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Home > PRINCE2 in practice: analysis of PRINCE2 (implementation and operation) Case Studies

PRINCE2 in practice: analysis of PRINCE2 (implementation and operation) Case Studies


In order to gain a better understanding of PRINCE2 in practice a total of 13 Case Studies were examined, of which 7 are related to the original PRINCE2 method (pre- 2009 version) and 5 related to the latest guidance. For a complete list of the case studies see the References section.The general business case for implementing PRINCE2 was the need for a structured approach to project management in order to increase project performance. As found in the Registers of Scotland Case Study, PRINCE2 in itself does not guarantee a successful outcome but is a great help. This stems, as stated in the Reading Council case study, from the fact that excellent processes avoid waste of resources and contribute to the delivery of projects and programmes to time, cost and quality.

In this article, we will discuss both the implementation (or embedding) of PRINCE2 and operation that follows. The former requires change management. The latter needs to be supported, as the case studies show, by means of a Project Support structure and intranet, which will be discussed below. Related to the operation of PRINCE2 in an organizational context, this article focuses on 2 key aspects of PRINCE2, namely: 1) Processes and activities, and corresponding products (or PRINCE2 as a process model), and 2) Principles. With regard to PRINCE2 roles and the generic PRINCE2 Project Management Team Structure, the case studies adopt but do not adapt PRINCE2 guidance, except the Fleet Management Information Unit where the Project Assurance role has line accountability to the Project Manager. With regard to PRINCE2 Themes or PRINCE2 Components (from the original method), there is limited reference.

PRINCE2 Implementation

As with many (if not all) organizational changes, embedding PRINCE2 is likely to be initially resisted. This holds especially when organizational members perceive PRINCE2 as bureaucratic or cumbersome. Therefore, measures should be taken to counter this social behaviour. The case study of the Reading Borough council notes the importance of using every opportunity to sell the benefits (e.g. newsletters, intranet, corporate presentations, etc). The strongest case for acceptance of PRINCE2 is arguably to show tangible evidence of its benefits. The Ericsson Services Ireland case study recommends benchmarking to assess and measure improvements (e.g. improved customer satisfaction or reduced costs). Another approach is to use maturity assessment, which was the case in the Maasvlakte 2 case study. In this huge 2 billion infrastructure project, the regular performance of PRINCE2 / P3M3 maturity assessment has helped to apply PRINCE2 in the right way.

Interestingly, the Fleet Information Management Unit case study shows that PRINCE2 elements may even be applied to a production environment. Delivery of data products, the core business of this organization, is namely continuous. In tailoring PRINCE2 they regarded a financial year as equivalent to a project, and a financial quarter as equivalent to a stage in a project. Their Business Case for implementing PRINCE2 was based on the following benefits: 1) PRINCE2 captures corporate knowledge, 2) provides a template for best practice, and 3) facilitates continuous improvement.

The most common lesson learned of implementing PRINCE2 was to use pilot projects as a basis for local standards. Implementing PRINCE2 involves tailoring this method. In some cases existing approaches were integrated resulting in adapted versions of PRINCE2. For example, of the Suffolk Country Council developed PRINCESS (PRINCE2 Suffolk Style. For example, Getronics integrated PRINCE2 with PMBOK, the well known Body of Knowledge for Project Management. A notable lesson learned related to tailoring, found in the Fleet Information Management Unit, was to adapt PRINCE2 to fit your organization, not the way around. Or in other words, as stated in another case study, do not become a slave of the method. The Ericsson case study also stresses the importance to keep the methodology under review in order to support its evolution, which brings us to the operational phase of PRINCE2.

PRINCE2 in operation

Processes, activities and products

How PRINCE2 is applied in practice depends on how this method is tailored to suit the project environment at organizational level or project level. Tailoring PRINCE2 at organizational level itself is part of implementation. Adjusting this method to local conditions concerns the PRINCE2 process model. The case studies show that all PRINCE2 processes are applied. However, no detail is given to what extent prescribed activities are followed. But based on the management products used one may infer that at activity level organizations may deviate from the standard process model. For example, in case of Ericsson Services Ireland,  Team Plans are dropped, which are optional anyway, and Checkpoint reports because of other mechanisms. Similarly, Electricity Supply Board (ESB)Irelandomitted Checkpoints reports, Highlight reports and Exception reports because these were covered by morning meetings. In contrast, ESB found the Project Initiation Document (PID) and Product Descriptions really useful. Ericsson Services Ireland for example appreciated the concept of Work Packages as a way to ensure that people are clear what they are responsible for delivering. Also the National Health Service case study explains tailoring PRINCE2 in terms of management products used. This organization applies PRINCE2 to a significant degree and uses the following products: PID, Business Case, Communication Plan (in PRINCE 2009: Communication Management Strategy), Stage Plans, Risk Log, End Stage Reports, Product Descriptions (define deliverables), and Work Packages (define work being allocated).


PRINCE2 principles were introduced in the 2009 version. However, the older case studies show that some fundamental principles of PRINCE2 were already identified although not explicitly mentioned as such. In particular, the learning from experience principle was recognized. In the ESB case study there is anecdotic evidence that PRINCE2 enabled a lessons learned approach (which was used for staff development purposes in future). In the Registers of Scotland case study they identified the Programme Officer as Knowledge broker who would pass on lessons learned from other projects. In the Reading Borough Council case study it was noted that Lessons Learned Reports enable learning from experience of others. So the benefit of learning from experience enabled by PRINCE2 is referred to multiple times. Furthermore, the ESB and Getronics case studies acknowledge the PRINCE2 focus on deliverables with product-based planning. Focus on products is another PRINCE2 principle. Besides, the EBS case study notes that the splitting of the project into Stages results in more accurate planning. So also the focus on Stages principle is to be found. For the sake of completeness, the Reading Borough Council case study experiences the benefit of management by exception (another principle) as Senior Management (i.e. Project Board) input is reduced without the feel of losing control, and there are clear lines of accountability. Tailoring PRINCE2 to suit the project environment, the next principle, is a necessity and applied in all case studies. The principle of Defined Roles and Responsibilities, put into practice by Job Descriptions and the Project Management Team Structure deliverable is common place. Last not but least, continued business justification is acknowledged in the Reading Borough Council case study, where it is stated that business cases are continuously examined to ensure that a project can stopped before further resources are wasted. Obviously, unlike the process model, principles can not be tailored; they must hold in any case and are fundamental of nature.

Project Support Office

The implementation of PRINCE2 is likely to result in a need for a dedicated support function or structure, which is called a Project Support Office or Project Management Office (the latter is more inclusive and therefore my preferred notion). According to the Edinburgh Housing Services case study the reason for this need is three-fold: 1) to achieve a ‘top-down’ integrated governance approach (in other words,  a structure that is responsible for institutionalisation of PRINCE2 organization wide by means of e.g. audit processes or even formal accreditation), 2) to provide support, and 3) to achieve project management best practice (in other words, to promote the project management methodology). Ericsson, in turn, initially established a support office to provide internal expertise and guidance for new project teams, and then continued develop a comprehensive business function providing support for programmes and projects, together with knowledge management and strategic progress reporting (for senior management). Although guidance on Project Support Offices in PRINCE2 is limited in extent (there does exist separate best practice guidance in the form P3O), Getronics finds support for the PSO concept useful. Also the Registers of Scotland case study notes it is good to have a project support office. Finally, during the PRINCE2 implementation project at the City of Edinburgh Housingdepartment, a proposal was made to resource a dedicated project management office, e.g. in order to maintain and provide standards, methods and tools, and to provide continued training, advice and guidance relating to the application of PRINCE2. For more information on the specific functions of Project Management Offices see the article ‘Exploring PMO Functions’.

Intranet as Project Management Knowledge Base

The Edinburgh Housing Services case study states that appropriate IT solutions are essential to provide an effective project support function. And Ericsson recommends to maintain a project management knowledge base, which they call a ‘virtual’ web-based ‘project office’ and which contains standard PRINCE2 templates. Beyond templates such intranets can be used for publishing project management guidance in general.  For example, the Registers of Scotland had plans for a PM guide on the intranet, and already published a set guidelines and templates. Extracts from these guidelines can be found in the case study. On their intranet they also have a list of current projects and argue that knowledge about other projects may prevent reinventing the wheel.  The Reading Borough council has written and published PM standards together with helpful tips and checklists. Similarly, the British council has core templates and guidance available on the corporate intranet. In conclusion, the intranet plays a pivotal role in the dissemination of PRINCE2 and project management knowledge in general.

Final Remarks

The PRINCE2 case studies examined in this article contain a lot of practical information about implementing and applying PRINCE2 in practice. They also show that this project management method can be integrated successfully with other approaches of bodies or knowledge, such as PMBOK. Many case studies, both new and old ones, have in common the demand for project support and the associated support structure (i.e. PSO / PMO). Generally, the information needs of project members and stakeholders increase after implementing PRINCE2 and this needs to be facilitated by intranets. There are no big differences between the old case studies (pre 2009) and new ones (post 2009) in terms of change management. The general view is that the updated guidance is considered to be more practical. So the process model applied in practice has evolved. In conclusion, the case studies provide evidence of PRINCE2 benefits as well as address the challenges in obtaining them in the first place.