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Comparing PMBOK and PRINCE2
By Bruno Collet

Working as project management consultant in Canada and Belgium has its advantages. One of them is to use methods based on both PMBOK, which prevails in North-America, and PRINCE2, which prevails in UK and is common in Western Europe.

Wikipedia provides a good overview of PRINCE2 and PMBOK.

I summarized the key differences between the two methods:

  • PRINCE2 is more prescriptive than PMBOK. PRINCE2 is a methodology framework. PMBOK is a body of knowledge of best practices.
  • PRINCE2 is process-oriented (who does what, when). PMBOK is knowledge-oriented (what the project manager should know).

  • PRINCE2 is easier to apply without prior project management experience because it prescribes processes. PMBOK is easier for learning project management skills because it is organized as knowledge areas.

  • With PRINCE2, the project manager has less power, more a coordination role leaving real power to executives. With PMBOK, the project manager is more central and has more decision power.

  • With PRINCE2, the business case drives the project. With PMBOK, the plan drives the project.

  • Consistently with previous point, PRINCE2 emphasizes products as deliverables whereas PMBOK also considers project artefacts as deliverables.

Therefore, as several people pointed out, PRINCE2 and PMBOK are complementary.

What I like in PRINCE2:

  • Theme “business case” and focus on product delivery help focus on delivering value.
  • Stages provide a mechanism to incorporate iterations in the lifecycle.

  • Process “manage product delivery” helps transitioning solution to operations.

  • PRINCE2 better explains how roles other than the project manager contribute to the project.

  • PRINCE2 is better suited to matrix organizations than PMBOK because the role and power of the project manager better reflects the reality of a matrix environment.

  • As an Agile project manager, I believe that the PRINCE2 methodology framework might be better suited to design a project management method that leverages some Agile benefits yet fits in a matrix organizations such as most large organizations.

Bruno Collet combines business acumen with technology know-how. His successful track record comprises Daimler-Chrysler, Siemens, and Loto-Quebec, with roles such as management consultant, project manager, SAP consultant, and software architect. Bruno Collet’s skills are firmly grounded in academic excellence by achieving an MBA at John Molson School of Business and a Master of Computer Science. He maintains a professional website:brunocollet.com.

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