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What PRINCE2™ Recommends for Project Boards – The Project Board Members (#7 in the series Looking for Your Sponsor? The PRINCE2™ Project Board Approach to Senior Management Engagement)
By Jay Siegelaub – MBA, PMP, PRINCE2

PRINCE2™ recognizes that those with a problem to be solved (the “Customer”) are likely to be different from those who will provide the solution (the “Supplier”), but they need to work together to ensure that the defined project meets both of their goals. At the same time, different parties on the Customer side might themselves have different perspectives. One Customer perspective is that Business needs have to be met (“I don’t care how you do it, but we need to see XYZ as a result”), while the people who actually will be working with (“touching”) the products that will be created want to make sure they will actually be usable (“will this really work – or will it just bring us more headaches?”). So PRINCE2™ proposes the creation of a Project Board, representing these three distinct interests to take on the traditional role of Sponsor. This Project Board consists of three roles:

  • An Executive – representing the interests of the greater business, and asking “Does this project meet a true business need, and does it provide value?” If this interest isn’t protected in the project, we run the significant risk of creating something that adds no value to the organization, pulling important resources from projects that could provide a useful benefit.
  • A Senior User – representing the interests of those who will actually use or work with the final deliverables. This may not be the same body that wants to see value. The Senior User makes sure that the actual users are satisfied with the solution and will be able to employ it in their work to produce the expected Business benefits. Without this interest involved, products are created that don’t serve the need, are underutilized, or ignored.
  • A Senior Supplier – representing the interests and perspective of those constructing the solution. The suppliers are the technical resources; they make sure it can be done, and that it meets quality expectations. The project might use in-house and external supplier teams to do that work, and the interests of all these sources need to be considered. Without Supplier representation in decision-making, the Customer might ask for a solution that can’t be delivered – with the waste of time and effort being discovered only after the project is well under way.

These roles might be combined (e.g., the same person might serve as both the Executive and the Senior User), but PRINCE2™ reminds us that they are three distinct perspectives, and none should be eliminated. When we have one person filling more than one role there is a tendency to bias towards one or the other role, so one perspective may be submerged, endangering the success of the project. As PRINCE2™ is designed for use in all types of projects, we could imagine a home construction project where a person is designing and constructing his or her own home. The person could appropriately serve in all three roles, and that would probably be appropriate to that particular type of project. In medium to large projects all three perspectives, represented by different people, generally need to be involved to assure that all dimensions of the project’s needs – and its success measurements – are considered. PRINCE2™ also reminds us that a large Project Board can be difficult to manage and could make decision-making overly complex. If there are numerous people who have a legitimate interest in project oversight, they should be encouraged to appoint a spokesperson to carry out that role.

Jay Siegelaub has over 30 years of professional experience delivering and supporting projects in information technology, insurance systems, banking, and nonprofit strategic planning, as well as in the pharmaceutical, financial service, consulting, and consumer products industries. As a recognized educator he has trained thousands of project managers over the past 23 years, including 13 years as the Project Management tutorial instructor for the Drug Information Association.

Jay’s recent responsibilities included leading the North American Change Management and Training practices for a UK-based management consulting firm, training corporate consulting professionals in project and program management, and supporting clients in managing the “people” issues of their business change initiatives. He has authored articles on training, project management and information technology for various publications, and often presents at conferences, including the PMI North American Congress (1999, and 2004 – 2007), ProjectWorld and ProjectSummit.

In addition to his PMP® certification, Jay has his MBA in Organization Management from New York University’s Stern School of Business, and is an accredited PRINCE2™ Practitioner, Instructor and Examiner. He has taught and consulted in PRINCE2™ in North America for 10 years (the first US-accredited PRINCE2™ instructor), and worked for the company (and with the authors) that wrote the PRINCE2™ Manual for the UK government.

He has provided Change Management and Project Management consulting and training (including PRINCE2) to companies such as Sun Microsystems, NATO, the United Nations Development Programme, Bechtel, IBM, Philip Morris, Credit Suisse, JPMorganChase and Diageo.

Jay also consults in Organizational and Professional Development.

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