Introduction to Project Management Best Practices: PMBOK and PRINCE 2

Haydn Thomas

Project management best practices have been captured, explained and evangelized for more than 20 years. The first formalized methodology came in 1987 through the Project Management Institute (PMI), with its Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK). Today, PMBOK is still the broadest and deepest reference of generally accepted best practices, arranged around key processes that are leveraged across market segments and departments.

Haydn Thomas is a certified architect of CA Clarity PPM Software. Co-author Julie Tilke manages IT European delivery capability for IT governance and project and portfolio management.


Adding to this “how to” process is UK-born Projects in Controlled Environments (PRINCE2), which evolved from the first edition of PRINCE that addressed a standard for IT project management in the UK. This is a generic project management method, which has an equally deep set of processes and standards focusing on end-to-end project delivery. Following is an overview of how to use these two instructional and impacting methodologies. This article, the fifth in a series of sixth, was preceded by an article which looks at how to effectively utilize multiple releases and provides recommendations for a maturing PMO.


A Guide to the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK)


Currently in its third edition since 2004, the PMI’s PMBOK Guide is the broadest and most widely used standard reference of industry best practices for project management. It identifies generally accepted and fundamental practices and guidelines that are applicable to a wide range of markets – construction, software, engineering, automotive (for example) – and crossing multiple departments, from IT to operations to services.


In fact, many government and financial organizations in the U.S. and the UK require their managers be PMI-certified. The PMBOK Guide can be used in any industry, and CA has observed that different industries will leverage different aspects of the reference guide to suit their specific needs. The PMI also issues the “The Standard for Program Management” and “The Standard for Portfolio Management,” which are complementary to one another.


The PMBOK Guide outlines five key process groups to aid in project delivery:


1.    Initiating - Setting up the project for success by identifying the right team and scope, as well as determining the relationship between the project and its alignment with the organization’s overall charter.
2.    Planning – Developing the relevant resources, timelines and milestones, and mapping project delivery to business priorities (i.e., risk management, communications, quality, cost/budgeting, duration and sequencing, external dependencies).
3.    Executing – Assigning the project team and distributing information to ensure the proper activities are undertaken. This process also includes ensuring quality assurance methods are in place to address change management, organizational updates, possible changes to the plan, etc.
4.    Controlling and Monitoring – Ensuring the resulting product maps back to the original plan, and risk from uncontrolled external actions is mitigated. CA Clarity PPM can have a significant impact by setting up a secure infrastructure to:


a.    Monitor quality, costs and schedule
b.    Manage stakeholder relationships, risk and contract monitoring
c.    Identify discrepancies (or variations) within the project schedule
d.    Provide the PMO more control


5.    Closing – Making sure you have delivered everything expected of the project. Once you close, you need to review the project vis-à-vis the plan and likewise ensure contract closure.


The PMBOK Guide arranges the 44 processes into nine supporting knowledge areas. Each process has identified inputs and outputs along with referenced tools and techniques.


The role of the Project Management Organization (PMO) is to address all process groups and selective processes to address their unique requirements. It should act as the guardians (via education, collateral, templates, standards) to support rollout and increase expertise of their people.


Train to Minimize Culture Shock


If imposed without a broad understanding of benefits, implementing a structured, highly articulated approach to project delivery according to the PMBOK Guide can be a culture shock resulting in unnecessary resistance. In order to gain broader end-user adoption, you should provide relevant documentation detailing the processes and standards, along with the tools and techniques, required for implementation. Proper training is critical for achieving a successful business change.

For training and certification purposes, there is a PMI support accreditation in the PMBOK Guide called the “Project Management Professional” (PMP). To obtain this, candidates are required to show an appropriate educational background and experience in the project management field. They will also be required to pass an exam to demonstrate their knowledge. To retain the credential, a Continuous Certification Requirements (CCR) Program is in place.


Beyond the initial PMI certification for staff members, you should designate a few key players in your PMO and key business stakeholders for procedure-level training. This advanced training should be mapped to some or all of the key PMBOK process groups and will be essential to ensure consistent delivery.


Ensure Roles for Both PMBOK Enforcers and Supporters


After training, organizations employing PMBOK should create roles for both top-level “enforcers” of the identified approach, along with “support” staff for consistent delivery according to the identified standards and procedures.


It should be noted that continuous development should be contributed to or undertaken by the following roles:


Enforcers: The “Enforcers” are the custodians of procedures and standards, and are responsible for their development under change management. While the enforcer’s initial charter will be to effect business change, as the PMO becomes more mature and accepted, the role will transition to one of ensuring the necessary procedures and standards are in place for continued maturation.


Supporter (Advisors): The “Support” or “Advisor” roles champion and promote the adopted framework throughout the user community through education, mentoring, and issue and change management. Each resource will have a solid understanding of the end-to-end processes and standards but can also specialize in a particular area such as execution.


Projects in Controlled Environments (PRINCE2)


Initiated by the UK Office of Government Commerce (OGC) in 1989, the current version of this best practice methodology, PRINCE2, has been in place since 1996 and is planned for an update in 2008-9. This process-based approach is a generic project management method, although widely applied by IT organizations, and has been used worldwide for its ability to be scaled and tailored to provide a standard and consistent approach for organizations.


Specifically, the PRINCE2 methodology is a framework of processes that assist the project manager by using a set of common components to reduce risk and avoid failure. To achieve this, three techniques are employed: “Product Based Planning”, “Quality Review” and “Change Control.”


Following are the eight process groups outlined by PRINCE2. It should be noted that the “Planning” and “Directing” processes remain ongoing throughout the project lifecycle.

  1. Starting Up – This is done before the initiation of any project. An idea or request from the organization is raised in a project mandate. It is here that information is collected to determine the business case for the project, the plan for moving forward and the team that will be responsible for its delivery.
  2. Initiating – In the initiation phase, the contract will be arranged between the project manager and project board, along with the development of a high-level plan and control approach.
  3. Planning – The technique of product-based planning is used in the identification of project deliverables. In addition to the required resources, quality and testing are addressed. Monitoring and control of the progress is also undertaken.
  4. Controlling a Stage – This is the day-to-day management of the stage by the project manager. Controlled production of the agreed products by monitoring key indicators allows the project manager to control the scope and achieve delivery to time, quality and budget.
  5. Managing Product Delivery – This can be a highly administrative area, which defines how the project will be delivered to the project manager upon completion.
  6. Managing Stage Boundaries – Managing the transition to the next stage in a controlled manner by applying a common structure. Certain items are mandated to ensure delivery of the project within scope.
  7. Closing a Project – This process is a structured closure of the project, which must happen whether the deliverables have been achieved or the project is terminated early.
  8. Directing – The project board proactively manages the project’s response to the external environment. Within the project, the project board should “manage by exception,” so demands on its time are kept to a minimum.

PRINCE2 is optimized for product-based planning. Here, the “product” is a result, i.e., the production of a document at the end of a task. The product falls into one of two categories:


Management Products are items required to support project management, e.g., a business case, project scope, quality log, etc.


Specialist Products are items contributing to an identified deliverable of the project, e.g., a piece of code, specification, etc.


Ultimately, PRINCE2 helps to provide control and an adaptable method for your business. This is a proven, tailored method for project management, especially in IT. Essentially, PRINCE2 helps PMOs control the chaos of project delivery.


Configure to Your Needs


Success with PRINCE2 comes from configuring it to meet your specific needs. PRINCE2 is more prescriptive than PMBOK, and more detailed, therefore configurations in process or standards are common. For example, in some organizations, there might not be a need for the role of “senior supplier” as outlined in PRINCE2, so users might either rename or re-scope this role.


Don’t Ignore Training


Training is vital. The PMO needs to be trained on methodology. Review of the method (PMBOK or PRINCE) is a lengthy process, but subsequent payoff in execution support is equally large.


PRINCE2 is widely supported by accredited organizations to assist in training and implementation. OGC’s partner organization, APM Group Ltd (APMG), provides two-tier courses called “Foundation” and “Practitioner.” The latter course must be taken to become a registered practitioner, and a re-registration exam every three to five years is required to maintain the designation.


The ability to provide template plans according to the organization’s approach, governance by configured workflows, and control over stages, etc. enables the PMO to manage the effective rollout of PRINCE2.


Coming up in part two of Project Management Best Practices, we discuss the last of the three leading formalized methodologies – Control Objectives for Information and Related Technology  (COBIT).



Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post

Nov 13, 2009 8:37 AM Project Management Templates Project Management Templates  says:

Thanks for sharing this information and post.

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Jul 29, 2011 3:13 AM Nathaniel@prince2 certification Nathaniel@prince2 certification  says: in response to Project Management Templates

The information here I can say its true especially

Train to Minimize Culture Shock, Configure to Your Needs and Don't Ignore Training. PRINCE2 is a structured approach to project management. It provides a method for managing projects within a clearly defined framework.

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Aug 5, 2011 5:43 AM Project Management Software Project Management Software  says:

This is a great article. I've been working on behalf of a company who produce project management software and this article has helped me to understand project management a bit more. Thanks!

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