Agile delivery principles are increasingly attracting the attention of organizations looking for the most appropriate approach to help meet their project objectives.
But, buyer beware! Agile methods alone may not supply sufficient control within projects to ensure they are meeting business needs. Therefore, organizations need to know how to combine agile with other project management methodologies.
This concept is integral to PRINCE2 Agile™, the first extension to the core PRINCE2® best practice guidance and qualification developed by AXELOS. The upcoming best practice guidance will show how agile approaches complement each of the seven principles within PRINCE2, and this is a sneak preview of how they can work together
Continued business justification
This principle demands that a project needs a valid business case before it begins and has to be reviewed constantly. With the introduction of agile to a PRINCE2 project environment, an organization can assess the benefit of each incremental delivery and assess the effect on the business case in real terms on an on-going basis.
It means viewing the benefits from a number of “go-live” stages during the project and, at each stage, measuring the benefits on users and against the business case. Consequently, it offers more accurate data on benefits as well as delivering to fixed project time and cost.
Learn from experience
Agile supports the principle of learning from experience in PRINCE2: taking lessons and applying them to this project and future projects. As agile is delivering to users on a regular basis, it provides the ability to learn from live usage. So, what do users want and what can be built into later deliveries?
For example, if an e-commerce website was project managed in a traditional PRINCE2 way, it may not go live until everything was ready; combined with agile, it allows a go-live before completion and with potential for customers to interact and feedback as the project progresses to further go-lives. This should be a more cost-effective approach to learn from users and correct issues in time for the next go-live.
Defined roles and responsibilities
Every person on a PRINCE2 project needs to know who is responsible for doing what and agile methods have something similar.
But where PRINCE2 is about management of the project, agile is concerned about delivery of the product. Therefore, the two approaches complement each other and can work together in harmony.
Manage by stages
This principle is about breaking down a project into bite-sized chunks, dictating what you can plan for and enabling commitment of resources by stage. A PRINCE2 “stage” becomes a “go-live” in agile, which involves the design, build, test and delivery to the business in a single stage. The contents of each stage will be dependent on the users and what they consider to be a minimum viable product.
Manage by exception
Within PRINCE2 this requires authority to be delegated within defined tolerances (limits), such as time and cost. Going beyond these limits means escalating that decision to the managerial level above. In agile, time and cost are fixed but there is flex on scope and quality within defined tolerances. Therefore, when time and cost are under pressure in a stage, scope and quality can be flexed.
Focus on products
A project should focus on the delivery of quality products: define what quality is and deliver it!
The agile focus on products means having an understanding of what is the minimum viable product; in other words, what scope and quality must be delivered and what is a desirable feature rather than a must-have?
While PRINCE2 has the potential to increase time and cost to meet all other requirements of a project, agile fixes the time and cost (while flexing scope and quality within tolerances) to deliver a product on time, within budget and for customers to start using it! When PRINCE2 and agile work together, PRINCE2 contributes the higher level business case to assess what is, or isn’t, a priority.
Tailor to suit the project environment
PRINCE2 shouldn’t be used “off the shelf” – it needs to suit the size and environment of the project, its complexity, importance, risk and the organization’s capability. Equally, agile shouldn’t be deployed on every project but only when there is potential for incremental delivery.
For example, agile doesn’t really work when building a new office block or a bridge, but it could work with a building extension or developing a new website. In another discipline, such as marketing, agile can be used to test smaller campaigns on a local market before going national.
Convincing the community
Despite what I think are clear synergies between PRINCE2 and agile in project management, there is likely to be resistance amongst some current practitioners around combining the two approaches.
However, the team that has created PRINCE2 Agile – have blended elements from both disciplines – people agree that agile used on bigger projects needs more control than pure agile approaches afford. So, PRINCE2 Agile will give a more formal project methodology with the flexibility to work in an agile way.
This cultural change means embracing the idea that, instead of investing in a major product design process at the beginning plus focusing on one go-live there can be a smaller design process from the start with phased go-lives, flexing scope and quality within tolerances rather than time and cost. Going live incrementally enables a project to be de-scoped in order to achieve a viable end product, on time and within budget.
See the Best Practice Solutions section of AXELOS.com for more information about PRINCE2 Agile.