The plans theme in PRINCE2

man passing work off to another

The theme of plans is essential in the management of a PRINCE2 project. Plans detail what must happen, when and by whom to achieve project goals. These goals include quality, time, cost and benefits expected from the project products.

PRINCE2 plans will provide instructions and guidance, and are used to measure progress against the project’s expectations. Therefore, it is imperative that plans are sufficiently detailed to enable the project manager to assess project progress. There are three planning levels in PRINCE2. Each will provide sufficient detail for the level of management to which the plan applies.

The project plan

This is the least detailed of the PRINCE2 plans, providing a high-level overview of the project’s management stages and a baseline against which to measure progress. However, it also includes the overall schedule, tolerances that have been set, and budgeted cost.

The stage plans

These are more detailed plans, used by the project manager to monitor the project on a day-by-day basis.

Each stage plan describes the resources and quality activities required to achieve that stage within the time and cost tolerances specified. These plans do not provide the big picture of the project plan, as they are limited in scope and time.

Constant updating of these plans allows the project manager to identify issues that may affect stage and project outcomes more quickly. This enables the project manager to escalate change requests and exceptions to the project board in a timely manner.

Team plans

Dependent upon stage complexity, stage plans could be segmented into team plans. These will be used by team managers to delegate tasks to team members, and to monitor progress. Any tolerances that are forecast to be overshot are referred immediately to the project manager.

The exception to the rule…

If a stage plan or the project plan itself is forecast to exceed set tolerances, the project manager will submit an exception plan to the project board. This details the exception, and its impact. It will outline possible courses of action, and recommend one of them.

The project board will make decisions about the exception plan should a stage plan go into exception. If the project plan is threatened, the project board will escalate the exception plan to the customer/corporate management.

If authorised, the exception plan replaces the original stage or project plan.

How plans are developed

There are seven steps in the development of a PRINCE2 plan:

1.      Design

The framework for the plan is selected. This includes format, layout, planning tools, estimating and monitoring methods to be used, and the level of planning necessary.

2.      Definition and analysis of products

PRINCE2 employs product-based planning techniques, focusing on identifying the product necessary to achieve project/stage objectives. This usually works hand in hand with planning activities and dependencies. Product-based planning is completed in four steps:

  1. Writing of the project product description
  2. Creation of the product breakdown structure
  3. Writing of the product descriptions
  4. Creation of the product flow chart diagram

3.      Identifying activities and dependencies

This step identifies what tasks are needed to produce products involved in the project, and dependencies between each project activity (e.g. ‘B’ cannot take place before ‘A’ is completed).

4.      Preparation of estimates

The project manager must provide estimates of what resources and timeframe are needed to complete work to required standards. These estimates are likely to alter as more information is collected and progress details are added to the plan.

5.      Schedule preparation

With all activities and dependencies – and their timescales – identified, a schedule is produced. This details at what time each task will be performed. It is usually produced as a graphical presentation for ease of reading. Schedule preparation is repeated throughout the project lifecycle, as actual outcomes can affect allocation of resource and time.

6.      Risk analysis

Each step in the planning process should be accompanied by a risk analysis. All risks must be logged in the Risk Register. Until all risks have been identified and evaluated, plans will be considered as draft only.

7.      Documentation and narrative

The project manager must insert a narrative into the plan. This narrative will describe products, activities, constraints, external dependencies, and any assumptions made. It will specify all quality control and monitoring activities required, and identify risks and risk responses.

In our next blog, we’ll examine the theme of risks in PRINCE2 projects. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to contact us: