What are the characteristics of a PRINCE2 Project?  What exactly defines a project? Or put another way what makes a project different from business as usual?

Business as usual is what PRINCE2 describes as what an organization does on a day to day basis. The normal or the routine operations that they use to run their business. Projects are what organizations use when they want to do something different.  Organizations need to balance running operations (business as usual) with changing the business (projects). PRINCE2 defines 5 characteristics that make projects different from BAU

1 – PRINCE2 Projects are about Change

Projects are what organizations use to introduce change. Projects allow organizations to introduce new business products, systems, procedures, business requirements etc in a controlled manner. Once the project has delivered its outputs they then become the norm – the business as usual.

2 –  PRINCE2 Projects are Temporary

They deliver the outputs and then disband. They should have a defined start, middle and END. They should not just run on and on. Ever heard the questions asked of a project such as “whatever happened to that project” or “is that project finished”. Well in PRINCE2 they would not be asked as there would be a formal project closure that would then be communicated to the stakeholders.

3 – PRINCE2 Projects are Cross-Functional

They will involve people who may never have worked with each other before. They come together on the project for the temporary period of time. That could be people from different departments, different organizations or even different countries. This means the project management team structure is different from the organization’s normal line management structure.

4 – PRINCE2 Projects are Unique

Organizations may run many similar projects again and again but there will always be some aspect of the project that will be different from what they have done before. Take my back ground in distribution. One of our biggest projects every year was Christmas. It was a very similar project every year (Christmas is always on the 25th of December!) but every year it would be unique. Different people involved, different budgets, different customer requirements etc. So you can see there will always be some aspect that is different from what we have done previously.

5 – PRINCE2 Projects are Uncertain

Because of all these other characteristics that then makes projects more uncertain than what we do in business as usual. Projects in their very nature have a higher degree of uncertainty than the normal. We can put a plan in place but we can’t be certain we will get to where we want to. So when thinking about our projects we have to make sure we control that uncertainty as this will give us a better chance of reaching our objectives. So you can see – as PRINCE2 says – projects are different from the organizational norm.