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Agile and PMBOK®: More Alike than Different

Florida Tech instructor Wayne Brantley, PMP, sees many commonalities between the two methodologies.

By Florida Institute of Technology
Project Management Methodologies Connected by Commonalities

Written by Wayne Brantley, PMP

I was at a training session recently and the speaker said that the Agile methodology is not like the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK®). He considered PMBOK to be a waterfall method.

I had already been through Certified Scrum Master Training and I knew that Agile would be an iterative model. The PMBOK Guide 5th Edition defines both the waterfall and Agile methods, and I see the Project Management Institute (PMI) utilizing both methods, with a trend to the Agile, or adaptive, method of project management.

As the training proceeded, I found more and more commonalities between Agile/Scrum and PMBOK. I also began to realize that Agile is not just for software development projects. (Yes, sound the trumpets!) When the Project Management Institute introduced its Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP®) certification, I saw the scope of Agile expand to IT projects in general. Now I am seeing a trend toward using Agile for any deliverable-type product.

For all of you PMBOK-trained project managers who are beginning the journey to Agile mastery, I recommend that you start with what you currently know. So let’s look at the parallels:

PMBOK                                                                 Agile

Sponsor                                                                 Product Owner

Project Manager                                                  Scrum Master

Requirements                                                       Product Backlog

Work Breakdown Structure                                Product Backlog

Work package no longer than 80 hours          Two-week Sprint

There are more similarities we could examine, I am sure. This is the dawn of the Agile revolution; the methodology is the evolution of project management. But don’t fear – PMBOK and PMI are not going away. PMI’s 650,000 certified Project Management Professionals won’t let that happen.

Think back to the late 1990s, when Six Sigma was thought to be a methodology that could only be applied to manufacturing. We have learned otherwise over the past two decades, and now know that Six Sigma has many other applications and can impact many industries. Agile, too, will be useful in non-software development projects. 

As PMBOK devotees and Agile aficionados realize how much more alike they are than different, we will see increasing adoption of the Agile methodology, which is an excellent option when dealing with organizational resistance to change. I often recommend that we get quick wins. In cases when it will take one to three years before benefits are realized, we may encounter opposition from executives, shareholders and other stakeholders.

But show them returns on their investment within months or even weeks and they will continue to provide support. This will be at the center of the Agile methodology. 

Projects will still have a start, a “do” and an end. That’s not a sexy lifecycle model, but in the end this is a project lifecycle. How we get the work done will still entail requirements gathering, planning and decomposing the work, as well as teams and stakeholders.

Project management is not going away, my PMP brothers and sisters. We are just seeing a better way to use our skills to execute projects. Look for more merging of these two methodologies. I know I look forward to the journey!

Want to learn more about project management? Watch Wayne Brantley’s recent video presentation here.

Category: Project Management