Project Management in Practice

Beyond the alphabet soup of PRINCE2, MSP, MoP, PMBOK, ITIL, Agile

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Useful Project Management Presentations


In this post I have attached some presentations I have done over the years on project management and related topics. As I was looking at my SlideShare uploads, it occurred to me that these can be quite handy for others too. Hopefully it is of benefit to the readers of this blog.

This presentation is on the topic of managed services, presented at the International Esri Distributor Summit in San Diego, CA in July 2013.

The following presentations are two flavours, first one delivered to the PRINCE2 User Group in Wellington regarding benefits of using multiple ideas together. Second is a presentation to internal PMO regarding improvements to existing processes in project management.

The final presentation is one given at an IT conference in Wellington, New Zealand based on experience of enterprise software implementation at a major port in the west coast of the United States.

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How do I construct the perfect project estimate?


I went to the New Zealand PRINCE2 User Group Wellington Chapter meeting on Tuesday night. As usual the calibre of speakers were excellent. Conrad McDonnell and Barry Calvert spoke on various aspects of estimation. It was quite interesting perspective, one from an IT/vendor angle and another a construction angle.

Importance of a shared vision is not something that I had previously connected to a good estimate. Conrad was quite persuasive on his argument on the need to understand the vision as a pre-requisite in this respect. It is amazing how many projects I have worked on that has started with not all stakeholders having clarity on what what success looks like. Here I do not mean success delivering to a set of agreed deliverables, but something that would advance a measurable business outcome. I can see his point of view. He gave the example of the NASA programme to land on the moon and the vision that John F. Kennedy outlined in his speech.

Perfect Project Estimate

He talked about the vision in the context of a progressive estimate with increasing level of certainty. The key to any good vision is to not assume it is understood by everyone. It must be communicated with a feedback loop. Before the programme or project begins, high level planning must occur. The key to estimation at this stage is to understand your levels of uncertainty and recording your risks. It is key to remember there will always be different levels of certainty at all stages in your project or programme. In an IT context, you may have near certainty about cost of hardware, but little clarity on required design effort. As you execute, you must continually plan, execute and re-plan. Expect to take a few detours on your journey. This is where clarity of vision will help.

Barry talked from a construction point of view and had an analogy of a pancake. It only has four ingredients – flour, eggs, baking powder and milk. Flour is the one that determines the size – what is required, by whom, when – the basic facts. That sets your base criteria for estimate. Eggs are what sets your environmental conditions and is complementary to your flour – what environment is it being delivered, the intended use, slope of the land, other influencers. Baking powder is what gives it the fluff – the nice to haves – types of finishing, flooring, fittings etc. Milk is what gives it the consistency – this is your repeatable methodology and constant refinement of it. Even though he gave the example from a different industry, I like the principle of it. I have a feeling I will re-use it.

One thing that was clear from both speakers was the folly of trying to go back to the customer with a number too early in the piece. Whatever you do, customers forever remember the first number or date.

There is nothing called a perfect estimate. You can only ever get reasonably good at it.

Interesting PRINCE2 Infographic

PMBOK or PRINCE2 … which one is better?


I often see debates on project management forums on LinkedIn, blogs and even at the water cooler around the office regarding what project management methodology is best. I have often wondered about the wisdom of such discussions. The two that are always compared are PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge) and PRINCE2 (Projects in Controlled Environments Version 2 – 2009). One such discussion with a fellow professional led me to have a little bit of a think.

PMBOK Process Model – Credit: PMI

I will declare my hand at the outset. I have squarely gone for certification route through the Cabinet Office products for project, programme and service management (PRINCE2, MSP and ITIL). This is not necessarily because I was convinced these were the best frameworks, but my assessment of what the market around me considered more valuable. With the Australasian market following that of the United Kingdom and Europe, it made more sense for me to pursue this line, than the PMBOK based certifications from the Project Management Institute (PMI) in PMP and PgMP.

PRINCE2 Process Model – Credit: ILX

Genesis of PMBOK is in the engineering sector in North America. I can see that has led to significant emphasis on the tools and techniques of how to manage projects. I find it has excellent guidance in what it calls the knowledge areas. For example, it provides techniques for monitoring and controlling projects through Earned Value Analysis (EVA), estimation through the Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT) analysis. It elaborates on Precedence Diagramming Method (PDM) to identify sequencing and various lag options. It has tools and techniques for scheduling using Schedule Network Analysis, Critical Path and Critical Chain, discusses Resource Levelling and What-if Scenario Analysis. Tools and techniques is where PMBOK has it all over PRINCE2, which goes very little into the skills required to be a project manager.

PRINCE2 began with a desire to control capital IT projects in the United Kingdom. Interestingly, a methodology that began in such a technical sphere has very little in the form of guidance through tools and techniques. PRINCE2 is very strong on project governance. Its strength is in the focus on the continued business justification through a living Business Case. In managing by exceptions, it removes the temptation for death by project reports, but at the same time provides a mechanism for escalating when necessary. In managing by stages, it builds in regular reviews of whether the business case the project is trying to deliver to be still valid. The biggest outcome of this is the assertion that a project unlikely to deliver to business case is better cancelled than meandering along. Project structure and principles also ensure projects are delivering to strategic initiatives of the organisation.

I have previously posted about the challenge in implementing PRINCE2 as the project framework for supplier organisations. I have used the principles rather than exact implementation as described in the text. It is much easier to take the PMBOK tools and techniques and implement directly into your projects in a supplier context. PRINCE2 however does a better job of risk identification and management techniques with the various response options and planning. There are also pros and cons about the accreditation methods. PRINCE2 is often criticised for allowing potential non-practitioners to get certified because of its examination only method. In order to get a PMP accreditation, you have to go through a significant effort to prove hours under the belt. That is a good idea. But you have to accumulate Professional Development Units (PDU) to stay current. I have seen plenty of mickey mouse outfits dispensing PDUs like confetti to have any meaning to these.

When I consider all of this, it appears a futile argument from those in either camp. In my view the best option is to use PRINCE2 to understand “how” to run the project and PMBOK for guidance on “what” to do in the specific scenarios. The question is not one of PMBOK or PRINCE2, but how to use both in your projects.

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