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Prince 2: a practical handbook – review

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Title: Prince 2: a practical handbook
Author: Colin Bentley
Publisher: Butterworth Heineman, 2nd edition, 383pp
ISBN 0-7506-5330-2


PRINCE is a project management widely used in both the public and private sector. The PRINCE2 methodology (version one and its predecessor have been around since the 70s) aims to ensure that projects delivering the right outcomes, on- time and on-budget. The books author, Colin Bentley, offers an impressive track record in project management having published over 20 books and consulted for the likes of Microsoft, Tesco and the BBC. He is also chief examiner for the Association for Project Management Group’s PRINCE2 qualifications.

So, what about the book itself?

As its name would infer, it follows a handbook format with a short and terse style with plenty of headings, sub-heads, bullet lists, charts, diagrams and so on. As such, it is not a bedtime read, being clearly intended for the practitioner who needs to check out each stage or component of the PRINCE2 methodology. Thus, in addition to a useful introduction and overview, probably the main sections of interest to the layperson, the volume offers nineteen chapters, each covering an aspect of planning or managing the project.

The first half focuses on explaining the PRINCE2 methods and terminology. Thus we have eight chapters explaining processes such as starting up the project, planning and directing it, controlling individual stages and closing it down at the end. Within this structure, each process is further broken down into its operational parts using PRINCE2’s alphanumeric code (so, Controlling a Stage is CS and includes operations such as CS1 Authorising Work Packages, CS4 Examining Project Issues, CS7 Taking Corrective Action and so on). Each chapter starts with a description of the overall process and shows how it fits into the bigger picture of PRINCE2. Each operation is then described via a standard series of headings such as What does the process do?… Why?…Responsibility (who?)…How? (including links to other parts of the methodology). These are supplemented by short guidelines on In Practice and For Smaller Projects.

The second half majors on what PRINCE2 terms the components. These comprise the eight aspects of establishing the business case, planning, control, risk, quality, configuration management and change control. However, it also offers guidance on additional techniques. Most of the latter are stated to be optional, the one exception being Product-based Planning, a technique for ensuring that the product, or outcome, of each stage of the project meets its quality requirements and, thus, that the project overall delivers.

The book is rounded off with two lengthy appendices, the first offering pro-formas for Product Descriptions and the second samples of PRINCE2 forms and documentation.

So, who is the book for? The back cover states that it is aimed at “readers who want to learn what the PRINCE2 method is all about, intend to implement it, are clients of a contractor who will use it, or will participate in a project being managed according to PRINCE2 guidelines”. I suspect that to most novices the text will prove intimidating and inaccessible, for the practitioner or someone needing to check out unknown terminology it will prove an invaluable reference work.

Neil Wellman, NetWork Associates ([email protected])

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