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PRINCE2 - Introduction part 3

What is a project?

There are many definitions of a project.

PRINCE2® gives two definitions of a project:

‘A management environment that is created for the purpose of delivering one or more business products according to a specified Business Case’.


‘A temporary organisation that is needed to produce a unique and predefined outcome or result at a pre-specified time using predetermined resources’.

Projects are not often absolutely repeatable. Customers will change and the people carrying out the project will alter.
This means that it is imperative to have a system that covers these common eventualities.

All projects will be temporary and once successful (or not if terminated) will disband.

Any project should have:

  • A defined start, middle and end (or lifecycle).
  • There must be set out a measurable Business Case.
  • An amount of resource must be identified to cover the tasks in a schedule needed to complete the project.
  • Responsibilities will be defined within a management structure.

Note the use of the word ‘lifecycle’ to describe the overall schedule of the entire project, the start, middle and end.
This should not be confused with ‘lifespan’ which is the period of existence of a ‘product’.
The product ‘lifespan’ will include various phases such as conception through to development, testing operation and final removal of a product that will be replaced with something else.

The project lifecycle will only cover a narrow part of this ‘lifespan’.


PRINCE2 is designed to focus on the process of project management and exists within the normal business environment.
The latter would include other areas such as strategy, company mission, other programmes etc. even within project management there are a few areas that PRINCE2 does not cover, for example:

Although the latter areas of contracting and purchasing are specialist items they can be managed by using PRINCE2.
At the point in the project where focus is required on particular areas such as these you will need to consider appointing
specialists to the Project Board, as necessary, until these areas are considered complete.

There will be links with purchasing and contract requirements that must be aligned.
Early documentation will help this. See Project Initiation Document (PID).

The actual projects scope concerns defining the boundaries which should not be crossed.
In this sense, PRINCE2, as for other systems will define the project closely making sure that the scope is understood by all.


All projects will have stakeholders, those parties that have either a financial interest in the project output or the users of the project output.

These are usually:

  • Customers who have requested the project and fund it (also Client and Project Sponsor)
  • User(s) or operator of the final project product. This may also be the customer as above.
  • Suppliers bringing specialist resources and / or skills. Others provide goods and services.
  • Sub-contractors, who provide products or services to the supplier or directly to the project.

The Customer should always be involved in the project at all stages.
All projects instigate change. Change will also occur during the project and good control is needed.
This is achieved in PRINCE2 through configuration management.

The Customer could actually be another project.
Any project has the potential to be part of a larger programme and as such the output of one project may be the input of another.

Feasibility study

Feasibility studies are often commissioned to ‘prove’ that an initial idea may have some merit.
That is, can there be a Business Case justified that would warrant moving to the approval of a full project.

Under PRINCE2 these are not considered as part of the project but as a separate project.

A simple process flow for a feasibility study is shown in the diagram below.

problem definition smallproblem definition large

One definitions of a project could be:

‘A project can be thought of as a problem requiring a solution’.

However, in any aspect of problem solving you must first ‘define the problem’.
That will then lead to some investigation (through design) which should lead to options to move forward for consideration.
Finally, the whole feasibility study is summarised in a report of recommendations.

The possible options may vary enormously in their cost and timescale.

PRINCE2 requires a project with a clear definition of the final product, a Project Plan and a budget by the end of initiation.
If the feasibility study were part of the project then it would not be possible to get a clear definition of the final product prior to the end of initiation as it would depend upon the option chosen.

The result of any recommendation could be:

  • Approval to run a full scale project.
  • Rejection of the idea.
  • More investigations may be required prior to making one of the first two decisions.”
This product contains EVERYTHING in the publications:

Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2 - 2005 edition
Managing successful Projects with PRINCE2 – 2009 edition
Directing Projects with PRINCE2.
The Complete Project Management package.

And much more besides - at a fantastic price.