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PRINCE2 Agile for agile delivery practitioners

Blog posted by: Julia Gosse – project management trainer and consultant, 14 November 2018.

Graphic image of agile project team members moving cards on large kanban board

The second instalment of our PRINCE2 Agile® blog post series with Julia Gosse considers existing agile users: how can they combine their agile approach with the control and governance offered by PRINCE2®?

Professionals using agile delivery methods are self-organizing, highly collaborative and empowered to make their own decisions. They often operate in an environment where they are receiving requirements on an ongoing basis which they deliver in an agile way according to the priorities defined by the product owner.

However, projects are not ongoing; they have a finite timeframe and budget, along with strategic drivers and reasons why the business needs to deliver something. Projects usually require a level of reporting, often to very senior members of the organization, and decisions are often made above the agile development team.

Clearly, these seemingly opposing approaches can create resistance to such controls among agile professionals. But while agile is usually deployed for upgrading existing systems, PRINCE2 is specifically designed for delivering projects; having knowledge of this enables people using agile methods to understand the purpose of added constraints and control in projects.

The agile practitioner in the project environment

Taking Scrum as an agile example, you have a self-organizing team in which the product owner sets the priorities and the developers work to those priorities. The Scrum Master ensures the process of Scrum is being used effectively and acts as a buffer to the team from outside influences. The Scrum team are told they do not need a project manager as they are a self-organizing, autonomous team. This may well be the case for a small, low budget, low risk sets of requirements.

But bigger and more complex projects will always need an additional layer of coordination. This is where a project manager becomes very useful. Individual teams quite naturally focus on the task set for them rather than everyone else’s problems. So simply relying on teams to organize themselves, without an independent coordinating role, is often unrealistic. There are also likely to be non-agile work elements and dependencies within the project which don’t work to the rhythm of the Scrum teams.

PRINCE2 Agile for agile professionals

For agile practitioners who are stepping in to a more project management-oriented role, PRINCE2 Agile is suitable for bridging the gap.

To begin with, PRINCE2 Agile helps the agile professional acknowledge that, within the project, they are concerned with more than just their individual requirements; there may be multiple work elements and not all of them will be agile.

They will have to understand the variety of project environments – agile and non-agile – that need a degree of control. To help them do this, PRINCE2 Agile combines an industry standard project management method with a practical appreciation of agile delivery methods. And, with an emphasis on flexibility, it doesn’t align the guidance with any one agile delivery method.

Instead, it provides the agile practitioner with a stepping stone into the project management world but with the reassurance of agile language and terminology that they will already be familiar with.

The Hexagon approach to project control

diagram of the hexagon approach to project control

Something unique to PRINCE2 Agile is the “Hexagon”. This reflects the six aspects of a project that PRINCE2 helps to control: time/cost/quality/scope/benefits/risk. For the agile professional, the Hexagon is designed to bring the agile and project management worlds together.

PRINCE2 has, in the past, described time and cost as the most commonly set tolerances.

In a project using agile, time and cost are fixed and no variance is expected. Any variance here is serious. Allowable variation is around scope and quality. However, that does not mean we cut back on quality, which has allowable tolerances. Any scope changes need to be within allowable tolerance while risk tolerance also needs to be considered.

Bringing agile and PRINCE2 together for project management

PRINCE2 brings a level of control to agile methods when used in projects; something that not all agile approaches possess intrinsically.

Projects often have to be managed and controlled at a higher level and PRINCE2 Agile equips people with an agile background to recognize and understand the value of applying controls to comply with the more stringent demands of projects in organizations.

Read the first blog post in this series, PRINCE2 Agile for PRINCE2 practitioners.


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