes. The project initiation is an essential process for all projects however scalability can reduce the tasks from production of documents to review and update when Project Initiation Documents and the associated plans are provided for the project manager to use.

The key to a project’s success largely depends on a successful project initiation and the establishment of the project organization and documents and plans.

About the Guest Author

David Whelbourn, MBA PMP is the Director of Project Management at New Brunswick Internal Services Agency.  A PRINCE2 Registered Practitioner he served a reviewer as part of the PRINCE2 2009 and MSP, Managing Successful Programs, 2011 refresh projects

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