Planning Large Projects and Programs

Planning Large-Scale Projects

Planning Large Projects and Programs - Planning Large-Scale Projects

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Use a formal planning approach for complex projects.

The techniques explained so far in this section on Mind Tools support a pragmatic, commonsense approach to planning and managing small and medium-sized projects.

However, this approach will only scale up to a certain extent – as projects get larger, they can reach a level of complexity where ad hoc approaches to project management become wasteful and inefficient.

For these projects, project management becomes a technical discipline in its own right. To run such projects efficiently, project managers use formal project management methodologies such as PMBOK or PRINCE2.

PMBOK, which stands for the “Project Management Body Of Knowledge”, was first published in 1996 as a manual called A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge. It is now in its fifth edition.

It is a standard that represents generally-recognized good practice, and is published by the Project Management Institute. This is a not-for-profit membership association for the project management profession, which administers the associated Project Management Professional (PMP) qualifications. PMBOK is the dominant project management methodology used in North America.

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PRINCE2, which stands for "PRojects IN Controlled Environments", is widely used in the UK and in English-speaking countries outside North America, and was originally devised as a “best practice” standard to be used for managing UK government information systems projects. Since then, it has become increasingly used for projects of all kinds, in the private as well as the public sector, and although copyright in it is retained by the Crown and managed by the Office of Government Commerce (OGC), its methods are in the public domain and are free for organizations to use.

Various accredited training organizations offer PRINCE2 qualifications at Foundation level, for those who need to be familiar with its terminology, and at Practitioner level, which is aimed at project and program manages.

PRINCE2 is powerful in that it completely clarifies people's roles in projects, ensures that lines of communication are clear, makes sure that project risk is actively managed, sets up appropriate controls, establishes baseline costs, schedule and scope, and so on. In this, it embodies and codifies much of project management best practice.

For more information on training courses and PRINCE2 manuals and other publications go to, the website of the OGC’s official training and certification partner.

PMBOK and PRINCE2 offer different but compatible approaches to project management. PRINCE2 is underpinned by a project phase framework, whilst PMBOK is arranged around knowledge area processes that run through most projects, such as cost management and communications management.

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Comment (1)
  • Over a month ago Dianna wrote
    If your work requires you to participate in planning large projects then understanding the principles in these project management structures is essential for your success. The amount of planning and organization that goes into a large scale project is overwhelming... unless you have a system and a framework to keep track of the big picture, stay on top of issues, and mind the day to day details.

    If you have experience with large projects we'd love to hear about the lessons you've learned and what has worked really well for you.