Project Management in Practice

Beyond the alphabet soup of PRINCE2, MSP, MoP, PMBOK, ITIL, Agile

PRINCE2, ITIL, Agile … can I have the best of all?

There is a lot of discussion about what the best methodology is to adopt for an organisation. As soon as the discussion moves in that direction, it moves away from realities of any Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC). Projects simply do not mushroom out of thin air. Something causes a realisation in the organisation that moves them to  mobilize and start a project. The project than needs monitoring and control to bring the desired transformation in the organisation.

In an IT Service Management context, this realisation would come from the Continuous Service Improvement (CSI) process in ITIL. CSI should highlight required areas for improvement. That should in turn form the business case for a project in an PRINCE2 Start Up process. Once the business case has been approved, ITIL Service Design strategies can be used to initiate the project and plan the product catalog. PRINCE2 being a project management framework, does not specify how the specialist products are produced. Therefore, subsequent development stages can now be executed using Agile methodology. Agile and PRINCE2 both recognize the folly of planning too far ahead. During the iteration deployment, the ITIL Service Deployment strategies can be used. Each iteration length can be used as individual management stages.

Credits: ITIL from OGC, PRINCE2 adapted from OGC, Agile: Mountain Goat Software – click to view larger

PRINCE2, ITIL and agile methodologies all come from a desire to implement successful projects. All of these come from many years of learning by many involved in the SDLC. Each have their unique strengths. When the entire life cycle is taken into account, they can all fit nicely in their own areas.

Yes indeed, you can have the best of all 3.

22 responses to “PRINCE2, ITIL, Agile … can I have the best of all?

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  5. simonwmoore December 20, 2011 at 9:30 pm

    Interesting post Shoaib, I agree that blurring the lines between the different methodologies is preferable to just picking one and forcing it through, but to what extent is it truly an agile process if the phases are determined in advance by PRINCE2?

  6. Shoaib Ahmed January 4, 2012 at 3:03 am

    PRINCE2 is really implementing a management phase, rather than a deliverable phase. In some respects it is not that different to an agile sprint. The goal is that if the project isn’t continued, there would be some output that would benefit the organisation … very similar to the complete working product at each sprint.

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  8. Andy Murray January 13, 2012 at 8:35 pm

    Great article Shoaib and a point I have been making for years. PRINCE2 is a method for managing a project and for projects with specialist deliverables it expects there to be a specialist development method to be used. That’s why the interplay between Controlling a Stage and Managing Product Delivery is defined in that way. The various project management ‘strategies’ and the project controls should be used to define how PRINCE2 will be used with the chosen development method.
    Andy, PRINCE2 Lead Author

    • Shoaib Ahmed January 13, 2012 at 9:45 pm

      Thanks Andy. Appreciate your comments. I find most people try to adopt a methodology or back office system to address gaps. Rarely time is taken to adapt the methodology to suit the organization.

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  13. Richard Scott-Will-Harknett July 30, 2012 at 11:14 am

    Nice post: the ITIL-PRINCE2-Scrum mash up is one I have promoted a number of times. It’s a great match for those places that need a management framework around the self organising teams. I would note though that I see the Controlling a Stage process more akin to managing a Release in Scrum (most implementatioons don’t actually ship to production every two weeks but build up a number of Sprints to get to a release). Thus the Product Delivery process is more like the Sprint.
    At Clarus ( we have simple agile processes that map to the SU and IP processes to cleanly initiate a project through what we call Structured Project Initation (SPI) and then map Scrum into CS, SB and MP as well as Product Backlog creation to the Product Based Planning set out in PRINCE2. Pragmatic use of DP and CP provide good governance to steer and close off the project.

  14. magia3e November 17, 2012 at 9:39 pm

    Yes, you can have all three. But traditional project managers typically refuse to realise that software development doesn’t adhere to engineering processes but instead is akin to new product development.

    Unless, therefore, you have someone with experience and expertise in all of these areas then success in adoption of an all embracing project management, direction and execution ecosystem is “fragile” rather than “agile”.


  15. danievi May 10, 2015 at 5:56 pm

    Shoaib, i felt this article and comments were very informative. I stumbled upon your article researching for project management methodologies that could be used for running IT Infrastructure projects in IT organizations following ITIL practices.

  16. Joshua Partogi July 21, 2015 at 2:42 am

    I am not sure whether delivering the software at the very end of the project is still considered Agile.

    • Shoaib Ahmed July 21, 2015 at 10:39 am

      Probably the managing stages diagram may have given that impression. In this kind of arrangement, there will typically be many stages, not one. I’d see software being delivered at the end of each of the management stages, akin to a release in Scrum. Agree, delivering at the end is not Agile.

  17. ktlonergan May 31, 2016 at 6:42 am

    Shoaib – a few points. It is hugely ‘optimistic’ for anyone to suggest that Prince2 is remotely Agile and I find it very disrespectful when anyone suggests others don’t understand Prince2. The questions on the Prince2 exam prove this far more than the manual. They are worlds apart.

    • Shoaib Ahmed June 18, 2016 at 11:46 pm

      You’re entitled to that point of view. What Prince2 doesn’t do is provide guidance on how you should stage the specialist product should be delivered, and that allows the opportunity to incorporate agile practices. A difference of opinion, if it is indeed that shouldn’t be taken as disrespect.

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