Monday, 28 June 2010

You can't do PRINCE2 and Agile at the same time

I've been getting on with two things since my posting that They still think Waterfall's a really good idea... First I've been true to my word - I've been researching a presentation for my more Waterfall-minded colleagues (did you know waterfall was first coined as an antipattern?). Secondly I've become a certified PRINCE2 Practitioner.

This post isn't about bashing PRINCE2. Doing the reading, sitting the course and revising for the exams really sharpened my understanding of some aspects of project management, under any methodology - unless you take the rigid view that eg a Scrum Master is not a Project Manager, in which case you have no-one to do the useful little jobs. Like PRINCE2's disciplined approach to Risk Management, which would have been useful on any project I've ever worked on, in any capacity.

There are some projects on which I'd rather use PRINCE2 than an Agile approach.

The PRINCE2 manual has this to say on the subject of Agile methods:

Many industries or professions have developed lifecycle models for particular types of projects, such as waterfall or agile methods. PRINCE2 works well with such models as they primarily focus on the activities to create and verify the project's specialist products - the aspect of projects that PRINCE2 deliberately does not address.

Address them or not, this just ain't so.

Conflicting assumptions

PRINCE2 provides for "efficient and economic use of management time". Customer management is meant to be involved in the ongoing project as infrequently as possible - their time is just too valuable. Ideally they set the ball in motion, get involved at key decision points and take delivery. If the project goes off course - an exception - they may have to provide a little input.

Agile methodologies take the opposite view. Management should be involved frequently, to guide delivery of a more valuable product and prevent exceptions from arising in the first place. And the product itself is delivered in incremental slices, offering business value even before the project close.

PRINCE2 and Agile methodologies are fundamentally incompatible, from their basal assumptions.

Does anyone try?

In the last few days I've read seven agency proposals for a project that we've put out to tender. Four of the seven promise a seamless blend of Agile and Waterfall, before describing in detail a fundamentally Waterfall process. One promises Agile and PRINCE2.

I said it was the agencies who like Agile.