In this blog post, our Trainer and PRINCE2 expert Niels Van Bemmelen shows a very practical and typical situation that many project managers face when in a project environment.
We asked him to clarify the situation, to explain what PRINCE2 suggests you to do, and furthermore, to indicate ways to solve the issue!
PRINCE2 stands for “PRojects IN Controlled Environment” and defines 3 Project Board Roles:
- The Executive, responsible for the overall success and realisation of the Business Case, so the Executive is the ultimate decision maker;
- The Senior User(s), responsible for defining and approving quality requirements, availability of users and representatives of the maintenance organisation during the project and for implementation and acceptance of the products;
- The Senior Supplier, responsible for the delivery of the products as agreed, in line with requirements and for the availability of specialist resources.
This is the perfect situation indicated by PRINCE2.
What often happens is that, in real life, many project managers are confronted with project board members that don’t know the principles of a project board or their responsibilities: in these cases, a project board often consists of a lot more people.
There are several ‘false’ reasons for being on a project board:
- To be informed – the project board is a rather costly decision making forum with high level managers; there are better, more efficient ways to be informed.
- To contribute with knowledge and experience – there might be a need for that in the project team, so that would be a better place to contribute.
- To safeguard something, like health and safety, finances, architecture or quality – this is done a lot better in an independent Project Assurance role, that can advise the Project Board on these aspects.
As soon as you hear these reasons, start asking the right questions.
The right questions for Executive, Senior User, Senior Supplier
If you ask a prospective Senior User: ‘Do you want to represent your department?’ The answer is usually ‘yes’, because it might just be considered a way to influence the project and safeguard one’s interests. To check that someone understands there’s work to be done, clarify immediately that it’s about responsibilities: ‘Will you be responsible for availability of users, definition of requirements, acceptance and use of the product?’ You’ll see that this question will often be answered differently. It’s better, however, to find this out before the project than during the project.
For a Senior Supplier the right question would be: ‘Will you take responsibility for feasibility of the planning and for availability of specialist resources to realise the planning?’ Of course, this forces a prospective Senior User to think twice and formulate conditions before taking on the role. But again, it’s better to hear about these conditions beforehand.
With an Executive the right question to ask would be: ‘Will you take responsibility for the project contributing to the business strategy in a cost-conscious fashion?’ but usually it’s the Executive asking the questions… Still, a project manager with the right social skills will be able to raise this question. And the questions clarify the responsibilities, both to Project Manager and to members of the Project Board.”
Author: Niels van Bemmelen