20 Jun 2012
The Plans Theme in PRINCE2
The Plans theme is fundamental to the PRINCE2® methodology - the other themes (business case, organisation, quality, risk, change and progress) all depend on effective planning before, during and even after each project. A good plan will facilitate communication and control throughout the whole project life cycle.
Effective and structured planning also ensures that everyone involved in the project has the same information to work from and refer to. Crucially, in PRINCE2, all plans are created on a product-based technique – the final objective is identified first and then the plan is made of how to deliver this product.
Our PRINCE2 courses cover all of the PRINCE2 themes in detail, with a focus on real-life application of this knowledge.
The Planning Horizon
PRINCE2 can be applied to all scales of project, but detailed planning can be difficult for lengthier projects. If this is the case, the project will be broken down into smaller stages, and each of these will have separate plans. The planning horizon is the agreed length of time for which it is appropriate – or possible – to plan in detail.
Contents of PRINCE2 Plans
The different types of plans in a PRINCE2 project will follow a similar structure, in order to be easily accessible to everyone involved in the project. The level of detail that goes into each level of plan is determined by the scale of the project.
Each of the plans below will include a definition of the objective, how this will be achieved, by whom and when. It will outline agreed tolerances of quality, time, money and resources. Scope, risks and benefits will be clearly stated. In essence, the plan is confirmation that the project objectives are achievable.
Tolerances for each type of plan are determined by the level above, i.e. the tolerances for the Project Plan are set at the Programme/corporate level, tolerances for Stage Plans are set by the Project Board, and tolerances for Team Plans are signed off by the Project Manager.
Types of Plans in PRINCE2
There are three main levels of plans in PRINCE2 - Project Plans, Stage Plans and Team Plans. Exception Plans can apply at any level, and it's important to remain aware of the importance of Programme Plans. Below the diagram you'll find more information on each type of plan.
Programme (Corporate) Plan
It’s important that all project planning is done with reference to an organisation’s Programme Plan if there is one. PRINCE2 projects work very well with the MSP framework for managing successful programmes.
The Project Plan forms part of the Project Initiation Document and includes the business case. It will detail the start and end points of the different milestones/stages, and control points for these.
The Project Plan is reviewed and revised throughout the project.
Stage Plans (Initiation and Delivery)
The Initiation Stage Plan is created during the Starting Up A Project stage. The point at which the Initiation Stage Plan is authorised by the Project Board becomes the formal start of the project.
Delivery Stage Plans are created on a rolling basis; they are written and authorised during the managing a stage boundary process. Each time a stage boundary is passed, the Project Plan is consulted and factors such as acceptance criteria and tolerances are reviewed. Where necessary, the Project Plan itself is updated.
Team Plans are created by team managers to detail how, when and by whom specific areas of work will be carried out. These may not be needed for smaller projects where sufficient levels of detail are possible in the Project Plan. Team Plans often include work schedules.
Exception plans come into play when a there is a tolerance violation. Part of the control offered by PRINCE2 is that it acknowledges that even the most closely controlled projects can veer from the expected course. When this occurs, an exception report is written, followed by a plan of how to get the project back on track. As ever, the Exception Plan will be product-focused.
Exception Plans can occur at both the Stage Plan and Project Plan level and, once approved by relevant persons (team manager, project manager or project board depending on scale), this exception plan becomes the new project/stage plan. For this reason, each Exception Plan contains an equivalent amount of detail to the plan it will eventually replace.