Socitm advocates development approach combining best of Agile and PRINCE2


Socitm is urging public sector ICT managers undertaking new product and service developments to consider the Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM) as an approach that combines the best of Agile and PRINCE2.

In a new briefing, Agile or PRINCE2 – a need to choose?, Socitm says that Agile has many champions because of its ability to deliver business benefits fast. However, as the whole project is not planned in detail at the start, there are perceived risks of costly overruns. There are also concerns about scalability, since Agile uses small teams and public sector projects can be very large.

Favoured in the public sector for its tools to manage cost and risk, PRINCE2 is, however, often criticised for being bureaucratic and for generating too much documentation. This can prevent project managers from maintaining the close dialogue with project teams and stakeholders needed to keep projects on track.

PRINCE2 is also associated with the ‘waterfall’ approach to project management, with its lengthy, linear successions of steps that can mean that by the time implementation is eventually reached, the business requirement has moved on from the original specification.

Although these two approaches may seem poles apart, the Socitm briefing says that the DSDM inverts the traditional governance model for software development, making it possible to combine the speed and fitness for purpose that Agile promises, while maintaining the control that PRINCE2 offers.

DSDM works within an existing PRINCE2 framework, incorporating eight principles that are described in the briefing:

  • Focus on the business need
  • Deliver on time
  • Collaborate
  • Never compromise quality
  • Build incrementally from firm foundations
  • Develop iteratively
  • Communicate continuously and clearly
  • Demonstrate control

The other concern about using Agile, which uses small, self-directing teams, is scalability, but the DSDM approach can overcome this too, says the briefing.

Where a public service organisation wants to use an Agile approach on a large scale project, employing, say, tens of developers, DSDM allows the project to be broken down into small parts, with a project manager used to coordinate activities. In effect, the project has a single ‘head’, but multiple bodies.

“We need new systems urgently, and while an Agile approach offers quick delivery, public services want the strong governance associated with PRINCE2, as well as scalability,” says Chris Head, author of the briefing. “DSDM is a development methodology that combines the best of both.”


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