Public Services > Central Government

PRINCE2 exhibits a new tailored look

David Bicknell Published 06 July 2017

New 2017 version of project management methodology showcases its flexibility to meet the rightsized requirements of a digital world


Cameron Stewart, head of portfolio, programme and project management product development at AXELOS, has highlighted how changing business and the rise and rise of digital products and services have driven PRINCE2 2017’s key attribute: its tailorability.

The latest version of PRINCE2, the first since 2009, was unveiled at a glittering event in the City of London earlier this week.

It was accompanied by a presentation by polar explorer Ben Saunders who detailed the trials and tribulations of his own ‘project’, leading the first ever return journey to the South Pole on foot in 2013–14 via a route pioneered by Shackleton and Scott.

In an exclusive interview, Stewart discussed the key thinking behind Prince2 in 2017.

“There are several differences, updates, and improvement s that were made to the piece of work. For me the most significant one is the increased focus on the subject of tailoring. PRINCE2 has always been tailorable, but it’s never been as ‘in your face’ as it is now.

“Now you can’t help but realise that this thing is designed to be rightsized, designed to be tailored, before it looks as if it was kind of optional. Now we’re saying, not optional. You must make it the right thing for the work that you’re going to do. Or else, you’ll find it really difficult to do.

“The exams have been updated and are all about rightsizing, rather than just knowledge recall or applications of a stock thing that you read from the book. Now the exams are about intelligently applying what you learned from these experts, our amazing partner network, with their expert trainers. Now those expert trainers have got the chance to really show people how to throttle up with PRINCE2. How to make it fit for purpose.”

Discussing what ‘tailoring’ means, Stewart pointed to two differing examples.

“Take someone with a small to medium sized engineering business or even a guest house, a B&B, and then somebody who’s building ships. They both should be able to use PRINCE2 because PRINCE2 is about delivering stuff. The difficulty is if both of these try the same control and governance ways of working, the ship won’t quite be built correctly and the guest house will be overburdened with paperwork and bureaucracy.

“So can we offer one book that can be flexed or leveraged to offer something to both of these parties that’s going to let them deliver successfully? The difference between 2009 and this book is it is more obvious that this needs to be done and it’s enabled better.”

Discussing an Agile approach to project management, Stewart suggested PRINCE2 has always been Agile friendly and Agile enabled.

“If you tailored it appropriately, it was good for those that wanted to deliver in an Agile way. The problem was that we didn’t make it as clear as we might have done because we were thinking about large projects. And projects are kind of getting smaller and more independent, especially in digital services. What you’ll find now is a book that’s not as prescriptive, far more about encouraging people to find their own way, about rightsizing and having a fit for purpose framework for delivery. It’s the best it’s ever been because it’s the most relaxed it’s ever been.

Stewart explained, “If you simply read the [PRINCE2] book and try and apply it, it is not going to be right. But if you read it intelligently, tailor it and apply it, there’s a lot that’s good there, particularly the thing that’s missing in so many agile pieces of work, that link between the team that does the work and the strategic intent of the organisation. There is a disconnect that means that we often deliver stuff that was needed six months ago but isn’t needed now.”

Stewart also discussed the application of PRINCE 2 in a digital world.

“We are seeing an increase in the use of the word digital. Tech is being incorporated into almost every product.  Digital is a red herring word, because soon it is going to be ‘stuff’. Everything is going to be digital.  We need to be ready for a world where our products are going to be more tech enabled than ever. And tech enabled carries a big thing behind it that is upgradeable and changeable.

“So you can design something like this table in front of us, and somebody can come along and say, ‘Can it have this feature and that feature?’ Previously, this table was just going to be a simple table.  But now people are going to ask you to pivot. Software people have been used to this for 30 years. But is everybody [else] ready for this?

“It applies to every service, every product, and every ‘everything’ in the market. And those people who are going to be making them have to be ready to pivot. The problem is, if they’re not ready, this table becomes a tech product. If we are not ready to be a tech company, then there’s a tech company that’s ready to build those tables.

Stewart highlighted the importance of methodologies such as PRINCE2 in helping teach organisations to be ready [for change].  “Their markets could change fundamentally over the next five years. And if those organisations are using PRINCE2 2017, and they’re using it wisely in a tailored manner, we believe that they will be well prepared for those varying, flexing environments.

“So again, if the environment is variable, the way that we work should be tailorable around that environment.  And if you want to know one strength of Prince 2017, it’s rightsizing and tailoring, this is really the core of it.”

AXELOS is a joint venture between Capita and the Cabinet Office created to manage, develop and grow the Global Best Practice portfolio. As well as Prince2, the portfolio also includes ITIL IT service management, RESILIA cyber resilience, and MSP programme management.


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