19 February, 2024

PRINCE2 7th Edition: The Top 10 Changes You Need to Know


There are very few Project Management methods and reference books that are near-universally known. Among them are the PMBOK Guide and the Scrum Guide. And then there is the PRINCE2 guide. So, the publication of the new PRINCE2 7th edition in 2023 was big news.

The guide is called PRINCE2 7: Managing Successful Projects and it marks a significant evolution from its predecessor, 2017’s Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2. In this article, we’ll explore where the new PRINCE2 7th edition is the same, and what are the top 10 differences you need to know about.

Here’s what I will cover:

PRINCE2 7th Edition: The Top 10 Changes You Need to Know

And, along the way, I’ll be numbering my top 10 changes. Let’s go!

What is PRINCE2?

PRINCE2 is a project management methodology. It was originally designed for traditional (rather than Agile) projects, but it has been evolving. More about that, below.

Principally, however, PRINCE2 places a strong emphasis on project governance. The original PRINCE methodology was developed in the UK, to reduce failure rates among Government projects. Over the years, it’s been through a number of changes. The biggest of these came with the name change to PRINCE2.

In the UK it is mandatory for public sector projects to use PRINCE2 as the foundational methodology

Okay, But I don’t live in the UK, nor work in the Public Sector

That’s fine. But be aware that, firstly, many commercial organizations use PRINCE2. Some of them because they work with the public sector, and others because they like the methodology.

And second, PRINCE2 is also used in other countries. If you are serious about project management, you need at least to know the bones of what PRINCE2 is. The best place to start is with our resource guide and roadmap, I Want to Study for PRINCE2.

The History of PRINCE2

The predecessor of PRINCE2 started life in the mid-1970s as a methodology called PROMPT: Project Resource Organisation Management and Planning Techniques. As it evolved through the 1980s, it became PROMPT II (of course it did) and then got taken over by the now-defunct Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA).

They renamed PROMPT II as PRINCE: PROMPT II IN the CCTA Environment (catchy!). But others noticed how clunky the acronym was and soon retconned the acronym as a back-formation to Projects IN Controlled Environments.

And so it remained, until a big overhaul in 1996, when it became PRINCE2 – the methodology formerly known as PRINCE (Badum tish…). Some argue that the biggest change came in the 2017 update, but, for me, the 2009 revision took us to PRINCE2.5. But, perhaps the biggest evolution came with the development of PRINCE2 Agile in 2013.

With various ownership changes, the referencing of different versions was with the publication date. Hence my reference to the previous edition to PRINCE2 7th Edition as PRINCE2 2017. However, when PeopleCert took ownership of the methodology, they reprinted the 2017 materials at PRINCE2 6th Edition in 2020.

But, it was in 2023 that PeopleCert published something new. Which brings us to PRINCE2 7th Edition.

PRINCE2 7th Edition is Fundamentally the Same

First, PRINCE2 is fundamentally the same. This is an incremental evolution of the guidance. But there are many welcome improvements.

The methodology still contains:

  1. Project Context
    This remains the same
  2. Seven Process
    And these are the same seven processes:
    • Starting Up a Project (SU)
    • Initiating a Project (IP)
    • Directing a Project (DP)
    • Controlling a Stage (CS)
    • Managing Product Delivery (MP)
    • Managing Stage Boundaries (SB)
    • Closing a Project (CP)
  3. Seven Principles
    And these are the same seven principles:
    • Continued Business Justification
    • Learn from Experience
    • Define Roles and Responsibilities
    • Manage by Stages
    • Manage by Exception
    • Focus on Products
    • Tailor to the Environment
  4. Seven Practices
    These have been renamed from the seven Themes of the previous edition and there is one practice that has changed from the earlier themes:
    • Business Case
    • Organisation
    • Quality
    • Planning
    • Risk
    • Issues (was Change)
    • Progress
  5. Certification
    There remain two levels of certification, with very similar examinations:
    • PRINCE2® 7 Foundation
    • PRINCE2® 7 Practitioner

The Big Changes

Most of these represent matters of significant principle, like the addition of People to Project Context, Principles, Practices, and Processes.

But what few people are mentioning is that PRINCE2 7th edition is both slimmer and leaner. It is slimmer in the page count, from 406 pages (in my 2017 edition) to 347 pages: svelte! And the writing is leaner too, being just a little easier to read. This will especially help non-native English speakers.

PRINCE2 7th Edition Change #1: Slimmer and Leaner

Under Big Changes, we will look at:

  1. Definition of Project Management
  2. People
  3. Performance Targets: Sustainability
  4. Digital and Data Management
  5. Project Evaluation
  6. Change Management

New, Wider Definition of Project Management

Project management is the application of methods, tools, techniques, and competencies to enable the project to meet its objectives.

Definition of Project Management
PRINCE2 7th Edition

The old definition was:

Project management is the planning, delegating, monitoring and control of all aspects of the project, and the motivation of those involved, to achieve the project objectives within the expected performance targets for time, cost, quality, scope, benefits, and risk.

Definition of Project Management
PRINCE2 2017 Edition

I think this change is consistent with – and perhaps emblematic of – a significant shift. PRINCE2 has always been rooted in predictive project management. Whilst it was never formally ‘predictive only’, its origins predate even the earliest pre-Agile methods like Rapid Application Development and Rational Unified Process.

So, whilst formally paradigm-agnostic, there was clearly a need for a PRINCE2 Agile certification to take up the adaptive slack.

Not only does this new edition start to re-balance PRINCE2 with a few more, distinctly-Agile tools. But the flavor is much less predictive, and more obviously hybrid.

PRINCE2 7th Edition Change #2: A Broader Definition of Project Management

People

Projects deliver change. This will impact business-as-usual (BAU) processes, policies, activities, and responsibilities. These can be small, incremental changes, or massive transformations. However, you can be sure that they will impact people:

  • Staff, colleagues, and their families
  • Customers and clients
  • Suppliers and contractors
  • And a huge range of other stakeholders

And then, there is your project team. How well you deliver your project, implement the change, and therefore how well you deliver benefits and value, depends on the motivation, commitment, and capabilities of your project team.

People are the major factor in project success. And now, at last, they are now formally integrated into the PRINCE2 approach.

PRINCE2 7th Edition Change #3: The Addition of People as a Fifth Integrated Element

Performance Targets: Sustainability

In the previous edition, Project Performance was described in terms of six dimensions. The PRINCE2 7th Edition introduces a seventh: sustainability. I think this is an excellent move. The seven Performance Targets are:

  1. Benefit
  2. Costs
  3. Time
  4. Quality
  5. Scope
  6. Sustainability
  7. Risk

However, I would like to see the PRINCE2 8th Edition go further, and introduce an 8th dimension to this: Social Value.

PRINCE2 7th Edition Change #4: The Addition of a Sustainability Performance Target

Digital and Data Management

The PRINCE2 7th Edition was written just a year or two too early to discuss Artificial Intelligence. But, it does recognize the importance, for Project Management, of digital and data management.

This describes how data and information can be managed within the project; how it can be:

  • Created and sourced
  • Stored and secured
  • Quality assured
  • Analyzed, curated, and presented
  • Used for decision-making and managing risk

All this, in support of the project, to make delivery easier for the project team, and oversight more robust for the governance tier.

PRINCE2 7th Edition Change #5: The Addition of Processes for the Management of Digital Data.

Project Evaluation

PRINCE2 now has a more holistic approach to evaluating projects. Rather than simply prioritizing financial benefit, PRINCE2 7th edition asks us to assess investments from multiple perspectives. The case for an investment can now rest equally on things like:

  • Financial performance
  • Strategic impact
  • Macro-economic considerations
  • Implementation challenge
  • Wider commercial viewpoint

PRINCE2 7th Edition Change #6: Explicit Broadening of Project Evaluation Criteria

Change Management

Change Management refers to the way we move an organization from its present state to the planned future state.

Now, the PRINCE2 7th Edition integrates Change Management into our Project Initiation Documentation. We need to define the desired state for the organization, which will deliver the project’s benefits. We must outline our change management approach, including any interim stages, for how we will achieve the target state.

PRINCE2 7th Edition Change #7: Incorporation of our Approach to Change Management for the Project

Smaller Changes

Methods

Different sets of techniques are listed for things like investment appraisal, risk management, and project monitoring. For me, the most eye-catching additions are the use of:

  • Options analysis in investment appraisal
  • Pre-mortem in risk identification
  • Retrospectives in progress monitoring
  • Team Managers in the descriptions of roles and responsibilities

PRINCE2 7th Edition Change #8: Addition of Numerous Project Management Methods and Tools

Principles

I said above that the Seven Principles are unchanged. And they are, in meaning. But, for the pedantic among us, I will note the small changes in wording:

  • ‘continued business justification’ has changed to ‘ensure continued business justification’
  • ‘defined roles and responsibilities’ has changed to ‘define roles, responsibilities, and relationships’

Do you agree?
Nothing to see here, let’s move on.
And I’m not going to number this!

Themes to Practices

I also would not bother to number the change in terminology from 7 Themes to 7 Practices. The cynic in me would not that if I like the idea of five Ps for the integrated elements of PRINCE2 7th Edition, then I am sure the authors did too. Having four Ps and a T would have been ugly!

But the change of greater substance is the replacement of ‘Change’ with ‘Issues’. Issues often cause a need for change, but not always. So, Issue Management is a broader and more valuable theme (sorry, practice), that contains change control. And, regular readers may recall, back when PMI’s PMBOK Guide was in its 6th Edition, I described Issue Management as ‘PMI’s Missing Process’. I stand by my assertion that this is an under-valued skill set in Project Management, and welcome this change.

PRINCE2 7th Edition Change #9: The Introduction of Issue Management

Organizational Design and Development

I do rather like the introduction of a five-step organizational design and development process:

  • Understand the organizational ecosystem
  • Design the project ecosystem
  • Develop the project ecosystem
  • Manage changes to the project ecosystem
  • Transition the project into the organizational ecosystem

It’s not spectacular in the sense of being innovative or surprising. But it is good to see it there and an important reminder to practitioners of an important responsibility.

PRINCE2 7th Edition Change #10: The Introduction of an Organizational Design and Development Process

New Definitions

There are some new definitions that I like. But I don’t consider them significant enough to list them in my top 10. I like the changes to the Project Product Description, budget, and off-specification, and the small changes to the Identify and Assess stages of the 5-step risk management process. But, I think the best changes are to the definition of scope and the expansion of the quality management process

Scope

Old definition:

For a plan, the sum total of its products and the extent of their requirements. It is described by the product breakdown structure for the plan and associated product descriptions.

New definition:

The sum of the product, delivery, and management activities represented by an approved plan and its product descriptions and work package descriptions.

Quality Management

The old process had two elements. The new one adds a third, which I have highlighted:

  1. Quality planning
  2. Quality assurance
  3. Quality control

There are lots of other, even smaller changes

But my life is too short and, frankly, none represents a reason to upgrade your old PRINCE2 manual to PRINCE2 7th Edition. Especially not at the shocking cost of GB£90 and, in the US… Well, it’s not even available yet from the amazon.com!

Why Change?

Do I really need to answer this question? Is the world standing still?

No. We are seeing:

  • Massive environmental shifts, like deforestation, species loss, and climate change
  • New social concerns and ethical challenges
  • Evolving consumer demands and the corporate responses that go with them
  • Emerging technologies, especially in the digital space
  • New governmental regulations to meet these changes, and
  • New ways of working for Project teams, to address all this

And, if I am cynical, the PRINCE2 7th Edition authors have probably taken note of the Project Management Institute’s increasing focus on soft skills (‘Power Skills’), like leadership, in the formation of their ‘people element’.

There is clearly a strong case for PRICE2 to evolve and, in my assessment, every change here has been an improvement.

How Have the PRINCE2 Certification Exams Changed?

There are still two tiers of PRINCE2 certification: the Foundation and Practitioner levels. The changes are minor:

PRINCE2 Foundation

The format of the PRINCE2 Foundation level examination remains the same for the PRINCE2 7th Edition. However, the pass score has been raised from 55% to 60%. This requires a minimum of 36 correct answers from 60 questions, in a 60-minute closed-book exam.

PRINCE2 Practitioner

The format of the PRINCE2 Practitioner level examination now has 70 questions (rather than 68), under the PRINCE2 7th Edition. The pass score has been raised from 55% to 60%. This requires a minimum of 42 correct answers from the 70 questions, in a 150-minute open-book exam. The exam will revolve around one of four scenarios described in the new PRINCE2 manual, to add a practical dimension to the assessment.

My Thoughts…

Does the raising of pass marks mean a raising of standards? It’s impossible to say whether this is true. But it is clearly what PeopleCert wants to signal.

PRINCE2 7th Edition Change BONUS: A Raising of Certification Pass Marks

What are Your Thoughts about the New PRINCE2 7th Edition?

I’d love to read your thoughts, so leave a comment below, and I’ll be delighted to respond.

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Mike Clayton

About the Author...

Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to ProjectManager.com and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.
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