Adding agile to your PRINCE2 approach: scale agile, maintain governance

by Julia Gosse, Lead Trainer, SPOCE / 4/4/2019 4:15:02 PM

In an ever-advancing digital age, user demand and expectation is growing. Customers are less prepared to put up with outdated products or systems, and are increasingly unwilling to wait for updates or replacements. 

The rise of rapid, globalised connectivity makes user feedback instantaneous and more influential. And, businesses have become more and more accustomed to the collaborative and incremental delivery style that Agile fosters.

A recent survey run by AXELOS Global Best Practice reported that almost 50% of all organisations are working in more agile ways, with 56% of PPM functions operating using agile. PRINCE2 professionals can align themselves to this trend by adding Agile to their existing toolset of project management approaches.

By doing so, they learn how to respond to changing markets and get to market quicker, whilst grounding their approach in appropriate levels of governance to reassure invested stakeholders and sponsors.

What challenges do PRINCE2 practitioners and their employers face with the concept of agile project delivery? The greatest challenge is that the term “agile” is often misunderstood: people might immediately equate it with just being “faster”; they might have heard it is only for IT-based projects, that it only relates to Scrum, or that their legal and regulatory constraints would make it impossible to use.

Whilst, of course, Agile projects are designed for rapid delivery, Agile is much more than that. It is a mindset; that means recognising your project will not necessarily deliver everything that was specified at the beginning and, indeed, that the users don’t necessarily need everything they specified.

It is about working closely with the customer to understand their wants and needs properly, to set expectations and, ultimately, deliver a product or service of value.

When your timescales are fixed you have to concentrate on what the real priorities are. Rushing to deliver everything can water down the result and reduce the level of quality, something which will often return to bite you later. An Agile project would rather not deliver something if it’s not to the required standard.

Rather, the Agile approach ensures that value is delivered incrementally. This also allows for customer feedback and testing along the way, increasing the likelihood of product success. Moreover, Agile delivery approaches are increasingly used very successfully in non-IT projects.

I have recently been working with an events management company using agile to plan and organize a large conference. This was particularly useful for this project, as an event more often than not has fixed timescale and fixed costs.

The more mature PRINCE2 organisations and professionals tend to have acknowledged the benefits of Agile by now. Many have adopted certain Agile techniques such as co-locating the project team, using regular interaction and collaboration with customers and users.

For a more robust approach, there is PRINCE2 Agile. PRINCE2 Agile was created in response to demand from PRINCE2 practitioners who were calling for an agile project management solution. PRINCE2 Agile does just that; it is a guide in navigating the interface between project management and agile product delivery.

It synergises the trusted framework of PRINCE2 with the agile ethos and capabilities and to create a truly-rounded agile project management toolset.

 

Did you know? There are two levels to PRINCE2 Agile: Foundation and Practitioner.

PRINCE2 Agile Foundation is for candidates who are new to PRINCE2 and are working in or around an Agile project environment. The course covers an overview of PRINCE2, an introduction to Agile, and how to apply the two together. PRINCE2 Agile Foundation has no pre-requisites.

PRINCE2 Agile Practitioner is for candidates who would like to extend their knowledge of PRINCE2 Agile by learning how to practically apply the PRINCE2 Agile method to real-life scenarios. It is for those who are certified in either PRINCE2 or PRINCE2 Agile Foundation levels.

 

So, why does PRINCE2 Agile work so effectively in a PRINCE2 organization?

  1. A common language and approach

As a PRINCE2 organisation, you’ll already have a level of control and common terminology that is understood by all. PRINCE2 Agile builds on this. Plus, mature PRINCE2 organizations are already adept at tailoring PRINCE2 to different projects.

  1. Flexibility with agile methods

There are many flavours of Agile out there and although Scrum is probably the most popular, it is not the only Agile development approach. PRINCE2 has never been prescriptive in defining how you deliver a project and PRINCE2 Agile works with one or many Agile approaches, including Scrum, Kanban, and DevOps among them. This ensures that the project management team understands how to interface with the Agile delivery approach.

It is important to understand that PRINCE2 Agile is still focused on project management and that the delivery team will still have to be trained in the appropriate Agile delivery approach or approaches they adopt, but PRINCE2 Agile gives the project manager a broad overview of the range of Agile delivery approaches.

 

Agile is an excellent approach for driving innovation and rapid delivery, but of course it doesn’t work in every situation. Understanding when to use it is half the battle. Having PRINCE2 and Agile working together ensures you can be truly situation-dependent and flexible in your approach.

For those with any cynicism of Agile, combining it with PRINCE2 adds an extra level of control to agile methods; something that not all Agile approaches possess intrinsically. The result is a truly complete Agile project management solution that speaks to both delivery approaches. 

 

  1. Having a business perspective

In PRINCE2 the executive represents the interests of the business; applying this to the Agile environment is a winning approach as you maintain the overall business perspective. This ensures users don’t get carried away with their demands and what is delivered needs to fit with business requirements. This resonates well with the Agile world because value is a primary driver for prioritising what should be delivered next.

  1. The Agilometer

This is a core element to PRINCE2 Agile. The Agilometer acts as a risk assessment tool to evaluate how appropriate Agile is for a given project, and what ‘level’ of Agile you should engage. Even in a waterfall project you can incorporate some elements of Agile and the Agilometer allows organisations to assess the implications of doing so.

Within the PRINCE2 Agile guidance, it also provides a unique way of addressing the potential issues of introducing Agile methods. For example, challenging assumptions about what needs to be specified at the start of a project, tackling resistance to a greater level of collaboration and thinking about training or workshops to encourage acceptance of Agile in project management.

 

PRINCE2 Agile is the most relevant Agile project management certification in the UK market right now, covering all major Agile delivery approaches, including Scrum, Kanban, Lean start-up, and Cynefin.

 

Interested in finding out more? Email PPM@AXELOS.com where we can provide further information or put you in touch with a training provider. 

Latest Book

Cover for Management of Portfolios
Book