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The Basics of Blending AGILE and PRINCE2 

 September 13, 2022

By  Dave Litten

The Basics of Blending AGILE and PRINCE2

When combining PRINCE2 with agile it is important to know what agile is to avoid an inconsistent view and make combining the two difficult. A basic view of agile could generally be seen as one or more of the following:

  • Using a timeboxed and iterative approach to delivering software
  • Using a collection of techniques such as daily stand-up meetings, sprints and user stories
  • Using the Scrum framework
Blending Agile And Prince2

This is a very common structure used when working in an agile way for developing software. In simple terms, new features for a product are held in a prioritized list called the product backlog.

The list may be made up of user stories, which are structured in a way that describes who wants the feature and why.

The team that will build the features decides on what items from the top of the product backlog they can create in a timeframe of typically two to four weeks (which is known as a sprint).
The work that the team think they can achieve during the sprint is held in a list called a sprint backlog. Each day throughout the sprint, a meeting is held to assess progress.

At the end of a sprint new features should have been created and they may go into operational use. The output (i.e. the new features) is reviewed along with the way the team worked to achieve that output.

This basic structure may exist within an overall approach that includes a vision, a product roadmap (which is a plan of how a product will evolve) and a series of releases:

Blending Agile And Prince2

The definition of a release is:

A general term used to describe a collection of features that will be moved into (or near to) operational use (or the act of doing this).

In PRINCE2 Agile, a release is typically a container for more than one low-level timebox (e.g. a sprint) but this is not necessarily the case as the act of releasing features into operational use may happen more regularly (e.g. after each sprint or several times during a sprint).

The term ‘deployment’ is sometimes used in agile and has a similar meaning, although it is not used in PRINCE2 Agile.

The two examples represented in the diagrams above, provide a typical view of agile, although it is somewhat limited.

A more comprehensive view would include:

  • IT and non-IT situations
  • Large and small projects as well as routine ‘business as usual’ (BAU) tasks
  • Flow-based working as well as timeboxing

Flow-based working avoids the use of partitioning work into timeboxes and manages work by using a queue. Work is then continually pulled into the system (which may itself be a high-level timebox) and moves through various work states until it is done.
Further to this there also needs to be a wider mind-set and a collection of behaviours that enable the agile way of working to thrive.

The most well-known agile methods and approaches

These are shown in the TWO diagrams below, and then I will explain them:

Blending Agile And Prince2
Blending Agile And Prince2

ASD (Adaptive Software Development) (IT only). Iterative development process (Highsmith, 2000).

Crystal (IT only). Iterative development method (Cockburn, 2001).

DAD (Disciplined Agile Delivery) (IT only). An enterprise-wide scalable process framework described as ‘a process decision framework that is a people-first, learning-oriented hybrid agile approach to IT solution delivery’, that has ‘a risk-value delivery lifecycle, is goal-driven, is enterprise aware and is scalable.’

Dev Ops (IT only). A collaborative approach between development and operations aimed at creating a product or service where the two types of work and even the teams merge as much as possible.

DSDM (Dynamic Systems Development Method)/AgilePM An agile project framework that focuses on the iterative delivery of business systems through the use of timeboxing and continual business involvement. It has a defined process and corresponding set of products, a set of roles that operate at all levels of a project, eight guiding principles and a collection of key techniques that can be used throughout a project.

FDD (feature-driven development) (IT only). Iterative software development process focusing on features.

Kanban A way to improve flow and provoke system improvement through visualization and controlling work in progress.

Lean An approach that focuses on improving processes by maximizing value through eliminating waste (such as wasted time and wasted effort).
Lean Startup Originally an approach to creating and managing start-up companies, but now applied to any business, to help them deliver products to customers quickly.

SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework) (IT only). Large-scale application of agile across an organization. PRINCE2 and PRINCE2 Agile could be used in SAFe where a piece of work is of a sufficient size or level of difficulty that it should be run as a project.

Scrum An iterative timeboxed approach to product delivery that is described as ‘a framework within which people can address complex adaptive problems, while productively and creatively delivering products of the highest possible value’

XP (eXtreme Programming) (IT only). Iterative software engineering practice that can be used on its own but often exists in tandem with Scrum or Kanban, where XP covers the creation of the software and Scrum or Kanban is used as an overarching framework to control the work.

There is a family of frameworks (also referred to as methods or approaches) that are generally recognized as being agile. However, some are only applicable to IT situations. A summary of the most well-known is shown in my diagram below:

Blending Agile And Prince2

Along with the agile frameworks there are a variety of behaviours, concepts and techniques that are seen as being part of the agile way of working. Examples are shown above.

To summarize:

Behaviours

Being collaborative, self-organizing, customer-focused, empowered, trusting not blaming. Principles, values, mind-set

Concepts

Prioritizing what is delivered, working iteratively and incrementally, not delivering everything, time-focused, ‘inspect and adapt’. Kaizen. Limiting work in progress (WIP). Fundamentals

Techniques

Burn charts, user stories, retrospectives, timeboxing, measuring flow. Practices, tools

PRINCE2 and PRINCE2 Agile do not favour one agile approach over any other, sometimes called ‘agile agnostic’, and with due care and consideration, they can engage with agile in all of its many forms to provide a holistic project management approach that can be tailored to suit a wide variety of conditions and working environments.

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Dave Litten


David spent 25 years as a senior project manager for USA multinationals, and has deep experience in project management. He now develops a wide range of Project Management Masterclasses, under the Projex Academy brand name. In addition, David runs project management training seminars across the world, and is a prolific writer on the many topics of project management.

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