Mar 4, 2016

As an accredited PRINCE2® trainer, in Financial Services the number one question from those interested in enrolling on project management courses is whether PRINCE2 is still the go-to project management methodology. Alternative methodologies have not sprung up over night by any means, so why the question now?

PRINCE2 outlines seven underpinning principles of running a successful project, seven themes which should be actioned by project managers day to day, and a high level project lifecycle which includes the mandatory documentation at each stage.

For years PRINCE2 has been the project management benchmark across industries – the rubber stamp on project managers’ CVs and entrusted governance structure of the change management / transformation functions of many organisations. In 2012, the UK Cabinet Office announced that it would start introducing Agile project delivery, followed a year later by the Cabinet Office transferring ownership rights and reducing their holding stake in PRINCE2 to 49%. This has followed a number of large financial institutions, most publically Barclays, championing Agile as their primary transformation methodology. This said, is Agile the answer?

In times where dynamic delivery to market, limited budgets and fluid requirements are frequent, there is no surprise that Agile has come to the fore. In the financial services industry specifically we have seen a plethora of regulation since the financial crisis in 2008. These regulations have been seen to go through repetitively, where waiting until the regulation was fully signed off (classical waterfall) would have seen large, cumbersome teams ramp up to meet the deadlines (figure 1)

Figure 1. Agile allows bite-sized steps to be taken towards a large, evolving project.pic

Agile development has been widely seen as highly suited to certain types of environments, including small teams of experts working ongreenfield projects. However, Agile is not without its critics: The challenges and limitations encountered in the adoption of Agile methods in large organisations with legacy infrastructure have been widely versed. There have been attempts to address this, namely: Scaled agile framework, Scrum at Scale, Enterprise Scrum and Large-scale scrum. These have undoubtedly started to answer the critics, along with case studies of large established organisations utilising Agile across all project work.

From a user’s perspective, Agile brings the business along the journey, aiding them to visualise the final product and, by mandating daily standups, naturally encourages continuous buy-in which would have to be more structured utilising other methodologies, such as PRINCE2 and Waterfall, to achieve the same affect. Adopting an iterative approach – the ability to flex scope of each sprint – the sponsors and project board can soon lose transparency on the macro level progress of the project; whereas under a waterfall model, key stakeholders can see very clearly if the analysis, design, build or testing phases slip.

Irrespective of the methodology, it is imperative that all of the project stakeholders are aware of the methodology and its terminology. This is one barrier that will take both time and training to achieve, though if not completed will leave stakeholders alienated and risk successful project delivery. How the project team engages and utilises the expertise of the subject matter experts along with concise and timely stakeholder management to close out issues and manage dependencies is ultimately what will ensure the continued success of an established project.

So what do I say to my delegates when they ask whether they should still study PRINCE2?

PRINCE2 still provides the most common project language; the project principles and themes are transferable and scalable to any project, whether you are utilising Waterfall, Agile or a hybrid project lifecycle. The Project Management Institutes (PMI) and Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) provides a more detailed view of how a project manager should perform their deliverables. Axelos have recently launched the PRINCE2 Agile qualification. This applies the project management principles of PRINCE2 whilst combining agile concepts such as Scrum and Kanban. As qualifications go, PRINCE2 Agile would best equip a to-be project manager with the tools, language and rubber stamp in the current Banking & Financial Services environment.

PRINCE2 is a [registered] trade mark of AXELOS Limited, used under permission of AXELOS Limited. All rights reserved