7 Themes of Prince2

7 Themes Prince2

Prince2 is made up of 7 Principles, 7 Themes and 7 Processes that can be tailored and applied to different projects and organisations. In the last article I covered the 7 Principles and in this article we shall cover the 7 Themes. By the end of this article you should be able to state what the 7 themes are and have a good overview of what each theme is. The Prince2 exam is about how to apply Prince2 to an example project and environment, having a good grasp at an overview level will help. In the Practitioner exam you will be able to use the manual and look up the detail if you need it. However knowing where to look is key and that is where learning the contents of this article will help you.

The 7 themes of Prince2 are:

  1. Business Case
  2. Organization
  3. Quality
  4. Plans
  5. Risk
  6. Change
  7. Progress

7 Themes of Prince2

To remember what a theme is I think of a fancy dress party where everyone has to come as a movie character. While everyone will be wearing a different costume the theme that everyone follows is movies. Therefore the movie theme is what links everyone’s outfit. This is the same for Prince2 the themes run through the project linking common items together. A theme is different to a principle in that the principles are like guidelines for the project whereas a theme runs through the project.

Theme 1: Business Case

“The purpose of the Business Case theme is to establish mechanisms to judge whether the project is (and remains) desirable, viable and achievable as a means to support decision making in its (continued) investment.”

What that means in plain English

Why is it worth doing the project? As the project continues you are supposed to check that it is still worth doing. For example imagine your project was to launch a new tablet that treated a disease. Then while you were doing the project someone finds a cure for the disease. There would be no point continuing with the project as it would no longer be viable. Also as part of the business case you need to confirm whether the project can actually be done.

Purpose of Business Case is that the project is:

  • Desirable (Worth doing)
  • Viable (Still worth doing)
  • Achievable (Is possible to do)

Prince2 States

“The business justification is documented in a Business Case describing the reasons for the project based on estimated costs, risks and the expected benefits.”

What this means in plain English

It is WHY the project exists.

Rules of Prince2:

  • A project should not start without a business case
  • The project should be stopped or changed if the business case is no longer viable

4 Activities of the Business Case Theme

  • Develop – getting the right information upon which decisions can be made
  • Verify – assessing whether the project is (still) worthwhile
  • Maintain – to update the Business Case with actual costs and benefits and current forecast for costs and benefits
  • Confirm – assessing whether the intended benefits have been (or will be) realized. Confirming benefits will mostly take place post project.

Prince2 Business Case

Contents of a Business Case

A typical business case includes the following:

  • Executive Summary
  • Reasons – why the project is required
  • Business Options – do nothing, do the minimum, do something
  • Expected Benefits – achieved outcomes
  • Expected Dis-Benefits – a negative consequence of the project
  • Timescale – how long it will take
  • Costs – how much is it going to cost
  • Investment Appraisal – when will the project payback
  • Major Risks – by doing this project

Theme 2: Organization

“The purpose of the Organization theme is to define and establish the project’s structure of accountability and responsibilities (the who?).”

What that means in plain English

This is identifying who the people are who make the major decisions such as cost on the project. The project manager answers to these people.

Project Interests

Prince2 Three Project Interests

The project exists in the middle where the three interests overlap.

Business – Is concerned with the investment in the project. Appoints an Executive to look after the business interests

User – Affected by what the project produces. A Senior User is appointed to make sure the project delivers the desired output.

Supplier – Responsible for delivering the project. A Senior Supplier is appointed to represent the project delivery team

The Executive, Senior User and Senior Supplier make up the project board

Four Levels of Management

  • Corporate or Programme Management
  • Directing
  • Managing
  • Delivering

Prince2 4 Levels of Management

The reason for having the four levels is to separate the delivery parts of the project from those that are making the decisions about the direction of the project.

Project Board – Responsible for the overall management and direction of the project.
The Project Board will:

  • Communicate with stakeholder who are outside of the project
  • Approve resources and plans
  • Approve the completion of each stage
  • Authorize the start of the next stage
  • Authorize any changes that result in the project exceeding set tolerances

Project Manager – Responsible for the day to day management of the project. Prime responsibility for the project manager is to ensure that the project does not exceed the set tolerances of time, cost, quality and scope.

Team Manager – Responsible for the production of the products that they have been assigned to do by the Project Manager

Theme 3: Quality

“The purpose of the Quality theme is to define and implement the means by which the project will verify products that are fit for purpose”

What that means in plain English

Are people going to get what they asked for, will it meet their needs and how will you know that it will.

Prince2 States Quality is:

  • Meet business expectations
  • Enable the desired benefits to be achieved

The Prince2 Approach to Quality:

  • Identify all the project’s products
  • Include quality criteria within product description
  • Implement and track quality methods throughout the project

To do this approach there is quality planning and quality control. The first two in the approach is covered by quality planning and the second is covered by quality control.

Quality Planning is:

  • Understanding the customer’s quality expectations
  • Define the project’s acceptance criteria
  • Documenting the customer’s quality expectations
  • Documenting the project’s acceptance criteria in the Project Production Description
  • Formulating a Quality Management Strategy
  • Writing clear Product Descriptions containing quality criteria, quality tolerances, quality method and quality responsibilities
  • Setting up the Quality Register

Quality Control is:

  • Carrying out the quality methods
  • Maintaining quality and approval records
  • Gaining acceptance

Theme 4: Plans

“The purpose of the Plans theme is to facilitate communication and control by defining the means of delivering the products (the where and how, by whom, and estimating the when and how much).”

What that means in plain English

Who is going to do what and when are they going to do it

3 Levels of Planning

  • Project Plan
  • Stage Plans and Exception Plans
  • Team Plans

Project Plan – shows at a high level what will be done and when

Stage Plan – a detailed plan about the stage that the project is at

Exception Plan – a plan to recover from a tolerance that has been exceeded

Team Plan – an optional plan for team managers to allocate work to team members

Prince 2 Approach to Plans

Prince 2 Approach to Plans

Theme 5: Risk

“The purpose of the Risk theme is to identify and control uncertainty and, as a result improve the ability of the project to succeed.”

What that means in plain English

Predict what might happen and do something to reduce the chance of it happening

What is a Risk?

Something that may happen that if it does will impact on the project. If it is a negative then it is viewed as a threat. If it is a positive then it is viewed as an opportunity.

What is Risk Management Strategy?

How the risks will be identified and managed during the project.

Risk Management Procedure

  • Identify (context and risks)
  • Assess (estimate and evaluate)
  • Plan
  • Implement
  • Communicate

Prince2 Risk Management

Context – Gather information about the project to understand the specific objectives that are at risk and produce a risk management strategy for the project

Risks – Understand the threats and opportunities that may affect the project’s objectives

  • Cause – Describe source of the risk
  • Event – Describe area of uncertainty
  • Effect – Describe impact on the project

Prince2 Risk Cause and Event

Estimate – Assess the threats and the opportunities to the project in terms of their probability and impact

Evaluate – Add together the effect of all the identified threats and opportunities on the project.

Come up with a number of options for responding to threats and opportunities

Threat Responses:

  • Avoid
  • Reduce (probability and/or impact)
  • Fallback (reduces impact)
  • Transfer (reduces impact and often only financial impact
  • Share
  • Accept

Opportunity Responses:

  • Exploit
  • Enhance
  • Share
  • Reject

Ensure that planned risk responses are actioned, effectiveness monitored and corrective action taken when responses do not match expectations.

  • Risk Owner – responsible for making sure the risk is monitored and managed
  • Risk Actionee – Individual assigned to carry out the work

Happens continuously both internal and external to the project
Risks are communicated as part of the following products:

  • Checkpoint reports
  • Highlight reports
  • End stage reports
  • End project reports
  • Lessons report

Risk Budget

Money set aside in the project budget to fund the response to risks.

Theme 6: Change

“The purpose of the change theme is to identify assess and control any potential and approved changes to the baseline.”

What that means in plain English

Get permission before doing something that has not already been agreed.

Prince 2 states

“The Aim is not to prevent change but to ensure that every change is agreed by the relevant authority before it takes place.”

What that means in plain English

Make sure the Executive says yes before you do anything.

Types of Issues

Changes are considered a type of issue. The types of issues are:

  • Request for Change – Changes to what has previously been agreed
  • Off-Specification – Something that should be delivered as part of the project but is forecast not to be done
  • Problem/Concern – Anything that the Project Manager needs to resolve or escalate

Configuration Management

Configuration management is how products or items will be created, maintained and controlled. There are 5 core activities:

  • Planning – What level of configuration is required and how will it be achieved
  • Identification – Specifying and identifying all components of the project’s products at the required level of control
  • Control – Approve and baseline products and make only authorized changes
  • Status Accounting – The reporting of all past and present data for each product through a product status account
  • Verification and Audit – Conducting a configuration audit

Issue and Change Procedure

Prince2 Issue and Change Control


Theme 7: Progress

“The purpose of the progress theme is to establish mechanisms to monitor and compare actual achievements against those planned; provide a forecast for the project objectives and the projects continued viability; and control any unacceptable deviations.”

What that means in plain English

To measure achievement against the plan and predict how the project will continue to run

Progress Controls

Progress controls enable the next level of management to:

  • Monitor progress
  • Compare level of achievement with plan
  • Review plans and options against future situations
  • Detect problems and identify risks
  • Initiate corrective action
  • Authorize further work

Tolerances and Exceptions

Tolerances can be set so the project can run day to day without the need to escalate to the next level of management if the plan is slightly exceeded.

There are six tolerance levels and these are:

  • Time
  • Cost
  • Scope
  • Risk
  • Quality
  • Benefits

An exception is when something is going to exceed the agreed tolerance level.

Prince2 Tolerance and Exception

Management Stages

Management stages are divisions within the project where management decisions can be made by:

  • Facilitating review and decision points
  • Enabling decisions to be made before work starts
  • Giving time for clarification
  • Delegating authority to the Project Manager to manage the next stage by exception (escalate if tolerances are going to be exceeded)

Two Types of Driven Controls

Prince2 Driven Controls


There are 7 themes within Prince2 and they run through the project linking common items together. A theme is different to a principle in that the principles are like guidelines for the project whereas a theme runs through the project. The 7 themes of Prince2 are:

  • Business Case
  • Organization
  • Quality
  • Plans
  • Risk
  • Change
  • Progress

Hopefully now you have a good overview understanding of the 7 themes of Prince2. You will find more detail about each theme within the Prince2 manual if you wish to learn more. The Prince2 exam is about how to apply Prince2 to an example project and environment having a good grasp at an overview level will help. Remember in the Practitioner exam you will be able to use the manual and look up the detail if you need it. Learning the contents of this article will help you in the exam.

Once you have passed the Prince2 exam it lasts 5 years and at the end of those 5 years you have to reaccreditate (take the exam again). I did my last reaccreditation with Prince2.com and personally recommend them as a Prince2 training provider. They also offer a guaranteed pass on their Foundation course. However don’t just take my recommendation have a look at the reviews provided by Feefo by following this link. You can also request a free training quote from them by following the link .