Prince in Name Only – why we need PrinceLite

Project management methodologies such as Prince2 are not stopping project failure because they don't focus on project delivery, says Peter Merrick, who is arguing for a revised approach, PrinceLite, that prioritises the business community stakeholders.


The technical community puts a lot of store in project management frameworks, like Prince2 or RUP (Rational Unified Process), but these approaches are flawed because it is not project “management” that is of interest, rather it is project “delivery”.

The fact a project is well managed and that it ticks all the boxes, does not mean it will deliver a working system.

It is surprising that senior managers take a complacent attitude to IT project failure; that is until the project is 9 months late and consuming money hand over fist, with little evidence that it is ever going to be finished.

Let me dispel a myth; the user requirements will not become clear as the project goes along and it is no use delegating the requirements to your supplier. You have a part to play.

If there is no unambiguous statement of requirements, how is the project going to be measured? What is the definition of success? How are you going to judge it? Running out of money and patience is not project management.

In my experience anybody can understand use case models, activity models and screen mockups (and user acceptance tests defined upfront – a.k.a. scenarios). That is all business people need to understand to play their part because UML (the Unified Modelling Language) takes care of the rest. Techies know how to transform these “business oriented artifacts” into code.

What is needed is a delivery framework that prioritises the business community stakeholders; the senior management, the middle management, the project management and the users.

That means producing artifacts that the business community can fully understand and own intellectually. I advocate the fullest use of pictures to ensure all document are short. It they are not short, they will not be read which defeats the purpose. Ultimately it’s about bridging the gap between the business stakeholders and the technical stakeholders and that is the role of the business requirements specification.

PrinceLite is a work in progress. It does not tell you exactly what to do, but it does give you some very strong hints. It is the culmination of ten years of work with organisations, some of which claim they are following Prince2, but which are really doing PINO (Prince in name only). My response is to proclaim a new delivery framework that really is Prince in name only, and proud of it.

The main point of PrinceLite is that it is orientated around the business community; it serves the project sponsors (people who pay the IT bill). Help make it better by visiting and contribute to the body of knowledge so we can start delivery projects not just managing them.

Dr Peter Merrick holds a Ph.D from UEA in Software Engineering and has published on the subject of UML. He has worked for the Health and Safety Executive, HMRC, Great Hotel, University of Cambridge Examinations Syndicate and the European Patent Office. He currently holds a senior contract position with central government and is available to discuss any of the points he makes here or on thePrinceLite site.

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