How Project Managers Can Survive in an Agile World

By Lisa Hodges on behalf of AXELOS   |   Owner/principal consultant, Cornerstone Service Management

Any discussion of project management demands the question: “How well are we doing?”

In my view, while project managers are putting so much emphasis on the elements of time and cost, we are losing something in scope and quality. This doesn’t apply to all projects or project managers, but it remains a real phenomenon.

But how has this happened?

In the past decade, project managers have been struggling to balance cost, time, scope and quality with focusing on the benefits to the customer. Customer requirements change over the life of a project and many projects are not delivering what the customer needs.

Also, the popularity of agile and Scrum approaches reflects an underlying malaise in project management. The Agile Manifesto itself shows an active hostility to traditional project management – especially in the US – in which the role of the project manager doesn’t exist.

This brings us to A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide)-based project management. The Project Management Institute (PMI)® Global Standard offers a vast body of knowledge to project managers, but lacks the specific guidance to turn knowledge into practical and actionable methods tailored to different situations. This has resulted in failures, and practitioners spending too much time translating the knowledge and not enough time executing and delivering it.

Some organizations have developed their own methods but with a variety of different customized templates, methods, and processes it becomes difficult to collaborate and communicate.

The project management community needs to figure out a mechanism to get the best out of the PMBOK® Guide and make it actionable. And I think PRINCE2® is the solution to the problem of taking PMBOK® Guide knowledge and making it practical. Why do I think that?

  • PRINCE2 is complementary to the PMBOK® Guide by providing what the latter doesn’t: a prescriptive. Having been through the PRINCE2 training, it doesn’t conflict with what I already know from the PMBOK® Guide, is a solution to the problem, and helps my project management.
  • PRINCE2 is not a substitute for the PMBOK® Guide and it can address the agile challenge facing the project management world.
  • Rather than trying to handle traditional and agile projects differently, using different methods, project managers can use a method like PRINCE2 to run traditional projects while using it to wrap around agile projects. If Project Management Professionals (PMPs)® are looking for how they fit into a Scrum world, this is it.

But what’s the payback of investing in another approach for project management professionals and the organizations that hire them?

  • With PRINCE2, an organization’s Project Management Office is able to capitalize on its existing investment in the PMBOK® Guide Global Standard. Many less experienced project managers flounder because they have some project management knowledge, but little experience and no method to apply it. Sitting the PMP requires between 4,500 and 7,500 hours leading and directing projects, so project managers have a tendency not to study the PMBOK® Guide until they have the necessary hours, right before sitting for the exam! As a result, they spend the early part of their careers figuring out project management on their own and learning bad habits.
  • Adopting the same method of applying project management knowledge will heighten efficiency, effectiveness, and help project managers produce more consistent results at every level of experience. For individuals advancing in their careers, an understanding of the PMBOK® Guide and PRINCE2 gives them a practical method to bring knowledge and solutions as soon as they’re hired.

Yes, we know that project managers are under a lot of pressure, already working at more than capacity and with little spare time to examine the value of something new. But this is a solution to project managers’ problems, complementing and improving what they already have, freeing them up to do a better job and to spend more time on projects’ scope, quality and value.

With both PRINCE2 and the PMBOK® Guide, you speak the language of project management across the entire world, regardless of who you’re doing business with.

More insights await at the virtual Agile and Scrum conference, going live on May 4th. 5 keynotes and 20 sessions to choose from, plus networking and PDUs/SEU®s.

[trx_infobox style=”regular” closeable=”no” icon=”inherit”]hodges

About the Author

Lisa Hodges is a PRINCE2® Practitioner, PMP®, ITIL Expert™, and CPDE® – Certified Process Design Engineer. She is a process improvement evangelist with 20+ years of experience in project and service management, in technical and managerial roles, working with organizations in higher education, government, manufacturing, financial services, and others.[/trx_infobox]

PMBOK and PMI are marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc. PRINCE2® is a registered trade mark of AXELOS Limited.

Things You Should Know About PRINCE2®

By Mike Acaster   |   PPM Portfolio Manager, AXELOS

PRINCE2 – the project management method used by more than a million professionals around the world – is adopted in a wide variety of industry sectors by people in highly diverse roles. But what are the elements that make PRINCE2 one of the world’s most popular project management methods?

  1. PRINCE2 complements the PMBOK® Guide

PRINCE2 and PMI’s PMBOK® Guide are highly complementary. If they had – by intention – been designed to work together, this is what we would have created, though the approaches are owned by two different organizations. Where the body of knowledge provides detail about the tools and techniques to apply in a project, the end to end approach is where PRINCE2 comes in, providing the who, when, why and how and the weakness of one is the strength of the other. To understand more about how PRINCE2 and the PMBOK® Guide fit together, please consult our white paper or watch our video.

  1. A tailored approach

PRINCE2 is designed to be generic, with lessons distilled from a wide variety of industries and projects to provide the essence of how to manage a project. The practitioner takes the PRINCE2 method and then needs to tailor it accordingly to the particular project and sector. It can also be tailored to use with agile approaches – e.g., Scrum and Kanban – and at the “work package” level (delivering outputs of the project), the method should be geared to a specific industry.

  1. Integrating PRINCE2 in IT environment

An IT change programme, such as replacing laptops and software, can be treated as a project, especially if the change is a major transformation. To do this effectively needs engagement with the end users of the technology: PRINCE2 can be deployed to gather, analyse and understand their requirements. That means identifying the “must-haves, could-haves, should-haves and won’t haves” to pinpoint what is absolutely necessary for people to do their job. Prioritization is fundamental to PRINCE2 and helps to flex the requirements both scope and the quality criteria.

  1. Communication

Projects require good communication with end users, so they know it’s coming and can raise concerns which should help give a smoother transition. When users can see “what’s in it for them” they can get behind the business change (or project) and contribute to its success. Communication is covered in PRINCE2 primarily when engaging stakeholders regarding the impact, benefits and risk to the business and themselves from the project. This is essential, as getting it wrong could affect the entire organization and possibly even its external reputation.

  1. PRINCE2 addresses some of the more problematic areas of projects

Project prioritization

PRINCE2 can help identify which project to run if you need to prioritize. The MoSCoW (must have, should have, could have, won’t have) technique used within the method pinpoints what is necessary for an organization to survive and thrive. Used in conjunction with another AXELOS best practice, Measurement of Value (MoV), this looks at the value an organization will derive from a project and get the best balance of benefits against costs.


PRINCE2 ensures that lessons are gathered throughout the life of the project. But an organization only learns the lessons once it applies the knowledge to the project or later projects, otherwise it’s just theoretical.

Change control

Otherwise known as asset management or version control, this is integral to PRINCE2 and is needed to prevent unauthorized changes. Change is inevitable on a project but it needs to be introduced carefully so that we understand the impact on other elements of a project and on the project’s product. The aim is to maximise delivery and minimise disruption to the project.

Ultimately, PRINCE2 allows project managers to get a project underway quickly and manage it from end to end. It provides a common language for people working across multiple projects (including those which cross international boundaries) and, by its very nature, saves organizations time and money.

[trx_infobox style=”regular” closeable=”no” icon=”icon-desktop”]Visit the IIL website to learn more about our PRINCE2 courses, and get 10% off when you register with code: BLOG.[/trx_infobox]

PRINCE2® is a registered trade mark of AXELOS Limited.

The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of IIL.

Deciding How to Manage Projects – it’s like Buying a New Smartphone!

By Alan Ferguson

I don’t know about you, but I like Android phones.

I look at the different offerings from different manufacturers, and notice that each of them uses a slightly different flavor of Android. Which one to choose?

It’s kind of like deciding on a project management method or body of knowledge.

Personally, I like taking a project management body of knowledge and customizing it for my own use. Similarly, when I get a new phone there’s a lot of fiddling around to be done, but I can get it working just the way I want it to work. When I have time I might even go under the hood and start to modify the operating system.

But I’m a geek.

And it is not just a matter of personal choice anymore. If we equate a smartphone to organizational project management, we are not talking about buying a single phone for personal use. We are considering a bulk order for the whole company—a project management method for your organization.

You have three choices:

Option one – the ‘perfect’ solution

Choose a body of knowledge and build your own project management method. It will take time and you need project management experts, but you’ll end up with your own bespoke way of undertaking projects. Ideal if a substantial part of your business is running projects.

Option two – quick and dirty.

Adopt a project management method and tell everyone they have to adjust their behaviors and ways of working to fit in with the method. It’s quick… and brutal. But it’s ideal if you do a very small number of projects and just want to run those few project successfully.

Option three – the Goldilocks solution.

Choose a project management method that is built to be tailored. Then work out what you need to do to adjust existing working practices and behaviors, as well as to modify the project management method in order to make a cozy fit for your organization.

You can probably tell I’m a fan of option three – the Goldilocks solution.

PRINCE2® is an integrated approach to project management that can be tailored for different types of projects. By embedding PRINCE2’s structured project management in your organization in an orderly, realistic, and pragmatic way, you will achieve maximum business benefits.