These are a range of different methodologies which are often applied to project management, with the three most commonly considered being PMBOKPRINCE2and Agile.

Uses of these methodologies across businesses and industries varies from one to the other. Many companies I’ve worked with have even created their own version of the methodologies, most often using PMBOK principles as their foundation. Although Agile is fast becoming more popular.

 What is PMBOK?

Well this is short for the Project Management Body of Knowledge. The Guide to the Project Management Book of Knowledge is a collection of processes and knowledge areas generally accepted as best practice within the project management discipline.

“PMBOK was originally published by PMI as a white paper in 1987. The PMBOK Guide was an attempt to document and standardise accepted project management information and practices. The first edition was published in 1996.”

It is one of the essential tools in the project management profession today and has become the global standard for the industry. PMBOK has more substantial frameworks for the management of procurement, HR and scope management to name a few. Although the PMBOK methodology limits decision making solely to project managers, making it difficult for handing over aspects to other parties. Many PMs following PMBOK become the primary decision maker, solve all the problems, do the HR, manage the budgets and so on.

PMBOK® recognises 5 basic process groups and 9 knowledge areas typical of almost all projects. The basic concepts are applicable to projects and programs. The five basic process groups are:

  • Initiating, Planning, Executing, Controlling and Monitoring, and Closing.

Processes overlap and interact throughout a project or phase. Processes are described in terms of:

  • Inputs (documents, plans, designs, etc.)
  • Tools and Techniques (mechanisms applied to inputs)
  • Outputs (documents, products, etc.)

The nine knowledge areas are:

  • Integration Management.
  • Scope Management,
  • Time Management,
  • Cost Management,
  • Quality Management,
  • Human Resource Management,
  • Communications Management,
  • Risk Management, and
  • Procurement Management.

So what is PRINCE2?

PRINCE2® is a process-driven project management methodology that contrasts with reactive/adaptive methods. In 1989 and published by the UK Government agency CCTA, PRojects IN Controlled Environments (PRINCE) became the UK standard for all government information systems projects. However, the PRINCE method developed a reputation for being too unwieldy, too rigid and applicable only to large projects, leading to a revision in 1996.

An upgrade to PRINCE was considered to be in order, and the development was contracted out, but assured by a virtual committee spread among 150 European organisations. Originally developed for Information Systems and Information Technology projects to reduce cost and time overruns; the second revision became more generic and applicable to any project type, hence the 2 in PRINCE2!

This project management methodology shares more of the functional and financial authority with senior management, not just the project manager. This program has a focus on aiding the project manager to oversee projects on behalf of an organisation’s senior management. Many government organisations prefer this methodology, as it provides a single standard approach to managing projects, is easier to use and learn especially for those with limited project management knowledge.

Although unlike PMBOK, PRINCE2 doesn’t support development of the important ‘soft skills’ advantageous to have as a project manager.

PRINCE2 defines 45 separate sub-processes and organizes these into eight processes as follows:

  • Starting Up a Project
  • Initiating a Project
  • Directing a Project
  • Controlling a Stage
  • Managing Product Delivery
  • Managing Stage Boundaries
  • Closing a Project
  • Planning

Although prescriptive PRINCE2 provides a robust easy-to-follow methodology for running most projects, that is, where the objectives are clear and the deliverables are either well described, or capable of being so.

 Here comes the newbie…

 So what is Agile?

Interestingly Agile is the newest of these three methods, born in 2001, when it was created by a team of software developers in Utah. They were discussing a lightweight approach to software development and this resulted in the publication of the ‘Manifesto for Agile Software Development’. Agile follows the manifesto’s 12 core principles.

Agile refers to an iterative, incremental method of managing the design and build activities of projects, by business areas that aim to provide new product or service development in a highly flexible and interactive manner. Agile is more flexible, it allows for deliverables to be produced with minimal rework required. The reason being it allows deliverables to be broken down into smaller stages, thereby reducing the overall risk.

Agile requires capable individuals from the relevant business areas, openness to consistent customer input, and management openness to non-hierarchical forms of leadership. Users of Agile must thoroughly understand the principles to avoid leading the project to unattainable expectations.

According to Wikipedia, ‘The Agile Manifesto, is centered on four values: communication with parties is more important than standard procedures and tools, focus on delivering a working application and less focus on providing thorough documentation, collaborate more with clients, and last be open to changes instead of freezing the scope of the work.’

Often Agile coaches are employed by businesses to support the introduction of Agile into an organisation to ensure Agile teams are able to implement Agile effectively into the organisation, this is not the case with PRINCE2 or PMBOK, often the development and coaching is in the form of training provided by the organisation or self-development through courses like PMP and CAPM.

If you’re interested in comparing PMBOK vs PRINCE2 vs Agile and you’re wondering about the pros and cons there are several answers, and no one answer is right as each of them have their own distinct methodologies. It depends on what type of projects you are running and how you’d like your projects to be managed. Certainly in many organisations, they use a mix of methodologies and sometimes doing so to create their own.

Your experience with these methodologies and mine will differ and I’m sure if you’re a project manager, you will have a view on what works for you too.

What do you follow on your projects or perhaps you alternate? 

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