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The promise of PRINCE2 Agile - A perfect storm?

A perfect storm of circumstances in UK public sector project management is helping open the door to agile methods. This is particularly in reference to the promise of PRINCE2 Agile.

First, some projects have not been as successful as expected. They’re either not delivering a product or not meeting stakeholder expectations. Combining those issues with the likely continuation of Government austerity measures and greater scrutiny makes it highly appealing to have access to methods that will help run projects more effectively.

In addition, there’s been significant spending on PRINCE2® training and certification in the public as well as private sectors. Organisations want to ensure their investment is achieving maximum return. Practitioners who have both Foundation and Practitioner certification could be using their best practice expertise to even greater effect. This could be by applying more widely the methodology they learned to pass the exam. This means taking the use of PRINCE2 beyond knowledge to tangible application, increasing return on investment as a consequence. And this is why the creation of PRINCE2 Agile will provide a winning combination of methodologies to projects. Adding agile to the PRINCE2 approach makes it more flexible, practical and valuable.

It’s about having a project management approach that’s already trusted. From here, it’s adding the new ‘suitability test’ to ensure the approach adopted is right for the project in question. This will help project managers develop their ability as professionals. Particularly when choosing the best approach for a project and making the right judgements, rather than be constrained by the use of a single method.

Why blend PRINCE2 and Agile?

Blending PRINCE2 and agile will take practitioners beyond simply ‘having knowledge’. It will equip them with practical techniques to get underway. The advantage of bringing both approaches together means project managers aren’t ‘going back to scratch’ but building upon existing knowledge.

From an organisation’s point of view, this will help realise the investment made in PRINCE2. This can also help address the areas where, in some instances, it doesn’t quite fit. In simplistic terms, it will enable organisations to be more agile. This is by using approaches that help deliver what the user wants without expecting the user to say up-front “I know what I want”. Instead, the project can present the possible outcome in smaller pieces. They can then test them with the user to demonstrate what’s possible without having to decide on a final product from the outset.

This way of working enables fast learning. It also helps manage user requirements more effectively, controls spending and is more likely to deliver the right product in the end.

Going Beyond Method - The promise of PRINCE2 Agile

Within both PRINCE2 and PRINCE2 Agile, the use of the MoSCoW approach, (project requirements Must, Should, Could, Won’t be included) is a practical way to give practitioners the capability to go back to their sponsors and be explicit about what the deliverables and the priorities are.

The project manager and team are therefore more certain about many aspects. In particular, their resources, the project deliverables and how it all aligns with the business case. This, in turn, makes the performance of the project more predictable, safer and ultimately more successful.

In some PRINCE2 training courses, the MoSCoW technique may not be focussed on unless the project managers are in a position to be making greater judgement calls. Therefore, the approach may be new to many. PRINCE2 Agile will bridge the gap between theory and a practical approach for using it within projects which should make it easier and more likely to be deployed.

Having the ability to go beyond following a method or discipline and to begin using experiential learning is extremely valuable for successful project managers. It’s about building a greater, long-term professional capability across the Project and Programme Management community as a whole.

The ’70-20-10′ learning model is used across the public sector. It translates to 10% classroom-based learning, 20% learning from others and 70% learning from experience. That means project managers developing their ability through their experience as well as study and gaining qualifications. This helps them to handle more complex projects with greater confidence and effectiveness. The promise of PRINCE2 Agile is a good bridge to help project managers with applying what they know.

Focusing on the future of project success

A new approach, such as PRINCE2 Agile, will increase the opportunity for the right products to be delivered. This would allow for a business case to be met. The approach builds on existing learning and should take both the process and the achievable results a step forward. For organisations considering such a new approach the criteria is simple: obtaining return on investment.

But the willing adoption of such a methodology will require the co-operation of two quite distinct practitioner communities and their perceptions of each other. The agile community may consider the promise of PRINCE2 Agile to be inflexible. Meanwhile, PRINCE2 practitioners wonder about the level of control in agile delivery principles.

But with an understanding of the mutual benefits of control and flexibility, based on clear communications of those benefits, both camps should recognise the value each can bring to project success.

Clearly, change management involving cultural change will be important in persuading project professionals that blending PRINCE2 and agile will have a positive impact on their work in the long-term.

If you would like to learn more about how CITI Limited could help you as partners to plan, deliver and sustain beneficial change, then please feel free to contact us via info@citi.co.uk