PRINCE2 and SCRUM – can they live in the same world?

Intro

In this article I would like to go into some experiences of applying SCRUM in a corporate environment which is dominated by PRINCE2. I assume some knowledge of  PRINCE2 and SCRUM, because it would be beyond the scope of this blog to give a primer on both. You can find some introductory material on PRINCE2 here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PRINCE2 and on SCRUM here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SCRUM

Technical aspects

There are a lot of points where PRINCE2 and SCRUM can be joined.

First, both put a high emphasis on making sure the project delivers business value – In Prince2 in the form of a business case, in SCRUM each Sprint planning meeting is going through the business value of each requirement / feature / story and thus aligns business benefits with the project costs.

Second, Prince2 mandates a certain structure for the project from a macro level, but leaves it optional that some teams within the project can operate under a different process. The only requirement is that for each “work package” the team manager agrees delivery plan, acceptance critertria and tolerances with the overall project manager. In most cases these tolerances are expressed in schedule or cost, but for a SCRUM team it is more logical to express the tolerance in terms of scope. Thus you could use the Sprint backlog from the Sprint planning meeting as a PRINCE2 work package.

In a big project it could well be that one subteam is using SCRUM for software development, while other subteams (e.g. server procurement,  network setup,  user training,  marketing) might not use SCRUM at all.

PRINCE2 is having a small part of adaptive planning in the idea of having project stages, and doing detailed planning only for the next stage. These stages could be mapped to either SCRUM sprints or to milestones. Typically a PRINCE2 project stage would be longer than a SCRUM sprint, but this depends on your setup.

I would see the best approach to work with an agile team in a PRINCE2 project is this approach of encapsulation: SCRUM is used on the development team level, PRINCE2 is used at the macro level, the adaptive planning of SCRUM is reflected in the stage plan of PRINCE2 and the tolerance for each work package. Each sprint backlog is seen as a workpackage for the PRINCE2 project. The Scrum Master is mapped to the PRINCE2 team  manager role, responsible for the outside communication from the development team to the project manager. The Business Owner for the Product backlog is either the senior user from the PRINCE2 project board or a delegate of the senior user.

Cultural aspects

It is a fact that SCRUM and PRINCE2 come from different angles and traditionally PRINCE2 is definitely not an agile method. The different mindsets of forward planning vs. adaptive planning will clash at some points, even if technically the two approaches can be integrated.

With some level of understanding on both sides this can be turned into a workable solution, the PRINCE2 framework is flexible enough for integrating an agile development team, but most PRINCE2 project managers may not be adaptive enough to deal with this situation.

Summary

Whether it is a desirable setup or not, if you are working for a client who has adopted PRINCE 2 or your own company runs projects according to PRINCE 2, it is still possible to create an agile environment for the development team and reap the benefits of SCRUM by encapsulating SCRUM within PRINCE 2.

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One thought on “PRINCE2 and SCRUM – can they live in the same world?

  1. I agree they can work together.
    You should make a point to note that PRINCE2 is much more agile than many of the project managers that use it.
    It has a focus on Tailoring PRINCE2 to suit each specific project at the core.

    If the project could benefit from Scrum then PRINCE2 can Tailored to suit without become any less PRINCE2.

    Interestingly, I don’t believe this works the other way though… if Scrum is tailored suit to PRINCE2 then it is no longer considered Scrum.

    It could be argued that this means that PRINCE2 is more ‘agile’ than Scrum.

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