One of the things which I find really irritating these days is when consultants take “Old wine and put it in new bottles” and sell it as something new /original, and claim it will deliver benefits never seen before. This happens a lot where Project Management methods and frameworks are concerned, insulting the intelligence of experienced Project Management professionals and misleading impressionable newbies into thinking that their life can be made easier. All a little sinful in my view, and causes a great deal of unnecessary confusion and augmentative discussion in the workplace on the best way to deliver projects.

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One of the best examples of this kind of “old wine in new bottles” shifts in project management methods is the development of Agile /Scrum project management methodologies. Agile and Scrum are sold on the basis that it makes project management methods like PRINCE2 look only fit for Project Management Dinosaurs, and to think in any other way concerning how to delivery your project is almost an immoral act.

The problem I have with all this is that Agile /Scrum is nothing new and the 12 Agile Principles are already covered by methods such as PRINCE2 and PMBOK which, unlike Agile, are scalable and don’t require membership of an Agile cult where you’re either an Agile /Scrum believer to the core or you’re branded a Socially Immoral Neanderthal.

 


  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
“Agile non believer”
 
So, as a believer in PRINCE2 methods how can I describe myself already as an Agile believer? One way would be to compare each of the 15 Agile principles to PRINCE2 in order to discover the common ground:-
 
Agile Principle
PRINCE2 Application
Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
There is nothing in PRINCE2 that prevents the use of Agile software development methods such as Stage or Feature Release which have been retrospectively been branded Agile (Old Wine in New Bottles) software development methodologies. This method divides up a software development into bundled and testable features which in their own right are useable when released. This early delivery of workable software in segments/features is a common feature of most modern PRINCE2 managed projects.
  
Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harnesses change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
PRINCE2 welcomes change and even has “Change” as one of its seven Themes (things you must do throughout the project lifecycle). PRINCE2 just points out that customers need to always be told the positives and the negative aspects of a proposed change i.e impact on deadlines, cost and quality so that customers can make value add decisions about whether a one change compared to another maximises the value of the given outcome in meeting the projects objectives
 
Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter time scale
PRINCE2 advocates stage management. These stages can be as short or long as you wish and contain one or more SCRUM sprints. PRINCE2 stage plans are created with bottom-up participation of customers and project staffs in order to enable the rapid development and release of software. Combine this with the Stage /Feature Release software method mentioned above and you have no difference between a PRINCE2 and an Agile project.
 
Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
PRINCE2 suggests projects are planned bottom-up which should involve customers and the project team in the definition of “what they have to do”, “when they will do it” and “how much effort this will involves”. This collaborative planning takes place throughout the project lifecycle and customer interaction is planned on a “as needed basis”. This could be daily / weekly or whatever timescale is necessary to ensure successful project delivery.
 
Build Projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done
I don’t know of any project management method including PRINCE2 which does not advocate this or has anything in their approach which acts as a barrier to this approach or way of thinking. Even the Romans, new that motivated and capable people who are given the right environment and access to the right tools and materials can make the impossible possible.
 
The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation
 
PRINCE2 requires the development of a communications strategy where the “How will we communicate with all are project stakeholders (including the project team)” is defined and agreed in relation to predefined roles and responsibilities for everyone involved in a project deliver. This is an improvement on Agile because defined roles and responsibilities encourages a sense of delivery ownership and responsibility which leads to purposeful and efficient face to face communications.
 
Working software is the primary measure of progress
One of PRINCE2’s 7 principles (good practices expected) is “A PRINCE2 project focuses on the definition and delivery of products, in particular their scope and quality requirements.” No need to elaborate on this one.
 
Agile processes promote sustainable development. The Sponsors, developers and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
PRINCE2 is all about sustainable development through the following must do themes :-
  • Business case – Continued business justification,
  • Organisation – Governance
  • Quality- The outputs must work
  • Plans – What? How Much? When?
  • Risk – What if?
  • Change – What’s the impact?
  • Progress – Where are we now? Where are we going? Should we carry on?
If these PRINCE2 themes do not sing out sustainable delivery with processes built in to maintain the pace of delivery I don’t know what else.
 
Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
 
This is all about quality deliver through technical excellence. PRINCE2’s quality theme is all about ensuring that delivered products meet specific and measurable quality standards. These standards promote technical excellence and good design by default or products will not be accepted and will be returned for rework so the pressure is on to deliver quality which is only achievable through excellence.
 
Simplicity – the art of maximising the amount of work not done-is essential
Agile is all about using the lightest amount process possible to deliver software. PRINCE2 is no different and the 2009 version emphasises that PRINCE2 should be tailored on a “fit for purpose” basis for all projects in accordance with projects size and complexity. 
 
The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organising teams
PRINCE2 is all about self-organising and team work. Planning is bottom-up with all project members specifying the products that need to be delivered (this includes requirements) to satisfy the projects objectives and defining what needs to be done and the effort required of them to deliver these products. The project manager once this has been completed facilitates the project team through strong progress monitoring and problem solving through risk and issue management.
 
At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, the tunes and adjusts its behaviour accordingly
One of PRINCE2’s principles is “Learn From Experience”. PRINCE2 is all about not repeating mistakes and is in fact more proactive than Agile. These mistakes and the lessons learned correcting these mistakes are required in PRINCE2 to be recorded in a repository. This has the advantage that lessons learned from one project can be passed to another.
 
 
Taking all this into account it is clear to me that PRINCE2 is agile, and therefore I have always been running projects in an agile way since I started my project management career. PRINCE2 along with PMBOK are defacto global standards in project management because nothing else has come along which is sufficiently different and offers better deliver results. I fully expect Agile to fade away given time and perhaps end its days as a niche small project delivery (web projects) advocated by the major web agencies such as Conchango.

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