PMP® Vs PRINCE2 – Comparative Study

PMP® Vs PRINCE2 – A comparative study – A guest blog

The Overview


“Which certification I should go for; PRINCE2 or PMP®?”, “What is the difference between PRINCE2 and PMP®?”

The two most common questions I get from many of those professionals who aspire to make the career in Project Management. The answer is not an easy one as it depends on your background, the professional environment you are in, your aspirations and your preference over prescriptive (PRINCE2) over non prescriptive (PMP)®. Here, in this series, I will attempt to compare the two against the imperatives of Project Management and show where they align and where the differences are.

What is a Project?

PRINCE2 defines a project as “A temporary organization that is created for the purpose of delivering one or more business products according to an agreed upon Business Case”.

PMP® defines a project as “A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result “.

Based on these definitions, the attributes of a project could be listed as – it will bring some Change (even Cross functional change), to achieve particular Business Value, it is Temporary and Unique in nature and brings Uncertainty.

What is project management?

According to PRINCE2, Project Management is “The planning, delegating, monitoring and control of all aspects of the project and the motivation of those involved, to achieve the project objectives within the expected performance targets for time, cost, quality, scope, benefits and risks”.

According to PMP®, Project Management is “the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirement”.

Now lets us look at how the two models are structured –

PRINCE2 has 7 Principles, 7 Themes and 7 Processes while PMP® has 5 process groups and 10 knowledge areas.

Both the models acknowledge the processes could be categorized into two major categories as – Project Management Processes and Product Management Processes.

Product oriented processes are outside the scope of PMP® while PRINCE2 emphsises on Product driven approach for project management and supports the same through its Principle(Focus on Product), Themes (Qulaity, Planning and Change) and Processes (Managing Product Delivery).

Looking at the above structure you can notice multiple overlaps and differences as well. As we progress in this series, we will map the processes from both models and highlight the commonalities and differences. In the process we will understand how these two models are complementing each other.

As a Project Manager, it is important to understand these prominent models in industry and find a balance as per the project requirements to make the project a success.


Initiating Project



In general, any project could be divided into 5 phases as Initiating, Planning, Executing, Track & Report and Close through the project life cycle. Let us take these as the base for comparing PRINCE2 and PMP® as we go ahead.

To begin with let us try and map the processes from both the models. As a rule of thumb, it will look like in the figure.
Initiating phase will set the answers to the questions like “What is the project?”, “What are the benefits?”, “What is the problem or change that project will address?”, “What are the options?”…

PRINCE2 and PMP® model formulates the specific processes to get these answers. Lets take a closer look.

PMP® has “initiating process group” which maps to the knowledge areas of “Project Integration Management” and “Project Stakeholder Management”. The key purpose of this process group is to align stakeholder’s expectations with project’s purpose. These processes help set the vision of the project.

PRINCE2 looks at the beginning of a project in a little different way. The processes are split into Starting Up a Project and Initiating a Project. The purpose of “Starting Up a Project” process is to ensure that the prerequisites to initiate the project are available. According to PRINCE2, the answer to the question “do we have viable and worthwhile project?” is required before project could be initiated (Initiating a Project Process trigger). Starting Up a Project process finds the answer to the same.

The reason / purpose / trigger to run the project is referred as “Project Mandate” in PRINCE2. This is provided by the sponsor organization which is referred as “corporate or programme management” (which could be considered as equivalent to “Steering Committee” in more general terms).

As against Project Mandate, in PMP®, this trigger for the project is called as “Project Charter”. Project Charter will have the information about the project, stakeholders and overall expected outcome.

The project can begin only when the Project Mandate / Project Charter is approved by the commissioning body.

In both the models, identification of customer, sponsors, supplier and other project stakeholders is key activity before the project work can commence.

In specific, PRINCE2 – Starting up a Project covers below activities –

  1. Create and approve project Mandate
  2. Appoint Executive, Project Manager and management team
  3. Prepare outline of business case
  4. Select project approach
  5. Prepare Project Brief
  6. Obtain the authorization to Initiate a Project

In specific PMP® – Initiating Process group covers activities –

  1. Initial scope definition
  2. Commitment on financial resources
  3. Assign Project Manager
  4. Create Project Charter
  5. Authorisation to the project manager to approve subsequent activities

Till this point, as evident from above, both the processes run on similar principles. Further PMP® kick starts Planning processes whereas PRINCE2 continues with Initiating a Project which has some overlap with Planning processes of PMP®. Let us take look at the same.

Planning process group is the largest one among the five process groups. It integrates with all the ten knowledge areas. Key activities covered are –

  1. Develop management plan
  2. Define scope
  3. Schedule the activities
  4. Allocate budgets
  5. Plan Quality, Communication, Risk, Resources, Procurement and Stakeholder management strategies

In PRINCE2, we see these are covered under the process of Initiating a Project. Once the Project brief and Initiating Stage Plan gets an authorization, Initiating a Project process kicks off. The key activities of Initiating a Project are –

  1. Create strategies for Risk, Quality, Configuration and Communication management
  2. Set up controls (these are the budgets if we refer to PMP® terminology)
  3. Create a detailed project plan
  4. Refine business case and assemble Project Initiation Document (this is the Bible of project .. J )

We must also look at one more process from PRINCE2 which kicks off at the end of Starting up a Project process. This process is “Directing a Project”. Refer the above Table 3, which will clarify the same. While we will look into Directing a Project in greater detail later in this series, let us understand the objectives of this process here. The objectives are to ensure that –

  1. There is authority / approval to initiate the project and deliver the products of project
  2. Project remains viable and worthwhile throughout the project life cycle
  3. Post project benefits are monitored and measured
  4. Corporate / programme management has an interface to connect to the project management
  5. Give ad hoc directions as and when required through the project life cycle


Lets take a deeper look into the Planning

In PRINCE2, “Plans” is one of the key themes. A Plan is a comprehensive document, covering key aspects of project (products, timescales, costs, quality and benefits) and describing how, when and by whom a specific target(s) is to be achieved. Planning is an act or process of making and maintaining a plan. Plans are the backbone of controlling a project. PRINCE2 recommends Project plan and Stage plan as mandatory while Team plan is optional. Stage plans are further classified into Initiation Stage Plan and Delivery Stage Plan. Corporate or programme plan is created at the organization level which commissions the project. Exception plans are created when necessary. Benefits Review Plan covers all the activities during and after project to measure the benefits realized. This could be part of corporate or programme plan.

PRINCE2 follows “product based planning” approach. The product-based planning technique is described as below –
Create Project Product Description (for project plan only; rest are for all levels of plans)-> Create Product Breakdown Structure -> Write Product Description -> Create Product flow diagram
To complete the plan further, below activities need to be followed once the product plan is ready –
– Define activities
– Identify dependencies
– Estimate
– Prepare schedule
– Assign resources
– Define control points and milestones
– Calculate costs
– Analyse risks
– Document the plan
As mentioned in the earlier part, Planning Process group is the largest group in PMBoK. Let us look at the mapping of the processes under Planning Process Group and the Knowledge Areas.

PRINCE2 Vs PMP - Planning

Each of the above processes are further detailed in – Inputs, Tools & Techniques and Output.

Hence to conclude, it could be noted that there is an overlap between the “Initiating a Project” from PRINCE2 and “Planning” from PMP®. Inside these similar activities of laying down the project foundations are executed which covers strategies / plans for key aspects of project like Communication, Risk, Quality, Resources, etc.


To be continued….

Watch out next week. Subscribe to our newsletter to get to know as soon as next part is published and much more knowledge on project management.


PMI, PMBOK and PMP are registered mark of Project Management Institute Inc.