PRINCE2® and the Business Analyst
PRINCE2 (Projects IN Controlled Environments) is a product-based project management methodology which has been used extensively by the UK Government since 1989 and is widely recognized and used in the private sector, both in the UK and internationally. PRINCE2 is a structured methodology including roles, responsibilities, templates, pre-defined stages and processes for managing projects; it complements and can incorporate the standards and practices outlined in the PMI PMBOK® Guide and the IIBA BABOK® Guide.
So why is PRINCE2, a project management methodology, relevant to business analysts? Besides the fact that many business analysts often assume the project management role on small scale projects or projects in their discovery stages, the premise of PRINCE2 planning is product-based. The primary role of the business analyst is to understanding the business requirements as they relate to the product being developed by the project. Business analysts facilitate the evaluation of product alternatives in order for the business to choose the most effective or efficient direction.
PRINCE2 methodology is based on seven principles two of which are of particular relevant to the role of the business analyst: (1) Continued business justification and (2) Focus on products and their quality.
Continued Business Justification
A principle of PRINCE2 methodology is for projects to demonstrate continued business justification through out the project lifecycle. Projects are the building blocks to realizing strategic plans. Why else would an organization invest financial and human capital into projects that yield low business results? And yet it happens. Organizations with poor project evaluation techniques often allow projects to proceed without strategic justification. Where there is poor strategic alignment and limited business value, organizations would be better served to avoid or cancel projects. In PRINCE2 a senior-level business user defines the project’s product; specifies the benefits; and is held accountable to demonstrate the benefits are realized beyond the project lifecycle.
Project business value is documented in the outline Business Case created during the project start up phase; further refined in more detail during the initiation stage; and updated throughout the project at each stage end. The Business Case drives project decision making to ensure alignment with business objectives and desired benefits. Keeping in mind that projects are initially planned in the face of uncertainty, assumptions may later be found to be incorrect and the original business justification therefore may no longer be valid. Business justification is continually assessed in PRINCE2 projects by updating the Business Case at the end of each project phase.
The primary role of the business analyst is to elicit business requirements and evaluate alternatives that provide the most business value. This is done by looking at the highest revenue potential or the lowest operational cost or the greatest customer service value, etc. The ability to analyze the organization’s strategic business needs, understand the product that will deliver the desired business value, and develop the Business Case are fundamental skills for the business analyst.
To complement the Business Case, a Benefits Review Plan is created during the initiation stage to outline when benefits will be realized and how they will be measured. As most project teams are disbanded before project benefits are realized, it is important that a senior-level business representative accept responsibility for executing the Benefits Review Plan.
Focus on products and their quality
If not well managed, projects can easily shift focus on activities or technical accomplishments and forget to focus on the actual product the project was formed to deliver. The project’s product and the business value it is purported to achieve are the focus for planning and executing a PRINCE2 project.
Stakeholders can interpret the purpose of the project in varying ways in the absence of a clear and commonly held understanding of the project’s product. The requirements elicitation effort can often uncover differing stakeholder expectations for a project which, if not recognized and addressed, may result in unwieldy scope and stakeholder management challenges. PRINCE2 projects describe the project’s product during the start-up phase with a more detailed breakdown of the product done during the subsequent project initiation phase to ensure a clearly defined product scope.
There are several key quality planning and control tools used by PRINCE2 to define and control the project’s product baseline:
- The Quality Management Strategy outlines the quality planning approach, quality control activities (procedures, processes, templates, forms, etc.), tools and techniques, records, timing, roles and responsibility for quality activities. The project manager or quality assurance lead may have responsibility to prepare the strategy, but the business analyst can add value with a review to ensure quality assurance plans align with the customer’s product expectation.
- The Configuration Management Strategy defines how the product baseline and related documentation will be controlled and how changes to the project’s product will be managed. Again, the business analyst should review the strategy to ensure adequate controls will be in place around the product baseline.
- A Product Breakdown Structure decomposes the project’s product into smaller, manageable components. Corresponding descriptions are prepared to define the detailed specifications.
- A Product Flow Diagram re-arranges the products identified in the Product Breakdown Structure into the development sequence, highlighting the product dependencies. Sometimes there is a mandatory order as to how the products are to be developed whereas other times, the sequencing is discretionary.
- The Configuration Items Records identifies each product or configuration item and the relationships between them. It is used to track history, status, versions and variants.
- The Quality Register is a diary of planned and executed quality events (workshops, reviews, testing, inspections, etc.) and includes information such as the product information, quality activities, roles and responsibilities, quality activity dates (planned, forecast, actual) and result.
- An Issue Log records all change requests, items off-specification and problems or concerns including a description of the issue, priority, severity and status.
Projects provide the mechanism by which organizations achieve strategic vision. While a senior level business user has the responsibility to clearly define the project’s product, identifying the expected benefits and stating the customer quality expectations, the business analyst can play a lead role in eliciting and documenting this information. Revisiting the Business Case and the Benefits Review Plan at the end of each project stage ensures the project remains justified. Business analysts who have the skills and experiences to understand strategic business plans and the value projects bring to realizing strategy are well positioned to undertake many of the processes outlined in the PRINCE2 project management methodology.
Roxane Fast, CMA, PMP, Registered PRINCE2 Practitioner
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