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PRINCE2 can be used in any type of project but the common question is how best to apply PRINCE2 to run a specific project. Tailoring refers to the appropriate use of PRINCE2 in any project. So tailoring answers the following question: What is the correct amount of planning, control, themes and processes to use?

Embedding focuses on the adoption of PRINCE2 across an organization, so it is concerned with standards, procedures, integration and so on, while Tailoring is done by the Project Manager to adapt the method to each project.

General Approach to Tailoring

There are many who think that they don’t need a project management method because their projects are too small or there is too much overhead in using a method. They don’t realize that they could or rather, should tailor the project method to suit their project and not increase the complexity in their project to suit PRINCE2.

The example that I give is the TV show The Apprentice, where each week there is a new two-day project. Two teams compete with each other and both have a Project Manager. If you were to watch The Apprentice, you would see that most of the same mistakes are repeated by the Project Managers and a project method would help them a lot. Also the administrative overhead does not need to be more than 2 or 3 pages of text, which is very little.

People's first impression of tailoring is to choose bits from the PRINCE2 method and use them to manage a project; however, these bits become isolated and it is not a PRINCE2 project anymore. The objective is to apply a level of project management that does not overburden the project but provides an appropriate level of control.

If the method is not tailored for a project, then the project is not being run efficiently. This is also known as robotic project management where the method is followed blindly.

Tailoring is about thinking how best to apply the method to a project to get a good balance of project control and low administration. Some of the things you will consider are:

  • How to adapt the themes?
  • Which terms/language should be incorporated?
  • Is there a need to revise Product Descriptions for the administration products (known as Management Products) to make more sense to the stakeholders?
  • Is there a need to revise the Role descriptions for the PRINCE2 project roles (for example, to match existing standards)?

What to change when tailoring

Here is a list of all the major parts of PRINCE2. I will comment on each with regard to what to change when tailoring PRINCE2 to suit the current project:

  • Principles: All 7 principles have to be present in each project. There is nothing to change here.
  • Themes: Themes are usually tailored, specially through customization of management strategies.
  • Terms and Language: Each organization can have their specific business language. For example, some companies refer to a Project Brief as a Project Charter, or a Business Case as a Project Case. It may be a good idea to use these terms during the project instead of the PRINCE2 terms.
  • Management Products: PRINCE2 provides the Management Products to assist in running the project. These may be adjusted to incorporate how a company may work. For instance, a project may need a different Configuration Items Record template as it deals with different kinds of products.
  • Roles and Responsibilities: PRINCE2 provides standard Roles descriptions, but these should be adapted for each project. For example, a company might not use a Project Support, so the Project Manager will have to find another person to do Configuration Management. Another company might have a Project Management Office and a person responsible for a Benefits Review Plan; therefore, the responsibility should be changed.
  • Processes: All processes should be tailored but these can be different for each project. For instance, a Project Management Office may wish to start a project, but instead of starting with a project mandate, it may already be able to supply the Project Brief with an outline of the Business Case. Another project may follow a feasibility study project. The outputs from this project might be the majority of management products that are done in the first two processes.

Level of Experience to Do Tailoring

If you are new to PRINCE2 and project management, then the subject of tailoring can be difficult to understand at first. Just realize that Tailoring does happen. It will become easier to understand as you get more experienced with PRINCE2.

If you already have had the opportunity to work on a project, then a good place to start is by asking what the Project Manager would do different if they were to do the project again.

It becomes much easier to tailor projects for PRINCE2 if you have both good project management and PRINCE2 experience.

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