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Why Use PRINCE2® Project Management for Managing Multiple Scrum Teams?

By Peter Krischel
July 27, 2022

I hear people often talk about Scrum projects, but what does Scrum have to do with project management? In this article, I want to explain the relationship between product management and project management, why I think PRINCE2® is the best project management platform to use when you are dealing with managing multiple Scrum teams, and the reason why PRINCE2 is not used a lot, at least not yet, in the US.

Product Versus Project Management Lifecycle

Organizations can be organized in many ways. Most traditional organizations are managed using departments where every department is responsible for a typical function within the organization and the department heads report to the board of directors. These are called functional, top-down driven organizations where every department has its own delegated decision power. These are process driven organizations.

More modern organizations are managed differently. They are more adaptive to changes, and besides being process driven, they are also product focused. Instead of the department making decisions, senior management appoints one person to act as the sole decision authority for the complete lifecycle of that product, from the initial idea to the scrapping of the product from the portfolio. When that Product Owner is responsible for a complete portfolio of products, he or she might be called the Product Manager.

Every organization, no matter how it is organized has a portfolio of products. Some products are still in their early stages (problem child), some can potentially bring a lot of value in the future (stars), some are mature and are selling very well already (cash cows), and some are almost at the end of their lifecycle (dogs). An organization is constantly looking at the current portfolio and how it can improve the portfolio to become more effective and efficient. Managing the portfolio of products and any changes being made to the portfolio is a responsibility of the Product Manager. The Product Manager can assign an individual to act as Product Owner for one or more products on behalf of the Product Manager. The Product Owner is product lifecycle focused. Any changes that need to be made to one or more products can be done using a project environment.

Scrum has its origins in software development, but about ten years ago, other departments in organizations started looking at becoming more agile and analyzing whether the Scrum approach could also be used in their departments— and in projects. In this article, I am not looking at Scrum from a software development perspective but rather from an organization-wide and project management perspective.

In Scrum, we have three roles. The Product Manager, the Scrum Master and Developers. The Product Manager is product focused; the Scrum Master is process focused, and the Developers are a group of maximum nine people who are responsible for creating the products. Scrum uses a prioritized wish list with features, called the Product Backlog. Anyone can go to the Product Manager with ideas, and the Product Manager will decide if the feature is added to the Product Backlog. This has nothing to do with project management. The Product Backlog is about the product lifecycle and not the project lifecycle. The Scrum Master is responsible for creating an environment in which the features can be created in the most effective and efficient way and is, therefore, process focused.

The Product Owner takes items from the Product Backlog and bundles them into items that he or she would like to have created in the next version or release of the product. So, items are copied from the Product Backlog to the Release Backlog. This still has nothing to do with project management. Next, the Product Manager will need to make the decision who to present the Product Backlog item to. This could be a single person in the form of a task, or a self-driven agile group of people, for instance, using Scrum themselves to develop the Product Backlog item, or a larger, multi-functional group of people. The latter is called a project and the group of people use a project management method like PRINCE2 to create the Product Backlog item, or several of them, presented to them by the Product Owner. In Scrum terms, everyone in the project is a Developer, and this group of developers get tolerances to create the Product Backlog item(s) in an iterative and incremental way.

In PRINCE2, the project has an owner. This owner is called the Project Executive, but I like the term Project Owner a lot better. This Project Owner is responsible for achieving the project benefits set out in the PRINCE2 Business Case. Let’s just call this document the Project Backlog to synchronize it with Scrum terminology. Once the Project Owner has decided to create this feature presented to him by the Product Owner, the Project Owner will copy the feature onto the Project Backlog.

What happens next in PRINCE2 is that the Project Backlog item is divided into products that need to be created in the project. In PRINCE2, these deliverable products are called specialist products and are mentioned in the Project Plan and Stage Plan. Let’s call these the Project Release Plan and the Project Increment Plan. In a PRINCE2 environment we have the role of Project Manager who is responsible for creating and managing a project environment in which the products and features can be created in the most efficient and effective way. So, what the Scrum Master does in the whole organization, is what the Project Manager does in the project environment. Let’s call this Project Manager the Project Scrum Master. The organizational Scrum Master uses Scrum Artifacts to manage the environment, whereas the Project Scrum Master uses management products. The PRINCE2 project management team has several different roles like Senior User, Senior Supplier, Project Assurance, Change Authority, Project Support and Team Manager. They are all collectively responsible for the development of the project’s products, so we could just call them the Project Developers.

PRINCE2 and PMP® are fundamentally different, although both are called a project management method. PMP is about creating products in a project environment. PRINCE2 is about creating a controlled environment where we do not get surprised all the time. PRINCE2 is not focused on a specific way to create deliverables, or specialist products. PRINCE2 is generic and Team Managers can use any kind of methodology or framework, including Scrum, to create the products. In short, PRINCE2 is focused on the management products, whereas Scrum is focused on the specialist products.

In PRINCE2, the Project Manager gives assignments to one or more Team Managers in the form of Work Packages. The Project Manager will take items from the Stage Plan (The Increment Plan) and present these items to the Team Manager. Once accepted, the Team Manager will place the items on the Team Plan. If his or her team is using Scrum, this would mean copying the items onto the Sprint Backlog. (In Scrum, the Group of Developers are self-steering. They do not have a Manager to tell them how to do things. In traditional projects, there is a Team Manager who tells his or her team of Developers what to do. So, if there is no Team Manager in Scrum, that means that the entire team collectively take on the tasks of the Team Manager. Instead of using the term, Team Manager, it is better to use the term, Development Team.)

Scrum only has a few artifacts but PRINCE2 has a complete set of management products consisting of plans, strategies, logs, reports, and so on. Every management product has its own owner and its own set of developers and someone who sees to it that the management product is created and maintained in the most efficient and effective way. So, that means that every management product has a Product Owner, a Scrum Master and a Developer. Any PRINCE2 role can have a Product Owner, Scrum Master and/or Developer responsibility for any kind of management product. In summary, Scrum can be used to feed a project, to create and maintain management products and to create and maintain specialist products.

You can have an unlimited number of development teams in PRINCE2. Every team can use its own approach. From a PRINCE2 perspective, the development team just accepts an assignment from the Project Manager.

PMP is very different. PMP is product focused, whereas PRINCE2 is process focused. Using Scrum to manage a PMP project environment is not possible because Scrum is not project management. The only thing you can do is use Scrum to tailor the PMP project environment.

Scrum.org has developed a framework that allows up to nine Scrum teams to work together on one Product Backlog. This is called the Nexus framework. Every Scrum team will have a Developer represent the Developers on the Nexus team. The idea is pretty good but limited in two ways. You can only use Scrum teams (whereas in PRINCE2 you can use any kind of framework), and you can have a maximum of nine Scrum teams working together (whereas in PRINCE2 there is no limit).

I have been teaching PRINCE2 since 2001 and several Agile frameworks (including Scrum) since 2013. In the US, the PMP method is used a lot more than PRINCE2, and in the US, it is not understood that PRINCE2 is the ideal platform for managing an unlimited number of Scrum teams. PRINCE2 and PMP are complementary to each other and should not be seen has competing with each other.


Why is PRINCE2 not used that much in the US?

The PMP method is owned by the Project Management Institute (PMI®), a US-based company. PMP is the de-facto project management standard in the US. PRINCE2 used to be owned by the British Government and is the de-facto project management standard in Europe. Since the beginning of this year, Peoplecert®, located in Cyprus, became the owner of the PRINCE2 method. PRINCE2 has been positioned as an equivalent to PMP. This is incorrect. PRINCE2 is a generic project management platform. On this platform you can use any kind of project management methodology (like PMP) and any kind of product development methodology (like Scrum).

Why did Scrum.org create the Nexus framework? Why not just use PRINCE2?

It has likely got something to do with intellectual property rights, but I think there is a more important reason. My feeling is that when Scrum.org looked at how to manage multiple scrum teams in a project environment they looked at PMP as a reference. PMP is not capable to handle multiple scrum teams, at least not the previous version of PMP. The latest version is more agile compatible. Either Scrum.org did not know of PRINCE2 or did not believe in the power of PRINCE2. That, in my opinion, is why they created Nexus.

Why should an agile Product Owner, Scrum Master and Developer learn about PRINCE2?

Scrum teams do not operate in isolation anymore. They must work together to create Product Backlog items. There are multiple frameworks that help you do this. Nexus is one of them. It is likely that sooner or later you will need to understand how projects work using PRINCE2.

Why should PRINCE2 project managers learn about Scrum?

More and more development teams use the Scrum approach. As a Project Manager you need to understand how to handle these teams using a coaching style of management rather than a top-down command-and-conquer style. Scrum can also be used very effectively to manage the PRINCE2 project environment. Management products can be tailored very effectively using Scrum.

Consultant and Trainer, International Institute for Learning

Peter Krischel is an international business strategy consultant, Business Incubator, Agile Coach and accredited Lead Polychor, PRINCE2 and APMG Agile Project Management trainer. He is also a certified Agile Scrum Master. He has trained delegates in Dutch, German and English in The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg, Germany Austria, Zwitserland, UK, Sweden, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Russia, United Arab Emirates, Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, South Africa, USA, Curacao, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Thailand, Australia, India, Sri Lanka and Maldives. 

“My passion is to share my knowledge and learn from others since I strongly believe that people and organizations should never stop learning.”

Visit Peter’s LinkedIn page at www.linkedin.com/in/pkrischel.

Disclaimer: The ideas, views, and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of International Institute for Learning or any entities they represent.

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