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Home > Old School PRINCE2 Planning process

Old School PRINCE2 Planning process


Planning and the evolution of PRINCE2

Planning was one of 8 main processes in the 2005 version of PRINCE2. In the latest update (version 2009), planning disappeared as a process and was instead incorporated in the Plans theme. Themes are a new construct of PRINCE2 2009 as a replacement of the older Components from the original method. Also related to planning, the technique of Product-based planning was incorporated into the new Plans theme as well. Like components, techniques disappeared in the newest version. The reason for the latter is that specific project management techniques are considered of specialist nature and the right use of techniques depends on the context. In other words, different techniques are used in different organizations across different industries. For example, the software industry has specific methods for estimating (Functions Point, COCOMO, etc). In contrast, product-based planning is considered a generic approach valid in any context.

The latest (yet non official) evolution of PRINCE2, which is introduced on Methodplace and called Enteprise Function mod(ification), replaces the construct of themes by Enterprise Functions. Functions could be considered as process areas and unlike processes do not have a defined start and end. Functions are linked with one another based on information flows. One of the most central functions of project management is Project Planning (see the Enterprise Function Diagram of project-based organizations on PoP CM), which compensates the ‘loss’ of planning as a PRINCE2 process.

PDD of Planning

The process of planning itself, however, was kept in tact. It namely consists of the same sub-activities. See figure 1 below for the Process Deliverable Diagram (PDD) of Planning. PDD’s model the process (including its sub-processes) on the left hand side and deliverables on the right-hand side. Refer to the Process Deliverable Diagram section on Methodplace for dynamic PDDs of PRINCE2 processes. In the following section, the sub-activities of planning will be discussed briefly.

Figure 1: Process-Deliverable Diagram of Planning

Designing a Plan (PL1)

Designing a plan includes decisions on the approach to planning and therefore needs to be performed early in the project, i.e. for the initial Project Plan. These decision include the following: presentation and lay-out of the plan, planning tools, estimating methods, levels of plan and monitoring methods (relevant to the Monitoring & Control function). Designing a Plan is partly driven by corporate standards and therefore related to Integrated Management (see PRINCE2 EFD Mod).

Defining and Analysing Products (PL2)

Defining and analysing products is based on the Product-based planning technique (PBP). PBP consists of three main steps: 1) Identify the specialist products to be produced (including external products outside the project’s scope) and management products to be used (the set of management products depends on tailoring PRINCE2), 2) Describe them in more detail and if necessary add quality requirements, and 3) sequence the products in order of creation which is most logical. The first step results in a graphical representation of products based on hierarchy. The second step this involves the creation of Product Descriptions and / or Configuration Item Records. In the third step, the sequence of products may be visualized by means of a Product Flow Diagram. A Product Checklist, listing the products to be produced within a Stage Plan together with key status dates (e.g. draft ready, quality check and approval) may be considered as redundant and is clearly optional.

Identifying Activities and Dependencies (PL3)

Based on the Product-Breakdown Structure and potentially Product Flow Diagram, this sub-process consists of two steps: 1) Identify all activities required to deliver the products (including project management), and 2) determine interdependencies between activities. During the second step one should take into account both internal and external dependencies (e.g. delivery of an external product or decision from corporate / programme management).

Estimating (PL4)

The output of this sub-process are activity estimates in terms of effort (work) and - interrelated - duration (time), depending on resource numbers. Activity duration is consolidated in the following sub-process, scheduling, when resource availability is assessed (and later allocated). During the process of estimating one has to identify resource types. With regard to human resources, requirements in terms of skills and experience levels are identified. The latter outcome serves as input for Project Establishment, another key project function. The accuracy of estimating may be increased by collecting metrics from past projects. Such project knowledge could be made available by Project Support in either a knowledge pull or push. Project Support is qualified for such support role as it may have experience in the subject matter of the plan as well as training in the job of estimation.

Scheduling (PL5)

A PRINCE2 plan is a comprehensive management product describing what is required, how and when this will be achieved and by whom. Visually, this information can be captured by a schedule such as a Gantt chart. Essentially, a schedule is a list of activities and their allocated resources, plus dates over which the activities take place. As most people think of plans as charts with timescales (according to official guidance), such visual representations play a central role in plans.

Analysing Risks (PL6)

Analysing Risks runs parallel to the other planning activities. All identified risks related to planning are recorded in the Risk Log. Many planning risks are related to productivity losses and the rework cycle (Eden et al., 2000), which contribute to the cost of disruption and delay. For example, a sub-contractor might fail to deliver a needed product on time, or a resource may not perform at the required level. On occasion, external events may create a crisis, disrupting timely delivery of several products.

Completing a Plan (PL7)

Although diagrams such as schedules provide essential information, a plan is arguably incomplete without certain narrative sections. For example, PRINCE2 recommends/prescribes that the composition of a Project Plan should include: plan prerequisites (certain conditions that must be in place for the plan to succeed), external dependencies (project external factors that may influence the plan), planning assumptions, lessons incorporated (the quality of plans is affected by lessons from previous projects), monitoring and control (details of how the plan will be monitored and controlled during execution), budgets, tolerances (in terms of time, cost and scope), product descriptions (depending on the level of plan; in case of the project plan: the project’s main product), and finally, diagrams including the schedule (e.g. a Gantt Chart) and Product Breakdown Structure. 


Eden, C. Williams, T., Ackermann, F., Howick, S. (2000). The role of feedback dynamics in disruption and delay on the nature of Disruption and Delay (D&D) in major projects. The journal of the Operational Research Society, 51 (3), 291-300