The Un-agile Prince


Heard of PRojects IN Controlled Environments aka. Prince ? If you’re in the UK you’ve probably seen it, asked for on job descriptions,
listed in expense reports and generally talked up among those in the project management industry. Outside of Europe Prince2 holds little clout. Most people have never heard of it, (including Mr. Joel on Software)

Prince2 is essentially a project management framework, that claims it can be applied to (or modified to fit) any project. It is great theory – but that’s pretty much all it is. In reality it’s rarely the right methodology to choose for a software project.

The problem is some large (often bureaucratic) companies place a strong emphasis on having a Prince2 qualification, even in the software industry. Year on year, it seems to make a regular appearance on training expense reports.

To make things worse, whatever good intentions Prince2 had to begin with, have faded away. What’s left now is a money making training industry (with loyal repeat customers). Having to re-take the same training and sit the exam every year or so, just to keep the accreditation. Speaking to those who have taken the course, it doesn’t seem to offer anything more than ‘how to pass the exam’ – and is scant on the underlying principles of project management using the framework (including how you might want to tailor it).

Simply put, Prince2 is too rigid to fit with the complexity involved in managing software projects, especially those with small teams. The amount of work you would have to do, moulding Prince2 into a more agile solution, would offset any benefit in using the framework.

If you’re still not convinced, I’d suggest have a good read through ‘Why Software Projects Fail’ , ‘Getting Real’ and ‘The Agile Manifesto’

Heads up, I know which one I prefer in the Agile Manifesto vs. Prince2 debate.

2 comments so far

  • photo of John Connell John Connell Mar 28, 2007

    I don’t really agree, Matthew – it is not the inflexibility of Prince that causes problems but the people who try to apply it inflexibly. Prince is really just a set of fairly basic and common-sense principles that should not be treated as the bible or even as a project management manual. There are <a href="">some aspects of project management</a> that Prince does deal badly with, but it is not alone in that, by any means.

    Problems, where they occur, are rarely about the PM methodology in use and more often about the user of that methodology.

  • photo of Matt Matt Mar 28, 2007

    I agree to some extent, what you are saying; but another problem is that for most people who are introduced to Prince, its the first (and often only) PM methodology qualification they can take. Because of this – it is used in situations without any adaptation and is often treated as the be-all and end-all. This is sometimes compounded by the way it is been taught, i.e. taught to pass the exam (through memorising steps/process etc.), rather than how to apply/adopt it in the global scheme of things.

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