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Creating the PRINCE2 Project Mandate 

 October 21, 2020

By  Dave Litten

PRINCE2 Project Mandate

Starting Up a Project
The Trigger to start the project is the project mandate and it appears from outside the project team. PRINCE2 says that the project mandate is created by someone from the Corporate or Program Management.
Starting Up a Project (SU) is the first process and has the following main outputs that are given to the Project Board:

  • The Project Brief, which contains the outline of the Business Case
  • The Initiation Stage Plan, which is the plan for the Initiation Stage
  • The Project Product Description

At the bottom of the diagram you can see the text “Pre-Project”. The SU process is considered to be outside the project. Actually, the project does not start until the Project Board takes their first decision. So the SU process provides the information to start the project.

Creating the Project Mandate – contents

The project mandate document usually contains an outline of the Business Case. At the start-up of the project, this would be expanded to the Outline Business Case, which becomes part of the Project Brief and then becomes a separate Business Case document which becomes part of the PID.

The project mandate document usually contains an outline of the Business Case and will explain the reason why the project is needed. Remember the project mandate is the trigger for the project. The Business Case information will be taken from the project mandate, if included, and will be what we call the outline Business Case, which will be part of the Project Brief.

For now there is no need to provide detailed information or figures. The Reasons information should already be included in the project mandate so that you could get the information from it. Note: The Reasons information can also be further expanded in the Initiation Phase.

What do you think the Corporate or Program Management is responsible for with regard to the Business Case?

  • They provide the project mandate, which will most likely include some information on the Business Case.

Corporate & Program Management

  • They set Project Tolerances and document them in the project mandate.

Who is responsible for the following in the Plans Theme?

  • Set Project Tolerances and Document Theme in the project mandate

What happens before the project starts? This is known as Pre-Project.

Someone, somewhere, sometime has an idea or a need. This can be a business opportunity or something that is necessary to do for the company (e.g., a change in legislation like CO2 reduction). This idea or need is the trigger for the project.

The first step that is normally taken is the creation of a project mandate document. This is why we say that the project mandate is the Trigger for the project. A project mandate can be a simple one-page note, an email, or a structured document based on a company project mandate template.

The main objective of the Starting Up a Project Process is to verify that the project is worthwhile. The project mandate is expanded to a Project Brief, and a plan is created for the Initiation stage. The Starting Up a Project Process is also about preventing poor projects from starting.

The purpose of this process is to answer the question, “Do we have a worthwhile and viable project?” The project mandate is usually the only document that exists when this process starts, and this is not enough information for the Project Board to make the decision to start the Initiation Stage.

During this process, the project mandate will be expanded into in the Project Brief. Keep in mind that the Project Brief will be used by the Project Board to decide whether to Initiate the project or not.

This outline of the Business Case is usually very high-level and is created by the Executive. The inputs to the outline of the Business Case are just the information in the project mandate and the Lessons Log. So the Executive expands what is written in the project mandate and considers the following:

  • How the project will contribute to company or program objectives
  • How the project will be funded
  • How to best format the Business Case.

This activity is called Prepare the Outline Business Case, which is very misleading, as the Project Product Description is also created here. It should be called Prepare the Outline Business Case and Project Product Description.

It is important for all project stakeholders to know why this project exists, and what the reasons and benefits are for doing this project; this is answered in the Business Case. In fact, the Business Case is the main driver for all decisions in the project; therefore, it is important to have an outline of the Business Case as soon as possible in the project.

This outline of the Business Case is usually very high-level and is created by the Executive. The inputs to the outline of the Business Case are just the information in the project mandate and the Lessons Log. So the Executive expands what is written in the project mandate and considers the following:

  • How the project will contribute to company or program objectives
  • How the project will be funded
  • How to best format the Business Case.

The Project Brief also updates & confirms the Project Objectives and desired outcomes, as well as confirms the Project Scope. This information originally comes from the project mandate.

Adapting the Processes

All processes must 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 The 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.

Business Case
Information that describes the justification for setting up and continuing a PRINCE2 project. It provides the reasons (and answers the question: ‘Why?’) for the project. An outline Business Case should be in the project mandate and can be updated in Project Brief. A fuller version should appear in the Project Initiation Document.

Follow-on Action Recommendations
A report that can be used as input to the process of creating a Business Case/Project Mandate for any follow-on PRINCE2 project and for recording any follow-on instructions covering incomplete products or outstanding Project Issues.

The Project mandate

Information created externally to the project that forms the terms of reference and is used to start up the PRINCE2 project.

Information provided by the upper management outlining what is desired from the project. This is an external document and is used as an input for the Starting up a Project process. This can be an email, internal memo or a structured document. The project mandate can contain some basic information on the business case, project tolerances, reasons for the project, who the executive should be and risk information.

The information in the project mandate document is expanded into the Project Brief in the Starting up a Project process.

Dave Litten


David spent 25 years as a senior project manager for USA multinationals, and has deep experience in project management. He now develops a wide range of Project Management Masterclasses, under the Projex Academy brand name. In addition, David runs project management training seminars across the world, and is a prolific writer on the many topics of project management.

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