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Project Management

Microsoft Project and PRINCE2 – A better template.

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. Bad example of linking MS Project tasks 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.

Enjoy! –

Feel free to comment and / or visit The Tools explaining the use of Microsoft Project in a series of articles.


17 thoughts on “Microsoft Project and PRINCE2 – A better template.

  1. Dear Joris

    The project document beyond the link “The Ultimate PRINCE2 Microsoft Project Template” can not be opened with MS Project 2010. Unfortunately, this is the only version I have.
    Would you be able to save and post this template in a newer version of MS Project?



    Posted by Ulrich | January 11, 2012, 18:33
    • Ulrich, the file was created with the English version of MS Project 2010. Maybe you are using another language version and it is giving conflicts there? Does anybody else have the same problem?

      Posted by Joris Verhuyck | January 15, 2012, 18:15
  2. Thanks alot for great work!

    Posted by Jonas H | February 13, 2012, 08:41
  3. Great template… thanks alot for sharing your work.

    Posted by Carlos costa | February 26, 2012, 16:07
  4. Fab! Well done and cheers for sharing what would otherwise take a lot of work!

    Posted by John | November 16, 2012, 10:39
  5. amazing template
    thanks a lot

    Posted by orenchen | May 16, 2013, 18:42
  6. Very good – I just tried the exact download you refer to, thanks for this – very useful

    Posted by Darren Ambrose | April 20, 2014, 18:17
  7. Thanks for the template – very helpful

    Posted by P. Conroy | April 26, 2014, 06:01
  8. Fantastic – just what I needed. Thank you.

    Posted by Paul Carr | May 22, 2014, 11:28
  9. Thank you very much, respectful effort, most appreciated

    Posted by Yasir | June 1, 2014, 10:04
  10. Hello…Could you please advise what is the difference in functionality, if any, between Microsoft Project and Prince2?
    Thank you.

    Posted by Bernie | November 20, 2014, 06:41
    • Bernie. Microsoft Project is a software application with which you can create project schedules by listing up all of your project’s constituent products in order to estimate them. Much like Microsoft Word allows you to create documents, Microsoft Project allows you to create project schedules. PRINCE2 on the other hand is a project management methodology. Its one of the two main traditional ones, along PMI’s PMBoK. It is a manual, created by project managers, which advises you which processes, themes and project management products should or could be created in any which project you run.

      Posted by Joris Verhuyck | December 19, 2014, 09:19
  11. I know this is a very old posting, but I have found it very, very, very helpful.

    The best methodology plan you have developed is amazing and I can tell it will help me alot… I just need to drive ms project better.

    I have a basic understanding, and can write projects from scratch including resource pooling, but I find it difficult to add to existing projects. Are you able to provide any pointers for adding extra stages to your ultimate plan? (where to insert, and which links to update?

    Posted by Alistair | April 14, 2015, 01:48
    • Thanks for the kind words. It is older already indeed. What PRINCE2 does basically, is to repeat the Controlling a Stage and Execute a Work Package by going through Managing a Stage Boundary. The Managing a Stage Boundary basically is your actual plan for the next stage. Now, in practice, most companies I worked in refer to it as the “Initiating a Project” or even more plastically “Make sure we get the PID!”

      What I mean is: look at each phase as a seperate project, instead of just a phase. And each of these “projects” need to go through commitment, planning, risk identification, business case review etc. See what I mean?

      You can always use this as one of your quick references – never found a better one…
      https://hennyportman.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/ilx1.png (there’s beautifully printable PDF’s out there as well)

      Posted by Joris Verhuyck | April 15, 2015, 08:36
      • Wow, thanks for replying! Especially is such a clear, concise way.

        I have been working alongside a P2 practitioner and he cannot explain it that clearly!

        Thanks so much for your time. By being “older” do you mean there is a more up to date methodology?

        Can’t say it enough, Thanks

        Posted by Alistair | April 15, 2015, 11:27
      • Myea. I have the impression there’s a lot who do not seem to grasp PRINCE2’s “spirit”, despite their title. To their defense, (in a lot of companies) there is a huge gap between the methodology’s theory and day to day practicalities.

        With “older” I referred to the initial article. PRINCE2:2009 is still the most recent version, as well as the first version which is really fit for purpose imho. With which I mean, before 2009, PRINCE2 could be quite academic and administrative. 2009 changed that – and it all seems to fit together quite well. Of course there’s PMBoK too, but I only have a really high-level understanding of it. Boil it down to the basics though and they both actually are quite aligned. Myself, I find PRINCE2 easier to grasp – but that probably also is because I am more familiar with it.

        Posted by Joris Verhuyck | April 15, 2015, 15:07
  12. Joris thanks a lot, fantastic post and vary helpful template

    Posted by Federico | May 6, 2016, 06:25

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