[Useful reading before starting this article]. I recently published an article on the PRINCE2 principles and what mean for project managers. After reading this article, you understand how to apply these 7 PRINCE2 principles in retail. So, click the link and read that one first. After that – read on.

Whilst it’s not all that common to find full PRINCE2 in retail, the principles transfer effectively to a retail environment. The 7 PRINCE2 principles are critical to the methodology – whatever industry you’re working in. In fact, the principles are so important that Axelos (the custodians of the PRINCE2 methodology) say if you don’t follow the principles then you’re not doing PRINCE2.

Let’s begin by breaking down the relevance of the 7 PRINCE2 principles for retail and how you can apply them. Use the P-JESTER acronym as a memory jogger if you can’t recall the different principles.

Applying the PRINCE2 principles in retail

Let’s explore how to apply each of the 7 PRINCE2 principles in retail. We’ll use the previously mentioned P-JESTER acronym.

Product – but it needs a new name for retail

This terminology is actually seldom used in a retail setting. This is mainly because it can be easily confused with the actual products which a shop sells on a day to day basis. Consequentially, this makes the literal use of this generic PRINCE2 terminology a real barrier.

However, there is still value in using this principle in retail. Instead, I’ve found that using the term “Deliverable” works much better in terms of understanding. Essentially, by using this term, you instantly helps your colleagues and stakeholders understand exactly the benefit of focusing on a tangible project “product.” Focusing on what you will deliver will help you and your team to work productively on what needs to be done.

Justification – important but can be challenging

The PRINCE2 principles of finding continued business justification is essential in a competitive retail setting. Where profitability is a key focus and where retailers are finding themselves in very serious adverse positions, this principle supports sound business decisions.

However, finding and presenting your justification in a retail environment often presents unique challenges. Because of the nature of retail, benefits and impacts can be volatile in terms predictability. There are many “noises” or variables in the data. For example, the weather, the economic environment, competitor tactics and strategies.

As a result, you may find that your projected sales figures (or other metrics) are hard to pin down. Without clearly and confidently quantifying the forecast effect of your projects, it can be difficult to negotiate the justification for your projects. Your business case documents and other supporting research needs to be realistic and allow leeway for market fluctuations.

Experience – but you also need to think on your feet

You will always be able to build and draw from experience when using PRINCE2 in retail projects. (Or even if you’re not using PRINCE2). However, the fast-changing nature of retail may mean that you cannot always be prepared for developing projects with prior experience. Learn from the lessons of your past projects. But also be prepared to venture into new territory and think on your feet.

Stages – this one can useful… or not

Managing your project by stages is good for retail projects. However, in my opinion and experience, managing a project using the PRINCE2 stages is not useful for the majority of retail projects.

The fast-moving nature of retail projects can render the standard PRINCE2 stages a little bit irrelevant. You may find them cumbersome and excessively heavy on admin. In fact, this is especially true if you find yourself in an environment where your colleagues and stakeholders aren’t familiar with the PRINCE2 project management techniques and terminology.

However, applying a relevant stage model or project lifecycle structure is useful. In fact, my experiences of actually delivering retail change projects led me to develop my own stage model. I derived it from best practices and real life experiences. Now, this stage model forms an essential part of my retail project management training programme.

Tailoring – essential to find the right fit

This PRINCE2 principle is focused on adjusting the tools and techniques to your environment. This will be essential in a retail setting. Generally speaking, retail projects are flexible and have fast turnaround times. This makes it essential to streamline and simplify the PRINCE2 methodology in retail. Boil it down to the bare essentials required for project success.

Exceptions – not widely used

Managing your project by exception, as suggested by PRINCE2, is not widely used in retail project management settings. Many project managers aren’t familiar with the term tolerances, in terms of managing by exception. However, there is a good opportunity to try to implement them if you think they’re useful! Particularly if you have experience and are looking to use trust to gain more autonomy.

Roles – challenging for new project managers

Roles and responsibilities should be effectively delegated in a retail environment. Just like they should in any other project management environment. Sadly, this is often not the case and many PMs find themselves in a small, cross functional project team. This is often in a matrix style organisation which means that it can be challenging for inexperienced project managers to delegate.

As a result, project managers are tempted to manage the chaos themselves. Alternatively, the responsibility isn’t clearly set up and the work doesn’t get done. Either way, this leads to stress, project risks and ultimately burnout. Delegate project responsibilities effectively from the start and ensure that communication lines remain open.

What are the most important PRINCE2 principles for retail?

1. Product Deliverable focus

Product (I mean Deliverable) focus is one of the most essential principles for PRINCE2 in retail. Although, the terminology confusion means that it is often forgotten or not used. But among all of the chaos of a retail environment, this can be essential for a successful project. Remember that these products or deliverables are your tangible end result, so don’t lose sight of this goal.

2. Experience

Although retail is a fast-changing environment, experience can still often be a brilliant tool to use in your project management arsenal. Reviewing your project work to find what lessons you’ve learnt is critical to building your experience. Basing important decisions off of that experience is one of the best ways to ensure future success and predictability. This is especially true if you find yourself working on a project of similar or larger size and scope.

3. Roles and responsibility

In an industry as chaotic and ever-changing as retail, it can be tempting to simplify things for your team and attempt to oversee everything yourself. However, an effective retail project manager  should be able to recognise their own limitations. They much be aware of the danger of burnout. So delegating roles and responsibilities to different team members effectively is a critical lesson to pick up when applying the PRINCE2 principles in retail.

The bottom line – the PRINCE2 principles are relevant in retail

Although it would be nice and convenient for all of the principles to apply seamlessly, PRINCE2 in retail is a unique beast which needs to be adjusted and framed in the manners mentioned in this article.

Ultimately, if you’re a retail project manager who is finding it hard to apply the PRINCE2 principles in retail, then it may be worth reconsidering them. If your project doesn’t fit the PRINCE2 mould – don’t force it!

However, be 100% sure that the principles genuinely don’t apply well to your project. Don’t write them off simply because you’re not following them when you should be! As with so many aspects of project management, you need to be able to self-evaluate and use your own judgement wisely. Hold yourself to account and manage your project effectively.

There are many elements of PRINCE2 which can be difficult to apply to a retail environment. However, I believe that you can successfully apply the 7 PRINCE2 principles in retail.

Comment below – do you struggle to apply the PRINCE2 principles in retail? Do you find yourself trying to apply P-JESTER to your projects but you’re just not sure how to make it work? Why do you think that is? Alternatively, do you have top tips to share? I’m very interested to hear your experiences and opinions and help in the best way – comment below or reach out to me via LinkedIn!

project management expert Oliver BanksAbout the Author

Oliver Banks is a PRINCE2 Practitioner. He is an expert at delivering retail change projects and programmes. Oliver blends classic project management techniques (including PRINCE2, PMBOK and Lean Six Sigma) with a dose of pragmatism and business reality to ensure retail projects are led, managed and delivered successfully.


project management expert Oliver Banks

Get My Weekly Insider Tips

Get the latest expert advice, articles and insider tips straight to your inbox. Build your own knowledge, share with others. Become successful at delivering change projects

You have successfully registered!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This