Building block concept

PRINCE2 documents consist in part of identical information blocks. Each block can be seen as a building block of a PRINCE2 document. A building block is therefore an independent subdivision of a document. Take for example the description of the background to the project. If you make a building block for this, it is information to be used in the Business Case, the Project Brief and the Project Initiation Document. The use of building blocks reduces the chance of miscommunication and the loss of information, causing de-motivation of the parties concerned.

The combination of the building blocks and the philosophy behind the storyboard (each picture is a building block) leads to the following requirements for the PRINCE2 documents:

• standardization (ensure that comparable documents for projects are built up in the same way);

• essence (no extensive passages of text, but only the necessary);

• visualization (make use of pictures, blocks, etc.: one picture says more than a thousand words).

The result of this procedure is that the executive receives the information in a recognizable and concisely represented manner. With the pressures of work, the time to read and understand documents is limited. Standardization, visualization and essence increase the possibility of reading everything, interpreting, understanding and reviewing. The executive can use his time effectively and efficiently.

Comparable arguments apply to the position of the project manager. The project manager wishes to represent the information concisely, without repeating anything and writing things up only once. The project manager has need of a handle that enforces consistency, promotes clarity and upgrades quality. The growth of a document on the basis of selected building blocks motivates and is efficient and effective.

2.3.1 (Structure of PRINCE2 documents

In the development of the documentation standard I have integrated the following PRINCE2 documents (see Figure 2.2 for a simple view of the different documents and corresponding building blocks4):

• D4: Project Initiation Document (PID);

The following sections provide an explanation of the building block philosophy. I use a simplified example for this purpose. In Chapter 3 all documents are reviewed in relation to the building blocks.

The Business Case (D2) consists of four building blocks: The Mandate, the Background of the Project, the Scope, and the Costs and Benefits Analysis (see section 3.2).

The Project Brief (D3) consists of the building blocks of the Business Case. Naturally, the content is up to date. The building blocks of the project approach and the required resources complete the Project Brief (see section 3.3).

The building blocks of the Project Brief, after being updated, form the basis of the PID (D4). The PID is created through the expansion of the Project Brief by means of the following building blocks: Project Organisation, Acceptance Criteria, Risks, Quality Plan, Architecture, Information Security, Business Processes and Product Breakdown (see section 3.4).

After the Project Board has approved the PID, the project manager will report on the progress periodically. I call this report the Status Report (D6). The basis of the Status Report consists of three building blocks from the PID: the Mandate, the Budget and the Planning. The project manager, in principle, takes the Mandate over unchanged. A change in the Mandate gives cause for the Project Board to review the Business Case once again. In addition the Budget shows how

4 Not all the building blocks are shown in figure 2.2. See the fold out in the back cover of this book for the complete Overview of all the documents and building blocks.

Business Case

Project Brief

D4 PID

Status Report

Exceptions Report

Business Case

Project Brief

B2:

Mandate

B2:

Mandate

B3:

Project Background

B3:

Project Background

B4:

Scope

B4:

Scope

B6:

Cost Benefit Analysis

B6:

Cost Benefit Analysis

B7: Project Approach

B7: Project Approach

B12: Resources

D4 PID

B2:

Mandate

Background 1

B4:

Scope ^J

B6:

Cost Benefit Analysis 1

B7:

Project Approach

B12:

.„s i

+

B16:

Budget Details

B13:

. 3

o

o

o

B15

B16: Budget Details

B13: Planning

B22: Highlights Report

B23: Decisions to be taken

B17: Acceptance Criteria

B2: Mandate

B17: Acceptance Criteria

B16: Budget Details

B13: Planning

B22: Highlights Report

B23: Decisions to be taken

B22: Highlights Report

B23: Decisions to be taken

Figure 2.2 PRINCE2 document building blocks the funds are used. The Planning indicates the progress. Both building blocks have the PID as their basis, which makes comparison with the original assumptions possible.

The fourth building block is the Highlights Report. This building block describes the most important products and includes a planning traffic light per product (item). This traffic light indicates to what extent the product is on schedule in terms of the planning. The Highlights Report likewise indicates traffic lights in respect of Project Planning, Budget, Resources, Issues and Scope. In consultation with the executive it is possible to extend the traffic lights. If there are any issues, the Highlights Report will provide information on them. In addition to the Status Report, my organisation uses a weekly Checkpoint Report. This is based on the same building blocks.

The last building block relates to the decisions that the Project Board has to make. If the project runs according to expectations, there are no decisions. In this situation it is not necessary for the Project Board to get together (the 'Management by Exception' principle of PRINCE2). Should there be a proposed decision, the consequences in terms of changes to the Budget, Planning, Scope and Resources are described (see section 3.6).

2.3.2 Templates

With graphic templates you are able to comply with the requirements of standardization, visualization and essence. The template describes the elements of a building block. This is practical for the project manager. There is little need for words. Visualization with graphics, drawings and tables is very convenient. The document can be identified by its format and use of colour. It is accessible and easy to understand. On the basis of available building blocks it enables the project manager to create quick reports and presentations.

2.3.3 Project board reporting

The project manager must also have the details easily accessible. It is for the project manager to determine how he wants the details recorded. The project manager can give his creativity free reign in the organising of the project.

2.4 Use

For some time now, the application of the proposed procedure has been utilized by a financial service provider (for projects varying from 100 000 euro to ten million euro). This organisation has developed around 25 building blocks. Each building block has its own form (template). If a building block is not relevant to a particular project, it does not make use of it at all. Project Board members endorse the omission of irrelevant building blocks. They emphasise that standardized reporting saves time. They are able to determine the status of a project quickly. The decision points provide insight.

At the time of writing this book, I gave presentations to a government authority, an energy company, a retailer, a consultancy bureau and change and project management organisations in order to bring the philosophy behind the standard into the limelight. Different organisations are currently implementing storyboards and building blocks.

It seems possible to systematically provide all concerned with adequate information without falling into the trap of bulky, inaccessible, standalone, and illegible documents. I have introduced the technique of storyboarding as a tool for reporting presentations. This promotes legibility and representation of the essence. I recommend the use of visual representations if it is possible. Storyboarding is a powerful tool to determine consistencies and omissions. I have used the overlap between PRINCE2 documents for the building block approach. Combining this with storyboarding ensures that executives and project managers use their time more effectively and efficiently.

It seems that this works:

'... A good Status Report, supported by project and executive, is an exceptionally effective and efficient means to track and manage a project...' (Remko de Jong, managing director, financial industry).

'Although formally not yet rounded off, it can be concluded in the meantime that the adoption of the practical PRINCE2 has been carried out seamlessly: The good elements have been adopted...' (Chris Boogert, interim manager PMO of a retailer).

We have introduced the Status Report in the programme. It has the big advantage that twenty projects are reported unambiguously. Thanks to the templates the project manager has to report briefly and concisely, where the most important milestones are continuously brought to the attention of the programme management. In the past a weekly report of thirty pages was not unusual' (controller, government authority).

In the next chapter I describe the PRINCE2 documents with reference to the building blocks. In Chapter 8 there are practical examples of these building blocks and the documents in which they are used.

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