Thursday, January 03, 2013

Agile PMP: PMBOK Vs Agile - Comparison and Convergence (Part - 1)

The copy for 5th Edition of PMBOK has been made available last month to all PMI members. Thank you PMI. Copy for public distribution is expected be available in this month.

In this post, we will see how PMBOK guide, one of the most referred one worldwide in management practices, talks of Agile. I have been following PMBOK closely since its 3rd Edition on which I was certified. In 5th Edition, there has been significant changes as compared to 4th Edition. But, till 5th Edition, PMBOK, never mentioned the Agile word explicitly in its guide.

Before, we go into the Agile and PMBOK, let us take a look at how many times, PMBOK has mentioned of Agile. 

Number of times Agile word mentioned in PMBOK 3rd Edition - 0
Number of times Agile word mentioned in PMBOK 4th Edition - 0
Number of times Agile word mentioned in PMBOK 5th Edition - Around 5 to 7 times!


Now, does it mean that PMBOK suddenly woke up to Agile standards? No! For long, PMBOK has talked of Iterative approach with incremental delivery. PMBOK also talked of rolling wave planning, i.e., plan will be cleared as and when the project progresses. Complete Plan may not be clear in the beginning. 

However, for the 1st time Agile word has been mentioned in PMBOK guide, with the growing adoption of Agile and understanding that how volatile many project may become - especially in the software world, where requirements keep on changing all the time!

Comparison: PMBOK Vs Agile

True to its continuous saying, PMBOK says in its 5th Edtion that it is a Guide and NOT a methodology - like Agile, PRINCE2, Waterfall. So, if you want to take on comparison, PMBOK has been explicit - Its principles also can be applied to Agile and some of its heavy or light forms, but in no may it is saying you follow one in particular.  

Convergence: PMBOK And Agile

The 5th edition of PMBOK talks of 3 types of life cycles in a project. 

1. Predictive Life Cycle - Can be completely planned beforehand
2. Iterative and Incremental (I & I) Life Cycle - Was there also in earlier PMBOK guides, but has been more clearly defined. 
3. Adaptive Life Cycle - Here Agile is mentioned explicitly. 


But then how come it is different from Iterative and Increment development cycles. Good question! In Adaptive cycle, as compared to I & I cycle, the churn is high, the predictability is low and speed of execution is faster. Agile manifesto talks of 2 to 4 weeks of cycle and delivery at the end of each iteration. Please note that delivery does not mean it is to be shipped, but it is potentially shippable. The later part also falls into one of the 12 principles of Agile. 

Also, in PMBOK in certain sections Agile has been mentioned and how the plans to be treated in Agile mode is mentioned. 

But, having said that, does it mean that PMBOK has completely explained on how exactly Agile will be followed? I do not think so. There are many areas with confusions - such as WBS, Activities, Contracting methods, Estimation approaches, Baselining concepts (and hence EVM), Dependencies et al - which needs far better understanding for someone who follows Agile principles! We will check on in on later posts. 

This Series: Part - 2


  1. Good question. Congratulations!
    I was doing the same analysis. Thanks for doing it before and sharing with us.
    In my opinion PMBOK 5th seems still timid in talking of Agile as Agile is a true philosofy and not a framework as PMBOK is. Agile is a new correct way to exist, work and live.
    It will be very difficult incapsulate Agile in a framework, where transparency must be the first goal. The problem will be "how manage stupid politics".
    (sorry for the ISSUE between INDIA and Italy at this moment. I hope they will be more Agile, than bucratic by both sides).

  2. Vito,

    Perhaps you misinterpreted. I never questioned PMBOK! PMBOK also never says it has given or will give explanation of Agile thoroughly. Rather, would like to view at this way - PMBOK from very beginning has said iterative and incremental approach, which is one of the cornerstones of Agile.

    Yes, they have noted where Agile fits in! That is a first and I believe a good step. However, clarity basis - a lot is left to be desired and hence the post.

    On the final item of politics - as Aristotle,perhaps one of the greatest teacher ever, long before said "Man is a political being" :-)Politics exists and will exist. Question is - for good of the project or bad. When good, it is works well. When bad and unmanageable tough situation. Have published couple of articles on it at PMHUT.

    On Final one, appreciate your concern. Hope, it is resolved in accordance with Law.


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