PRINCE2 project management – can this be applied to the private sector?

Launched in 1989, PRINCE (Projects IN Controlled Environments), and its subsequent iterations, has grown to become the standard project management methodology used extensively in the public sector. Notable users include the UK Government and the United Nations. However, PRINCE2 is not as widely used in the private sector. 

Within this sector there is a view that PRINCE2 is a complicated ‘belt and braces’ methodology that should only be adopted where cost is almost of no consideration in the rarefied world of public sector contracting. It’s easy to see how that could become a truism, given the almost weekly reports in the press of one large public project after another suffering huge cost and time overruns. Whilst this might make for good headlines, it can be a gross distortion of the truth.

Very many public sector projects do run on time and on budget – but this doesn’t make for good headlines By the same token, very many private sector projects overrun both cost and budget. For example, the Programme Management Institute reported that for every $1bn invested in the United States in the private sector, $122m was wasted due to poor project performance. A survey carried out by Geneca suggests that three-quarters of business and IT executives anticipate that their current software projects will fail.

Providing routes to success in the private sector

PRINCE2 is the distillation of years of experience and best practice in the profession. It’s a guide that offers the opportunity to learn from others’ mistakes and their inventiveness. Nigel Bennett, consulting director, was appointed as a member of the authoring team to update PRINCE2 alongside Phillip Stanton and Robert Buttrick. This latest edition is due to be released summer 2017. The new edition of the methodology takes pains to not be prescriptive in its application - but to be stringent with the principles and concepts it contains. It is this aspect of the methodology that will provide a route to success.

This new edition of PRINCE2 may now appeal more, and be better suited to, the private sector in many ways. These organisations are less likely to be ingrained hierarchies and bureaucracies than those in the public sector. It is the existence of these restrictions that cause a great deal of the burdensome processes that some public sector organisations are prone to. So, a forward thinking private sector business that uses a well-defined, robust yet light touch methodology such as PRINCE2 should be able to break up the myths around project failure and the perception that these are simply bureaucratic tools. 

A famous poster from the 1990s read “If you think taking care of health and safety at work is costly, try having an accident”. The same argument could be applied to project management methodologies: If you think using PRINCE2 is costly, try having a multi-million pound cost overrun on a poorly governed project.

Act today; shape tomorrow.

For further information on how RSM can help you with your projects and programmes or on the Prince2 2017 update which our consulting director, Nigel Bennett, has recently authored, please contact Nigel Bennett.