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Comparing project methodologies

Alternative Bus Structures iStock 000003995793Small 146x219LexisPSL Public Law and Andy Cooke of PA Consulting Group compare three project management methodologies – PRINCE2®, PMBOK® and Agile.

Project management
Various project management methodologies have been developed to guide organisations through project management and develop common use of terminology for project management exponents. These are recommended to be modified to suit organisations or project types.

Three of the most widely used are:

o     PRINCE2® (PRojects IN Controlled Environments)

o     PMBOK® (Project Management Body Of Knowledge)

o     Agile

PRINCE2®
PRINCE2®, originally developed by a UK government agency, is a structured project management method used extensively by the UK government as well as other public and private sector organisations in the UK and internationally. It provides processes for managing projects over their entire lifecycle and identifies themes that ensure that focus is retained on critical success factors. It has been developed so that it can be tailored to suit the environment in which it is used.

PRINCE2® is a defined methodology that provides a relatively straightforward, integrated and consistent project management framework of what needs to be done, by whom and by when. In effect, it forms a practical operating manual.

PMBOK®
PMBoK®, developed by the Project Management Institute (PMI), is a knowledge repository that defines 47 project management processes, aligning them with five 'Process Groups' (broadly aligned to project lifecycle phases) and ten 'Knowledge Areas' (aspects of projects that must be managed for effective delivery). It is intended to be tailored to suit different project situations, and specific extensions have been created for construction, software and government projects.

Agile
Agile describes an incremental approach to product (deliverable) development based on small teams working collaboratively through short fixed-length iterations. Its framework is based on the Agile Manifesto® issued in 2001, and comprises four values and 12 principles that were developed originally for software development. The approach has now been reviewed and adopted by a number of project management organisations such as the UK Association of Project Managers and the Project Management Institute (PMI) to reflect the increasing up-take of the approach by customer organisations for project delivery and the need to formalise the approach. It covers a number of different delivery and performance improvement methodologies:

o     Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM)
o     Scrum, Extreme Programming (XP)
o     Kanban
o     Lean

Agile is still most commonly used in IT software development (using DSDM, Scrum, XP), as its main focus is on the management of technical requirements and managing stakeholder expectations in a more dynamic way than traditional project management techniques.

Comparison of PRINCE2®, PMBoK® and Agile
The PRINCE2® approach to project management guidance has been developed primarily from a process perspective, whereas PMBoK® is more of a general project management reference guide. For example, in PRINCE2® a critical step in creating a project plan is estimating. PRINCE2® is very clear on the planning approach and processes but does not cover how estimating should be done in depth as there are a number of techniques that can be applied depending on the project context. PMBoK® provides an explanation and analysis of the range of estimating techniques available so that the project manager can evaluate which one is most suitable to use for planning purposes.

Agile project management is more akin to PRINCE2®. It has a defined framework and approach, with a limited set of supporting techniques and tools. The main difference between Agile and PRINCE2® is that each method is stronger when applied to certain project types. Agile can also be incorporated as part of the PRINCE2® framework within its 'Managing Product Delivery' process. It is now common to see a mix of PRINCE2® and Agile-based projects in an organisation's project portfolio.

The following table provides further relative comparison of PRINCE2®, PMBoK® and Agile, identifying some of the possible benefits and weaknesses of each approach:

  PRINCE2®  PMBoK® Agile 
Industry recognition 

Pro: It is a widely recognised, accredited project management approach and set of qualifications in the UK, overseen by the UK's Association for Project Management (APM).

Con: The qualifications may not always be recognised outside of the UK.  

Pro: PMI qualifications based on PMBoK® are the most widely recognised globally. The approach has been adopted in the past by ANSI (the American National Standards Institute).

Con: PMI is largely US market-focused and its qualifications may not always be recognised by UK organisations.

Pro: Agile methodologies are becoming increasingly recognised as a further formal approach to project managing certain types of project. There are now qualifications and accreditation in the methodologies from the UK's APM, British Computer Society (BCS) and the PMI.

Con: Agile methodology qualifications are relatively new. The approaches will mature.

Pro: PMI qualifications based on PMBoK® are the most widely recognised globally. The approach has been adopted in the past by ANSI (the American National Stand-ards Institute).

Con: PMI is largely US market-focused and its qualifications may not always be recognised by UK organisations.

Pro: Agile methodologies are becoming increasingly recog-nised as a further formal approach to project managing certain types of project. There are now qualifications and accreditation in the method-ologies from the UK's APM, British Computer Society (BCS) and the PMI.

Con: Agile methodology qualifications are relatively new. The approaches will mature.

 

PRINCE2®

PMBoK®

Agile

Ease of application

Pro: It is a structured, comprehensive and integrated process-based methodology which can be tailored in its applica-tion to the project and organisation. The PRINCE2® framework approach ensures that a consistency of method-ology can be imple-mented across an organ-isation's projects.

Con: It is most suitable for large-scale rather than smaller projects. It pro-vides limited information on some supporting techniques and tools.

Pro: It includes a broad range of tools and techniques and includes materials on project scope management, procurement, HR management (including leadership of the project team), communications and stakeholder management.

Con: It has more of an open approach than PRINCE2®. While it includes a separate guidance section on how to identify, define, combine, unify, and co-ordinate the various processes and project management activities across the PMBoK®, it leaves this more to the discretion of the project manager and does not provide an overarching delivery framework in the same way as PRINCE2®.

Pro: It is less reliant on planning predictions and estimates than traditional planning processes within PRINCE2® and PMBoK®, instead streamlining engagement between the project team and the customer to rapidly deliver change.

Con: The Agile project management approach and its techniques are only suitable for specific project types. It is most commonly used in IT software development.

The adoption of Agile project management as a methodology within an organisation can be challenging. It requires a mindset change for more traditional project managers and careful consideration on how it is integrated with business-as-usual governance and wider project, programme and portfolio management processes in place.

  PRINCE2® PMBoK® Agile
Potential risks and issues There is a level of overhead associated with this approach due to the high number of associated artefacts and processes, and while these are there to reduce the risks associated with a project, it can be an expensive approach if applied on projects that do not justify this level of investment. It does not provide a delivery method as PRINCE2® does, rather a repository of information and knowledge to help a project manager or an or-ganisation to design the delivery method Agile, if applied inappropriately, can be used as the justification for removing the need for necessary and sufficient levels of process, governance and assurance, which may cause greater problems later in the project lifecycle.

This article was originally published in LexisPSL Public Law in partnership with Andy Cooke of PA Consulting Group. If you would like to read more quality articles like this, then register for a free 1 week trial of LexisPSL.

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