We often find papers explaining the differences between PRINCE2 and PMBOK tend to be technical in nature. One example can be found at http://www.maxwideman.com/papers/
comparing/comparing.pdf. There are however a few key quotes from this paper which we can use to help summarise the ‘core’ differences:
“We believe that the Guide [PMBOK] takes the best approach for purposes of teaching the subject content of each knowledge area, but is not so affective when it comes to providing guidance for running a particular project….”
“PRINCE2 provides a robust easy-to-follow methodology for running most projects…”
“In a life-cycle-based presentation like PRINCE2, it is difficult to do justice to each knowledge area.”
Let’s elaborate on the above quotes.
Firstly, there is considerable misunderstanding in the marketplace about the differences between the two approaches. They are in fact not competing methodologies as many may think. If you study PRINCE2 and PMBOK you will find they are different with some overlapping elements. Where PMBOK is focused on knowledge areas, PRINCE2 is a methodology which can be used to apply project management knowledge areas. In fact section 1.1 of the PMBOK guide states PMBOK is not a methodology.
It is for this reason we always encourage people who have completed PMBOK training to also attend PRINCE2 training and vice versa for the reasons mentioned above.
We feel PMBOK can be summarised as an approach that provides information on what a project manager needs to know whereas PRINCE2 demonstrates how to apply this knowledge.
For example PMBOK discusses the importance of defining roles and responsibilities in a project whereas PRINCE2 provides a model on how to set up a Project Team and standard role descriptions which are suitable for all types of projects. PMBOK is reliant on the project manager to develop a model for a project team structure.
Users of PMBOK are sometimes frustrated as people may incorrectly view the project manager as a ‘superman/superwoman’, that is the planner, decision maker, problem solver, human resources manager etc. This may be common in some sectors, however, in many organizations the functional and/or financial authority is not with the project manager but correctly with senior management. In this business environment project managers are not always best placed to make the key decisions. In PRINCE2 the responsibility of the project is with senior management and the role of the project manager is to manage the project on a ‘day by day’ basis on behalf of senior management.
If the above can be described as a key criticism of PMBOK it would be fair to say a key criticism of PRINCE2 is that it misses the importance of the ‘soft skills’ needed to manage a project and it could probably provide more detail on knowledge areas such as scope management & contract management which PMBOK provides good guidance on.
It is possible the recent popularity of PRINCE2 is because it provides a standard approach for the management of all types of projects. Every function of an organization can use it, whereas PMBOK leaves it open to the project manager to decide on their approach which often means different approaches to manage different projects. Larger organizations have preference for standardising the management of projects and view PRINCE2 as the solution for this requirement. The other advantage of PRINCE2 is that little project management experience is needed to apply it whereas PMBOK requires time and experience to be appropriately applied.
In summary, a skilled project manager is one that can apply the knowledge areas of PMBOK with the aid of the project management processes of PRINCE2. A highly skilled project manager should also have the ‘know-how’ to apply these methods appropriate to the scale, complexity and nature of the project and adapt them for those fast paced projects.
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