To PRINCE or Not To PRINCE?

There are many opposing views as to whether the application of a standard such is PRINCE is useful. In searching for a way to improve their processes, a team was tasked with deciding appropriate standards, and reviewing their applicability to their environment.

They interviewed two project managers – one from Big Computer Installation Company, and another from the Communications Hardware Design Company. The first was unashamedly up-beat about PRINCE:

“Our business is in the specification, installation and maintenance of networked computer systems. We supply predominantly large corporations, who have computers scattered over many sites. We use PRINCE2 for all our projects and all our staff and project managers have to work within the PRINCE2 methods.

PRINCE2

PRINCE 2

This provides us with a competitive advantage during the bidding process for contracts several of our competitors do not have the level of approvals that we do, and it shows. Clients are demanding more and more that we assure our processes, and that is what we have done through PRINCE.

I know that some people claim it is too bureaucratic, but just one instance this week showed its worth: a client was very vague about what they wanted in particular areas of the implementation. By convening a project board, we were able to provide a forum for discussion of what they really wanted. Other firms I have worked for, would simply have provided what they considered was best, rather than going back to the client.

We also have a system for changes – the usual bug-bear of these projects. Clients can request changes at any time, but they are put through the process of calculation of the impact of those changes, including schedule and costing implications, before we seek approval to do the extra work. The systems provide us with the necessary traceability for our documents, and we simply see the procedures as the best way to deliver what our clients want. I don’t know how other firms do without it.”

This contrasted strongly with the communications hardware company:

“We design, develop and manufacture communications hardware – all the electronic parts of a modern communications system. We started using PRINCE2 four years ago, under our last managing director. He thought it would be a good thing for us to do – we always thought the idea came from one of his golfing mates.

Since then, we have implemented all the changes that PRINCE required of us, and all our staff were trained. The problem was that all the extra cost was not offset by any Improvement in performance – we still had problems delivering our projects on-time, and our client base is not demanding it. So when our new managing director was appointed, he removed the requirement to work this way and we had a ceremonial burning of the procedure manuals.

We started again by looking at: our processes – using the PRINCE2 documentation. With every project, we identified significant parts of the process that caused us work, but that did not add any value to our customers. This removed something like 20 per cent of the effort required for each project.

We still use some of the disciplines that the standard required – particularly with regard to how we handle clients and risk, but we have scaled the rest back. In retrospect, using the standard has imposed some discipline on the processes, but I’m very glad to be free of it now.”

www.prince2.com

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