September and October are conference season in the world of business and projects, where the lucky ones of us escape the office for a couple of days and get to meet with our peers and hear the latest buzz topics. PRINCE2 has been around for many years and to date hundreds of thousands of project managers around the world have gone through the PRINCE2 Practitioner training, taken the exams and are now PRINCE2 Registered Practitioners. This year, however, everyone is talking about Agile Project Management, the UK Government is encouraging the use of Agile in all of its departments and new certifications are emerging.
Let’s look at some of the questions in the air at the moment.
Firstly, what is Agile?
Agile is more of a movement than a method. It is a family of different approaches, including DSDM Atern, Scrum, XP, Crystal, Feature-Driven-Development, which came together in 2001 as the “Agile Alliance” to formulate the Agile Manifesto – a statement of shared values about the development of software to support business. Now in 2011, other approaches such as Lean development have also joined forces with this and the movement and its values have spread beyond the bounds of software into many areas of business.
What is an Agile Project?
The key characteristics which make a project Agile are: short increments and frequent delivery; continuous user involvement at all levels; scope management by prioritisation of features; focus on business need, delivery on time and to budget, a collaborative approach between all parties, including external suppliers; embracing change and learning; sufficient but not excessive control; facilitative leadership and appropriate empowerment. Good Agile is establishing a reputation for delivering business value early. No wonder, then, that it is attracting attention.
What is Agile Project Management certification?
In November 2010, APMG, who accredit PRINCE2, launched their new Agile Project Management certifications (AgilePM), in partnership with the DSDM Consortium. Based on the familiar structure of the PRINCE2 Foundation and PRINCE2 Practitioner level qualifications, AgilePM certification is underpinned by DSDM Atern, whilst acknowledging the other popular agile approaches around.
DSDM Atern is a mature and fully-featured Agile approach, established for sixteen years and appropriate to all types of project. There are many organisations who have been training in, and using, this approach over the years, so it is robust, tried and tested. Unlike other popular Agile approaches, its focus is not purely on the development team: its scope extends to project structure and control. It specifies roles and responsibilities for project governance as well as for the mixed-skill development teams. It gives guidance on project management concerns such as risk and escalation, configuration management and quality. It also focuses on the triple concerns of time, cost and function, which, along with timeboxing, all work to deliver on time and within budget by prioritisation of features.
Why, oh why, do we need another approach?
Over the past 20 years our success-rate in IT-supported business projects has risen steadily. If we take a comparable study over ten years (Standish Chaos Reports 1996 to 2006) it rose from a dismal 19% success rate to 31% of projects reported as successful. But the school report would still say “Must try harder!”. Standish cite the top five success factors for projects as: user involvement, executive management support; clear business objectives; optimising scope; and, yes, an Agile process.
I manage a team of PRINCE2 project managers. I have spent a fortune training my people in PRINCE2. Are you telling me we need to forget all of that and start again?
Well, fortunately, no! You will be pleased to hear that DSDM Atern fits well with PRINCE2. So, in an environment where PRINCE2 is bound into programme and portfolio management, DSDM Atern can be embedded to enhance agility. DSDM Atern and PRINCE2 complement each other. Both deliver, in line with a clear business case. PRINCE2 provides strong governance with clear responsibilities to corporate management. DSDM Atern has guidance on how to engage the business at multiple levels from Sponsor to development team and end-users. PRINCE2 can be used to manage incremental projects. DSDM Atern addresses this with specific guidance and adds advice on business analysis, team working, Agile testing, prototyping and facilitated workshops. Agile Project Management training should be part of the career project manager’s continuing professional development.
I am a Project Manager. I gained PRINCE2 certification three years ago. Do I really need more training?
The good news for those who have laboured through PRINCE2 certification is that your knowledge is not redundant. However, in the ever-moving need for new skills, the next step in your life-long learning is probably Agile. Your development teams are already doing Agile. Current PRINCE2 project managers are already becoming an essential part of the new Agile project workforce.
I am a contract project manager with twenty years experience. I had to take PRINCE2 exams because no-one would look at my CV otherwise. Is this another must-have tick in the box?
Driven substantially by the government’s adoption of Agile, since the IFG Report: “System Error” in March 2011, there is currently a surge in demand for Agile Project Managers. The demand is still outstripping supply, and those entering this arena early will likely gain substantial advantage.
So, is Agile Project Management the new PRINCE2?
Separately, PRINCE2 and DSDM Atern are good, robust approaches for the management of all types of projects; together they are greater than the sum of their parts. The answer is that, although Agile Project Management can stand alone in certain environments, it is not typically a replacement for PRINCE2, but a complement to improve project delivery and success.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Dot Tudor was an illuminating contributor in our recent discussion about Agile on the Arras People Group Page at LinkedIn. Join the group today to have a look. Moreover, check out more Agile expertise in our Project Management Tipoffs newsletter concerning Agile project management, available to subscriber’s inboxes tomorrow!