Frustrated staff. Demanding clients. Projects off-track. The life of an agency owner can be stressful.
But did you know the Salesforce 2023 ‘State of the Connected Customer’ report revealed that 96% of customers say excellent service is key to building trust? In a busy agency environment, keeping your clients happy might seem impossible. But it’s not too late to turn things around, even if you’re in chaos.
80% of customers said they’d forgive a mistake if handled with excellent service. What you need is a simple project management methodology that helps you get consistent results for your clients without the stress so you can provide the level of service your clients expect.
PRINCE2 is known for its beginner-friendly processes, and this article will show you how to implement them in your business.
What is PRINCE2?
PRINCE2 is a project management framework that can help small business owners plan, organize, and control projects effectively. It provides clear steps and guidelines to ensure projects stay on track from start to finish. While it isn't all that well known in the US, PRINCE2 is popular in European countries.
Some of the key features that make PRINCE2 perfect for agencies are:
- A simple, clear, and structured approach for managing successful projects.
- A focus on delivering value and meeting project timelines consistently.
- Clearly defined roles and responsibilities for project team members.
- Easily adaptable to suit different project sizes and complexities (even if you have many moving parts, such as in a marketing agency environment).
- An emphasis on learning from experience and continuous improvement.
- A framework for project control and risk management.
What is a PRINCE2 certification, and do you need one?
A 2022 KPMG study found that of all project managers surveyed, only 13% had a PRINCE2 project management certification. Not that telling since the study found that 51% of all surveyed project managers had no certification, regardless of the methodology.
There are good reasons for becoming a Prince2 practitioner, including:
- Stay updated with the latest project management techniques.
- Industry certifications add weight to your management authority.
PRINCE2 v. the PMP
The Project Management Professional (PMP) by the Project Management Institute (PMI) is also a recognized certification for project managers. The PMP focuses on a more traditional project management approach with five phases as part of its project management lifecycle.
Like with a PRINCE2 certification, a PMP certification shows your commitment to project management techniques. The difference between PRINCE2 and PMP lies in their approaches (and preferences in specific geographies).
What are the seven principles of PRINCE2?
Before we dive into the seven principles of PRINCE2, let's set the record straight on the difference between principles, aspects, and processes.
The principles of PRINCE2 are the fundamental beliefs or rules that underpin this project management style.
Aspects are specific elements or features that set PRINCE2 apart from other styles. Processes are the structured steps you can follow to implement PRINCE2 in your business. We’ll get into these in a bit.
The seven principles of PRINCE2 are:
1. Continued business justification
The first principle of PRINCE2 requires you to regularly validate your project's alignment with your larger business goals. After all, if your projects don’t contribute to your business’ growth over time, they probably shouldn’t be your biggest priority.
Make sure your projects remain valuable and justified over time. For example, if a particular client is an ongoing drain on your resources, it might be time to consider whether your resources are better applied to a different client. Why not try stakeholder mapping so you can prioritize your client list?
2. Learn from experience
Reflect on past projects for insights and lessons learned. There's nothing more frustrating than seeing the same mistake made repeatedly. Brainstorm with your team regularly. Then, apply the lessons learned to improve future projects. One of the best features of PRINCE2 is its dedication to continuous improvement.
3. Defined roles and responsibilities
It’s time to share some of the burden. Assign tasks to team members. Establish accountability and ownership within the team. Make sure everyone knows their role in the project and use project management software (like Motion) to keep everyone connected.
4. Manage by stages
Simplify your projects. Divide them into manageable phases. Then, track progress and milestones for each stage. This improves your control and resource allocation without overloading you with manual reporting to sort it out.
5. Manage by exception
PRINCE2 requires you to ask yourself: Where are the project risks?
Focus on deviations from the project plan. Intervene only when issues exceed the tolerances that you decide. Not every issue needs to become an emergency. Empower your team to manage routine tasks themselves.
6. Focus on projects
One of the key features of PRINCE2 is minimizing wasted effort. Concentrate all efforts on project objectives. Allocate resources efficiently for success. Minimize distractions from non-project activities. Because you know your projects contribute to your strategic goals, you won’t need to assign internal tasks to your project team constantly. Your goals will reach themselves.
7. Tailor to suit the project environment
One of the main reasons PRINCE2 is so valuable for beginners is that you can adapt its methods to fit your project's unique context. Customize the project life cycle based on project needs. Optimize your approach to handle specific challenges.
The six aspects of PRINCE2 and how to manage them
The six aspects of PRINCE2 represent the critical project variables that require careful management throughout your project life cycle.
Let’s take a look at each of these aspects and how you can manage them:
When managing any project in your business, you’ll need to set clear timelines and milestones.
Use project management software to track progress and adjust your schedules if needed.
For effective cost control in your business, create a resource utilization plan to help you estimate a budget and allocate your resources accurately. Use resource utilization calculations to ensure you set client pricing with your profit margins and resource levels in mind.
Implement Total Quality Management (TQM) measures in your business to define quality standards and criteria. Consider: what does success look like? How will we know when we are finished? At the core of PRINCE2 is continuous improvement. TQM helps you produce the best work your business can with incremental changes over time.
Scope creep plagues businesses of all shapes and sizes. Prevent scope creep in your business with a project scope statement. Not only does that help you to set the boundaries of your projects so you don’t overutilize your resources, but it also helps set expectations with your clients.
Just as a resource utilization plan can help you better manage your resources, a risk management plan can help to identify potential risks and uncertainties in advance. If you’re new to risk planning in your business, we have a detailed guide here.
Prioritizing your clients from most valuable to least valuable might seem punishing. Still, it'll help you decide which projects are valuable and can contribute the most to your strategic business goals.
In an ideal world, every project in your workflow would have a secondary benefit to your business outside of revenue. The stage-gate process can help you determine these benefits.
The PRINCE2 project management framework places value at the forefront of everything you do. It also gives you a framework to measure this value against your business goals. Helpful, right?
Your PRINCE2 Processes Checklist: The 7 processes
These are the step-by-step instructions to apply PRINCE2 in your business. These seven processes are the PMP equivalent of the PMBOK five stages of project management. Feel free to print this off and use it as a guide!
1. Starting up a project (SU) - similar to the PMBOK initiating phase
- Define your project objectives and scope.
- Identify key stakeholders and their roles.
- Conduct initial feasibility assessments.
- Appoint a project management team.
- Develop and outline your business case.
- Establish a project approach and plan.
2. Initiating a project (IP) - similar to the PMBOK planning phase
- Refine your business case and secure funding.
- Develop detailed project initiation documentation.
- Define project controls and reporting mechanisms.
- Identify and allocate project resources.
- Establish a project governance structure.
- Set up communication channels: think Slack or a centralized project management platform like Motion.
3. Directing a project (DP) - similar to the PMBOK executing phase
- Provide strategic direction and oversight to your team.
- Approve stage plans and key decisions.
- Manage project issues and exceptions.
- Make sure there’s alignment with organizational objectives.
- Track progress and performance.
- Authorize stage and project closure.
4. Controlling a stage (CS) - similar to PMBOK controlling phase
- Execute activities per the stage plan.
- Track and control work progress.
- Manage risks and issues.
- Make sure work meets quality and compliance expectations.
- Escalate exceptions as needed.
- Deliver stage and progress reports.
5. Managing product delivery (MP)
- Accept and check work packages.
- Execute work according to product descriptions.
- Track progress and report to the project manager or agency owner
- Address issues and risks at the operational level.
- Obtain product approvals and quality assurance.
6. Managing a stage boundary (SB)
- Review stage performance and achievements.
- Update project and stage plans as needed.
- Re-assess risks and benefits.
- Obtain approval to proceed to the next stage.
- Produce an end-stage report.
- Hand over to the next stage.
7. Closing a project (CP) - similar to the PMBOK closing phase
- Make sure all project activities are delivered.
- Confirm completion of project objectives.
- Review benefits realization and compare it with the business case.
- Document the lessons learned.
- Release resources and close project contracts.
- Obtain formal project closure approval from your client.
While this might seem like a lot to do, in the true nature of PRINCE2, you can take it one step at a time.
Five things to steal from PRINCE2 for your next project
PRINCE2 can be pretty thorough, but if you’re just looking for some quick tips, try these.
1. Set clear roles and responsibilities
Reduce confusion in your project environment by enhancing accountability among your team members. Do this by creating (and documenting) clear roles and responsibilities for your project team.
For example, in addition to their tasks, your project team members will also have roles for managing projects. This will keep the workflow consistent (and create value for your customers).
2. Focus on continuous improvement
Rather than implementing large initiatives in one go, try, as the saying goes, eating the elephant one bite at a time.
For example, by building in review stages, mistakes are caught (and can be managed) early. By documenting lessons learned, you can optimize future project deliveries.
3. Communicate (a lot)
With a stakeholder map, you can prioritize the clients that need the most focus.
Happy clients mean loyalty, repeat business, and a healthy bottom line.
Or it might be the kickstart you need to say goodbye to low-value customers (that usually take up most of your time).
4. Manage risks
No better time than now to get on top of your project risk management plan.
Integrate a consistent approach to risk management that helps you quickly spot problems in advance. Then adjust timelines on the fly, and communicate changes with clients.
Don't have your team do what can be automated. This goes for everything from tracking tasks to scheduling meetings.
PRINCE2 and Motion
The stress of agency life can be a thing of the past with the PRINCE2 project management methodology. Use the process checklist to get started now.
But don't do it alone!
Let Motion take the guesswork out of managing your projects with AI-driven project management.