Tanner James Blog

The 2012 PRINCE2 Manifesto - Free eBook

John Howarth

We have pulled together all the content we have shared about PRINCE2 on our blog this year. For those that are close followers of our work, you’ll notice that we have simply collated some of our blog posts and put it into a handy format.

What that means is we haven’t scrubbed and polished it so that it reads like yet another boring theoretical project management manual. Instead, this eBook pulls together our real-world advice.

The kind of hints and tips we give to people over coffee or on-site while consulting or in the classroom. Practical not pretty.

The articles are designed to answer the most common questions and challenges we see you facing as you use PRINCE2 in the real world. As such, they can be useful conversation starters for how you and your team apply PRINCE2 and how you can get the most out of it.

So feel free to share it as you see fit. If you only want to share one or two articles then head along to our blog where you can then share the individual page.

A big thanks to Dave Bryant, Dave Schrapel, Adrian Booth, Gavan Murphy and Ray Broadbent. They all contributed blogs throughout the year and I am very appreciative that they were willing to share some of their views with you.

A big thanks to myself also as I wrote most of them (modesty has never been one of my strengths).

I hope you find it useful.

Do you have a unique environment with unique challenges? Or have you always been a little unclear about an aspect of PRINCE2? Then simply let me know by leaving a comment below.

I would be happy to write a blog post addressing it for you.

The 5 Most Important PRINCE2 Activities

John Howarth

If you are familiar with PRINCE2 you will know that the method has 7 processes, each of which comprises a number of activities. I counted the activities the other day, and there are 40 of them. I have been quite vocal about the need to apply PRINCE2 skillfully and tailor it to suit, so I thought to myself “What if I only had 5 activities? Which would I choose to best manage a project?”

This proved harder than I expected, but here’s what I came up with, and why.

1. Appoint the Executive and the Project Manager

I think this is probably my least contentious choice. As the PRINCE2 manual says: “to get anything done in the project, a decision maker with appropriate authority is needed”. It then goes on to say (fairly obviously) that “the appointment of a Project Manager allows for the project to be managed on a day-to-day basis on behalf of the Executive.

As I say, probably my least contentious choice. Nevertheless, I do worry how many Project Managers are out there happily trying to use PRINCE2 without a Project Executive, or at least without a Project Executive who understands their role and discharges it diligently.

Moving right along…

2. Update the Business Case

“CHEAT!” I hear you cry. How can I update a Business Case that hasn’t been prepared in outline (SU) or refined (IP)? Well, I could argue that a little poetic licence is a blogger’s right. However, I would also argue that in practice I’d rather people have a proper focus on the business case while the work is underway than do it at the beginning of a project just to get funding then sit it on the shelf, forget about it and press on regardless.

Whichever activities you would choose for your 5, the business case had to be addressed somewhere. After all, that is the purpose of a project – delivering products according to an agreed business case. Hands-up those who currently have an up-to-date rock-solid business case which everyone knows in essence – you do all have your hands up now don’t you?!

3. Plan the next stage

I’m quite proud of myself here, a bit of a sneaky choice this one. You see, “Plan the next stage” in PRINCE2 doesn’t just involve producing the Stage Plan for the next stage. Among other things it also involves reviewing:

  • any change to the customer’s expectations, acceptance criteria or project approach;
  • the relevance and suitability of the strategies and controls; and
  • any change in the project management team or their role descriptions.

The PRINCE2-pedants reading this will pick me up on the fact these things haven’t been created but the same basic argument as I put forward for updating the Business Case applies – better late than never!

The other great thing about this activity of course is that it invokes the product-based planning technique where the real planning work occurs and the team gets clarity of what actually needs to be done.

4. Review the stage status

There are 8 activities in the process Controlling a Stage but for me this one (Review the stage status) is the heart of the machine.

The objective of the activity says it all – “to maintain an accurate and current picture of progress on the work being carried out and the status of resources”. If you care to delve deeper, the PRINCE2 manual recommends a comprehensive range of actions to be undertaken to form that picture, and based on that analysis, to decide whether any actions are required.

5. Give ad-hoc direction

Not much point having a Project Executive if you aren’t going to engage them so I felt I had to pick my final activity from the process Directing a Project.

I have seen more than one project where the Project Manager doesn’t speak to the Project Executive between one formal stage boundary meeting and the next. The PRICNE2 manual identifies a variety of circumstances that might prompt ad hoc direction, including:

  • responding to requests, e.g. when options need clarifying or where areas of conflict need resolving;
  • responding to reports; and
  • responding to external influences.

Which 5 activities would you choose?

Well, there’s my suggested list of the 5 most important of the 40 PRINCE2 activities. 5 was a totally arbitrary number but it certainly exercised my brain picking the list. I’d like to hear from you about which activities you would choose and why.

I know there are a number of my fellow PRINCE2 trainers and consultants out there who keep an eye on my blogs so they are welcome to throw their views into the ring also.

Real Managers don’t use soft benefits

Daniel Oyston

written by David Bryant

“If it’s not cold hard cash I’m not interested”. They say real programme and project managers don’t use soft benefits.  But should they?

What is a soft benefit?

A popular misconception is that a soft benefit is a benefit you can’t measure. However, in the PRINCE2 and MSP worlds, a benefit must be measurable.

So does this mean that soft benefits don’t have a place in the PRINCE2 and MSP worlds?

Not at all.

What is a soft benefit in the PRINCE2 and MSP world?

According to John Ward, in Building Better Business Cases for IT investments, benefit measures can be categorised on a continuum from Financial (Hard benefits), to Quantifiable and Measurable and finally through to Observable (Soft Benefits).

With Financial Benefits, the financial value can obviously be calculated by applying a cost/price or other valid financial formula to a quantifiable benefit e.g. reduction in staff needed.

A Quantifiable Benefit is where there is sufficient evidence to forecast how much improvement/benefit should result from the change(s) e.g. reducing the average wait time by 10 per cent.

A Measurable Benefit occurs when the aspect of performance is measured but sometimes it is not possible, or very difficult, to accurately estimate how much performance will improve e.g. increased staff morale.

An example of an Observable (soft) Benefit might be specific individuals or groups using their experience or judgement to decide the extent the benefit will be realised e.g. asking line managers whether there has been an increase in staff motivation.

Soft benefits often relate to changes in individuals behaviour, which in many projects are critical to the achievement of business cases. The challenge is how to find valid ways of measuring such benefits – proxy measures often work, for example surveying the perceptions of individuals affected by a change before and after the change has been implemented.


It is hard to imagine a business case that won’t include a good mix of hard and soft benefits.

Just make sure you always have some form of measurement and that it is your best effort to make it realistic and valid.

This blog was written by David Bryant.

David Bryant | Consultant & Trainer

David specialises in maximising the Return on Investment by working with organisations to better align activities with the organisational objectives. David holds an MBA as well as PRINCE2, MSP and P3O qualifications.


Four ways to break the cycle of overstated business cases

Daniel Oyston

David Bryant | Consultant & Trainer

David specialises in maximising the Return on Investment by working with organisations to better align activities with the organisational objectives. David holds an MBA as well as PRINCE2, MSP and P3O qualifications.


When Julia Gillard recently commented that the “pre-GFC world was never coming back”, it made me wonder if the recent resurgence in interest in Federal Government business cases and benefits realisation is a result of the GFC? 

A 2008 study of 100 European Organisations attitude to business cases and project results found: 

  • 96% of organisations required business cases as part of their project startup;
  • 69% said they did not quantify their benefits; and
  • 38% said they overstated benefits to obtain funding. 

In the pre-GFC period, many organisations were starting projects with ‘delusional optimism’ i.e. overstated benefits which meant the unfortunate Project Manager was doomed from day one. 

Stephen Jenner, in his book Transforming Government and the Public Service, claimed that many of these overstated business cases amounted to fraud. 

So how do we break this cycle of overstated business cases that usually sit on the shelf after funding is approved? Here are four ways to make a start: 

  1. do a complete analysis of benefits - not just financial but the non-financial as well;
  2. revisit the business case regularly and adjust costs and benefits i.e. periodically check the viability of the project or programme;
  3. make sure you actively realise the benefits - don’t rely on ‘silver bullet’ thinking; and
  4. communicate benefit realisation to the organisation so the culture changes to recognise business cases as fact, not fiction. 

As Julia and Wayne attempt to bring our budget back to surplus, I expect there will be greater scrutiny of business cases and the claimed benefits in Federal Government in the coming months. 

I would be keen to hear your thoughts about business cases in Federal Government?