Thursday, 22 January 2015

PRINCE2 Management Stages and Management Products

Whilst each project is unique and produces one or more specialist products, every project would use management stages and management products to deliver the project’s specialist products (depicted in the diagram below). PRINCE2 defines management stages as partitions of the project with management decision points, they also equate to the commitment of resources and authority to spend.  A management stage therefore is a collection of activities and products whose delivery is managed as a unit. Every project using PRINCE2 will have a minimum of two management stages: the initiation stage where the Project Initiation Documentation is created, and at least one Management stage, so-called, because a Management stage is where the specialist products are created and approved. Therefore management stages only occur one at a time; they do not overlap. There is no guidance on how many stages a project should typically have. Although it is recommended that a project with many stages be managed as multiple projects so as to ensure and exhibit greater control through the development of specialist products. There are many advantages of splitting a project into a series of management stages.

For instance, providing at the end of the stage, an end stage assessment, to allow review and decision points for the project board to assess the project viability at regular intervals rather than letting it run on in an uncontrolled manner. Another advantage is that stages give the ability to make key decisions prior to investing in the detailed work and cost of the following stage. Management stages also facilitate the management by exception principle by delegating authority to the project manager on a stage by stage basis. Also ensuring that the management time is used efficiently and effectively.

The project board will release the project to the project manager one stage at a time, and only after considering the business case, project plan, next stage plan, and End-Stage Report. The next stage will only be authorized if there is sufficient business justification for the project to continue. With management by Exception implemented, there is no need for “regular progress meetings”. Don’t’ get confused, the end stage assessment is fundamentally a business review (although progress information is gathered and presented). The project manager will have the authority for day to day management and control of a stage as long as the agreed tolerances are forecast not to be exceeded. By virtue of this, the project board can manage by exception while reducing the administrative overhead of being involved while still keeping in control. When considering how many management stages within a project, there are several key questions that need to be asked to help define this number. For example, how far ahead in the project is it sensible to plan (Planning Horizon)? Where do key decision points need to be?

In addition, if the project is a risky one, then management stages will tend to be shorter in duration. The confidence of the project board and project manager in the project, will also determine how many stages and how long particular stages needs to be. There is clearly a balance between many short stages with an increase in overhead, versus few long stages resulting in less control.  The number of stages in a project should be chosen by asking the question “where do the end stage assessments need to be so that project viability can be checked?”

It is important that management stages are not confused with technical stages. These are often called phases, and refer to sensible groupings of products and techniques. Technical stages of the overlap, whereas management stages do not. Technical stages are typified by the use of a particular set of specialist skills. Whenever a technical stage spends beyond a management stage boundary, the technical stage should be broken down so that each management stage contains a whole number of specialist products. 

PRINCE2 defines a set of baseline management products, records and reports that can be tailored and used in managing projects. These artifacts are not necessarily documents – they are information sets that are used by the PRINCE2 processes to enable the project management team to take action and make the right decisions at the right time. These artifacts evolve over the project life cycle, and are often reviewed and updated as the project progresses. There are 26 defined management products for a PRINCE2 project.  The baseline management products define aspects of the project and are created, approved and put under change control.  Records are dynamic management products maintaining information regarding project progress.  Reports provide snapshots of certain aspects of the project at certain points in time.  Records and reports are under configuration management but are not subject to change control. The following table summarizes these:

26 Management Products in a PRINCE2 Project Environment:
Author - Vijayakumar Reddy, CTO & Lead Trainer, A2A IMTCS Pvt. LTD.

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