A perfect storm of circumstances in UK public sector project management is helping open the door to agile methods.
First, some projects have not been as successful as expected - 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 has been significant spending on PRINCE2® training and certification in the public as well as private sectors and organizations want to ensure their investment is achieving maximum return. Practitioners who have gained both Foundation and Practitioner certification could be using their best practice expertize to even greater effect by applying more widely the methodology they learned to pass the exam. This means taking the use of PRINCE2 beyond knowledge to tangible application and 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 and 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 to choose the best approach for a project and make 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’ and equip them with practical techniques to get underway. The advantage of bringing both approaches together means the project managers are not ‘going back to scratch’ but are building on their existing knowledge.
From an organization’s point of view, this will help realize the investment made in PRINCE2 and address the areas where, in some instances, it doesn’t quite fit. In simplistic terms, it will enable organizations to be more agile 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 and 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, helps manage user requirements more effectively, controls spending and is more likely to deliver the right product in the end.
Going beyond method
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 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 and 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. In fact, 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 used across the public sector translates to 10% classroom-based learning, 20% learning from others and 70% learning from experience. That means project managers developing the ability, through their experience as well as study and gaining qualifications, to handle more complex projects with greater confidence and effectiveness. PRINCE2 Agile is a good bridge to start project managers on that journey to 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 to meet a business case. The approach builds on existing learning and should take both the process and the achievable results a step forward. For organizations 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 PRINCE2 to be inflexible while 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 recognize 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.