PRINCE2® and PMBOK® – a meeting of project management minds?

PRINCE2® and PMBOK® – a meeting of project management minds?

How effective and successful is the practice of project management in the United States right now?

Cards on the table – it’s completely variable; the capability of projects is driven by the experience level of Project Managers and their familiarity with project approaches. Certainly, in regulated environments project management comes with an additional level of discipline but, beyond that, in many cases it’s the “Wild West”. Clearly, this creates credibility problems for the industry, and quality and consistency problems for the enterprise.

Patrick Von SchlagThere is a solution to this but this solution is currently a well-kept secret for most project management practitioners in the USA. The solution is a blend of what the US project management industry already knows and trusts – PMBOK – and the international project management methodology, PRINCE2®.

Lack of PRINCE2 awareness in the USA is no surprise. For US-based Project Managers, Project Management Institute (PMI)* is an entire eco-system: a networking tool, a vehicle for CPD through chapter meetings and events and an accreditation body. In essence, it’s the sun, moon and stars for US project management.

And yet it would be in the best interests of US Project Managers to understand one important thing about PRINCE2: it’s not a competitor to the PMBOK. It complements PMI’s Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) guidance as an approach and practitioners can, and should, use them together.

Why is this? While PMBOK identifies areas of knowledge and expertise that PMs should have, PRINCE2 provides an explicit and consistent methodology for executing projects successfully. Both have a role to play and each complements the other.

Why should US project management practitioners consider PRINCE2?

New Project Management Professionals (PMPs) in the US may have knowledge but may lack practical capability and skills to run projects consistently and successfully. The critical techniques of establishing and maintaining a business case, a project board and specific practices in implementing and sustaining communication channels, are explicit in PRINCE2. Where PMBOK stops, PRINCE2 starts – which really makes them obvious marriage material.

For a Project Management Office (PMO), PRINCE2 is a methodology that can be adopted and tailored to improve the consistency of project performance and results. It puts the business case at the centre of the project universe and is constantly revisited to assess the viability of the project. The PMBOK approach treats the business case as a pre-project activity only, but this doesn’t sit well with the agile approaches becoming more prevalent in industry now.

The current US approach of PMOs trying to establish templates and tools for teams with guidance on executing projects has a net result of extremely inconsistent implementation. Accredited PMPs discover they have to build their own delivery and support architecture based on an often loose, self-designed architecture.

Conversely, practitioners using PRINCE2 see the implementation of a specific workflow for managing projects; a high quality executional strategy which makes delivery more coherent and consistent. For companies wanting to plug someone into a project to execute, but that person doesn’t have the skills to do it, PRINCE2 provides the guidance for how to actually execute and control the project successfully.

And it’s proven to be very flexible in global use with large scale infrastructure and information age projects right down to the most mundane of projects across all disciplines; it offers an “80% solution” of re-usable, executable processes that would be a dramatic step forward for US project management.

PRINCE2 and Agile

PRINCE2 provides a vehicle to integrate traditional project management and agile delivery principles; more recently, the PRINCE2 Agile™ extension has introduced an even better way to connect agile methods along with programme and portfolio management.

And its communications protocols for maintaining project visibility allow a project team, within tolerances, to be adaptive without having to verify every change to the project variables. It lets managers manage and allows for effective delegation.

PRINCE2 and continuing professional development for PMPs

It’s essential for PMPs in the USA to maintain their credentials, with an obligation to collect 60 professional development units (PDUs) in a three-year period. Not having the necessary credentials in US project management is like giving up the keys to your car! However, through PRINCE2 training and development programmes, practitioners are eligible for 40-plus PDUs, making this type of training an instantly attractive proposition.

And this makes sense now the resources and support structure to train US-based project management practitioners in PRINCE2 are more available.

US project management – the future?

In the USA, the project management community continues to struggle with project execution. Yes, it has well-trained and knowledgeable people but without a reliable, repeatable methodology to use. Multiple organizations have their own rules and the results are of highly variable quality.

And, meanwhile, businesses are demanding more accountability and less risk; seeking more reliable investment of business resource in which it’s less about what you know but what you know how to do.

People are looking for answers to important project management questions and PRINCE2 offers an opportunity to get further forward with consistent project management execution.

Read our recent white paper, PRINCE2®, the PMBOK® Guide and ISO 21500:2012, for more information about how PRINCE2 and PMBOK can work together to manage projects.

'PMI' is a registered mark of Project Management Institute, Inc. PMI is not affiliated with AXELOS. PMI does not endorse any AXELOS Qualifications.

Have you used elements from PRINCE2 and PMBOK to when managing the same projects? Are there other project management methodologies that you have found to be complementary? Please share your thoughts in the comments box below.

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8 Oct 2015 David Whelbourn
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After emigrating to Atlantic Canada in 2005 I introduced PRINCE2 to the PM community here. I am also a long standing member of PMI and certified PMP.

I have helped the provincial government adopt PRINCE2 as a foundation of PM practices and the PMO use it as the foundation. I insist that PM's are PMP certified and PRINCE2 Practitioners as a matter of course. The PMP demonstrates you know the vocabulary and understand the foundation of project management, in other words the "What" of PM, and PRINCE2 with as a framework and principles provides the "How" to PM.

Completely complimentary and I urge people to explore and use PRINCE2.

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PRINCE2®, the PMBOK® Guide and ISO 21500:2012 Industry
This White Paper outlines the similarities and differences between the PRINCE2, the PMBOK Guide and ISO 21500:2012 methods to help Project Managers benefit from the complementary approaches of each. Read