PRINCE2 stands for PRojects IN Controlled Environments and is a process-based method for effective project management. PRINCE2 is a de facto standard used extensively by the UK Government and is widely recognised and used in the private sector, both in the UK and internationally. PRINCE2 is a registered trademark of the Office of Government Commerce, an independent office of HM Treasury of the United Kingdom.

PRINCE (not PRINCE2) was originally developed in the 1980’s as a UK government method for managing I.T. projects. However, it soon became apparent that the same tools, techniques and principles that are useful when managing I.T. projects are the same tools, techniques and principles that are useful for managing any type of project: I.T. projects, construction projects, change projects etc.

For that reason, PRINCE underwent a re-write and became known as PRINCE2 (the second version of PRINCE2) when it was released in 1996. The key difference between PRINCE and PRINCE2 was that the latter became a generic project management framework, suitable for managing any type of project. PRINCE however was only a method suitable for managing I.T. projects. Since its first release in 1996, the PRINCE2 manual has been updated a number of times to reflect what are regarded as current best practices in project management. The most recent version of the PRINCE2 manual (Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2®) embodies the most up to date project management best practices.

PRINCE2 is now seen as the project management qualification of choice by employers in the UK and increasingly in Europe and other parts of the world. There are two levels of qualification in PRINCE2. The Foundation qualification and Practitioner qualification can only be taken by who have already passed the PRINCE2 Foundation examination.

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So what does PRINCE2 consist of? Firstly, PRINCE2 is principles-based. Everything in the PRINCE2 method is derived in some way from seven principles. These principles are universal and can be applied to any project, irrespective of geography, language or culture. Secondly, these principles are self-validating in that they have been based upon the experience of thousands of project managers managing tens of thousands of projects over many years, and so they embody best practices in project management. Thirdly, the principles empower practitioners. In other words, if you apply these principles to your project, it has a better chance of success.

Based upon these seven principles, there are seven themes. A theme in PRINCE2 is an aspect of project management that must be continuously and consistently addressed throughout the whole project. For example, management of risk, managing change, and controlling progress are some of the themes in PRINCE2.

Finally, there are seven processes. These processes describe the activities that must be done at different times and cover the activities required before a project starts, when initiating a project, when managing the work throughout the project, and the activities required when the project closes.

The project management framework known as PRINCE2 is based upon a set of principles. These principles are the bedrock and foundations upon which everything else in the framework is based.