The progress theme in PRINCE2

man walking up steps toward a target

The theme of progress is about monitoring and measuring progress. Project managers are afforded the responsibility of check and control where it is relative to the plan. If a project is not tracked, it can quickly be derailed without the project manager having any knowledge of the impending outcome.

In this blog post, we define the progress theme and discuss how progress is monitored and controlled through the project lifecycle.

What is progress in PRINCE2?

The progress theme enables the evaluation of actual progress against expected progress. Therefore, progress requires control to make sure that the project remains on track with its timeline, budget, outputs, etc.

This control exists by requiring each level in the project management team to report to the level above. As an example, the project manager will delegate work to team managers. They report progress to the project manager. The project manager reports to the project board.

Therefore, control mechanisms are needed to allow work to be carried out and monitored effectively. While controls may be triggered by time, most in PRINCE2 are triggered by events.

How is control maintained in PRINCE2?

There are three key concepts that are the foundation of monitoring and control in PRINCE2: responsibilities (management by exception); project activities (management by stages); and project variables (management by tolerance).

Management by exception

Though the project board maintains overall responsibility for project success, it does not get involved in day-to-day project management. The project manager does this (planning and scheduling work, dealing with risks and issues, etc. etc.).

If the project deviates from stage tolerances, or is forecast to, the project manager must refer to the project board. This is known as ‘management by exception’. To enable the project board to effectively monitor project progress, PRINCE2 recommends the use of time-driven Highlight Reports and event-driven Exception Reports.

Management by stages

An End Stage Review is conducted by the project board at the end of each stage. This ensures continued viability and that the project is in line with its targets. The overarching objective of a stage review is to ensure that the project should progress to the next stage. This reduces project risk.

The basic rule therefore is that every PRINCE2 project should have at least two stages: the initiation stage, and at least one stage where project products are developed.

Management stages could also be aligned with key decision points, maximising the effectiveness of this control mechanism. However, effectiveness will also depend upon how far in advance detailed plans can be made, project risk, scope, and the probability of project success.

Management by tolerance

Tolerances in PRINCE2 projects include cost, time, quality and benefits. Allowing an acceptable level of ‘wiggle room’ against these measurements will ensure the project does not grind to a halt on a miniscule overspend, for example.

The project board defines acceptable tolerances for the project manager, the project manager for team leaders, and so on, down through each level of the project. This way, the project can still progress providing it remains within set tolerances.

PRINCE2 project controls

There are a number of control mechanisms available to the project board and project manager. The following are with regard to those utilised by the project board:

·         Authorisation

The project board decides whether to authorise the project, and, at key points during the project lifecycle, whether to authorise continuation of the project. It may use tools such as the project brief, business case, stage plans, and End Stage Reports to help it make these decisions.

·         Progress updates

The project manager will supply regular project updates to track progress and event-driven controls.

·         Exceptions and change requests

If tolerances look likely to be broken, the project manager should produce an Exception Report or change request. The project board (or delegated change authority) will then make a decision whether to authorise or reject.

The project manager will monitor and control the work of each project team within each management stage, using similar control mechanisms:

·         Authorisation

The project manager authorises each work package, which outlines what team managers must achieve.

·         Progress updates

Team managers will produce checkpoint reports about progress at pre-defined intervals. Event-driven controls are applied in the form of project issues. Team managers will enter data into the Quality Register. These measures ensuring that the project manager has several points of reference regarding stage progress.

·         Issues and risks

Through regular updates, project registers and logs, the project manager can monitor project progress, and identify potential issues and risks. If a tolerance level is expected to be breached, the team manager refers to the project manager as a project issue.

This concludes our series examining PRINCE2 themes. We’ll be back with more information about PRINCE2 shortly. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to contact us: