Can PRINCE2 be used in an Agile project?

Being “Agile” is more about how we think and behave rather than the methodologies we use.

The agile methodologies can only be “Agile” if everyone involved has the right approach and understanding. Being “Agile” requires high levels of discipline, responsibility, trust, collaboration and communication. I believe that when used correctly Prince2 can be used to help organisations become lean and agile.

Let us take a look at how PRINCE2 can be tailored to compliment the 12 principles of the Agile manifesto.

1: Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.

1.1: It is practical to split up each management stage into sprints and incrementally deliver working functionality.
1.2: By understanding what benefits we need to realise, we can use the product based planning method and rolling wave planning to develop the requirements for functionality that results in valuable software delivery.
1.3: The use of the product flow diagram helps us to identify what components will give most value and in what order they should be built.
1.4: The business case with its focus on realising benefits ensures that there is a constant focus on business value. One of the PRINCE2 principles is that there should always be a justifiable business case.

2: Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.

2.1: PRINCE2 has a change theme, and controlled change is encouraged when it supports the business case. Guide lines are given for setting up responsibilities and accountabilities for change to be managed effectively.

3: Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.

3.1: This can be taken care of through the core process Managing Product Delivery in combination with the planning processes mentioned under principle 1.
3.2: PRINCE2 uses the term work packages, this can be the same as the product backlog for a sprint in scrum.

4: Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.

4.1: This is fulfilled by the project organisation structure, which goes a little further to include a User Team in the project organisation. Business interests are principally represented within the project board.

5: Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.

5.1: The governance structures and processes recomended by PRINCE2 enables and environment where you can build trust, respect and accountability.
5.2: Trust should be earned not demanded, PRINCE2 gives one the possibility to earn trust, this is also largly dependent on the culture of the organisations involved in the project.
5.3: The activity of designing and selecting the project team that takes place during the “Start up a project” process is supposed to identify motivated individuals.
5.4: The principle of Define Roles & Responsibilities covers the responsibilities that will ensure the right support for the team if the responsibilities are fulfilled by the individuals in particular roles.
5.5: The principle of “Manage by Exception” supports the practice of “Trust and Verify”.

6: The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.

6.1: This can be included in the projects communication management strategy as a primary means of communication.

7: Working software is the primary measure of progress.

7.1: Working software is a testament to what has been achieved; it does not give you any indication as to what remains to be done.
7.2: Working software is an indication of scope fulfilment; it does not address the variables of time, cost, risk or benefits.
7.3: In combination with working software, the amount of the Critical Chain remaining to be completed, and the estimated delivery date is a more effective measure of progress from a business point of view.

8: Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.

8.1: This is a very good point, and it is worth adding that the organisation culture is the most important input to maintaing a constant pace.
8.2: The risk management theme in Prince2 explicitly looks at managing threats and opportunities, while the change management theme looks at issue management. By having effective risk and issue management the organisation has the following benefits:
8.2.1: Fewer sudden shocks and unwelcome surprises
8.2.2: More efficient use of resources
8.2.3: Reduced waste
8.2.4: Better service delivery
8.2.5: Reduction in management time spent fire-fighting
8.2.6: Better management of contingent and maintenance activities
8.2.7: More focus internally on doing the right things properly
8.2.8: More focus externally to shape effective strategies.
8.3: The quality theme covers continuos improvement, which will enable the team to make adustments to any work practices that will prevent them from maintaining a constant pace.

9: Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.

9.1: The technical excellence is a responsibility of the technical team and should follow the agreed standards. Prince2 can support this through ensuring that agreed standards are communicated and implemented.
9.2: The quality theme covers the quality criteria for the products being created and quality management activities that should be included in the project plans.

10: Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential.

10.1: The “art of maximising the work not done” requires the right level and approach to planning. Rolling wave planning ensures that the production team only develop what the client needs.
10.2: The principles of “Learning from Experience” and “Manage by Stages” means the team can define and build what they know now, plan to build in future stages component products or feature where they need to have a clearer understanding as to what is required.

11: The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.

This is one area where PRINCE2 is possibly not completly in-line with the agile manifesto. The principle, Manage by Exception supports the concept of self organisation within a set of tolerances.

12: At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behaviour accordingly.

The PRINCE2 principle “Learn from Experience” is fully supportive of principle 12 from the agile manifesto.