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Comparing PRINCE2 with PMBOK® Guide

by PRINCE2 Online
Discover which project management framework, PRINCE2 or PMBOK, aligns with your objectives and enhances your skills.
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Comparing PRINCE2 with PMBOK® Guide | prince2-online.co.uk

Introduction

Choosing between PRINCE2 and PMBOK®

PRINCE2 and PMBOK difference | prince2-online.co.uk

Project management has become an essential pillar of organisational success, where choosing the correct framework can dramatically impact outcomes. With several methodologies and standards available, PRINCE2 and the PMBOK® Guide stand out as two prominent choices. Their latest iterations, reflect the changing landscape of global business, emphasising adaptability, stakeholder engagement, and the strategic alignment of projects.

Professionals navigating the complex world of project management must weigh the comparative strengths and suitability of each. The PRINCE2 methodology, with its principle-driven approach, offers structured flexibility and is widely recognised for its clear process guidance. Conversely, the PMBOK® Guide by the Project Management Institute (PMI)® provides a comprehensive overview of knowledge areas essential for effective project delivery, now with a renewed focus on principles and performance domains. The PMBOK® Guide is commonly referred to as a standard for project management.

Both the PMBOK® Guide and PRINCE2 have evolved to incorporate increased flexibility, making it easier for project managers to tailor methodologies to their project’s specific context. This adaptability is critical in an era where projects must be delivered faster, meet tighter budgets, and align with strategic business objectives. Understanding the nuances of PRINCE2 and the PMBOK® Guide helps professionals to select the best approach, manage projects with greater efficacy, and achieve the desired outcomes in a diverse range of industries.

Given the growth in demand for skilled project managers, as indicated by the PMI’s job growth prediction [1], it’s clear that a solid grasp of these methodologies is not just useful but essential. Whether you’re based in the UK, Europe, or North America, where familiarity with one method may be more prevalent, this guide serves as a comparative tool between PRINCE2 and the PMBOK® Guide, providing you with the insights needed to make an informed decision that best suits your project management style and organisational needs.

For those looking to advance their career, understanding the differences between these frameworks is crucial. To further your knowledge, consider investigating how PRINCE2 qualifications can help your career, and see where you might fit in the growing landscape of project management professionals.

PMBOK® Guide: features and benefits

Understanding the PMBOK® Guide’s structure

The Project Management Body of Knowledge, or PMBOK® Guide, developed by the Project Management Institute (PMI)®, is considered by many as a bible for project managers. This guide, now in its 7th edition, was published in 2021. It has evolved significantly, moving from a process-centric to a principle-centric model. The guide, coupled with The Standard for Project Management, creates a comprehensive approach, defining a set of principles that not only describe the project management environment but are also instrumental in guiding the delivery of value through projects.

With these 12 principles as a backbone, the PMBOK® Guide now facilitates a more flexible and adaptive approach, recognising that no two projects are the same and that a one-size-fits-all methodology is increasingly impractical in the dynamic world we operate in. This shift aligns neatly with the demand for agility and resilience within project management disciplines, allowing project managers to tailor practices to the unique needs of their projects, stakeholders, and organisational culture.

PMBOK® principles
PRINCE2 principles
Be a diligent, respectful, and caring steward
Create a collaborative project team environment
Define roles, responsibilities, and relationships
Effectively engage with stakeholders
Define roles, responsibilities, and relationships
Focus on value
Ensure continued business justification
Recognise, evaluate, and respond to system interactions
Manage by exception
Demonstrate leadership behaviours
Define roles, responsibilities, and relationships
Tailor based on context
Tailor to suit the project
Build quality into processes and deliverables
Focus on products
Navigate complexity
Manage by stages
Optimise risk responses
Manage by stages
Embrace adaptability and resiliency
Tailor to suit the project
Enable change to achieve the envisioned future state
Ensure continued business justification

The evolution of PMBOK® Guide’s practices

The PMBOK® Guide’s latest edition introduces a set of performance domains, replacing the traditional process groups and knowledge areas that have characterised previous editions. These performance domains encompass a broader spectrum of project management activities, underscoring the importance of viewing projects holistically rather than as a collection of discrete tasks. They embody the dynamic nature of project work and encourage a concurrent approach to managing multiple aspects of a project.

Adapting the PMBOK® Guide to your project

Tailoring has become significantly more prominent in the 7th edition of the PMBOK® Guide. It acknowledges that project managers must now be adept in applying the guide to various project contexts. It encourages consideration of factors like project size, complexity, and organisational culture, which can all influence the choice of project management approach.

This edition provides greater guidance on how to adapt the PMBOK® standards to the intricacies of your project. It has embraced a perspective that views projects as a means to deliver value, aligning closely with PRINCE2’s long-standing emphasis on the business case. This helps ensure that projects align with broader business goals and deliver tangible benefits.

PMBOK® Guide project performance domain
Corresponding PRINCE2 element
Stakeholder performance
Organizing practice, people
Team performance
People
Development approach and life cycle performance
Plans practice
Planning performance
Plans practice
Project work performance
Organizing practice, issues practice, people
Delivery performance
Business case practice, quality practice
Measurement performance
Progress practice
Uncertainty performance
Risk practice

PRINCE2

Structure of PRINCE2

The PRINCE2 manual contains 19 chapters, 2 appendices and a glossary. As a whole, the manual covers the five main areas of PRINCE2 – principles, people, practices, processes, and the project context.

PRINCE2’s principles

PRINCE2, an acronym for Projects IN Controlled Environments, is a process-based approach to project management providing an easily tailored and scalable method for the management of all project types. The 7th edition of PRINCE2, released in 2023, continues to be recognised for its focus on dividing projects into manageable and controllable stages. It revolves around seven principles, which set a foundation for the methodology, ensuring that it can be applied to any project regardless of industry or scale.

These principles, which include ‘ensure continued business justification’, ‘learn from experience’, and ‘define roles, responsibilities, and relationships’, act as a compass guiding the project management process. They ensure that the methodology is not just a rigid set of procedures, but a flexible, adaptable framework that responds to the needs of the project environment. By adhering to these principles, project managers can ensure that their projects are aligned with organisational objectives and are executed effectively.

People in PRINCE2

PRINCE2 understands that at its heart, project management is about managing people, not managing things. There is a myriad of different stakeholders on any project. Ensuring stakeholders are ‘on board’ with what the project is trying to achieve is a minimum requirement for project success.

The method defines a clear organisational structure for the project management team, with specified roles and responsibilities. This clarity promotes an understanding of who is responsible for what within the project, facilitating better communication and more efficient decision-making. The latest edition of PRINCE2 provides even more detailed guidance on roles, from the project board to the support staff, ensuring that every team member has a clear understanding of their duties and how they contribute to project objectives.

PRINCE2 project management team roles
PMBOK® Guide equivalent
executive
project sponsor
senior user
no equivalent
senior supplier
no equivalent
project assurance
no equivalent
project manager
project manager
team manager
no equivalent
no equivalent
change control board (CCB)

If you’re considering progressing in the field of project management, a closer look at PRINCE2 roles and responsibilities is invaluable. It gives detailed insight into the function and structure of project teams as defined by PRINCE2.

PRINCE2’s practices

In addition to its principles, PRINCE2’s structured approach is reflected in its practices such as risk, quality, and business case. The practices in PRINCE2 are aspects of project management which must be addressed throughout the project lifecycle. These practices ensure that attention is given to these critical areas at every stage, contributing to the overall success of the project.

PRINCE2’s processes

The seven processes of PRINCE2 are its heartbeat, providing clear guidance for the decisions that must be taken throughout the project, including the role responsible for the decision making.

Tailoring PRINCE2 to the project environment

Crucially, PRINCE2 is designed to be tailored. In its latest edition, the guidance on tailoring the method to different project environments has been enhanced. Tailoring is not an additional component of PRINCE2; instead, it’s woven throughout the methodology, with numerous examples provided within each theme and process chapter. This helps practitioners understand how to apply PRINCE2 to their projects effectively, ensuring that the approach is always appropriate to the project’s scale, complexity, and risk.

By learning more about PRINCE2’s approach to tailoring within project management, project managers can appreciate the flexibility and adaptability of the framework within various contexts.

Comparative insights on PRINCE2 and PMBOK® guides

Similarities and differences

A nuanced examination of both PRINCE2 and the PMBOK® Guide reveals they have more in common than one might initially think, especially with their recent updates. They are now both grounded in a set of project management principles, and they underscore the importance of understanding the project’s intended outcomes. The PMBOK® Guide’s focus on delivering value and PRINCE2’s emphasis on the business case show a shared commitment to ensuring projects are justified and align with strategic objectives.

Tailoring your approach with PRINCE2 and PMBOK®

One standout similarity that has emerged with the latest editions is the increased focus on tailoring. Both guides recognise that tailoring the project management approach to the specifics of the project is no longer merely a suggestion but a necessity. The PMBOK® Guide now dedicates an entire chapter to the art of tailoring, whereas PRINCE2 has integrated tailoring guidance throughout its manual. This ensures that the project’s context – be it its scale, duration, complexity or the culture within which it operates – is at the forefront of the project manager’s mind when applying the methodology.

For more insights into how to effectively tailor project management methods and embed PRINCE2 into an organisation’s project management processes, explore the importance of PRINCE2’s embedding.

PRINCE2’s structure vs. PMBOK® Guide’s flexibility

Despite these commonalities, the frameworks still maintain distinct characteristics. PRINCE2’s structured processes offer a step-by-step methodology that project managers can follow, providing a clear path from start to finish. On the other hand, the PMBOK® Guide has shed the prescriptive nature of process groups in favour of a more principle-based approach that gives project managers the latitude to interpret and apply the principles as they deem fit for their projects.

Project management is about people

Both frameworks also converge on the recognition that project management is deeply human-centric. Leadership, team management, and effective communication are core components within both PRINCE2 and the PMBOK® Guide. This holistic view of project management acknowledges that while processes and principles are essential, the people who carry out these processes – their skills, experience, and interactions – are equally vital to the project’s success.

Discover how PRINCE2 places emphasis on the human aspect of projects through PRINCE2’s focus on people.

Processes and principles: converging for success

While the latest editions of PRINCE2 and the PMBOK® Guide have brought the frameworks closer in their approach to project management principles and tailoring, it is in their treatment of processes that they diverge. The PMBOK® Guide has taken a notable turn by eliminating detailed process groups in favour of a more principles-driven guide that encourages professional judgment. Conversely, PRINCE2 continues to provide a clear, process-driven framework that maintains a structured approach to project management, offering a defined path through the project’s lifecycle.

To decide which framework best suits your needs, consider reviewing both the PRINCE2 manual and the PMBOK® Guide for a comprehensive understanding.

Final thoughts

Choosing the right tool for the project

In the complex tapestry of modern project management, no single tool or methodology can claim to be the panacea for all challenges faced by project managers. The updated editions of both PRINCE2 and the PMBOK® Guide offer a testament to the evolving nature of project management, catering to a range of projects and industries. With the global business environment becoming increasingly projectized, the choice between PRINCE2 and the PMBOK® Guide is less about identifying a superior framework and more about determining which one can best be tailored to the specific needs of your organisation and projects.

Enhancing your project management skills

For professionals who are serious about advancing their project management skills, it’s essential to understand both PRINCE2 and the PMBOK® Guide, as each provides unique insights that can enhance one’s approach to managing projects. Learning both methodologies not only broadens your project management toolkit but also increases your versatility as a professional, enabling you to tackle a variety of project scenarios with confidence.

Moreover, the ability to navigate and blend the structured approach of PRINCE2 with the adaptive principles of the PMBOK® Guide equips project managers with a powerful skill set. This integrated approach can significantly improve project outcomes and align project delivery with strategic business objectives, further highlighting the importance of ongoing professional development in this field.

For those looking to further their expertise, PRINCE2 practitioner certification could be a significant step forward, offering deepened knowledge and official recognition of your skills. Similarly, understanding the intricate details of the PMBOK® Guide can provide a comprehensive view of the broader project management landscape.

Adapting to the future of project management

As the profession continues to grow, so does the need for project managers who can apply these frameworks adeptly in a rapidly changing world. The project management methodologies of the future will likely continue to blend the rigour of well-defined processes with the flexibility of adaptive principles. Whether you are new to the profession or looking to refine your existing skills, embracing these methodologies will prepare you for the future of project management.

Consider expanding your project management capabilities with PRINCE2 training courses, and explore the benefits of PRINCE2 Agile in today’s fast-paced project environment. By doing so, you position yourself at the forefront of a profession that is pivotal to organisational success across the globe.

References

[1] Project Management Institute. (2017). Project Management Job Growth and Talent Gap 2017 & 2027. Available: https://www.pmi.org/-/media/pmi/documents/public/pdf/learning/job-growth-report.pdf. Last accessed 23 October 2023.

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