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PRINCE2 Product Based Planning 

 March 27, 2023

By  Dave Litten

PRINCE2 Product-based Planning

PRINCE2 project deliverables are known as products and describe anything that the project creates or modifies. The thinking here, is to first brainstorm the products that are required, and only then consider the tasks or activities and their associated resources.

As a simplistic example shown below, is a construction project requires that a high old or trench is dug for building foundations, then the hole itself is the product or outcome, whereas digging the hole is the activity along with the resources required to create it.

Prince2 Product-Based Planning

The PRINCE2 product based planning technique requires that you first create the product description for the complete project, you then creates the product breakdown structure diagram, followed by descriptions of each product contained within it, and then finally to create the product flow diagram which shows the sequence of creation of the products and their interdependencies.

Using a simple example of a barbecue party as the project, the product breakdown structure could be drawn as a hierarchical diagram as shown below:

Prince2 Product Based Planning Prince2 Product Based Planning

Note that this diagram does not infer the creation sequence of each product, only their groupings. I have color coded the various products to help demonstrate the various types of products that may be represented in such a diagram.

For example, the light blue products are merely groupings and not a real product at all.

The green products are examples of the lowest level products. These are simple products that cannot or should not be broken down any further.

I have included a purple product called “prepared fruit punch”, and this is an example of an integrated product. Such a product is real and is made up or consisted, or integrated, of in this case the three products linked underneath it.

Apart from the top level product, “barbecue party”, which is the project end product, the other product type shown in orange, is called an external product – normally shown as an ellipse. An external product is either one that already exists, and therefore will not need to be created or modified, that a product whose creation is outside the scope of the project (yet is still required by the project).

PRINCE2 Product Breakdown Structure

As I have stated, such a diagram could be drawn as a mind map or as an indented list:

So far so good.

The next step is to take all the product types as shown in the product breakdown structure (apart from the group products as these are just a simple method used to help identify products of a similar type or group), and translate them into a product flow diagram.

Prince2 Creating A Product Flow Diagram

This diagram is typically drawn from left to right and I have added an “S” circle simply to denote the start point. On the right-hand side is the final product, the “barbecue party”.
Notice that in this diagram the arrows show the sequence of product creation and the inter-dependencies of one product to or from one or more others.
The PRINCE2 official Manual will want to take the diagram below and perform a “health check” on its completeness which I will now describe.

I’m sure you are familiar with the task based method called critical path analysis.

This will be not only used after the PRINCE2 product based planning technique has been applied in order to determine the task sequence and interdependences needed to create each product.

When carrying out the critical path method by hand, to passes are made – first, a forward pass to determine the earliest finish date, and second, a backward pass to calculate the critical path tasks and the slack or float of each non-critical task.

A somewhat similar application needs to be carried out for the product flow diagram. In order to demonstrate this to you, the diagram below shows a much-simplified product flow diagram for a restaurant relaunch project.

PRINCE2 will want to look at the products and their sequences, or “flow” in a little more detail before proceeding to the next step.

Starting on the right hand side of the diagram work backwards, not by carrying out any calculations, but rather, checking link and sequence logic.

Let me explain.

As is often the case off to carrying out a first version of a product flow diagram, you may identify some missing links. For example, does a product “new menu supplies” will be needed before the final product can be created.

Also, by thinking in reverse order, if there is a missing product called “trained staff” (an outcome), before the final product can be created and completed.

Further, the current menu design will be needed as a benchmark against which to design and create the new menu.

And probably most important of all, (this product may be the driver for the entire project!), the results of a review of the current restaurant practices, the problem and requirement notes need to be written up by the business owner and chef.

The above paragraph and the identification of that product is important here. Without doing a backward pass logic check, creating that first product that sets the scope could easily have been missed. Without it the restaurant relaunch could have failed, or as a minimum, not met the full benefits of the investment in the project.

As a final point, there is also the danger that some of the linkages are not needed and once these are removed, the result and diagram is accurate, complete, and slightly simplified.

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Dave Litten


Dave spent 25+ years as a senior project manager for UK and 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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