PRINCE2 Agile, a first overview

During the last Gartner PPM Summit, 8 and 9 June 2015, in London, it was confirmed again. “One size does not fit all” is true in the world of projects too. Are reliability and cost the most important or are we going for brand awareness, sales and customer experience? Do we have to deal with long-term or short-term contracts? Is the focus on IT only or enterprise-wide? Are we talking about frequent or a limited number of deliveries within short or long lead times? Many debates we see in the media, PRINCE2 versus Agile, Scrum only but what about governance or the business case? The answer from Axelos is PRINCE2 Agile that combines the best from both worlds to carry out a project properly.

Introduction

PRINCE2 Agile includes both the existing PRINCE2 as the agile way of thinking. The agile way of thinking must be seen as agile behaviour, concepts, frameworks, focus areas and techniques. The existing PRINCE2 principles, processes and themes remain, but should be tailored using the agile way of working and the project itself. PRINCE2 Agile searches for the best of both worlds where the emphasis lies in the use of PRINCE2 within project direction and project management and the agile approach in the product delivery. Depending on the project situation you can apply more or less of the PRINCE2 or agile way of thinking. See Figure 1.

Dia05Figure 1. Mixing of PRINCE2 and Agile

six project control parameters: PRINCE2 uses six project control parameters: time, cost, scope, quality, risks and benefits. All six have their own tolerances. PRINCE2 Agile recognizes the same six project control parameters except that within an agile approach time and cost are fixed (no tolerance), quality and scope can be partially flexible (no tolerances for the essential criteria and products) and the risks and benefits can be fixed or flexible (tolerances in consultation between the project manager and the project board).

The reasons for flexing are explained by the five targets:

  1. Be on time and hit deadlines
  2. Ensure the required quality
  3. Embrace change
  4. Keep the team stable
  5. Accept that the user doesn’t need everything

In the following paragraphs I explain how the principles, themes and processes can be customized to incorporate the agile way of thinking.

Principles

The seven PRINCE2 principles remain. However PRINCE2 Agile adds five behavioural components to it:

  • Transparency – regarding the progress of the project.
  • Collaboration – between the project team members and stakeholders.
  • Rich Communication – consultation over email, visualization over text.
  • Self-organization – empower and facilitate the project team.
  • Exploration – curiosity over obeying the rules.

The processes

Starting up and initiating the project: Make during starting up a project, an initial estimate how far you can go with embedding the agile way of working in the project. To perform this agile risk assessment, PRINCE2 Agile developed the Agilometer. This evaluation must be repeated during the initiation stage and the various stage transitions.

Agilometer: The Agilometer consists of six key areas to be used in the assessment of the application of agile within the project. The six key areas are:

  • Acceptance of agile;
  • Advantageous environmental conditions;
  • Ability to work iteratively and deliver incrementally;
  • Ease of communication;
  • Level of collaboration;
  • Flexibility on what is delivered.

The project manager performs this analysis and looks for each key area for possible or necessary improvements and gives insight how agile the project can be established. So, it’s not a matter of yes or no. It also makes no sense to calculate an average of the six sliders. This Agliometer is comparable with the agile project questionnaire from DSDM.

During Start up and Initiating the project it’s key to find the right balance between the risks associated with the project and the level of detail the issues should be sorted out beforehand. The aim should be to maximize the freedom to steer the project during the implementation of the project. Sometimes within agile they call Starting up and Initiating the Project stages, sprint zero or the discovery phase. The Project Product Description is then referred to as the project backlog.

Cynefin model: PRINCE2 Agile uses the Cynefin model from Snowden to determine the level of uncertainty and thereby what the most logical approach and management of the project. The Cynefin model identifies five domains:

  • Obvious: clear cause-effect relationship
  • Complicated: cause-effect relationship is not clear
  • Complex: cause-effect relationship can only be explained in retrospect
  • Chaotic: cause-effect relationship can’t be indicated
  • Disorder; unclear to which domain the change belongs.

With clear cause-effect relationships there is usually a simple project or ‘business as usual’. Projects we find especially in the complicated and complex domains. The more complex in its environment the more an agile way of working is desirable. If the cause-effect relationship can’t be indicated, then a process approach is the most appropriate approach.

Directing the project: With ‘business as usual’ the product owner directs the agile process. In a project environment, we see the PRINCE2 roles of executive (sponsor), senior user and senior supplier. For simple projects, some of these roles can be merged, e.g. the executive and senior user role.

In all cases it is important that collaboration is based on trust, and that therefore there is no blame culture. Management by exception is than characterized by empowerment and rich communication.

Controlling a stage / Managing product delivery: Within PRINCE2 Agile it is possible that there are no stages but only time boxes, whether inside releases or increments. Releases or increments can also be defined as stages, if at the end of which an explicit go / no-go decision is planned. It is important to plan around the functions (sub-products) and use flexible work packages that emphasize that teams are as much as possible self-organizing, communicating rich and make management by exceptions possible. Focus is on the result to be delivered, so the scope and quality criteria and the control of the agile related risks. The Controlling a Stage is characterized by transparency, collaboration and rich communication, self-organization and flexibility.

To have frequent releases makes it possible to harvest benefits as early as possible, obtain fast user feedback and reduce risk. It provides confidence that the project will deliver and it will help to obtain and retain the stakeholders’ interests. Small releases are often easier to take into production. Of course, the releases needs to be planned so that it is clear when which of the functions (sub-products) are delivered.

Manage a stage boundary: During managing a stage boundary (increments or releases), it is important to assess how much is produced, which what quality and what benefits have been or may be harvest. In addition, an assessment of the agile way of working, and determine if the method used must be adjusted. This corresponds to the retrospective in Scrum. Of course, this step should take place with as little as possible ceremony.

Closing the project: Within agile there is not much described on the formal closure of a project. Usually there are already several interim products delivered. PRINCE2 Agile emphasizes on the following activities that may or may not be conducted in workshop form. Rate the final outcome with respect to the original plan. Agree on the formal user acceptance. Evaluate the process as well as the usage of agile in the project. Finalize the required documentation. Transfer the result formally to the customer.

Themes

All themes within PRINCE2 can be found in PRINCE2 Agile. Some topics are within the agile way of working more important than others.

Business justification: The business case for the entire project is drawn up during Starting up / Initiating the project and updated at the end of each stage. It must also clearly define the minimum usable product, based on the prioritized list of requirements (must-haves). The added value of the individual functions will be prioritized in the different timeboxes. A requested function or feature that adds no value to the organization will not be realized.

Organization: The known roles of executive (sponsor), senior user and senior supplier still exist in an agile project but from a user perspective often expanded with the role of Business Ambassador (DSDM) or Product Owner (Scrum). The Project Manager has a more facilitating role than a managerial role (servant leader). Depending on the self-organizing ability of the development team and the Agile method used, the role of Team Manager can be filled formally, or by a Scrum Master (Scrum), or be fulfilled by the team as a whole. For the Project Manager, it is important that he has at least a point of contact in the team and that in the team someone from the user side is involved (business ambassador or product owner).

If the project consists of only one agile team, then a simple agile approach with one product owner and scrum master suffice. Consists the project of more teams than the different product owners and scrum masters must tune their work and progress (scrum of scrums).

Plan: A project is finite. For each project there must be a planned end date. Therefore you need an overall project plan. This also distinguishes the agile project approach to agile maintenance approach as part of business as usual. The project plan to support the agile approach, however, should be limited to the main topics/functions. It has to be just sufficient to be able to determine the total duration and the total budget, assuming sufficient (flexible) tolerances within the to be requested functionalities. Per increment or timebox the project plan will be more detailed. Within an agile approach the time and cost tolerances are set to zero and the flexibility will be found in the tolerance of the functionalities.

PRINCE2 Agile prescribes no mandatory planning technique and no planning approach. From the agile way of working it is appropriate to establish the project plan empirically in consultation with the project team and set the various timebox plans by the delivery team themselves. These delivery teams can make use of a simple scoring system such as planning poker, or T-shirt planning.

Progress monitoring: As with the PRINCE2, PRINCE2 Agile focuses on the product to be delivered. However, PRINCE2 Agile is less about whether it will succeed to deliver the product as defined within the given time horizon, but how much functionality can be completed within the given time horizon. For progress reporting at project level you can make use of stand-up meetings, information radiators, team boards and visual burn-down or burn-up charts that are used at the team level. In addition agile teams frequently make use of the concept of velocity. This is a measure of the production of the development team in a certain period of time (timebox), with which one can also determine the extent to which a team learns, and hence can realize more in the course of time.

Risk Management: Risk management gets less attention Within PRINCE2 Agile because many project risks are already minimized by the agile approach. But due to a possible discrepancy between the agile approach and more conditioned environment new project risks can be introduced too. In order to identify these risks, the Agilometer is introduced. As a result the project approach can be tailored to accommodate the given situation as showed in the Agilometer. PRINCE2 Agile uses the five behavioural components to control possible project risks too.

Quality: Within PRINCE2 Agile is important to develop a less formal quality management strategy, but you still need to capture it: what and how is tested within the development teams and what, how, and by whom will be tested at the end of the time boxes. Within the Project Product Description we find the description of the needed necessary changes in the organization based on the result to be delivered. Further, the acceptance criteria and the “Definition of Done” are central to the quality theme. Quality criteria of the requested products can be found in the product descriptions on the project level and in the user stories at the team level.

Change management: PRINCE2 Agile embraces change. The more changes, the better the product is likely to be connected to the company strategy and the greater the user involvement, and thus the probability of acceptance of the product. It is important to make a distinction between the changes in the officially fixed configuration (project product description), which should be monitored formally at project level and the further elaboration of that configuration within the development team and user representatives (informal). Adding new parts means that those new parts needs to be exchanged for other less important parts (trading), because there are no time and cost tolerances within agile projects.

Lean start-up: Within the philosophy of embracing change, PRINCE2 Agile also introduces the principle of lean start-up. Lean start-up focuses on learning and act accordingly. Try as fast as possible (fail fast). But take as soon as possible (parts of) products in use, and learn from them. The product that processed most of the learning experiences, usually delivers the most value.

Agile and supplier contracts

Agile in combination with strict supplier contracts remains a challenge for many. Within PRINCE2 Agile this problem is worked out in a clear manner and therefore also provided various guidelines. Useful recommendations are:

  • Focus is on the end result (outcome) and not on the final product (output);
  • Define the level of user participation during the project;
  • Describe, in terms of time, important delivery milestones (sprints and / or releases);
  • Include a clause that the project board may decide to stop prematurely;
  • Take a bonus / penalty clause on the basis of the quantity of delivered end result;
  • Define global requirements and prioritize them. Detailed requirements will ask for too many adjustments during the project;
  • Keep the contract as simple as possible (depends on mutual trust).

Agile Frameworks

PRINCE2 Agile discusses the use of the Scrum and Kanban frameworks and related techniques such as user stories, MoSCoW prioritizing, frequent releases, planning poker and T-shirt estimation extensively.

A Dutch version of this article will be published in due course (IPMA Projectie).

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13 responses to “PRINCE2 Agile, a first overview

  1. Management Plaza

    Hi Henny Can I copy this article to the site: prince2agile.pm and include a number of links to your blog. Regards Frank

    From: Henny Portman’s Blog Reply-To: Henny Portman’s Blog Date: Sunday 12 July 2015 14:59 To: FTG FTG Subject: [New post] PRINCE2 Agile, a first overview

    WordPress.com hennyportman posted: “During the last Gartner PPM Summit, 8 and 9 June 2015, in London, it was confirmed again. “One size does not fit all” is true in the world of projects too. Are reliability and cost the most important or are we going for brand awareness, sales and customer”

    • hennyportman

      Hi Frank,
      I would suggest that you make a brief summary and include a link to this article.
      Best regards
      Henny

  2. Thank you, Henny. By far the best explanation I have seen so far.

    Henny’s post confirms my doubts about PRINCE2 Agile. For anyone who wants to see it there is plenty of proof that one of the most important reason for failing projects is in fact the focus on time and cost. In his standard work on “project-based work” J.Rodney Turner wrote about research in Australia in (if I remember well) the early 1990’s. In that research hundreds of projects were looked at that all finished on time and to budget. Five years later these projects were all, without exception, seen as failed.

    The man behind the Japanese quality movement, Dr.E.Deming also made quite clear that focus on cost/time, efficiency and standardisation will only lead to higher cost because of a lack of quality. Also Eli Goldratt (The Goal) presented this view. Local efficiency leads to ineffectiveness.

    In the same direction: we all know that the majority of cost (60-80%, a conservative estimate) of a product is spent during maintenance and support. So why would anyone want to increase this percentage by lack of quality during a project by focusing on time and cost?

    Conclusion: the focus on time and cost is contra productive. And what does (PRINCE2) Agile propose? “Target 1.Be on time and hit deadlines”
    Amazing!

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  4. Reblogged this on …Microsoft & PPM? and commented:
    Great article on Prince2 and Agile thinking

  5. Pingback: Projectsucces | Prince2 Agile - een poging tot kruisbestuiving - Projectsucces.nl

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  7. Hi Henny, how are you? How is PRINCE2 Agile once it’s put into practice?

    Simon read the PRINCE2 Agile book. Even though the certificate is only available for PRINCE2 Practitioners, he said that agile practitioners would benefit from reading the book. I had a flick through – the illustrations looked a lot like mine! 😀

    Here’s Simon’s review of the book: http://www.knowledgetrain.co.uk/blog/prince2-agile-book-review.php

  8. Essay den Sushing

    Recalling my recent post on the subject of ‘legal’ project management, which I discovered to mean the application of formal project management techniques to the practice of law, readers will not be the least surprised to learn that I have been busy ever since in formulating a breakthrough in crime prevention- illegal project management.
    The underlying idea is simple but brilliant.
    The world knows that since the introduction of formal project management methods there has not been a single instance of a project that has been delivered on time: all have been horribly mired in mindless overblown bureaucracy. What better then than to encourage the adoption of formal project management techniques by the criminal fraternity? a master-stroke that will lumber the would-be felon with a bureaucratic ball and chain of immense debilitating power.
    A moment I did not lose in formulating my new method: PRINCE- Projects In a Criminal Environment. Of course, I took all the necessary steps to ensure that my new creation, PRINCE, was horribly over-complete, with a remorseless focus on the generation of meaningless paperwork, and to promote a hierarchy of PRINCE qualifications, which rewarded the slavish adoption of terminology over any practical skills in larceny. The result has been miraculous- the incidence of major organised crime has plummeted since the launch of PRINCE, as ‘top-end’ criminals are now too bogged down in paperwork to pull off any capers. My next development is to be a formal programme management methodology for those with large portfolios of criminal projects, which I plan to launch in Sicily next summer.

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  11. Are you interested in helping us develop a PRINCE2 Agile Health Check, we have developed a standard PRINCE2 Health Check here http://www.totalprogrammecontrol.com and was interested to see how we combine the agile and PRINCE2.

    Nick

  12. @NathanaelB asked to clarify the sentence “Focus is on the result to be delivered, so the scope and quality criteria and the control of the agile related risks”.

    Great to see that it’s still actual. The focus of the project manager is on the results he has to deliver. To focus on the results he starts with focussing on the scope and quality criteria (what is really needed and what not). Besides this, an agile way of working introduces agile related risks. This is what he has to manage too. Hope this will help. Best regards Henny

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