PRINCE2® Agile – when worlds stop colliding and start collaborating

Mike Acaster – AXELOS PPM Portfolio Manager

The two worlds of PRINCE2® project management and Agile have just become a lot more interesting:

AXELOS is developing new guidance to bring the best of PRINCE2 and Agile together for the benefit of practitioners everywhere irrespective of which side of the fence they come from.

With the working title “PRINCE2 Agile”, this new initiative is equally significant and exciting for organizations and individuals who may be using PRINCE2 and looking at Agile or may already be Agile and are looking at PRINCE2 for more control. The former will have definitive guidance and clarification on how to control projects where Agile methods and techniques, whilst the latter will understand how to incorporate PRINCE2 to achieve the same result. Either way individual practitioners from both camps will have a way of extending their expertise and knowledge. Certainly, the tendency for some of the PRINCE2 and Agile advocates to denigrate each other’s approaches should now be consigned to history.

The launch date for this is Q1 2015; the author for the new guidance has been selected and I hope you share our faith in that choice: Keith Richards of AgileKRC, and his Agile capabilities, pre-date even the founding of the Agile Manifesto! He is both an Agile thought leader (voted “Most Valuable Agile Player UK” at the Agile Awards in 2011) and has a solid understanding of the relationship between PRINCE2 and Agile. Along with talking directly to other Agile gurus globally during the research process, he will be working alongside nominated mentor Larry Cooper of BSSNexus Global Inc. in North America to get his regional perspective. Larry has been involved in incremental and iterative delivery approaches since the early 1990’s, has applied Agile practices to procurement and business process design, and was a reviewer for Rod Collin’s latest book “Wiki Management: A Revolutionary New Model for a Rapidly Changing and Collaborative World” which brings Agile thinking to executive ranks.

The genesis of this new direction is not accidental. AXELOS has set this project in motion after listening to the community and investing in something the community has asked for specifically. In fact, the notion of “including Agile” and understanding how it could fit with PRINCE2 was at the top of everybody’s wish list. The result is another major new product development within the AXELOS portfolio.

The growth in people and organizations using Agile approaches and techniques has raised its profile; and while welcoming it, the community has mooted the point of giving Agile more rigour. Though we’re not accusing Agile of living up to the “Fr-Agile” moniker used by some, having a relationship with PRINCE2’s project governance and control qualities will go some way to reassuring its critics. Above all, we see PRINCE2 and Agile as complementary rather than adversarial in the bigger picture of collaborative working.

Ultimately, PRINCE2 Agile will benefit any project where PRINCE2 is applied and the team want to introduce Agile, or where an Agile approach needs to exhibit greater control. The marriage of the two approaches will help organizations to understand whether their investment in a project is worthwhile.

But what about the practicalities of, metaphorically, bringing “Mars and Venus” together?

Using PRINCE2 instils an organization’s management control over its investments while Agile offers an approach that is iterative and operated in short bursts.

However, once a project manager agrees the scope of work – or “work package” – with a team manager, PRINCE2 doesn’t dictate how the team manager has to deliver the work. If the industry norm is an Agile approach, there’s nothing in PRINCE2 that disallows it.

Despite my assertions, sceptical people in the Agile community might remain suspicious of PRINCE2. But they should see it as their ally in getting projects funded in the first place! The organization needs a business case for your development plans and, for that, you need look no further than PRINCE2.

Rather than being a marriage of opposites, I consider PRINCE2 and Agile highly complementary. For example, in new product development a business case is required; once that and the investment are established, the development process can occur in an Agile way. One approach supplements the other while managing the risks of the wider project.

And this has an application to broader project and programme management. If projects adopting Agile exist within a programme, AXELOS’ Managing Successful Programmes (MSP®) should naturally accommodate the Agile approach via PRINCE2. Likewise, Management of Portfolios (MOP®) will be able to incorporate PRINCE2 Agile to ensure investments concur with the strategic intent of the organization.

Regarding the intermingling of PRINCE2 and Agile, we have previously produced complementary publications to show how PRINCE2 fits with a particular Agile approach, for example the Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM), recently hailed by the Society of Information Technology Management (SOCTIM) as a product and service development approach that combines the best of Agile and PRINCE2.

However, in proposing PRINCE2 Agile we want to show how it works with all Agile approaches and become the definitive best practice guidance for blending the two. I think you would expect nothing less from the owners of PRINCE2!

This initiative is aimed at taking the debate wider than any other alternative instruction currently available on the market; to cover more of the Agile approaches, bring in the latest thinking from Agile communities and create something that’s more comprehensive and inclusive.

That’s quite a project – but I think you’ll agree, the interest and demand is there.

For more information about the work of AXELOS visit

AXELOS will be exhibiting at Project Challenge on the 14th and 15th October 2014. Meet them at stand 136. Plus, don’t miss the chance to update on the progress of Prince2 Agile at their presentation on the 15th October at 11.30am in the Learning and Professional Development Zone.

Get the full list of exhibitors here, and explore the event’s seminar programme and register to attend free here.