A template for the PRINCE2 PID does not make sense

On the Axelos website I found a page discussing the importance of the PRINCE2 Project Initiation Document (PID), including offering a PID template.

This is amazing.

And so wrong.

A template for the PID simply does not make sense, for several reasons.

Templates do not add value

In general, PRINCE2 templates are not useful. In fact, they frequently lead to undesirable behaviour. As the Axelos Blog quite rightly describes, templates can lead to ‘tick box’ attitude destroying significant value. The danger is a copy/paste attitude, mindlessly filling in according to mandatory standards.

Using PRINCE2 templates often indicates a bureaucratic culture where arbitrary standards are more important than quality.

But a template for the PID is even worse.

PID: Not a document

The Blog on the website of Axelos (the owner of PRINCE2) discusses the value of the Project Initiation Document. And this is where it starts to go wrong. Since the 2009 version of PRINCE2 there is no Project Initiation Document. There is only Project Initiation Documentation. Even before the 2009 version, the PID was not intended to be a document, as the following quote from all versions before 2009 indicates:

The following contents should be read not as a list of contents for one document but rather as the information needed in order to make the initiation decisions.

About the contents of the PID - Every PRINCE2 version before 2009

This also why a PID is not written (as the Axelos Blog states) but assembled.

There are several reasons why a PID should not be a document (unless the project is very small). Some of those reasons are explained here.


There may be parts of the PID that not all members of the Project Board (or other stakeholders) are allowed to see because of confidentiality. Consider a situation where an (external) supplier is involved and has a role as Senior Supplier. Possibly there may be details in the Business Case, which is of course a part of the PID, about the availability of budgets that you do not want your supplier to know about in case they will use those details during the project to strengthen their position during further negotiations.

There may also be details in the business case that should be held confidential because of legal reasons. Consider e.g. a project that is significant for the performance of a corporation listed on the stock market.

Please remember in this discussion that PRINCE2 is a Customer’s approach to project management; not a supplier's delivery approach. Because of the suppliers conflicting business case, PRINCE2 recommends that the project manager comes from the side of the customer.

Individual accountability Project Boars members

Then there is the point of the PID as an instrument for the Project Board. Quite rightly the Axelos Blog mentions the PID’s value for the Project Board. But one size does not fit all.

The PID and the underlying parts should be filtered to the needs of individual members of the Project Board in order to not waste their time and the effort when making decisions.

Consider a Project Board with multiple Senior Users. Obviously in this case, every Senior User will have accountability for (the criteria of) their part of the scope. Accountability can not and should not be shared in the sense that an individual product and its criteria can be the accountability of more than one Senior User.

Scope and quality criteria of products are, on the highest level, part of the Project Plan, which is a part of the PID. In the case of multiple Senior Users, it would only make sense to only let them assess and decide upon those parts relevant to them and their accountability.

The Senior User role is also accountable for benefits on an individual basis. Another example of a “filtered” document would be the Benefits Management Approach (In the 2009 version this had, in my opinion, the far better and more significant name Benefits Review Plan). Every part of this Management Product can and should also be assigned to an individual Senior User.

When it comes to scope and quality criteria of products, the same applies to a situation where multiple Senior Suppliers are involved. Again, it would not make sense to give every Senior Supplier the same “document” to sign off with a lot of information that is irrelevant to them and they don’t have accountability for.

Then it would also be unlikely that an Executive would be bothered to assess and approve all details assigned to Senior Users and Senior Suppliers. An effective Executive would just seek their commitment and would leave the details to the other members of the Project Board and to the Project Manager to work with.

These were just a few examples for the need to present their individual “filter” on the PID to every member of the Project Board. In every project attention should be paid, normally with unique results.

A bit off-topic: this also indicates the Project Assurance id not a separate body, as the guidance may suggest. Every individual member of the Project Board have their own personal accountability and their own Project Assurance duties.


The contents of the PID are not stable. This may also be a good reason to not use one document for the PID. And why a template does not make sense.

At the end of every “execution” stage, the next Management Stage is prepared. The results of the now finishing stage and the results of the plan for the next stage should be at least reflected in the Project Plan and from there in the Business Case. The same applies to the Business Case and possibly to other parts of the PID. Possibly the standards that should be followed change or maybe different Senior Users/Suppliers will be involved.

The same applies when during a stage the Project Board requires an Exception Plan.

Since all parts of the PID are unstable, it is normally appropriate the treat all parts of the PID separately for reasons of maintainability.

Why offer PRINCE2 templates anyway?

Offering PRINCE2 templates seems like a good idea. Templates suggest standardisation but is that a good idea in projects? Some of the examples above suggest it is not really. The Tailoring Principle also indicates that this kind of standardisation is not normally effective.

The danger of using templates is a copy/paste attitude. In fact, PRINCE2 templates themselves are a result of mindless copy/paste behaviour. PRINCE2 templates are normally just a copy of Appendix A of the guidance. So, anyone can easily create them without much effort and without any PRINCE2 knowledge. This leads to the following example of a mindless copy/paste attitude.

Another page on the Axelos site offers all PRINCE2 templates, including a template for the Daily Log.

A Daily Log is an informal log with out any status. It is no more than the Project Manager’s personal to-do list. So possibly it does not even make sense to see the Daily Log as a Management Product. It certainly does not make sense to use a template.

What do you think?

What do you think? Please leave a message below if you have any comments or questions.

About the author

Specialist in effective change.

Accredited MSP™ and PRINCE2® trainer.

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