There’s a lot of confusion between PRINCE2 and agile approaches, and constant dispute regarding which should be used on what projects.
In 2015, AXELOS, the owners of PRINCE2 introduced PRINCE2 Agile. PRINCE2 Agile is an effort to get the best of both worlds– the structure and governance of PRINCE2, combined with the versatility of agile approaches.
PRINCE2 vs PRINCE2 Agile
PRINCE2 is the world’s most extensively utilized project management method. PRINCE2 certifications are a basic requirement of many project management roles in the UK and have grown in appeal since PRINCE2 was launched in 1996.
Agile is a general term used to refer to various approaches, practices and development methods used withing the software development industry.
Agile techniques emerged from the software industry in the 1990’s, to attempt to solve numerous of the numerous problems which had beset the industry.
There are many various agile approaches, the most well-known being Scrum, Kanban, Extreme Programming, and others.
What is PRINCE2 used for?
PRINCE2 is a customer-focused project management method. It provides a set of principles and procedures that allow project managers to justify and govern projects. It helps them understand the benefits, costs and dangers of projects. It also concentrates on how to manage a project effectively to help ensure that it becomes a rewarding investment.
Focus of PRINCE2
PRINCE2 is based upon a set of 7 principles which direct all elements of the methodology.
PRINCE2 principles describe the foundation stones of the method – the things which must always be done if the project is to be considered a ‘PRINCE2 project’.
PRINCE2 covers a large range of crucial project management aspects including the business case, organisation, risk, plans, quality, change and progress. Success on a PRINCE2 project is determined by how well it enables projects to realize business value.
PRINCE2 also includes a full project management lifecycle which explains which role is accountable for taking essential decisions at essential times during a project.
PRINCE2 recognizes that there are all types of outputs which are produced by development teams. These teams have myriad ways of working and PRINCE2 does not attempt to dictate how they must work.
Rather, PRINCE2 merely specifies how development teams interface with the project framework and ensures these teams are able to deliver what is expected, report progress, and remain accountable.
What is PRINCE2 Agile used for?
Agile techniques were developed by engineers in the IT industry to resolve problems with software development projects being consistently late, over-budget and of low quality.
Agile methods have since evolved and are now being used in almost every industry.
Focus of agile
Agile methods don’t concern themselves with the broader questions about whether a project is worth it, or whether the benefits can be recognized afterwards. They focus on delivering value to consumers by developing products incrementally and in the most effective manner possible.
Because agile involves consumer and developer feedback into the development process in a consistent cycle of specifying and focusing on requirements, it makes it more likely that the final product will be what customers need.
Delivery of working products
Agile methods are aimed at the groups doing the work – whether part of a project or not. They focus on questions for the team such as ‘what needs to be delivered next week?’, and ‘is the working software what the customer requires?’
One of the agile concepts is that developers need to cooperate with the customer. Often, the customer representative must be part of the development team.
Self-organising teams is another key agile concept. Agile groups pick their own ways of working, their own tools and strategies rather than these being mandated by a project manager.
Comparing PRINCE2 and agile
One key difference between PRINCE2 and Agile approaches is that PRINCE2 is typically described as a predictive method, while Agile is adaptive.
This means that, while PRINCE2 makes it possible for projects to remain focused on initial business goals (thus ensuring that projects are completed on time and within the budget), Agile methods are extremely responsive to changes in the project environment and customer requirements.
Agile approaches assume that the development procedure is naturally unpredictable. Agile promotes transparency, close co-operation and regular delivery of functional sub-products. These will eventually contribute to a final product which may not resemble the initially designed product but still meets customer requirements.
Levels of strategy
PRINCE2 has the concept of ‘levels of plan’. This states that various plans are needed by different levels of the project management team. There are 3 levels of plan in PRINCE2.
Long-term – this is a top-level project plan which is needed by the highest-level decision-makers.
Medium-term – this is a stage plan which is needed by the project manager for every stage of the project.
Short-term – this is a team plan required by each team manager to cover a work package.
Sprints and timeboxing.
Agile methods such as Scrum, uses the concept of timeboxing and use it to create a ‘sprint’ plan for each iteration. A Scrum sprint is based upon the key Agile concept of a ‘time-box’ – a set time period usually ranging from between 1-4 weeks.
Providing working items.
At the end of every iteration, a working product is delivered to the client. Delivering working products at the end of each iteration guarantees customers receive a product that has been thoroughly tested and meets their demands.
Reacting to change.
One criticism of non-agile project management methods is that it is challenging and expensive to handle modifications. Changes are often handled through official change control procedures which is time-consuming.
In agile methods, changes can be done rapidly because preparation is never ever done further in advance than the next iteration, tasks can be quickly prioritized, new tasks added, or unnecessary tasks removed.
PRINCE2 on the other hand, manages changes to the predicted project scope using a pre-planned change control strategy. Lower-level modifications can still easily be handled at the team level utilizing the prioritization methods typical in agile techniques.
Choosing to use only a single project management method will never ensure a project is successful. Any technique or approach utilized without adequate support is likely to fail.
PRINCE2’s focus on business justification and value remains its biggest asset. It helps to make sure projects align with overall business strategy and goals.
The capability to react quickly to changes with prompt delivery of valuable products is the most significant contribution of agile approaches.
So, it isn’t a matter of choosing either PRINCE2 or agile approaches. The real question is how to best balance the most appropriate project management methodologies and tools into a single project. To learn about PRINCE2 within an agile project consider PRINCE2 training at Practitioner level where you learn how to apply PRINCE2 in real life.