What is PRINCE2?

Date: 24/01/2024| Category: Best Practices Glossary| Tags:

PRINCE2®, an acronym for PRojects IN Controlled Environments, is a project management methodology.

Published in 1996, it’s now used in over 150 countries in both the public and private sectors, establishing itself as the world’s most practised project management method.

The owner of the method is the global leader in the certification industry PeopleCert.

PRINCE2 can guide professionals and organisations through the essentials for managing successful projects, regardless of type or scale. It provides a framework that focuses on organisation and control throughout the entire project: PRINCE2 divides projects into manageable stages to encourage efficient control of resources and regular progress monitoring.

PRINCE2 is “product-based”, meaning the project plans are focused on delivering results, and not simply planning when activities will be undertaken; processes cover all the activities that compose a project, from start to finish. Every project starts with a project plan, each stage of the project is clearly structured. It provides a common language across a project and provides breakpoints within a contractual framework.

What are the benefits of using PRINCE2 

PRINCE2 is a generic best practice method which is flexible enough to be tailored to the specific needs of different organisations for all projects, including Agile delivery. The main benefits of the method are:

    • an organised and controlled start, making sure there is a valid reason for the project and that all people and resources have been organized and are ready for the project
    • an organised and controlled middle, once the project has been organized and has started, making sure its validity is maintained and the work carried out is controlled throughout the project life
    • an organised and controlled end. A controlled end is always better than the natural tendency to drift into the operational life of a project’s product, hence we need to make sure the project deliverable is accepted by our client before officially closing the project
    • regular reviews of progress against plan and against the Business Case
    • flexible decision points
    • controlled management of deviations from the project plans thanks to the Management by Exception principle
    • the involvement of management and stakeholders at the right time and place during the project
    • good communication amongst the project management team, the stakeholders, and the rest of the organisation

Key elements of PRINCE2

The key elements of the methodology are: people, principles, processes, practices (previously called themes but now updated to practices) and project environment.

PRINCE2 Framework

People in PRINCE2 are central to project success. Their collaborative efforts, expertise, commitment, and the development of a positive project culture are key elements that contribute to achieving project objectives. The framework recognizes the human factor as a critical component in effective project management. The people element is addressed in a dedicated chapter structured around the topics of leading successful change, leading successful teams, and communication.

The 7 principles

Principles are the guiding obligations and good practices which determine whether the project is being managed using PRINCE2. Unless all of them are applied, it is not a PRINCE2 project; the seven PRINCE2 principles are:

  1. Ensure Continued business justification
    There must be a justifiable reason to be running and managing the project. If not, the project should be closed.
  2. Learn from experience
    PRINCE2 project teams should continually seek and draw on lessons learned from previous work.
  3. Defined, roles, responsibilities and relationships
    Moreover, a PRINCE2 project management team initiates and builds relationships with and between internal and external stakeholders.
  4. Manage by stages
    PRINCE2 projects should be planned, monitored and controlled on a stage-by-stage basis.
  5. Manage by exception
    People working within the project should be given the right amount of authority to effectively work within the environment.
  6. Focus on products
    PRINCE2 projects focus on the product definition, delivery and quality requirements.
  7. Tailor to suit the project environment
    PRINCE2 must be tailored to suit the project’s environment, size, complexity, importance, delivery method, team capability and level of risk.

The 7 processes

The processes describe a progression from the pre-project activity of getting started, through the stages of the project lifecycle, to the final act of project closure.
Each process has a checklist of recommended activities, products and related responsibilities. The processes are:

  1. Starting up a project
    The main purpose of this process is to ensure that the prerequisites for initiating a project are in place by answering the question: “Do we have a worthwhile and viable project?”.
  2. Directing a project
    The purpose of this process is to enable the project board to be accountable for the project’s success,
  3. Initiating a project
    The purpose of this process is to establish solid foundations (documented in the PID) for the project so the organisation can understand the work that needs to be done to deliver the project product.
  4. Controlling a stage
    The purpose of this process is to assign work to be done, monitor the work, deal with issues, report progress to the project board, and take corrective action to ensure that the stage remains within tolerance.
  5. Managing product delivery
    The purpose of this process is to control the link between the project manager and the team manager, by agreeing on the requirements for acceptance, execution, and delivery.
  6. Managing stage boundaries
    In this process, the project manager provides the project board with an overview of the performance of the current stage, updates the project plan, and business case and creates a stage plan for the next stage. The project board reviews these documents and decides to approve the next stage.
  7. Closing a project
    The purpose of this process is to provide a fixed point at which acceptance of the project product is confirmed and to recognize that objectives set out in the original PID have been achieved, or that project has something more to contribute.

PRINCE2 Phases

The 7 Practices (previously the 7 Themes)

The 7 Practices (previously the 7 Themes) describe aspects of project management that must be addressed continually and in parallel throughout the project. They explain the specific treatment required by PRINCE2 for various project management disciplines and why they are necessary.

  1. Business case
    Create and maintain a record of the business justification for the project.
  2. Organizing
    Define the individual roles and responsibilities of the whole project team.
  3. Quality
    What the quality requirements and measures are and how the project will deliver them.
  4. Plans
    The steps required to develop the plans and the PRINCE2 techniques that should be used.
  5. Risk
    Effectively identify risks and opportunities that could impact the project.
  6. Issues
    How the project manager will assess and act on the issues facing the project.
  7. Progress
    The ongoing viability and performance of the plans and how and whether the project should proceed.


Project environment: organisations often want a consistent approach to managing projects and tailor PRINCE2 to create their own project management method. This method is then embedded into the organisation’s way of working.

PRINCE2 Certification Scheme

The PRINCE2 certification scheme has two main levels:

  • Foundation: this level introduces the PRINCE2 method. The PRINCE2 Foundation exam aims to confirm that you know and understand the PRINCE2 method well enough to be able to work effectively with, or as a member of, a project management team working within an environment supporting PRINCE2.
  • Practitioner: the purpose of the PRINCE2 Practitioner exam is to confirm whether you have sufficient understanding of how to apply and tailor the method in a range of different project environments and scenarios.

PRINCE2 or other methodologies? 

Your choice of a Project Management methodology defines how you work and communicate with your team.
Project management has more than one certification, and it can be difficult to choose the right one for you and your organisation.

Other project management qualifications that are acknowledged worldwide include:

  • Project Management Professional (PMP) certification from PMI (Project Management Institute)
  • IPMA (International Project Management Association) also has detailed bodies of knowledge that explain the wider skills needed for a project manager
  • AgilePM from APMG, a method focused on the management of Agile projects.

Certifications in Project Management

The choice of a project management methodology defines the way you will work and communicate with your team. There are of course many certifications for project managers and it can be difficult to make an informed choice. Besides PRINCE2, there are three certifications that can be considered the most well-known and recognised in the world:

  • Project Management Professional (PMP) from PMI (Project Management Insititute), considered the standard of project management
  • International Project Management Association (IPMA), a detailed body of knowledge explaining the broader skills needed by a project manager
  • Agile Project Management (AgilePM) by APMG, a method that focuses on managing projects in an Agile way

Also read our articles PRINCE2 VS PMP and PRINCE2 VS AgilePM to learn more about the differences between these methodologies.

How to get PRINCE2 certified?

In order to obtain your PRINCE2 Certification you need to take a classroom or online training with an PeopleCert’ Accredited Training Organisations (ATOs).

QRP International is an official ATO for PRINCE2, accredited by Peoplecert on behalf of Axelos. We’re authorised to deliver PRINCE2 training courses online, on-site or in an e-learning format.

Would you like support in order to figure out the best solution for you and your team? We would be happy to provide more info on the different PM methods available – contact us!

Source: PeopleCert, PeopleCert, Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2®, 7th Edition

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