I have already given a first overview of the innovations in another article, here I am dealing with the details. When describing these details, I will use the English technical terms, because the German language version will not appear until the beginning of 2024. I don't want to anticipate this and introduce possibly wrong terms.
There's good news: PRINCE2 7 focuses more on the core of project management, becoming less rigorous but more flexible and easier to understand. I know of three versions of Prince2 now, the 5th edition, the 6th edition and now #7. The last version is the best. Although new topics are added, the official book is about 15% slimmer. The current English version has only 342 pages.
In describing the method, I will not go through chapter by chapter, I won't do that to you. But I'll describe the changes and additions roughly in the order they appear in the book. This gives you an immediate insight into the structure.
Sustainability as the seventh variable of project performance
In previous versions, I really appreciated that Prince doesn't talk about supposedly three magic elements, but instead has an eye on six variables of project performance: benefit, cost, time, quality, and scope. All of these variables have target values and can have tolerances.
Now a seventh element is added: sustainability. All projects have intended or unintended effects on their environment. The projects should therefore be aware of the sustainability performance targets of their activities and their products. The 17 UN sustainable performance targets serve as a general reference framework for Prince2. In concrete terms, of course, it is the sustainability goals and the sustainability commitment of the organization that is sponsoring the project that determine the goals for the project.
As with other topics, Prince2 provides a policy document to define the conditions, approaches and methods for the project: the Sustainability Management Approach is part of the project management documentation. The specific sustainability goals, including possible tolerances, are also documented in the business case.
Five integrated elements
Further innovations await us in the integrated elements of Prince2. Apart from the fact that the names have changed, the element “People” is being added to the previous four elements. And a well-known element is processed in a completely different way:
- The seven principles, which form the basis of the method, are still one of the integrated elements.
- The seven practices (formerly topics) still describe the seven central disciplines that are to be controlled in the project. There are significant changes here.
- The seven processes still describe the necessary activities in the life cycle of a project. Here are the slightest changes.
- The project context (formerly Tailoring) element is still a core element and strength of Prince2. The treatment and description in the book is completely different and much more understandable.
- The fifth integrated element "people" is completely new. It will be positioned very prominently, we will take a closer look at that.
The description of the Principles is much more extensive and precise than before. That's right, because Prince2 now dispenses with certain rules, such as the strict and unhelpful "minimum requirements" approach to the individual topics. Prince2 now relies more on advice and recommendations than on regulations. The principles must be clearer there, since they represent the basis and orientation for the entire method.
The names of the Principles have partly changed, they now express more that there is something to be actively done here:
- Ensure continued business justification.
- Learn from experience
- Define roles, responsibilities and relationships
- Manage by exception
- Manage by stages
- Focus on products
- Tailor to suit the project
Price2 now recognizes that people in the project and in its environment are crucial to its success by introducing “People” as its own integrated element.
So far, Prince2 has been very economical here. There was already something to be found in the previous topic of organization, but basically Prince2 stayed away from topics such as leadership, motivation and soft skills. Quite rightly, I think, because with a universal and generic method, do they want to prescribe a certain style of leadership that will only be accepted in one part of the world? Or present and test outdated leadership theories?
Fortunately, as implemented now, the People element avoids these pitfalls. Project management is always clearly a social event, since we want to influence and coordinate the behavior of people. Prince2 does a good job of clearly naming important aspects and challenges and suggesting possible courses of action.
The People element gets its own chapter in the book and is strongly present in the chapters of the other elements - Principles, Practices, Processes and Project Context - with considerations and hints. After fundamental considerations on the relationship between organization and project, there are three focal points that make up the People chapter:
- The section “Leading successful change” focuses on the change that projects bring about in organizations. It is irrelevant whether these changes are intended by the project or whether they happen "on the side". Every project, including that for an external customer, always involves change. Prince2 focuses on topics such as stakeholders or company and project culture, which are central to planned change management.
- The "Leading successful teams" section looks inwards, into the social events of the project. Without forcing a specific approach, Prince2 brings the challenges and special conditions of working in and with teams to the table and describes tools and options for dealing with the challenges. I am particularly pleased that the dissolution of project teams is also addressed. This is a challenge that many forget.
- The well-known "Communication Management Approach" with the analysis of the stakeholders, the different information needs and means of communication also moves into this chapter.
Tailoring is an old companion to Prince2. In the 6th edition, tailoring was not only a basic principle, but also an integrated element. It stays that way, the preparation and mediation is just completely different. As an integrated element, tailoring is now called "Project Context" and is first and foremost noticeable because there is no longer a separate chapter in the book.
And there's still something missing: Please remind me about these really annoying minimum requirements for the individual topic chapters. On the one hand, they were “clear anyway”, but they were checked in the exam. You had to memorize them as dry matter. It's over. Instead, the Project Context element is massively present in the other chapters with hints, recommendations and examples.
To anticipate it, that too was successful. Prince2 7 has provided two important tools, which are used to repeatedly describe issues of adaptation to the project and also show them as concrete examples.
Five project contexts
Um zu zeigen, wie Prince2 angewendet und an unterschiedliche Situationen angepasst werden kann, werden fünf Projektkontexte beschrieben und in den einzelnen Practices-Kapiteln näher beleuchtet. Manche dieser Kontexte kennen wir schon aus der 6. Auflage, nun werden sie aber wichtiger.
- „Organization Context“ diskutiert mögliche Verankerungen von Projekten in der Organisation, als Teil eines Programms, als Teil eines Portfolios und als stand-alone Projekt.
- „Commercial Context“ kümmert sich um die Herausforderungen von Kunden-Lieferanten Beziehungen und den Umgang mit den Vertragsgestaltungen.
- „Delivery Method“ geht auf die nötigen Anpassungen an drei verschiedene Lieferansätze ein: Linear, Iterativ und Hybrid.
- „Sustainability Context“ beschreibt die Herausforderungen in der Anpassung an Nachhaltigkeitsziele der Organisation.
- „Scale“ konzentriert sich auf die Anpassung der Methode an Projekte unterschiedlicher Größe und/oder Komplexität.
Completely new are four concrete project scenarios with sounding company names, such as Data Knowledge, Luistown City Council, Findef and NowByou. The four scenarios provide information on the respective company, the specific project and the current challenges in the organization and project. The projects of the different scenarios differ in size, complexity and also in the delivery approaches.
These scenarios are used at various points throughout the book to show concrete examples of the application and adaptation of the Prince2 method. This makes the theory easier to grasp.
Exactly the same four scenarios are used in the Practitioner exam. One of these scenarios is used as the basis for the questions. So you already know the scenario that comes up for the exam – just not the questions.
Prince2 7 is even more agile
Prince2 7 details three different delivery approaches, linear-sequential (Waterfall), iterative-incremental (Agile), and hybrid. A largely similar understanding of principles and Prince2's focus on pure project management allows for good integration of agile delivery approaches.
This was already possible with the 6th edition: Years ago, milestone developed the SCRUMFRAME framework with customers on the basis of the 6th edition of PRINCE2, which enables Prince2 projects to be controlled with SCRUM as the delivery approach. In its current form, it was first published in the project magazine in May 2021. That worked very well, but we had to make significant changes to PRINCE2. At that time I intended to describe the business case in the form of scenarios (must have - should have - could have). The worst case, the "must have", should be based on the project product description of the minimal viable product. That's exactly what Prince2 7 is doing now. I'm happy about that, but it also shows how much Prince2 is now turning to agile
The well-known seven topics now have different names: they are now becoming “practices”. That's okay, there were often questions in the seminars as to why these things are called topics. However, this is not the really big change, the real innovations go deeper.
I've already mentioned that Prince2 has become a lot friendlier. Instead of regulations, the focus is now more on tips and suggestions. Did I mention that the unpopular minimum requirements that you stubbornly had to memorize for the Foundation exam are gone? yes they are gone The entire structure of the Practices chapters has changed and in the new form contributes much more to the understanding of the method than the dry minimum requirements.
Each Practices chapter now has the following sections, which together provide a better overview and understanding of how they relate to the other built-in elements:
- The "purpose" of the practice describes the respective purpose and task.
- The "Guidance for..." gives very brief instructions on how the practice should be used.
- "Techniques" introduce the Prince2 specific procedures and techniques
- "Supporting Techniques" describe further methods that can be helpful for the respective practice
- "Applying the practice" goes into the special features of the five project contexts.
- "Management Products" shows the important documents related to this practice,
- "Focus of key roles" clearly summarizes the respective responsibilities.
- "Relationships with principles" shows the most important relationships between the practice and the seven principles.
The change in the structure of the chapters brings both well-known and new content, such as examples from the four scenarios, concretization and the "Supporting Techniques". In addition, there are changes in designations.
The most noticeable changes in individual practices are:
- The “Change Authority” role now falls out of the “Organizing” (formerly Organization) practice and migrates as a special role to the “Issues” (formerly Change) practice.
- The Practice Issues brings the well-known change control procedure, but above all a tremendous relief: The entire configuration management with the terrible documents "Configuration Item Record" and "Product Status Account" is eliminated. A harmless Product Register remains.
- In the "Progress" practice we now also find techniques such as the burn-down chart or the Kanban board. In this practicewe also find an innovation in terms of content: Prince2 counters the increased importance of digital work and the increasing importance of the management of digital data by requiring that every project be recorded, managed, analyzed and used of digital data in the project. The corresponding policy should be recorded in the management product Digital and Data Management Approach.
The fewest changes are in the area of processes. The processes have the same names, the same number and the three known levels with the respective responsibilities for certain processes. In the chapters about the seven processes, you still notice the old strictness of Prince2. Only the graphics are a bit more modern and, above all, more colourful.
However, there are changes within the individual seven processes. Most of them are little things, one or the other name changes. And each process has one more activity, although this activity already existed in the 6th edition, but is now "official": As an exemple: Sending the respective process output, e.g. "Request Project Initiation", to the Project Board or Project Manager defined as an activity in the process.
Especially in the "Initiating a Project" process, some activities are omitted. This is more of a cosmetic nature. All management approaches are no longer documented as separate management products, but are integrated into the project initiation documentation. And since all registers and logs are combined in just one project log, the individual activities for the management approaches are no longer required.
Furthermore in the new structure of the process chapters, it is helpful that there is now only one table with the responsibilities that includes all activities of the process. This is clearer than before.
All in all, the old strenghts of Prince2 persist and the innovations in PRINCE2 7 are a good and exciting step into the future, PRINCE2 has become even better. And along with the vastly improved presentation of that content, Prince2 is now friendlier, more flexible, and easier to understand.