PRINCE2® vs Agile or PRINCE2 Agile®23 November 2020 2023-01-16 18:23
PRINCE2® vs Agile or PRINCE2 Agile®
Diagram showing where Agile methods such as Scrum sit within a PRINCE2 project.
The two most renowned project management methods are undoubtedly PRINCE2 and Agile. Each of these methodologies has its own pros and cons, particularly in the context of any specific project environment. Choosing between PRINCE2 or Agile courses can be daunting, especially if you are new to the field of project management, and it is necessary to carefully consider numerous aspects before making your choice. In fact, both can and are being used increasingly on projects, often together.
In 2015, AXELOS, the owners of PRINCE2 launched PRINCE2 Agile. PRINCE2 Agile is an attempt to get the best of both worlds, the structure and governance of PRINCE2, combined with the flexibility of agile.
This article compares PRINCE2 and PRINCE2 Agile methods and attempts to explain how PRINCE2 Agile can bridge the gap between the two.
PRINCE2 vs PRINCE2 Agile
PRINCE2 Agile is the world’s most complete agile project management solution, combining the flexibility and responsibility of agile with the governance of PRINCE2. Designed in response to demand from user communities, PRINCE2 Agile explores the interface between project management and agile product delivery.
PRINCE2 is a predictive, plan-based approach; whereas Agile uses short-term, incremental objectives that are not determined by a master plan and renders the methodology more adaptable. This difference results in different project focuses.
Prince2 is mainly useful and focuses on higher management levels. Agile on the other hand focuses on lower level terms. Prince2 is more of a predictive approach while Agile is the more adaptive approach.
PRINCE2 is a project management method widely adopted around the world, used by people and organizations from wide-ranging industries and sectors. It is a flexible method that guides you through the essentials for managing successful projects, regardless of type or scale.
PRINCE2 is based on a set of principles, themes, and processes. It helps key individuals who are responsible for delivering the project in understanding, the reason of undertaking the project, and are the benefits worth the costs and risks of doing the project? It also focuses on how to manage a project effectively to ensure it remains a worthwhile investment in a changing business environment.
Focus areas of PRINCE2
PRINCE2 is based upon a set of 7 principles which are the good practices of all aspects of the methodology. These are the guiding requirements and good practices which determine whether the project is genuinely being managed using PRINCE2. There are seven principles and unless all of them are applied, it is not a PRINCE2 project.
PRINCE2® identifies seven Themes as being the essential ingredients for any successful project. These describe aspects of project management that must be addressed in parallel throughout the project. The seven themes explain the purpose and stating the minimum requirement needed for each theme and gives specific guidance on how to tailor to certain environments.
These describe the steps of the project lifecycle, from the initial idea to project closure (and measurement of the benefits). Each process provides checklists of recommended activities, related responsibilities, and guidance about how to tailor to a specific environment.
Essentially A “process” is an operation (or series of operations) that has an input which could be raw material and produces outputs which may be the finished goods.
You may be familiar with industrial processes. An oil refinery takes in crude oil as its input, and through the process of refining produces gas, petrol, and refined oil as outputs.
Similarly, the processes in PRINCE2® are management processes and like industrial processes they have both inputs and outputs.
The term ‘Agile’ is an umbrella, used to refer to a range of methods, frameworks, and techniques. Agile approaches emerged from the software industry in the 1980’s, essentially to overcome some issues such as : late delivery, over budget, and low quality. Agile approaches are now increasingly being used in industries besides the software industry.
Agile project management is an iterative approach to managing projects that focuses on continuous releases and incorporating customer feedback. There are several different agile approaches, however the most well-known are Scrum, Kanban, and Lean.
Focus areas of agile
Agile methodology overcomes the risk of spending a lot of time if there are any changes required. It allows teams to work directly with clients, instead of working with other teams. This provides a clear outcome with a focused goal and in an incremental way.
Agile approaches do not take too much time on considering, whether a project is worth undertaking, or whether the benefits can be realized. Agile methodology focuses on delivering value to the customer by delivering products incrementally, in the most efficient way.
Delivery of working products
Essentially, Agile methodologies are aimed at the teams doing the work. It focuses on the team for example, what will be delivered next week? and does the working product satisfy the customer needs?
One of the agile principles is that people on teams must work together collaboratively with the customer. Collaboration is the act of working together within that process to achieve a shared goal. The most important aspect of a collaboration is that you can respond quickly. Often, the customer will be co-located with the development team.
Self-organizing teams is also one of the agile principles. Essentially the teams choose how best to accomplish their work, rather than being directed by others outside the team. Development Teams are structured and empowered by the organisation to organize and manage their own work. teams determine their own tools and techniques to use (e.g. task backlogs, burn-down charts, Kanban boards), rather than these being mandated by a project manager.
Comparing PRINCE2 and agile
One key difference between PRINCE2 and Agile methods is that PRINCE2 is often described as a predictive (plan-based) approach, while Agile calls for short-term, incremental achievements independent of an overarching plan.
This means that, while PRINCE2 enables the customer to remain focused on the project’s original business goals, Agile approaches are very responsive to changes in the project environment and customer requirements.
Agile approaches operate on complete transparency, close collaboration and frequent delivery of usable sub-products that will eventually contribute to the final product delivered.
PRINCE2 Levels of plan
PRINCE2 has the concept of ‘levels of plan’. This suggests that different plans are required by different levels of the project management team. There are 3 levels of plan in PRINCE2:
Project plan – this is a high-level project plan which is required by the key decision-makers, namely the project board
Stage plan – this plan is required by the project manager for every stage of the project.
Team plan – this plan required by the team manager to cover the work done by their team. This is a detailed plan.
Agile Sprints and timeboxing
The agile concept of time-boxes or iterations fits in neatly with PRINCE2’s concept of a team plan because there can be one or more time-boxes within a team plan. A sprint is a short, time-boxed period typically ranging from between 1-4 weeks when a scrum team aims to complete a set amount of work. Sprints are at the very heart of scrum and agile methodologies and getting sprints right will help your agile team ship better products with fewer issues.
At the end of each sprint it is good practice to deliver a working product to the customer. This promotes confidence in the team and client. The increments of products are delivered to the client until the final sprint, when the fully built and test product is delivered.
Responding to change
There is nothing in PRINCE2 which suggests that it struggles to adapt to changing business requirements. In fact, on the contrary, PRINCE2 encourages requirements to emerge and evolve as the project continues.
Possibly one criticism of PRINCE2 approach could be that any changes to the project can be a little lengthy and costly to manage. PRINCE2 uses a change control approach to manage changes to the project scope and decisions are taken by the correct level of authority. Any lower level changes, such as a feature request can easily be managed at the team level using the prioritisation techniques common in agile approaches.
However, in agile approaches, any changes can be addressed much more quickly. One reason is because the customer is part of the sprint team and requirements are described by the customer in the form of tasks which are prioritised.
Secondly because a sprint is never more than 1-4 weeks, the tasks can be quickly removed, re-assigned a different priority, or new tasks added with ease.
Using both PRINCE2 and PRINCE2 Agile
This would be best of both worlds, the structure and direction of PRINCE2, coupled with the flexibility and responsiveness of agile.
PRINCE2 focuses on understanding what products are required to support the business needs, agile focuses on completing those products in an efficient manner, incrementally delivering more working products as the work progresses.
PRINCE2 does not detail how the teams should be organised. However, it does define a simple interface between the customer who will pay for the project and the supplier who provides the teams to do the specialist work. This simply means that teams on a PRINCE2 project can use any development approach they choose, including any of the agile approaches. Providing they comply with the interface defined by PRINCE2
Comparison of PRINCE2 and PRINCE2 Agile
|Focuses on lower team level||Focuses on higher management level|
|Focuses on the product||Focuses on direction of project|
|What to deliver next week||are the benefits worth the costs and risk|
|how will we know it is finished||Is it worth doing the project|
|More adaptive approach||More predictive approach|
|Explains what to ‘fix or flex’ for the 6 performance targets of PRINCE2 (time, cost, quality, scope, risks, benefits)||Details 6 performance targets of PRINCE2 that need to be managed (time, cost, quality, scope, risks, benefits)|
In essence, both methods rely on the same principles, themes, and processes. The key difference is PRINCE2 Agile guidance explains in detail how to tailor these elements for agile projects.
Choosing whether to study PRINCE2 or Agile courses is often a personal decision which can be based on your current job role, your personal career goals, the requirements of your organisation, the specific team dynamics, the industry in which you work and a multitude of other factors.
When the decision is not as obvious, it is worth considering the features of both the PRINCE2 and Agile methods to determine which one seems right for your personal career goals and development.
The biggest asset of PRINCE2 is to focus on the business justification. This helps to ensure that projects proceed based on sound business sense.
The biggest contribution of the Agile approach, its ability to respond quickly to changes with on-time delivery of products which deliver value to the customer
If you want to learn more about PRINCE2 or PRINCE2 Agile, or want to become certified, look at our PRINCE2 or PRINCE2 Agile training pages on our website https://harissolutions.co.uk/
AXELOS (2017). Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2. Sixth edition. Norwich: The Stationery Office..
AXELOS (2015). PRINCE2 Agile. Norwich: The Stationery Office.