In September 2023, PeopleCert, the PRINCE2 accreditation body released the latest update to PRINCE2, the best practice project management methodology, popular in the UK, Europe, and Australia. PRINCE2 7 – standing for 7th edition – comes 6 years after the 6th edition release in 2017.
PRINCE2® 7 Managing Successful Projects (ISBN 978-9925-34-450-5), is the title of the latest edition which comes bundled with the PRINCE2 Foundation exam in digital form, and forms part of our latest instructor-led PRINCE2 7 courses.
This article explores what’s changed in PRINCE2 7th edition and offers some thoughts on why this latest release is so important in the project management arena.
There are 4 main areas which have changed in version 7 which will be described in detail below. These are:
- The addition of a ‘People’ element
- Renaming of ‘themes’ to ‘practices’
- Addition of new management approaches
- Simplification of the management products
The most important update within PRINCE2 7th edition is the addition of a chapter about People. This has always been a glaring omission in previous versions of PRINCE2 because people are at the heart of everything that happens within projects. It is people who form the project management team, people with whom the project management team must work and communicate with, and people who will use the outputs of the project to realize the expected outcomes and benefits.
Organizational and project ecosystems
Without all these stakeholders working and communicating well together, the project will become a failure. PRINCE2 7th edition describes both the organizational ecosystem (the existing organizational elements and external relationships), and the project ecosystems (those elements of the business directly involved in, or impacted by the project, and the associated users and suppliers.
Crucially, the success of the project will depend on how well the project establishes relationships with the organizations that support its delivery, and how well it fits into the organizational ecosystem to deliver the change.
One very interesting part of PRINCE2 7, is its emphasis on change management. Change management has always been regarded as requiring a separate set of skills and support infrastructure from projects. In fact, there are a whole range of change management certifications and courses to support professionals working as change managers.
PRINCE2 7th edition for the first time, is incorporating some of the elements of change management and ensuring these become part of the project’s responsibilities in the form of a change management approach. This ensures that a project decision-makers start thinking and planning the change management aspects of the project when the project is in its initiation stage.
PRINCE2 7th edition also discusses how an organization may have different cultures that exist within different parts of the organization. For a project to be effective, it must develop and maintain its own distinct culture but do so in ways that are aligned with the wider organizational ecosystem.
Another new area in PRINCE2 7th edition is its discussion of leadership. This is an area where the influence of agile principles becomes apparent. This is especially true when PRINCE2 7 discusses collaboration and co-creation, a specific form of collaboration where users and key influencers work together in the design of products. This requires ways of working to be agreed between both the organizational and project ecosystems.
Agile ideas have also influenced PRINCE2 7 with its emphasis on feedback in the context of collaborative working practices. Leadership, in PRINCE2 7, is about persuading, influencing, and co-creating, with an emphasis on managing key relationships and seeking regular feedback to ensure the teams remain aligned with the project’s objectives.
PRINCE2 7th edition provides general advice about leadership and identifies key aspects to be considered by professional involved in directing, managing, or delivering projects, but it does not go into details about how such professionals can develop and improve their leadership skills.
Integration with principles and practices
The people element has been incorporated throughout the remainder of the new PRINCE2 7th edition, especially in the principles and practices described in the book.
Renaming of ‘themes’ to ‘practices’
PRINCE2 6th edition had 7 themes, namely business case, organization, quality, plans, risk, change, and progress. In the 7th edition, themes are now known as ‘Practices’, and some of the names have been changed slightly. The new practices are business case, organization, quality, plans, risk, issues, and progress.
One part of the chapters about the Practices that has been changed is the dropping of the previous ‘minimum requirements’ for each theme, and the addition of one technique for each practice. In addition, there are the addition of multiple supporting techniques, such as best-case, expected-case, and worse-case scenarios for the benefits in the business case.
In addition, each theme now has a section about applying the practice in real-life which come with multiple scenarios based upon real-life case studies. These are a welcome addition for students preparing to sit their PRINCE2 certification examinations.
The final welcome change in the 7th edition is that the management product outlines are now included within each practice chapter, making it easier for readers to understand which management products are relevant to each practice.
Addition of new management approaches
Since the 6th edition, PRINCE2 has had the concept of a ‘management approach’ which is a plan for managing a specific aspect of project management. In version 6, these were: risks, change control, benefits, quality, and communications. In PRINCE2 7th edition, three new ones have been added: digital and data, commercial, and sustainability management approaches.
Digital and data management approach
With the advent of digital data and the related issues of security and privacy of data, the 7th edition provides a digital and data management approach which describes how digital technologies will be used to support project management and project work. It also describes how data and information will be created, used and managed across the project.
Commercial management approach
A strange omission in previous editions of PRINCE2, but a very welcome addition in the 7th edition is the commercial management approach. This covers all aspects of commercial management on the project, including market engagement, contract management, and procurement.
Previous editions always described PRINCE2 as operating with a customer/supplier context, with the supplier either part of the customer organization commissioning the project, or an external organization operating under a contractual arrangement. However, previous versions never described any part of the commercial aspects to project management.
Whilst the 7th edition does not provide detailed guidance for how to manage contracts or procurement, it does offer high level pointers to the important things that must be considered.
Sustainability management approach
PRINCE2 7th edition describes how many organizations today are likely to have sustainability objectives and commitment, such as the sustainable development goals provided by the United Nations.
To meet these requirements, it is important that project managers plan how such targets shall be met on their projects. To aid this, the new edition introduces a sustainability management approach to define the actions, reviews, and controls to ensure that these goals for the project are achieved. An important related change in the 7th edition, is the addition of a 7th project performance of sustainability, to go with the previous six (time, cost, scope, quality, risk, benefits), each having their own tolerance ranges to form the projects targets.
Simplification of the management products
PRINCE2 6th edition described 26 management products, and these were listed in detail in Appendix A of the PRINCE2 manual. In PRINCE2 6th edition, Appendix A now only contains 15 entries. Some (such as the product status account, and configuration item records) have been removed, and one has added (project log).
Many of the previous entries which previously had their own entry on Appendix A are now described as part of a larger management product. For example, the new project log contains the previously separate entries for the daily log, lessons log, issue register, quality register, and risk register.
The management products are also described in a more simplified way with the removal of the previous quality criteria applicable to each management product.
To become qualified with PRINCE2 7th edition some minor changes to the two PRINCE2 exams have been made.
PRINCE2 Foundation exam
The duration of 60 minutes has not changed, but the pass mark has increased from 55% to 60%, so candidates require a score of 36 marks out of 60 to pass.
PRINCE2 Practitioner exam
The duration of 150 minutes has not changed, but the pass mark has increased from 55% to 60%, and the number of marks available has also increased from 68 to 70. This means that candidates how require a score of 42 marks out of 70 to pass.
What’s not changed?
So, although we have just seen quite a lot being changed in the new 7th edition of PRINCE2, one could say that apart from some name changes, not a lot of PRINCE2 hasn’t changed in the 7th edition. The essential core of PRINCE2 remains the same.
The core of PRINCE2 is the same
PRINCE2 still remains a project management methodology, and it still has 7 principles, 7 processes, and 7 practices (formerly themes), and it still requires the method to be tailored to suit the project environment. The project management roles and responsibilities has remained fundamentally unaltered too.
The two main areas of PRINCE2 that have only seen minor changes in the 7th edition are:
The only thing within the principles that has changed is 2 minor name changes. The new names being ‘ensure continued business justification’ and ‘define roles, responsibilities, and relationships’ to reinforce the new People element. Other than name changes though, the principles remain the same as the previous edition.
Within the 7 processes, there are no substantive changes, only minor ones. The names of the processes remain the same, but some of the activities within each process have had names changes, and in some cases have additional activities.
One welcome minor change is the simplification of the responsibilities for each process. This is in the form of a RACI (responsible, accountable, consulted, informed) matrix and there is only one per process rather than one per activity as previously was the case.
I’ve been teaching PRINCE2 to students since 2006, and in that time, I have seen 4 revisions to PRINCE2. The previous one in 2017 was a hugely important revision because it focused on providing much more guidance on how to tailor PRINCE2 to suit different project contexts.
PRINCE2 7th edition continues with even more welcome improvements. It’s new focus on people fills in the biggest omission from previous editions. The addition of the new management approaches for data and digital management, commercial management, and sustainability management are also long overdue.
Its incorporation of change management concepts is perhaps the most interesting new addition. Whether this is a sign that the project and change management professions will at some point become one remains to be seen, but bringing change management concepts into the project management world can only be a good thing and one that contributes to more successful project outcomes.
One final point is that PRINCE2 7th edition is a very welcome contribution to project management and the project managers’ toolkit today. Its incorporation of modern best practices in project management has meant that PRINCE2 remains at the forefront of what modern project management should be about. As such, applied wisely in organizations, PRINCE2 can only help to bring about better outcomes and realize better returns on investments from projects.