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The Differences Between PRINCE2® and Agile Project Management (AgilePM)

PRINCE2 vs Agile Project Management - What are the differences?

The Differences Between PRINCE2® and Agile Project Management (AgilePM)

With a view to explaining the differences between PRINCE2® and Agile Project management (AgilePM), I have cheated a little by using the same table as I did in the post, PRINCE2® versus PRINCE2 Agile®: What are the differences?.  I have, however, added an extra row; PRINCE2® Work Packages as oppose to Agile sprints.  I have taken these differences and used them as sub-headings.

The Differences Between PRINCE2® and AgilePM

PRINCE2 vs AgilePM Comparison Table

Control

PRINCE2 structures how a project should be run.  It focuses on a series of successive phases from beginning to end of the project.  Agile, on the other hand does not impose a project structure, but instead focuses on how the work should be organised and performed.

Focus

PRINCE2 focuses on the project being justified by its continuing to meet the business objective as the project progresses.  Looking at the project from a strategic perspective, PRINCE2 considers business case and risk and explores the purpose of the project and whether it is worth doing.  Agile, however, assumes the project is worth delivering and gives less thought to overall strategy.  Agile’s goal is for the product to meet customer or product owner needs first and for the work to be carried out by the most efficient means possible. The product is then delivered incrementally, meaning that features can be added to it as the project progresses.  Feedback from the customer is then incorporated until all customer requirements are met.

Plan Based – v – Product Based

Because PRINCE2 seeks to plan the structure of the project (budget, timescale, work required, resources), it considers all levels of the project from the beginning. Product and scope are clearly defined prior to commencement, so documentation is very detailed and focused (and there is a lot of it).  The project manager does not usually plan how each task will be carried out, but rather leaves this to the team/s themselves.

In contrast, product and scope in Agile evolves as the project progresses.  It is all about the product.  Prototypes of the product are released as early as possible in order to gain feedback from the customer.  Communication is the focus, making for much less documentation which is subject to change rather than being rigid in structure.

Predictive – v – Adaptive

As a predictive project management method, from the very beginning PRINCE2 plans what should happen or could happen.  It considers risks, how they can be dealt with and how they can be prevented or minimised.  In contrast, being an adaptive project management framework, there is less planning involved in Agile. 

Unlike PRINCE2 (where the entire project is planned from the beginning), Agile plans work in terms of what will satisfy the customer until the next phase of the product is developed.  The idea is to be adaptable to changes, whether they be customer requirements or unforeseen setbacks.  That is not to say that there is no planning in Agile; project requirements are still set from the beginning, but initial plans can be adjusted because Agile recognises that requirements can change throughout the project. 

7 Principles – v – 12 Principles

At its core, PRINCE2 has only seven principles.  These are the basic rules that every project should follow.  There are also 7 key project roles and 7 key project phases, all of which complement each other.  Again, Agile differs here in that it follows 12 principles advocating customer satisfaction as the highest priority and welcoming change.

Team organisation – v – Self-organising Team

PRINCE2 does not concern itself with how teams organise themselves or the methods they use.  Rather, it defines the interface between the customer funding the project and the supplier providing the team/s to do the work.  Agile, on the other hand, concentrates on the idea of self-organising teams that choose for themselves how the work is to be accomplished.  Agile operates on the belief that the team/s know what needs to be done and how best to do it, whereas PRINCE2 deems the project structure and how the teams fit into it to be of the highest importance.  

Resistant to Change – v – Respondent to Change

It is generally believed that because planning in Agile usually encompasses 4-week sprints (although sometimes this can be reduced to 2-week sprints if necessary), changes can be accommodated more easily than with PRINCE2, where the whole project is planned from the start.  However, the point of planning in PRINCE2 is to anticipate and be ready for changes and setbacks, making it easy to tailor to the project environment and therefore more flexible than its reputation allows. 

Work Packages – v – Sprints

A PRINCE2 project is managed using work packages.  Work packages are used to communicate information from the project manager to the team/s or team manager in relation to the work required.  They describe or define WHAT work will be carried out, any foreseeable constraints, how to handle reporting and what to do if issues should crop up.  They do not, however, determine how the work should be carried out, whereas Agile does. 

As stated previously, an Agile project is completed in short, 4-week stages called ‘sprints’, allowing the project to be broken down into manageable phases.  Once each phase is completed, the product becomes whole.   The beginning of each sprint sees the team/s planning HOW to carry out the work, including an estimation of how much time will be needed.  By the end of each sprint, both team/s and customer meet to establish if the work meets requirements.

PRINCE2®

PRINCE2® is the most widely used project management methodology.  As such, it describes the roles and responsibilities of all project team members including board members, managers and team manager roles.  PRINCE2® recognises that there are all kinds of products produced by teams of people with various specialist skills and who work in different ways.  It does not, however, try to guide how they should work.  Rather, PRINCE2® defines the interface between project and team/s in terms of reporting, accountability and what work needs to be carried out. It plans what should happen or could happen and considers risks and how they can be prevented, minimised or dealt with.  It also offers a set of principles, themes and processes to enable key managers to justify a project.

AgilePM

Whereas PRINCE2® principles help project managers to justify and easily execute large projects, AgilePM helps with the swift delivery of a project. The focus of PRINCE2® is to look at a project from a strategic perspective and ask what the purpose of the project is and whether it is worth completing.  Agile on the other hand, assumes that the project is worth completing and focuses on the product itself.  This is delivered incrementally; features being added as the project progresses.  Feedback is incorporated until all customer requirements have been met.

In a nutshell then, the main difference between PRINCE2 and AgilePM is that PRINCE2 is a methodology for managing projects whereas Agile is a way of carrying out the work on the product.  They each perform different functions, but whilst doing so, they can be used together, making for a powerful combination in any project management environment.

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