15.3 PRINCE2 Agile guidance for the Progress theme
Both PRINCE2 and agile provide an abundance of guidance on tracking progress. There is nothing contradictory between the two. However, there are different areas of emphasis and when combining PRINCE2 with agile it is important to draw on the strengths of both to create a strong blend that provides comprehensive coverage in all areas and at all levels of a project.
When using PRINCE2 with agile, flexibility in what is delivered is the primary aspect of performance that is of most interest to the whole project management team; therefore displaying this in the form of a burn chart is quite natural irrespective of the project level.
It is also quite natural for a project manager to know that they will need to react quickly to how things are progressing as it may take several sprints or releases to understand how much work is going to be delivered by tracking overall velocity.
Whenever an organization invests time and money into a project it is essential that this investment is monitored and controlled appropriately. Although common terms such as ‘progress’ (in PRINCE2) and ‘velocity’ (in agile) gives a positive feel when helping to answer the question ‘How are things going?’, it should not be overlooked that behind all of the techniques and concepts lies the necessity to be in control at all times. The word ‘control’ does not resonate well with many in the agile community as they see it as inferring ‘command and control’. This is certainly not the case as PRINCE2 is more focused on creating guiding boundaries that empower people to carry out their work by self-organizing. PRINCE2 creates these boundaries by using such things as tolerances (as well as stage boundaries and the role of project assurance), and if these are forecast to be exceeded, it will trigger an exception. This then acts as a safety net to catch a situation that has gone outside what was reasonable to expect.
15.3.2 Progress at different levels
PRINCE2 tracks progress at different levels (see Figure 12.3) and many techniques can be used at any level. Using only agile techniques for delivery and only traditional techniques for direction and management would be limiting, as many of the agile concepts and techniques can prove effective at all levels for tracking progress. Care may need to be taken in the choice of technique, as the audience will need to be comfortable with the information it is conveying (e.g. to use a burn-down chart for the project board may prove counter-productive if the project board members are not familiar with this format). However, many of the PRINCE2 products can be created by using agile artefacts. For example:
- An agile technique used at the direction level On a PRINCE2 project where scope and quality criteria are variable, it is often good practice to communicate progress to the project board by way of a graphical burn chart showing how much has been successfully completed against what had been forecast. Adding the tolerance levels for the scope may enhance the graphic further.
- A PRINCE2 theme at the delivery level On a project using timeboxing, it is recommended to first define the stage boundaries, and then to build in the appropriate number of releases and/or sprints (of suitable length) inside each stage.
In either example progress is typically tracked by completed products (as opposed to days or hours).