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The 10-Minute PRINCE2 Terminology Recap, In Preparation For A Job Interview

Updated on February 20, 2014
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Preparing For A Project Management Interview

If you've secured an interview for a position as a project manager, then you may feel like you've achieved a lot to get this far. Whilst it's true that you may have fought off a lot of competition to get to the interview stage, now comes the hardest part. The interviewer is probably going to be speaking to many other candidates and if you want to win yourself the job then you will need to stand out.

Many jobs now advertising for PRINCE2, and if you've gained the qualification then the interviewer is going to expect you to be able to answer questions about it. So before you go dusting off your old textbook, here is a shortcut to your revision. In this article I will recap the most commonly used terminology in PRINCE2, and what that terminology means.

Project Initiation Document

Type: Document

Description: A detailed document that outlines the background to the project, the scope, how it will be managed, project communications, and many other key facts before the core work begins. It needs to be agreed by the project board before work progresses.

When Used: Early on in the project before major work begins. Technically, it is created after the project start phase, and a key output of the project initiation phase.

Business Case

Type: Document

Description: It is used to determine if there is any benefit to carrying out the project. It is reviewed throughout every stage of a project to make sure it is still valid, and that the project should continue through to the next stage.

When Used: At the very start of the project.

Project Mandate

Type: Document or Short Written Instructions

Description: Every project needs a purpose. The mandate is a written statement made by the person requesting the project, to explain what they need and why.

When Used: It is written at the very beginning of every project.

Project Brief

Type: Document

Description: This is an expanded, more detailed description of the project from what was originally set out in the project mandate. It outlines the requirements of the project.

When used: It is written during the first phase of the project.

Project Approach

Type: Document

Description: This outlines how you will carry out the project. It might include more technical detail about what approach you will take and why, and it may include alternatives you rejected along the way.

When used: It is used once the project brief has been created. The approach is incorporated into the Project Initiation Document later on.

Request For Change

Type: Process and Document

Description: The scope and plan of a project is created at the start in PRINCE2. Once that has been agreed, any suggestion to make a change - small or large - must be submitted via a formal request to the project manager, where it is assessed and approved (or declined). The request for change is often submitted on a form with a specific template design, so that each change request has the same set of information.

When Used: Once the work on the project has begun. It remains in place throughout the rest of the project.

Quality Plan

Type: Document

Description: PRINCE2 encourages project managers to think about how they are going to achieve a project that not only meets the goals set, but delivers to a high standard of quality. The Quality Plan is a specific document to outline what approach the project will take to achieve, measure and monitor quality.

When Used: It is created early on in the project and incorporated into the Project Initiation Document.

Change Log

Type: Document

Description: This is a record of every change that has been requested on a project. It contains high level detail such as description, status (e.g. approved, declined), and date requested. It is often stored in a spreadsheet for easy editing.

When Used: It is used throughout the project, and is kept up to date by the project manager.

Quality Log

Type: Document

Description: Similar to a change log, a quality log stores all high level information related to the monitoring of quality throughout the project, and any major work related to quality (for example, testing).

When used: The quality log is maintained throughout the project

Risk Log

Type: Document

Description: A risk log lists all risks on a project, together with key information such as severity of the risk, any tasks assigned to manage the risk, and details of the risk owner.

When used: The risk log is used throughout the project

Quality Review

Type: Process

Description: A quality review is something that is designed at the start of the project as a way of measuring and managing the quality of the work throughout the project. For example, it may determine what criteria needs to be met before any item of work can be signed off on a project.

When used: It is decided on during the project initiation, and is maintained throughout the project

Project Tolerance

Type: Decision

Description: Project tolerance is the 'slack' you are given within a project to manage it without the intervention of senior executives. This slack can be in terms of time, quality or budget. For example, you may have a time tolerance of 10 days. That means your project can be delivered up to 10 days early or 10 days late, without needing any senior management approval.

When used: Project tolerance is determined at the start of the project and approved by the project board.

Stage

Type: Process

Description: Every project is split into stages. This is really designed to keep control of the project and ensure it never goes off track. Each stage includes a review to check work completed to date, and to decide whether the project is ready to move onto the next stage. A project can have as many stages as it needs to successfully complete the work.

When used: Stages are a process that exists throughout the entire project

Workpackage

Type: Process

Description: When a project manager assigns out work to a team, they assign work packages rather than tasks. Workpackages are discrete, small pieces of work with a clear outcome. Workpackages are designed to put some ownership of the work into the hands of the team, and it should be easy for the teams to understand exactly what they need to deliver for each workpackage.

When Used: Workpackages are used during the central core of the project, after the project plan has been agreed and when task in that plan is carried out.

Workpackage Owner

Type: Person

Description: A workpackage owner is the named individual responsible for delivering a specific workpackage.

When used: Workpackage owners are assigned in the planning stages (the initiation stage) of the project

Product-Based Planning

Type: Process

Description: PRINCE2 emphasizes that planning should be focused around products to be delivered, rather than tasks to be undertaken. So product based planning is a process by which the project manager determines every product that needs to be delivered as part of the project.

When Used: During the planning stage of a project

Communications Plan

Type: Document

Description: This forms part of the project initiation document, and it outlines how all communication will take place during the project.

When used: During the early stages of the project (the project initiation stage).

Product Breakdown Structure

Type: Technique

Description: A product breakdown structure is a technique used to determine what products will be delivered as part of the project, and is part of the product-based planning aspect of PRINCE2. The structure is hierarchical, outlining parent (major) products and child (minor) products.

When Used: The Product Breakdown Structure (PBS) is creating during the planning stage of a project.

Workpackage Breakdown Structure

Type: Technique

Description: Sometimes people confuse a Workpackage Breakdown Structure with a Product Breakdown Structure. However, a workpackage is about how work is grouped together into small packages to be delivered by a team, so it is not necessarily synonymous with a product. However, like a Product Breakdown Structure, a Workpackage Breakdown Structure is hierarchical, showing larger workpackages and smaller workpackages that exists as 'children' of the major workpackage.

When Used: During the planning stage of a project

Project Board

Type: People (group)

Description: The project board is the authority of the project, overseeing all major decisions and checks, such as signing off the business case, and reviewing the project at each stage. It is made up off the project sponsor, senior user, and senior supplier, and can include other people if necessary (but does not include the project manager).

When used: The project board exists throughout the project

Project Sponsor

Type: Person

Description: The Project Sponsor is typically the customer. It is a senior role. The sponsor is the person who requests the project, and is ultimately responsible for signing it off.

When Used: Throughout the project

Senior Supplier

Type: Person

Description: The senior supplier is the senior representative from the main supplier to the project. They represent the supplier organization on the project board. If a project has several major suppliers then it is possible to have more than one senior supplier.

When Used: Throughout the project

Senior User

Type: Person

Description: Similar to the senior supplier, the senior user represents all the key users of the product (or products) that will be delivered as part of the project. The senior user sits on the project board.

When Used: Throughout the project

Checkpoint

Type: Process (often a meeting)

Description: A checkpoint is a simple review added into regular points in the project to keep a check of progress and to ensure everything is on track.

When used: Following the project planning stage, when work is being carried out.

Checkpoint Report

Type: Document

Description: A checkpoint report is the written report outlining the full outcome of a specific checkpoint (see above).

When used: Following project planning, when work is being carried out

Exceptions Report

Type: Document

Description: Every project has a tolerance. That is, there is an agreed variance if things change during the project. However, if a project goes beyond this - for example, if the delivery date is later than any agreed date, then it is known as an exception. An exception report is a written statement outlining these within a project, and is issued to the project board.

When used: Throughout the project

End Stage Report

Type: Document

Description: As it suggests, an end stage report is written and presented at the end of every stage of the project. It is written specifically for the project board, and is used to help them make a decision about whether the project should progress further.

When used: At the end of every project stage

End Project Report

Type: Document

Description: Similar to an end stage report, this is produced at the end of the entire project. It also includes a review of the project, including lessons to take away from the good and bad points of the project.

When used: At the end of the project

Configuration Management

Type: Technique

Description: Configuration management is the discipline of creating a structure around which all project documentation is kept. This includes the way documents are stored, how they are named, numbered, version controlled, and document ownership.

When used: Throughout the project

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