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How To Write a Great Prince2 Project Plan

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Input from key stakeholders is fundamental to a good project plan

Input from key stakeholders is fundamental to a good project plan

What is a Prince2 Project Plan?

A Prince2 project plan documents how identified targets for products, timescales, costs and quality can be met. Project Plans are the backbone of the management information system required for any Prince2 project.

A great Prince2 Project Plan has the following composition:

  1. Description – Narrative giving a brief description of what the plan covers.
  2. Prerequisites – Any fundamental aspects that should be in place at the start and must remain in place for the project to succeed.
  3. External Dependencies – Programme or portfolio dependencies should then be transferred to the Programme Level Plan.
  4. Planning Assumptions – what aspects of the planning are assumed and not yet verified.
  5. The Schedule – A Gantt chart with identified management stages built in a tool such as MS Project.
  6. Contingency Plan – In case any of the risks should occur.

Defining your Prince 2 Project Plan

To define a great Prince2 Project Plan you should first build your schedule. Consider the following components:

  • PRODUCTS - When you start a new Prince2 project you need to think about the Products you will be delivering and when you have agreed to deliver them. All products, as identified in the Product Checklist, should be planned in the schedule with defined activities to complete them.
  • INPUTS -These Products should be mapped out to see what inputs are required from external sources to enable the start and completion of them.
  • ACTIVITIES -You will then need to identify the activities required to deliver the Products and the estimated time it will take to complete them. Each activity should be broken down to a manageable size and durations should be shown in days.
  • ESTIMATE –Estimating cannot guarantee the outcome, but it is better than not estimating. There are different ways of estimating such as: Three Point Estimating, Bottom Up, Top Down, Lessons Learned and discussions with resources doing the work plus many more.
  • RELATIONSHIPS - Once you have your activities and estimated times you can create relationships between them (Dependencies). This should help identify when activities can start and must finish. All activities should show relationships to other activities within the project. External dependencies should be shown on the Programme Level Plan.
  • MILESTONES - Milestones should be created when key decision points occur, such as the completion of a major phase, when approvals are required. Key Milestones should be clearly identifiable.

Further reading

A Prince2 Project Schedule might look like this

A Prince2 Project Schedule might look like this

What next...

So you have your initial Prince2 Project Plan schedule defined, you should now consider the following components to further define the Project Plan:

  • STRUCTURE - Once you have identified the activities and milestones you can structure them logically so you can see the path through the project more clearly.
  • SUMMARY - Summarising activities helps to identify stages/blocks of work.
  • DATES - You will need to schedule dates for those activities that are not dictated a start or finish date by a predecessor/successor.
  • RESOURCE- Assign resources to tasks when you want to: balance resource work loads between those with too little or too much work assigned, track the amount of work done by people assigned to tasks or track resource costs. As a minimum all activities should have resource names assigned for the following three months period and if the activities have not been planned then they should have resource roles assigned – this will assist the resource manager in planning requirements.

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What do I actually do with the schedule?

Now that you have built your Prince2 schedule you must ensure that it is tracked and monitored regularly. A Prince2 Project Plan is a live document so should always be an up to date reflection of the project. Before you actually start tracking your Prince2 Project Plan ensure you have prepared the following:

In a Project Plan or Schedule the critical path is shown in red.

In a Project Plan or Schedule the critical path is shown in red.

Define the critical path

The critical path is a series of tasks that must be completed on time for a project to finish on schedule. Most tasks in a typical project have some slack and can therefore be delayed a little without affecting the project's finish date. Those tasks that cannot be delayed without affecting the project finish date are the critical tasks. The critical path should be identified in red in your Prince2 Schedule.

A great Prince2 study guide

Baseline your Prince2 Project Plan

Once the project schedule has been approved it should be baselined. Baselining the Project Schedule "freezes" the schedule in place, so that you have a basis of comparison for variance analysis when the tasks are performed.

The value of baselining a Project Schedule is that it provides a basis for communication with stakeholders on how the project is progressing, what challenges are being faced, and how those challenges are being addressed. Most importantly, baselining establishes the schedule as a roadmap for the project.

All projects naturally veers on and off course, keeping the plan up to date allows adjustments to be made to keep the overall path on track. All schedules should be reviewed and agreed by the project team before being sent to the Project Board to be approved and baselined.

A good project plan allows reports & dashboards like this to be produced.

A good project plan allows reports & dashboards like this to be produced.

How do i track and monitor the project plan

To ensure that your Prince2 project plan is always showing an up to date picture you should ensure that you do the following:

  • REVIEW REGULARLY- Schedules should be reviewed fortnightly as a minimum.
  • PROGRESS UPDATES– updates on scheduled activities should be sought regularly from the project team. Regular team meetings/checkpoints prove useful for obtaining updates.
  • ENTER ACTUAL DATA- After you've set up your project and work has begun, you can keep track of actual start and finish dates, task percent complete, or actual work. Tasks that start or finish late can throw an entire project off schedule by delaying the start or finish dates of related tasks. Tasks that start or finish early can free resources to work on other tasks that are behind schedule. Microsoft Project uses the actual values you enter to reschedule the remaining portions of your project.
  • PERCENTAGE COMPLETE - You can indicate how much progress has been made on a task by entering the percentage of the task duration that is complete. Especially for long tasks, indicating the percentage of completion for the task helps you track actual progress against the baseline plan.
  • COMPARE THE BASELINE- When you save a baseline and then update your schedule, you can compare the baseline to your actual progress to identify variances. Variances alert you to the areas of the project that are not going as planned.
  • KEEP A CLOSE EYE ON IT- To keep your project on schedule, keep a close eye on significant variances in task start or finish dates. Where necessary, adjust task dependencies, reassign resources, or delete tasks to meet your deadlines
  • FORECASTING - should be done every three months and the plan re-baselined if necessary.

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