The 7 PRINCE2 themes are specific, functional aspects of the PRINCE2 project management methodology. Essentially, you must address each theme throughout the whole project. The 7 themes work alongside the 7 PRINCE2 Principles as well as the different processes and stages.

I have recently published an article on the PRINCE2 Principles, and what they demand from project managers. If you have missed this article, I would suggest reading it first, to ensure the information in this article makes sense!

So, in this article, you’ll learn about each of the 7 PRINCE2 themes and why they’re important.

1. Business Case

Initially, you’ll develop the Business Case in an outline form at the start of the project. Then when the project is in the initiation stage, it should be refined. You’ll need to add more detail as the project progresses. Plus, it’s important to keep it updated at the end of each stage of the project. It is the critical information which will enable decision making. Ultimately, the Project Board will decide if your project is worth the investment. Therefore, it’s essential that the Business Case approach you present (and all of the thinking that goes into it) is both truthful and persuasive.

The primary function of this theme is to present the desirability, achievability, and viability of the project. In turn, the Business Case can be assessed and judged fairly and reliably. Thus, this theme supports and should be implemented parallel to the ‘Justification’ principle.

Additionally, this theme can be achieved by using the management product “Business Case”. Say what…?

Business Case as a theme vs as a management product

Maybe you just got a little confused. I know I did when I did all of my PRINCE2 training! To be honest, I think terminology is a major barrier for PRINCE2 to be more widely used and accepted. For now, consider this:

Business Case (the theme) is about the mentality and the approach that ensures you make valid business decisions.

Business Case (the management product) is the physical or electronic document that is presented to the Project Board. It presents the benefits and costs for a given project.

I hope that helps, but if not, comment below.

2. Organisation

Essentially the intended function of this theme is to clarify and define the individual roles and responsibilities for the whole team working on the project. The Organisation theme is not looking at the management structure in your organisation. But it does look at the organisation landscape – identifying key stakeholders, corporate leaders and programme managers. There are 3 types of stakeholders in your project. They have different perspectives in the overall success of the project. The 3 stakeholders types are:

  • Business (these are the decision makers who want to understand if this is the right thing to do).
  • User (the project benefits or impacts these people).
  • Supplier (these people provide the resources and skills to deliver the project).

Generally, PRINCE2 assumes a customer-supplier environment. However, this is not necessarily the same as a retail customer or a retail supplier. The customer is the person who benefits or is impacted by the project in PRINCE2. Meanwhile, the supplier is someone who is gives you, the Project Manager, the skills and resources that you need. It’s possible, but not essential, that a supplier or a customer could be internal to your organisation.

To summarise, the Organisation theme allows clarity within the roles and responsibilities of all those involved in the project. Thus, it should be applied with the “Roles and Responsibilities” PRINCE2 principle.

3. Quality

Essentially, this theme certifies the quality of the product or service. It should consider if the outcome will fulfil the needs and expectations of customers and the wider business. The purpose of the Quality PRINCE2 theme is to:

  • Identify what the quality requirements are.
  • Determine how to measure quality.
  • Confirm how the products will be delivered within the specified quality requirements.

Therefore, this theme should correspond to the “Products” principle.

4. Plans

Although all of the seven PRINCE2 themes are important, Plans are a necessary requirement for the PRINCE2 methodology. In fact, they’re pretty essential to any project – even if you’re not using PRINCE2.

The Plans theme clarifies the required steps and PRINCE2 techniques which need to be used in the project. In short, the Plans theme is the detailed management of the product production. It should answer the following questions:

  • What do you need to do to achieve a specific goal(s)?
  • What activities need to be performed?
  • When do the activities need to be completed?
  • Who is going to do each activity?

Additionally, the goals of the project should not just include the intended outcome for the product, but also the quality, cost, benefits and the time.

You should apply the Plan theme alongside to the ‘Manage by Stages’ principle. Additionally, you may also want to apply parallel to the ‘Manage by Exception’ principle. The plans are not just about identifying the specific steps that you intend to make in the future. But they should also assess and measure the progress throughout the project. The plans should always include specific and an appropriate level of details.

5. Risk

Essentially, this theme helps you make sure that all of the risks have been effectively identified. It should also include how each risk can impact the project. PRINCE2 recommends using a Risk Management Strategy, to support the principles of ‘Manage by Stages,’ ‘Learn from Experience,’ and ‘Manage by Exception.’

Generally, the Project Manager should create the Risk Management Strategy at the initiation stage. The Risk Management Strategy clarifies how to manage risks throughout the project. Alternatively, you could use a corporate Risk Management Strategy if PRINCE2 is frequently used in your business.

6. Change

Change is inevitable and affects every project in various ways. For example, if the users decide to alter their requirements, or its project itself may require changes to achieve the goals. Therefore, the Change theme’s aim is to cultivate a reliable change management approach for the project manager, including how he/she will assess and act if ‘change’ occurs. This theme supports the PRINCE2 principles of ‘Manage by Exception’ and ‘Focus on Products.’

You may also want to read more about how to manage your project scope.

7. Progress

This theme evaluates the project’s actual progress and outcome versus what was originally planned. Typically, continuously tracking the ongoing performance and viability of the plans will fulfil the Progress theme. Also, it should assess how and if the plan should continue.

This theme supports four of the PRINCE2 principles; ‘Manage by Stages,’ ‘Business Justification,’ ‘Learn from Experience,’ and ‘Manage by Exception.’ Ultimately, the Progress theme should be applied with the appropriate principle throughout the whole project.

The bottom line: consider the PRINCE2 Themes through the whole project

The seven themes in PRINCE2 explain the specific required treatment for the seven project management disciplines. Although PRINCE2 defines a chronological approach for the requirements of each project, the seven PRINCE2 themes pose a thematic approach. Think of them as a common consideration that should always play a part of your project management discussions.

The PRINCE2 themes assist individuals in applying the methodology, along with specific guidance for tailoring it to different environments. They are similar to the knowledge areas of the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), from the PMI.

Themes are only one part of the PRINCE2 methodology. Why don’t you take a look at our articles on the 7 PRINCE2 Principles and how you can apply the PRINCE2 Principles to retail projects?

Find out more about PRINCE2 themes and whole methodology the on the official Axelos website.

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

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