Sunday, December 11, 2011

PRINCE2 vs Waterfall

Generally, in large organization various project management activities are carried out approximately at the same time. There are thousands of products. There are also geographical, language, custom and many more issues to take into account. In such an environment each project will make different demands on management: for example,  some might be more technically challenging, might affect particularly critical areas of the business or might involve larger numbers of different types of users ”[1]. So it is evident that if the procedures by which each project is run are standardized rather than having to be continually reinvented it would be much more helpful for the organizations. In this regard PRINCE (PRojects IN Controlled Environments) was first developed by CCTA, now part of OGC, in 1989 as a UK Government standard for IT project management. Althoughinitially developed only for the need of IT projects, the latest version, PRINCE2, which was released in 1996, is a generic project management method.

An overview: PRINCE2 is a structured approach to project management. It provides a Method for managing projects within a clearly defined framework. Prince2 describes procedures to coordinate people and activities in a project, how to design and supervise the project, and what to do if the project has to be adjusted if it doesn’t develop as planned. In the method each process is specified with its key inputs and outputs and with specific goals and activities to be carried out, which gives an automatic control of any deviations from the plan”[2]. A PRINCE2 project is divided into a number of Management Stages, each forming a distinct unit for management purposes. Like the project, a Stage is driven by a series of Processes, has a defined set of products and activities, a finite life-span, control elements, and an organisational structure. It identifies roles rather than jobs. Depending on the circumstances, a role could, in fact, be carried out by more than one person, or a single person could assume more than one role.
The PRINCE2 methodology applies three key elements to each project and to the Management Stages within a project. The three elements can be the Processes which drive the project management, Components and Techniques, which are used by each of the Processes to effect the management of the project.

  • PRINCE2 defines 45 separate sub-processes and organizes these into eight processes as follows: ” [2]

Starting Up A Project (SU) - Establishes the Objectives and Approach to the Project; Sets up the Project Management Team; Plans for the Initiation Process. This is a pre-project Process, which looks to answer the question “do we have a worthwhile and viable project?” before asking for commitment of resources to set up a project environment.

Initiating A Project (IP) - Plans the whole Project in terms of its Products, Activities, Resource Usage and Quality; Sets the baseline for the Business Benefits & Risks.
Directing A Project (DP) - Provides authorisation for work to be carried out and Resources to be committed. Authorisation for Project Initiation and Project Closure and, in some cases, its premature termination. The Process is “owned” by the Project Board – the overall authority for the Project – the Executive member is accountable for the overall business success of the project.

Controlling A Stage (CS) - The basic day-to-day project management Process - authorising work to create or change Products, collecting and reflecting actual, assessing progress and reporting to senior management. Capturing proposed changes and errors and escalating these, where appropriate to the Project Board.

Managing Product Delivery (MP) - The main “workshop” for the project where the majority of resources are consumed. This Process is where the Products of the Project are created. Progress reports (Checkpoint Reports) are provided to the Project Manager. Quality Review and Delivery of Products occurs here.

Managing Stage Boundaries (SB) - Reporting on the achievements of the Current Management Stage and the impact on the overall Project Plan and Business Case. Planning the Next Stage (Products, Activities, Resource Usage). Putting together Exception Plans when the Management Stage has suffered a significant departure from its approved plan.

Planning (PL) – “ PRINCE2 advocates product based planning which means that the first task when planning is to identify and analyze products. Once the activities required to create these products are identified then it is possible to estimate the effort required for each and then  schedule activities into a plan. There is always risk associated with any work and this must be analyzed. Finally, this process suggests how the format of plans can be agreed and ensures that plans are completed to such a format. 

PL1 Design a Plan
PL2 Define and analyze products
PL3 Identify activities and their dependencies
PL4 Estimate effort and each activity
PL5 Schedule
PL6 Analyze risk
PL7 Complete plan

Figure 1.1: Diagram showing PRINCE2 processes. The arrows represent flows of information.[2]

Closing A Project (CP) - Preparation for closing the Project in an orderly way. Customer sign-off, preparation of an End- Project Report and identification of Lessons Learned and Follow-on Recommendations. Planning for a Post-Project Review.

  • In PRINCE2 methodology these following Components are used which are as follows:

Organisation - Organisation Structure + Role Descriptions. Predominantly used in the “Starting Up A Project” Process where the Executive and Project Manager are appointed in the first Process, and the Project Management Team is designed and appointed. The Project Management Team is reviewed at the end of each Management Stage within “Managing Stage Boundaries”.

Plans - All Processes use the Plans Component. The Initiation of the project is planned during “Starting Up A Project”; the project itself is planned in “Initiating A Project”; Stage plans are prepared in “Managing Stage Boundaries”; and Product planning is carried out in “Controlling A Stage” and “Managing Product Delivery”. Follow-on actions, including preparation of a Post-Project Review Plan are put together in “Closing A Project”. “Directing A Project” uses the approved plans throughout to confirm the required progress.

Controls - All the Processes use the Controls Component. The “control” Processes which make particular use of this Component are “Initiating A Project(which sets up the overall project control structure); “Controlling A Stage” (which uses Checkpoint Reports to capture progress, and records actual usage of resources. Highlight Reports are used to inform the Project Board of progress); “Managing Product Delivery” generates Checkpoint Reports for control purposes. Stage approval is handled by “Managing Stage Boundaries” where Management Stages are approved via End Stage Assessments. This Process also uses Exception Reporting and Planning to control significant departures from plan. “Directing A Project” is the Process within which overall authorisations are made; this Process uses the key controls of End Stage Assessment, Exceptions Assessments, Tolerance, Project Initiation and Project Closure.

Business Case - The Business Case is viewed as the “driving force” of any PRINCE2 project. The Business Benefits are measured by the Business Case which is outlined in “Starting Up A Project” and formally recorded in “Initiating A Project” where it forms an important part of the Project Initiation Document (PID). The Business Case is up-dated at least during “Managing Stage Boundaries” when the End-Stage Report is created – more often if appropriate. When Project Issues are being analysed the impact on the Business case will be reviewed. During “Closing A Project” the Business Case will be used in preparing the Post Project Review Plan. The Business Case has close ties with the Management of Risk Component and the two elements are usually treated in unison.

Management of Risk - Risk analysis is carried out initially in “Starting Up A Project” when the Project Brief is created and a Risk Log established. The initially identified risks are refined in “Initiating A Project” where the Business Case for the project is established. The risk analysis is updated during “Managing Stage Boundaries” to provide the basis for decision support for the Project Board when they review the project at the End Stage Assessment in “Directing A Project”. No specific risk analysis tools or techniques are recommended. Management of risk has close ties with the Business Benefits which are measured and presented as the Business case for the project.”[3]

Quality In A Project Environment - The Customer’s Quality Expectations are first identified in “Starting Up A Project” and quality aspects are planned in “Initiating A Project”. When the project is approved, “Controlling A Stage” and “Managing Product Delivery” enable specific Quality Criteria to be set for each Product (or Deliverable) via Product Descriptions described in the Planning” Process.

Configuration Management - Configuration Management is not optional in PRINCE2. This Component addresses the proper safeguarding and management of Products or Deliverables and their associated documentation. “Initiating A Project” sets up the Project Files and “Controlling A Stage” and “Managing Product Delivery” executes the Configuration Management arrangements. Project Files are archived in “Closing A Project” mainly for audit purposes.

Change Control - Managing proposals for change is an important aspect of project management and the Process “Controlling A Stage” is where such proposals are captured, evaluated and actions decided upon.

  • PRINCE2 project organization

“ PRINCE2 identifies roles rather than jobs ”[1]. Every PRINCE2 project will have a Project Board appointed. The Project Board is the overall authority for the project and is normally appointed by Corporate or Programme Management to take overall responsibility and control of a PRINCE2 project. The Project Board consists of three senior management roles, each representing major project interests.

  1. Executive
  2. User
  3. Supplier

The senior staff carrying out the respective roles will be responsible officers within their respective organizations and the oversight of the project will probably by only one of many responsibilities. Hence, the task of managing the project on a day- to – day basis will be delegated by the Project Board to a Project Manager. On a large project it could be necessary for the Project Manager to delegate the managing of certain aspects of the project to specialist Team Managers. ” [1]

Similarity of PRINCE 2 with Waterfall Model :  The traditional waterfall model gives a high- level view of the software life cycle. At its most basic it is effectively the tried and tested problem solving paradigm:
  • Decide what to do
  • Decide how to do it
  • Do it
  • Test it
  • Use it
The phases in the waterfall model are represented a as a cascade. The outputs from one phase become the inputs to the next.

Figure 2.1 shows the unmodified waterfall Model[4]

The waterfall model is a sequential software development model (a process for the creation of software) in which development is seen as flowing steadily downwards (like a waterfall) through the phases of requirements analysisdesignimplementationtesting (validation), integration, and maintenance. ”[4]





Project initiation
Requirement gathering

Figure 2.2 [7]

Now, if we watch closely from this above figure 2.2 it is evident that when used for software projects how PRINCE2 maintain close similarity with Waterfall Model. We can see the similarities between stages “Communication” with PRINCE2’s Starting up a Project(SU),  “Planning” with PRINCE2’s Planning(PL),Controlling a Stage(CS),  “Modelling and Construction” with PRINCE2’s Initiating a Project(IP), Directing(DP), Managing Product Delivery(MP), Managing Stage Boundaries(SB) and “Deployment” with PRINCE2’s Closing a Project(CP). Considering all these facts and figures I can define PRINCE2 is another version of the waterfall model for project managers when used for software projects.


1. Software Project Management - Bob Hughes & Mike Cotterell
3. Google Books: Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2
5. Google Books: PRINCE2: A 'No Nonsense' Management Guide
6. Software Engineering - Ian Sommerville (Fourth Edition)
7. Software Engineering - A Practitioner's Approach - Roger S. Pressman (Sixth Edition)
8. Software Maintenance - Concepts and Practise - Penny Grubb, Armstrong A Takang (Second Edition)


  1. You made some respectable points there. I looked on the internet for the issue and found most people will go along with with your website.

    prince2 project management

  2. As per the PMBOK Guide 4th Edition, “A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result.” and the project management is the “application of knowledge, skill, tool, and technique to project activities to meet the project requirements.”

  3. here is the original