PRINCE2 themes

Themes in PRINCE2 are approaches describing aspects of project management that must be addressed continually throughout the project and are therefore applied to the PRINCE2 processes at appropriate points. They are essentially the techniques of project management.

You can see how themes fit into the structure of PRINCE2 in this diagram.


The business case theme

This is used to establish mechanisms to judge whether the PRINCE2 project is, and remains, desirable, and viable and achievable. It provides an answer to the question ‘is the investment in this project still worthwhile?’ The project manager creates the outline business case in Starting up a project and then creates the detailed business case in the Initiating a Project process.

The business case is continually updated and is used at key points throughout the project to give the project board an informed choice about whether or not the project should continue or not.

The organization theme

This theme defines accountability and responsibility, and sets out the team roles and responsibilities that need to be in place for any PRINCE2 project.
PRINCE2 does not describe jobs but rather roles which may be filled by one or more individuals, or shared by a single individual. These roles make up the PRINCE2 project management team. This team consists of the project board, the senior user role and the senior supplier role.
The project manager is a role filled by a single individual, optional roles include team manager(s) and project support.

The quality theme

This theme defines and implements the mechanisms by which the project will create and verify that products are fit for purpose. The PRINCE2 approach to quality includes customer quality expectations and acceptance criteria, the project product description, the quality management strategy, product descriptions, the quality register, the product-based planning technique and quality and approval records. In support of reviewing the products for quality, PRINCE2 also includes a quality review technique.

The plans theme

This covers all PRINCE2 aspects of creating and managing plans. It includes the project plan, stage plans, exception plans, and the optional team plans.

The philosophy behind PRINCE2 is that the required products are identified first, followed by the activities dependencies and resources required to create those products. This is known as product based planning, and is used for all PRINCE2 plans.

There are several steps to product based planning, starting with the activity write the project product description, which is used for the project plan only. The next step is to create the product breakdown structure which is a hierarchical diagram. Following this the product descriptions along with their quality criteria are generated for each product identified.

The next step is to define the sequence in which the products of the plan will be developed and any dependencies between them. This is achieved by creating the product flow diagram.

From this point on, the more traditional activities of creating a plan need to be carried out. These include identify activities and dependencies, prepare estimating techniques, prepare the schedule, assess resource availability, assign resources, level resource usage, agree control points, define milestones, calculate total resource requirements and costs, present the schedule (typically a Gantt chart), analyze the risks, and finally document the plan.

The risk management theme

This theme is used to identify, assess and control risks and, as a result, improve the probability of the project to succeed. Risks come in two flavours, a negative impact threat, and a positive impact opportunity. Both have the common thread of uncertainty, and hence are both forms of risk.
PRINCE2 has a tailorable risk management procedure consisting of four steps, identify, assess, plan, and implement. Key documents created here are the risk management strategy and the various management products that help communicate the aggregated risk within a project, these are typically checkpoint and highlight reports, end stage and end project reports, and lessons reports.

The risk register is used to capture and maintain information on all of the identified threats and opportunities related to the project. It contains the various responses and individuals who are responsible to the project manager for managing these risks, in particular the risk owner and risk actionee. Optionally a risk budget may be set aside to fund the specific management responses to the project’s threats and opportunities.

The change management theme

The change theme purpose is to identify, assess and control any potential and approved changes to the various baseline documents. The PRINCE2 approach is to treat all changes as a type of issue. PRINCE2 has a common approach to change management. Configuration management may be thought of as project asset control.
Closely aligned to change management is configuration management which is normally provided by project support. The configuration management strategy document will define the way in which this, issues, and hence changes are to be handled. Specific aspects of the change theme include the use or otherwise of a change authority, a change budget, configuration item records, product status account, issue registers and reports.

The progress theme

In any PRINCE2 project, plans and strategies are created and approved, and then project progress reports created against them. Any deviations from these must be managed by regular monitoring and control. The purpose here before is to establish mechanisms to monitor and compare actual achievements against those planned. It also includes taking corrective action so that future forecasts keep the project within tolerance bounds.

The progress theme describes in detail how the principle of management by exception and hence tolerances are to be applied to all PRINCE2 projects. It is split into two main sections; controls at project board level and controls at project manager level. It includes the description an application of management stages and describes the nature of event-driven and time-driven controls. It includes how progress is to be reviewed and reported on.

See also PRINCE2 principles and PRINCE2 processes.