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Interview with Jay Siegelaub on PRINCE2™

Today we are interviewing Jay Siegelaub, PMP®, PRINCE2™, MBA on the use of the PRINCE2™1 project management methodology to take a more strategic approach to project management.

First, a little about Jay:

Jay Siegelaub has over 30 years of experience delivering and supporting projects in governmental organizations, theJay Siegelaub pharmaceutical, financial services, and consumer products industries, for clients such as Sun Microsystems, NATO, the United Nations, IBM, and JPMorganChase.

In addition to training thousands of project managers, his responsibilities have included organizational change management and supporting clients in managing the “people” issues of business change initiatives.  He has authored seminal articles on project management, and often presents at conferences, including the PMI® North American Congress, ProjectWorld and ProjectSummit.

In addition to a PMP® certification, Jay has his MBA in Organization Management from New York University’s Stern School of Business, and is an accredited PRINCE2™ Instructor.  He has taught and consulted in PRINCE2™ since 1998.

Jay can be reached at

What is PRINCE2™?

Before we begin, a little background on PRINCE2™.  PRINCE2™, which stands for PRojects IN Controlled Environments, is a methodology for effective project management. PRINCE2™ is the de facto standard for project management used extensively by the UK government.  It is widely recognized throughout the UK and internally and is used extensively in the private as well as public sector.  It has also gained quite a bit of popularity in the United States.  The term “PRINCE2™” is a registered trademark of the UK government.  PRINCE2™ is managed by the APM Group which is headquartered in the United Kingdom.  APM Group manages the PRINCE2™ certification process.

PRINCE2™ provides many benefits for managing projects, including:

  • A controlled, process-driven approach from start to finish
  • Regular reviews of project progress against the project plan and the business case
  • Flexible decision points for the project
  • Management controls for deviations from the project plan
  • Involvement of stakeholders at the appropriate time during the project implementation
  • Strong communication channels between the project team members and the rest of the organization
  • Agreement on the required quality of the project at the beginning and continuous monitoring of quality throughout the project

PRINCE2™ is certainly not in conflict with the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBoK® Guide) and, in fact, the two support each other quite nicely. PRINCE2™ is based on the principles of the PMBoK® Guide. PRINCE2™ is a methodology, as opposed to PMBoK® which is a body of knowledge and is not a way of managing projects but rather a sourcebook for project management.

Now….on to the interview!

Gina: Welcome Jay!  Thanks for talking to us today.  I’d like to start by asking you to talk a bit about PRINCE2™ and the value-add it provides Project Managers.

Jay:  PRINCE2™, for me, is simply about best practices for managing projects. I have been teaching it for over 10 years, with both new and experienced Project Managers – and they all get great value out of it.  For newbies it presents structure for identifying the important aspects of a project, then planning and managing their projects.  For experienced folks PRINCE2™ reinforces things they already do well, and helps them focus on areas that are rushed through, or in which they have less experience.  In both cases it provides confidence that they are doing what they need to do to move their projects towards a successful conclusion.  No methodology can guarantee success – but PRINCE2™ will help Project Managers manage the pieces under their control and help them identify the risks associated with the pieces outside their control.

Gina: How might an organization go about incorporating PRINCE2™ processes into their current project management processes?

Jay: There is a substantial manual that describes how PRINCE2™ works – but their best bet is to attend a class where their Project Managers can really learn how to use it effectively.  It’s not a simple cookbook: you need to understand it to obtain its real value.  Many people who have taught themselves from the manual, or who have by-the-book trainers find it bureaucratic – but that means they’re not using it correctly.  The newest version of the Manual (2009 edition) emphasizes the need to tailor PRINCE2™ to the specific project environment, and to the organization in which it is situated.  I recently started a group on LinkedIn (for Project Managers accredited in PRINCE2™) called “PRINCE2-in-Practice,” to help practitioners apply it effectively.

Gina: Why do you believe PRINCE2™ is one of the better project management methodologies available for managing projects?

Jay:  PRINCE2™ is unique in its view of project management, particularly for its understanding that projects exist to solve business problems.   Projects are not done to come up with elegant technical products, but rather to produce clearly defined value for an organization (whether commercial, not-for-profit or governmental).  There are 3 key aspects that I don’t see in other methodologies that are critical to accomplishing this goal.  First and foremost is its emphasis on a project having and maintaining a business case – a clear justification for starting and continuing the project.  The business case drives the project.  Most project management approaches give a nod to the business case to start the project, but then forget that it exists after that point.  We’ll talk about this more later on.

The second aspect is tied to the first one: an appreciation that the classical “triple constraints” model is inadequate for understanding how the key performance factors play off against each other.  The classic model focuses on time, cost and scope; often quality will get added in.  Sometimes risk is included (identified as “risk tolerance,” for example).  But what is invariably missing is “benefits.”  It does an organization no good to deliver a project on time, on budget and to the defined scope, if that project isn’t contributing to the organization’s strategic objectives!  The Business Case is where those “benefits” are defined and managed. PRINCE2™ calls for those six performance measures to be planned, monitored and controlled throughout the project.

The third aspect has to do with management oversight and accountability.  Most project management approaches make reference to a “Sponsor,” with vaguely defined responsibilities (if any).  PRINCE2™ proposes a clear management structure that includes the critical stakeholders: the Business, representing the business case and organizational objectives; the User, representing the people who will work with the delivered products to generate the desired benefits; and the Supplier, those who will build those products.  As with all parts of PRINCE2™, this structure (they call it a “Project Board”) is presented as a best-case situation – but, most importantly, helps the Project Manager and senior management understand the involvement that is needed to bring projects to successful conclusions.
Gina: Tell us more about the “business case.”  I know that the existence of a business case is of importance in moving forward with a PRINCE2™ project.  How does this benefit the Project Manager, the project team, the stakeholders and the organization as a whole?  What is the project manager’s role in development of the business case?

Jay: PRINCE2™ identifies these key elements of a project that support benefits delivery:

  • A project’s output is any of the project’s technical deliverables (whether tangible or intangible)
  • An outcome is the result of the change derived from using the project’s deliverables
  • A benefit is the measurable improvement resulting from an outcome that is perceived as an advantage by one or more stakeholders (PRINCE2™, 2009 edition, Section 4.2.2)

Here is an example.

Output A new production plant is constructed and brought into operation.
Outcome More of the company’s products can be manufactured in the same time period.
Benefit The company can deliver more products to its customers, and sales revenues increase by 20%.

The ultimate goal is to increase sales – so the construction of the plant, by itself, delivers no value to the organization.  It is just a building filled with equipment. If the organization were unable to use it (or if it no longer had a need for it), then it would sit there as a big expense with no counterbalancing income derived from it – even it were built perfectly according to specifications!

With these elements in mind, the Project Manager’s role must go beyond managing a technical development effort.  If the primary purpose of the project is to deliver value, then the Project Manager’s role is to help ensure that value is delivered.  Clearly the Project Manager does not have control over many factors that contribute to the successful use of deliverables – for example, the people who will define what the value is; or those who will actually work with the deliverables; or those who have to make sure the deliverables operate properly.  But the Project Manager is responsible for helping to keep all parties – especially those paying for the project, those who have to use the deliverables, and those doing the development work– focused on this expectation.

The Project Manager’s role must go beyond “creating the correct technical product” and become “delivering a solution to the organization.”  Project Managers who understand this responsibility position themselves in their organizations as business solution providers, rather than simply technical delivery resources.

Gina comment: This is certainly key to a successful project management role.  It helps Project Managers to be seen an integral part of the organization – a strategic component of the organization meeting its long term goals and objectives.

Gina:  I understand you are writing a book about business cases and their importance on projects.  Can you share a bit more with us?

Jay: The book is desperately needed.  When I was preparing my proposals I was a bit surprised at how little there is on this subject at all – let alone from the Project Manager’s point of view.  PRINCE2™ does a decent job providing an overview of the business case topic, but I found in teaching PRINCE2™ there were many dimensions to defining and managing a business case that that I needed to add to give a full picture of how a project is tied to the business.

When I began doing project management I quickly realized that the projects were all about the business – but I really didn’t know how businesses were run. So the solutions I came up with were based on information I was getting from the business – often inadequate or incomplete – and from my technical imagination.  But that’s not the way to come up with good answers.  So I pursued my MBA (while doing my day job) so I could better understand what my customers wanted and needed.  Even before I discovered PRINCE2™ (in 1998, just after it took its current form), I was teaching Project Managers to focus on business needs.  When I was introduced to PRINCE2™ I said “this is just what I need to explain the links.”  Over the years I found I had to supplement the PRINCE2™ Manual with my business knowledge to clarify those business links.  The book will put those ideas on paper, and is pushing me to explain them in even greater depth.  I will also present case examples (from the commercial, not-for-profit and governmental worlds), and a case study that readers can work through on their own.  There will I also be a full Business Case course tied to the book.

If your readers are interested, I have written a number of papers on the above topics: (a) how PRINCE2™ complements the PMBoK, (b) the Six Constraints, (c) Project Boards and (d) the Business Case.  Anyone who would like copies of any (or all) of these papers can write Jay at

Thanks for your time today Jay.  This has certainly been informative!  Good luck with the book – we are looking forward to reading it when it is complete and published. It will certainly add tremendous value to the project management profession.

Resources for further information on PRINCE2™:

UK Government Website

The Stationery Office Online Bookshop

APM Group

Project Management Institute PMBoK® Guide

1 PRINCE2™ is a registered Trademark of the Office of Government Commerce, United Kingdom