Next week Wednesday I will be giving an evening workshop on Microsoft Project. As I am preparing it, I browsed through available Microsoft Project files to see how others use the application. With complex software like MS Project is, that sometimes gives nice insights. Since I train PRINCE2 on a regular basis, the ‘Projects in Controlled Environments methodology‘ mpp caught my attention. I am not at all questioning the mpp author’s project management skills, but his or her PRINCE2 project template could be a lot better.
Immediately obvious were lots of mistakes against PRINCE2’s naming. The OGC methodology does not know a “Startup Meeting”, there are no “Artifacts” and no “Appoint Project Manager” activities, nor would that activity be part of the “Direction Process”. Rather, the startup meetings are all bundled in the activities under the “Starting up a Project” process; one of which is “Appoint the Executive and Project Manager”. Following the PRINCE2 process you will not find “artifacts”. The original author probably is referring to the 26 management products PRINCE2:2009 knows. Lastly, when going through the notes in the file being discussed, you’ll find that, according to the mpp author, “PRINCE2 differs from the Project Management Institute (PMI) PMBOK approach in that it focuses on artifacts rather than processes.” That is just wrong. PRINCE2 describes complete processes in detail (Starting up a Project, Initiating a Project, Controlling a Stage, Managing Product Delivery, Managing a Stage Boundary and Closing a Project, all governed by Directing a Project) and it uses Management Products (the Artifacts I suppose) to hold the information which the PM gets by doing all the activities. So, PRINCE2 surely does describe activities within processes and you could argue that it even is more process oriented than PMI is.
Furthermore, looking at the project file from a technical point of view, I find various things wrong with it. There’s way too many unnecessary links between tasks (see image). For example, each of the entries under “Stage 1 (Planning)” (is this PRINCE2?) are linked to a Project Board approval task, which creates a ragweb of lines all going to the same dependent task (see image on the right). That’s ill MS Project practice. Stage n+1 (huh?!) furthers this approach. Tststs. When you create your project file, don’t link all tasks because you think that is how it should be done. Don’t link because you suspect that all tasks in a Gantt chart need to be as linked up as possible. In fact, turn it quite around: link tasks only when there is an immediate and urgent reason to do so. I.e. a milestone marking the end of a stage for example. I would also create most tasks as “Fixed Work”, instead of the default “Fixed Duration”. Most of my clients pay for work, not for duration, which means I should take care the former stays correct, rather than the latter.
Okays. Seems like the author does not really know PRINCE2, nor does he or she get the hang of Microsoft’s excellent Project tool. That is the easy part of this post: giving critical commentary on another persons work. Can I do better?
Since I thought the Microsoft-hosted project file was such an abomination of what PRINCE2 and correct usage of Microsoft Project is about, I decided to create a template myself – one which not only shows the complete and correct PRINCE2:2009 process, but one which also shows how Microsoft Project should be used. Is it perfect? No, far from it. You do need to take the project’s approach into account eventually, so you would need to add your project’s stages and of course the specific products which the project will create in order to get to the end-result. You should also tailor the project file to your project’s environment – isn’t that a PRINCE2:2009 principle by the way? – since my remastered mpp has over 43md (!) of project management tasks alone and that’s probably too much to ask for all but the larger projects. I do think that it gives quite a good overview of what needs to be done at what moment from the British methodology’s point of view.
So, is it better than what you can find on Office.com? Without any hesitation, I can easily say: you bet!
All of the below are Microsoft Project 2010 versions.
This is the original file: Bad bad Microsoft Project PRINCE2 document
This is a quickly made improved version: Technically Better Microsoft Project PRINCE2 document
And this ladies and gentlemen… this is The Ultimate PRINCE2 Microsoft Project Template
I got some requests to make the Ultimate one compatible with Microsoft Project 2007: right here.
Feel free to comment and / or visit The Tools explaining the use of Microsoft Project in a series of articles.