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PRINCE2 - Starting up a Project (SU) part 6

Defining Project Approach (SU5)

Fundamental principles

How will the work be approached?

Some important questions may be:

  • Can it be ‘bought off the shelf’?
  • Can it be ‘made to measure’?
  • Can it be developed in-house?
  • Will it be contracted to third parties?
  • Is it based upon an existing product?
  • Will it be built from scratch?
  • Is it based upon specific technologies?

The work should be carried out in line with practices and guidelines currently understood by the customer and supplier and will not jeopardise the project in any way.


This sub-process takes information from the Project Brief and customer and supplier sources to produce the designed Project Approach.
This will be used in the developing the Project Quality Plan and Project Plan in the process 'Initiating a Project (IP)'.

Process description

The objectives are:

  • Decide how the work of the project should be approached
  • Identify constraints as a result of the method and on the timing of delivery dates
  • Identify the skills required

To achieve these various steps are required:

Based on the Project Mandate and / or Project Brief, particularly within the project definition of the Business Case examine and in necessary refine how the work is to be approached

By identifying the following:

  • Constraints on time, money, quality and resource use or availability
  • Customer or supplier standards that should apply to the project’s products or activities
  • Customer or supplier statements of best practice that could apply to this project’s products or activities
  • Security constraints that apply to the creation and long-term operation of the project’s products
  • The range of options for delivering the project’s products
  • Maintenance and operational implications that might have an effect on the choice of options
  • Corporate strategies or statements of direction that could have a bearing on this project’s products or activities
  • Current thinking about the provision of solutions within the industry sectors and specialist skill areas involved
  • The overall business criticality of the project’s outcome and the current assessment of business risk


  • Put the project in context with any other related work or corporate initiatives by examining any external dependencies and prerequisites
  • Consider how the finished product can be brought into use
  • Identify any training needs for user personnel
  • Evaluate the possible options against the identified criteria and parameters
  • Select the most appropriate option


This sub-process is the responsibility of the Project Manager.
Those with skill in the areas will carry out the work along with Project Support and Project Assurance roles, under the overall direction of the Senior Supplier.

Information needs
Management informationUsageExplanation
Project BriefInputThis product contains the information upon which decisions on the sub-process need to be made.
Risk LogInputIdentified risks may affect the approach.
Project ApproachOutputThis forms part of the Project Plan description within the Project Initiation Document and is an input to Planning Quality (IP1) and the Planning (PL) process.

These are given in tabular form in the file ‘defining project approach.doc’ in the product package.

Key criteria

  • Has an approach been selected that will maximise the overall success of the project?
  • Have operational and support issues been addressed when selecting the approach, to ensure that the benefits have the best chance of being realised?
  • Given the selected approach are risks being taken on a project that is critical to corporate success or that is very high profile?
  • Are opportunities being missed to experiment and potentially learn some lessons for the future on a low-risk and / or non-critical project?
  • Have risks to the various approaches been identified and evaluated so that the most appropriate options have been selected?
  • Is there a need to bring in external resources? If so, does this have any impact on the mode of working?

This sub-process must be considered thoughtfully as the range of issues can vary tremendously depending on the nature of the project.

For example:

  • What is the range of construction techniques available?
  • Should the components or specialist skills required be bought in or provided in-house?
  • Should existing, tired-and-tested methods be used or should the project experiment with new, leading edge techniques?
  • To what extent should decisions be left to a third-party supplier?
  • To what extent should there be insistence on adherence to customer standards?

A product may replace and existing product. If so, does this have any implications for the approach?

Any planned change of project may need agreement with the Project Board.

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.