This post briefly reviews the similarities and differences between PRINCE2, PMBOK and Agile, and suggests that best practice can be derived from elements within all three methodologies.
PMBOK and PRINCE/PRINCE2 are project management methodologies; Agile is a software development methodology that can be applied to some projects.
Similarities between all three methods are:
- They each provide a set of tools, techniques and templates for managing projects – avoiding the need for re-invention.
- They each aim at tackling common and problematic project characteristics:
- Accelerated change
- New or unique deliverables
- Limitations on resource or budget
- Delineated timescales.
- All three methods seek to reduce the risks inherent in undertaking projects: unsatisfactory deliverables; overspend; schedule slippage.
PMBOK and PRINCE2 are similar in offering a highly structured template for project administration and control. They differ in that:
- PRINCE2 is more prescriptive in terms of project management outputs: e.g. baseline documents; configuration records and logs; reports.
- PMBOK offers more guidance on the tools to be used: e.g. earned value analysis; three-point estimates; stakeholder matrices; information gathering techniques.
- PRINCE2 emphasises the need to regularly review the business case for the project. PMBOK assumes that the business case is external to the project, once the project has been initiated, and that it is not in the control of the project manager.
- PRINCE2 offers guidance for corporate as well as project management whilst PMBOK concentrates on the techniques, tasks and responsibilities of programme or project manager.
Agile offers a very different formula to both these methodologies.
PRINCE2 and PMBOK strongly emphasise the importance of planning, as per Deming’s ‘Plan, Act, Check, Do’ or Boyd’s ‘Observe, Orient, Decide, Act’. Agile, however, works on the assumption that the deliverables may be too complex or unknowable to be planned for up-front. More suitable, perhaps, to smaller projects with multiple deliverables, Agile (or Agile With Scrum) suggests a less formal project structure, with the project manager (or scrum-master) facilitating an iterative process of short development cycles or sprints. Each sprint, which must produce completed deliverables, may be as little as two weeks in length.
The key themes of Agile are: visibility; inspection; adaptation.
Agile can be characterised as encouraging self-micro-management by the individuals involved in performing the work.
Adopting Best Practice
I would suggest that PRINCE2 and PMBOK are on a par in terms of offering structured, detailed and comprehensive project management methodologies. I would favour PMBOK on the basis that it is less prescriptive and therefore more flexible, and to me, at least, PMBOK seems more intuitive: a clear and well thought-out formulation of good practice and common sense.
From both methods I would take forward:
- Scrupulous planning
- Rigorous project control
- Clearly defined roles
- An emphasis on communication
- Clear and validated deliverables.
From Agile I would loot:
- Quick-win deliverables where possible
- An emphasis on team and individual initiative
- Protocols for meetings, such as the ‘scrum meeting’ where each project team member has two minute to answer three questions:
- What have you achieved on this project since the last scrum?
- What are you planning to achieve by the next?
- What if anything is preventing you from meeting your commitments to the project?
The PMBOK, PRINCE2 and Agile methodologies have each gained large numbers of practitioners around the world. This is because each offer compelling methods for dealing with the administration and management of projects. It therefore seems likely that best practice will eventually be defined as an adaptive hybrid of all three schools of thought.
Feedback on any of my posts and the issues they discuss is very welcome.
© 2013 Luke Andreski. All rights reserved.