Can PRINCE2® be Agile?

Can PRINCE2® be Agile?

Insights | 09 February 2015

Part 1 in a series exploring PRINCE2® and AgilePM® and integrating the two approaches.

PRINCE2 and Agile – do they and can they go together?

If I know and understand PRINCE2, do I need to know about Agile?

Or does Agile supersede PRINCE2?

What do people really mean when they say Agile?

Can they successfully be integrated?

Should we bother?

These are some of the questions often asked by those seeking to understand whether the worlds of PRINCE2 and Agile Project Management are so divergent that they clash and collide or whether there is merit in integrating the two.

Projects in Controlled Environments

The origins of the project management method PRINCE2 can be traced back nearly 40 years to 1975 with the method called PROMPT. The actual term PRINCE (PRojects IN Controlled Environments) came into place in 1989. As a project management method used globally in both private and public sectors, large and small organisations for various projects, PRINCE2 is both robust and scalable.

Yet speak to any project manager or in effect almost anyone in business and the word that is mentioned by everyone is Agile: we want to use Agile, we want our projects to be Agile, we want our organisations to be Agile.

Agile and agility – that’s assumed isn’t it?

Agile and Agility

The word Agile is from the Latin: to do. It embodies the concept of quickness, lightness and ease of movement. In a global and ever-changing environment, many organisations seek more flexible and adaptable ways of doing things and to be “more agile” or have agility.

Agile is an umbrella term for several iterative and incremental development methodologies such as:

  • Scrum
  • Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM)
  • Extreme Programming (XP)
  • Kanban

In effect, Agile is a set of values and principles – it is not prescriptive or specific. Therefore to answer such questions as: Can PRINCE2 and Agile co-exist? Is it a case of one or the other? Are they compatible? Or simply put what is the “best” one for my organisation? We need to take a specific instance of an Agile methodology; for example, Agile Project Management (AgilePM®) which is a subset of DSDM Atern.


AgilePM® is an approach that offers agility whilst retaining the concepts of project management; it is about changing the emphasis of projects not removing structure. AgilePM is a flexible but balanced and measured approach, based on the Atern Philosophy of:

  • Principles
  • People (Roles and Responsibilities)
  • Process (Project Lifecycle)
  • Products
  • Practices (techniques)

Can we have it all? Can PRINCE2® (be) Agile?

To date, many of us have recognised the possibility of integrating PRINCE2 and Agile approaches; PRINCE2 is not just for waterfall approaches. The AgilePM Handbook states:

“Agile Project Management provides…an agile approach that works alongside more formalised project management approaches such as PRINCE2”

The Project Management Institute (PMI)® Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide)® states that different methodologies and tools such as agile, waterfall, PRINCE2 can be used to implement the project management framework.

Interestingly, AXELOS – the owner of PRINCE2® – is currently working on an “extension” to PRINCE2®: PRINCE2 Agile® (release date Q2 2015). This guide is not seeking to replace PRINCE2® (or AgilePM®) but to explain what needs to happen, when and why in a PRINCE2® project in an agile environment.

The PRINCE2 Agile concept is based on synergising structure and discipline (PRINCE2) with dynamism and responsiveness (Agile). So yes, PRINCE2 can be agile; the rationale becomes that together PRINCE2 and AgilePM can be more effective than as separate approaches.

Part 2 of this series will explore the fundamental strengths and differences of PRINCE2® and AgilePM®.

PRINCE2 is a registered trade mark of AXELOS Limited
PMBOK is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.
AgilePM is a registered trademark of Dynamic Systems Development Method Limited
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