PRINCE2 (PRojects IN Controlled Environments) is a structured project management method and practitioner certification programme. PRINCE2 emphasises dividing projects into manageable and controllable stages.

Project Managers are responsible for the overall initiation, planning, design, monitoring and execution of any specific activity. The PM needs to apply knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to activities to ensure the outlined goals of any project are met and completed on time and to budget. As you can see, there is a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of any project manager.

Project manager responsibilities

The exact defined role of a project manager depends on the nature and scale of the project. However, it is very likely to include:

  • Planning and defining the scope and reach of the project
  • Planning the sequence of works required to achieve the objective
  • Monitoring and planning resources
  • Communicating work schedules
  • Estimating time and costs
  • Risk analysis
  • Monitoring and reporting
  • Quality control

These are just some of the main areas of responsibility, and you can imagine how difficult it would be to manage a project without a lead point person or manager in charge. To effectively manage all the above and more, you need to be able to trust the PM and place faith in their ability to get the job done. That’s why appointing a project manager is often the key factor in the success and failure of any project.

The agile approach

Agile projects often result in delivery being faster but Agile is a mindset; that means recognizing your project will not necessarily deliver everything that was specified at the beginning and, indeed, that the users don’t necessarily need everything they specified.

An agile project would rather not deliver something if it’s not to the required standard, but everything in the approach is designed to ensure that what is delivered will be of value to the customer. The more mature PRINCE2 organizations and practitioners deal with this approach well and see agile as a very useful tool.

Why PRINCE2 Agile?

PRINCE2 Agile can be integrated with many different agile frameworks, such as Scrum, Kanban, Agile PM and Lean Start-up. So, if you are using an agile framework currently, there’s no need to change frameworks. What you are doing is enabling your current agile way of working to be used in a wider project context.

Working with Agile

I was unconvinced about the realities of PRINCE2 and Agile working effectively together because you often hear that they are two completely different ways of operating.

One of many challenges was in how to adapt framework and methods to work with agile teams. While agile makes perfect sense for their work, still need to manage the overall project and keep stakeholders abreast of progress as part of a larger project or programme being run with PRINCE2.

Completing PRINCE2 Agile Foundation certainly changed my perception. It gave me new ideas about when it’s beneficial to combine the two – but was equally helpful in determining when to keep them separate. Set procedures and timeframes around regulations, for example, generally benefit from PRINCE2 governance. On the other hand, the iterative and timeboxed approach of Agile can show the progress of project delivery.

I now have a solid understanding of how to differentiate between the two, but also how they can be used to complement each other to a positive effect. For example, GDPR demands that things are done in a certain way which is likely to make PRINCE2 the immediate choice, but there can also be an advantage in combining elements of Agile too.

In fact, one of the most beneficial parts of the course is the capability and confidence it gave about either PRINCE2 or Agile working environment. This means I can now relate and work effectively with someone who is more inclined to use one methodology over the other.

So, why does PRINCE2 Agile work effectively in a PRINCE2 organization?

  1. A common language and approach

You’ve already got a level of control and terminology you understand and mature PRINCE2 organizations are adept at tailoring PRINCE2 to different projects.

  1. Flexibility with agile methods

There are many flavours of agile out there and although Scrum is probably the most popular, it is not the only agile development approach. PRINCE2 has never been prescriptive in defining how you deliver a project and PRINCE2 Agile can work with one or many agile approaches, including Scrum, Kanban, and DevOps among them. This ensures that the project management team understands how to interface with the agile delivery approach.

It is important to understand that PRINCE2 Agile is still focused on project management and that the delivery team will still have to be trained in the appropriate agile delivery approach or approaches they adopt.

  1. Having a business perspective

In PRINCE2 the executive represents the interests of the business; applying this to the agile environment is a winning approach as you maintain the overall business perspective. This ensures users don’t get carried away with their demands and what is delivered needs to fit with business requirements. This resonates well with the agile world because value is a primary driver for prioritizing what should be delivered next.

  1. The Agilometer

Essentially this is a risk assessment tool to help assess how appropriate agile is for a given project. Even in a waterfall project you can incorporate some elements of agile, so the Agilometer allows organizations to assess the implications of doing so.

Within the PRINCE2 Agile guidance, it also provides a unique way of addressing the potential issues of introducing agile methods.

The future’s bright for PRINCE2 Agile

Blending PRINCE2 and agile working practices together takes some thought, but PRINCE2 has been created with the intention of being tailored and that helps things enormously. The PRINCE2 Agile manual talks us through the whole process and provides guides and recommendations that really do let us gain the best of both worlds.

It offers a new way of thinking about how to get the best out of Agile, while still maintaining the governance of PRINCE2. In my view, its real strength is that it does so intelligently without being prescriptive. It’s also well aligned with recent updates to PRINCE2.

Alongside this, the introduction of the PRINCE2 Agile Foundation qualification is a big step, but one which I’m delighted AXELOS has taken. It means that anyone with an interest in this combination – whether from the Agile community or with qualifications other than PRINCE2 – can get involved.

It opens access to a much broader audience; something which hasn’t been possible until now and can only be a good thing for the industry

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