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New Series – PRINCE2 and the ECPM Framework Comparison

Integrating ECPM Artifacts to Improve PRINCE2 Performance

Since its introduction in 1996 PRINCE2 has expanded to where it is now being used in more than 150 countries including the U.S. It has established itself as the de facto project management standard in the EU and elsewhere. It is now gaining a footprint in the U.S. as validated by the growing number of training offerings available. As the PRINCE2 community grows in the U.S. there is an unmet need to share with them how some of the agile artifacts that have worked so well in the U.S. can improve PRINCE2 performance. PRINCE2 predates the agile movement and, while adaptable, it is not based on agile, lean principles. There is a clear synergy to be gained from that integration.

My intent is to bring that integration to the attention of the global PRINCE2 community through this series of articles. My purpose is to help you improve your PRINCE2 project management performance regardless of which side of the pond you call home.

My efforts have been reinforced through my collaboration with Colin Bentley. He first authored PROMPT II in 1975 and was also a major contributor to PRINCE2 in the 1996, 2005 and 2009 editions of the PRINCE2 Manual. Upon his retirement he was the Chief Examiner of PRINCE2 examination papers. Colin is still active in the profession and a constant source of advice and inspiration to me.


PRINCE2 and the ECPM Framework (Wysocki, Robert K. 2014. Effective Complex Project Management: An Adaptive Agile Framework for Delivering Business Value, J. Ross Publishing) are similar. They are both adaptive and designed to produce best fit project management models tailored to the project characteristics. Quoting from each of their descriptor documents:

  • PRINCE2 is not a “one size fits” all solution. Rather it is a Flexible Framework that can readily be tailored to any type or size of project.
  • ECPM is not a methodology. Rather it is an Adaptive Agile Framework that utilizes robust decision processes to build best fit management models driven by project characteristics and the internal/external environments in which it is executed.

These are very high-level similarities. But there are differences as well. For example, the ECPM Framework is designed around the “Lean Principles”. PRINCE2 is not. That difference is significant in today’s competitive marketplace and opens a number of opportunities to improve PRINCE2 performance through integrating selected ECPM Framework artifacts. In fact, many of the ECPM Framework artifacts can be integrated into PRINCE2 with minimal disruption. That allows the PRINCE2 community to pick and choose from among the recommended artifacts for maximum business value and performance improvement. There is a great deal of synergy that can result from such integrations. The ECPM Framework has a long and successful history based on over 20 years of U.S. client experiences. The ECPM Framework was designed around these successful client experiences. So we know that the ECPM Framework works because Bob was there to see that it worked.

Wysocki 1

Figure 1: A Side-by-Side Comparison of PRINCE2 and the ECPM Adaptive Agile Framework


There is a clear synergy to be realized by integrating certain artifacts from the ECPM Framework into PRINCE2. Such is the rationale for this book. The ECPM Framework grew out of over 25 years of EII client experiences and provided the concept and design of the ECPM Framework. This book brings those experiences to the forefront. The strength of these experiences is that they not only identify “WHAT” must be done (as does PRINCE2) but also “HOW” to do it. This takes PRINCE2 to the Practitioner and even Professional levels and much closer to defining how to accomplish performance improvements. To that end the article series discusses the 10 topics summarized below.

Strengthening Client Involvement in the PRINCE2 Process: Using the ECPM Co-Manager Model

Meaningful client involvement has been cited (Standish Group, 2013) as a critical success factor to project success. The best way to accomplish this is to give the client a leadership role in project planning and execution. Having them as a co-manager of their projects is the most effective way of achieving that involvement.

Project Initiation in PRINCE2: Using the ECPM Brainstorming Process

Among the most effective ways to get a project headed in the right direction is a project formation process that is an open and honest process for validating the project. This begins with the IDEATION Phase. It is a three step Phase that begins with a unique Brainstorming Session, High-level requirements elicitation and the brief description of the project.

Lean PRINCE2 Stage Planning in the Face of an Incomplete Solution: Using the ECPM High-level Requirements Definition

Project management thought leaders are in unanimous agreement that defining and clearly documenting complete requirements at the initiation stage of a project is not possible. The world is dynamic and so are the deliverables from a successful project. But what is possible is the definition of high-level requirements that identify “WHAT” a successful solution must include without any conditions placed on “HOW” that solution will be achieved. Stage Planning is based on high-level requirements.

Viewing the PRINCE2 Project as a System in Balance: Using the ECPM Scope Triangle

The Iron Triangle (cost, time, scope) does not work in the complex project landscape. Rather the ECPM Scope Triangle (cost, time, scope, quality, resource availability, and risk) define a project as a system in balance. When changes occur that put the system out of balance, problem solving and decision making processes are invoked that restore that balance.

Lean PRINCE2 Change Management: Using the ECPM Bundled Change Request Process

Change management processes are notoriously “not lean.” In the ECPM Framework project space this is unacceptable. PRINCE2 is not a lean process. The ECPM Framework utilizes a Bundled Change Request Process designed specifically to preserve its lean principles and assure better decision making with respect to analyzing, approving and prioritizing change.

A Lean Planning Tool for PRINCE2 Stage Management: Using the ECPM Scope Bank

In the complex project landscape a project is a dynamic environment looking for a previously unknown solution in the face of complexity and uncertainty. To effectively manage such a high-risk situation a clearinghouse is a requirement. In the ECPM Framework that clearinghouse is the ECPM Scope Bank. Think of it as the documented history of how the solution has evolved. As such it contains all of the information needed to make good business decisions regarding the future course of the project’s journey.

Lean PRINCE2 Stage Planning: Using ECPM Probative & Integrative Swim Lanes

A complex project is a journey in search of an unknown solution to a critical business problem or untapped business opportunity. As such it is high-risk. An acceptable solution may not even exist given current knowledge and technologies. Such projects must be founded on lean principles and nowhere is that more critical than in how resources are spent looking for that solution. Those “looks” are based on a sequence of “investigating feasible ideas.” But the project team must be frugal in how and where it spends its limited resources. Such is the nature of the Probative and Integrative Swim lanes that are the components of a single ECPM cycle.

Ending a PRINCE2 Stage: Using the ECPM Lean Strategies

The ECPM Framework cycle planning process includes establishing the cycle duration. There are several ways of doing that but once it is set it does not change. If the cycle duration has expired and the planned tasks are not all complete, the cycle ends and all incomplete tasks are returned to the Scope Bank for reprioritization and scheduling for a later cycle.

There are situations that occur and these are discussed in this article.

Improved PRINCE2 Stage Planning: Using the ECPM Client Checkpoint

The Client Checkpoint can be described as the traffic cop for an ECPM project. One of three decisions are possible: the project is complete and is ended, the project is not complete but should be terminated or the project should be continued to the next cycle. All three decisions are supported using data in the Scope Bank.

Improving PRINCE2 Project Manager Flexibility: Using the ECPM Vetted Portfolio of Tools, Templates and Processes

Every organization is unique with respect to the portfolio of tools, templates and processes that it uses to manage project and other business processes. The portfolio contents are vetted usually by the PMO. Once vetted the ECPM Framework gives the co-managers the authority and responsibility to choose how to use the portfolio to best manage its projects.


My intent in this article series is to integrate several artifacts from the ECPM Framework (Wysocki, 2014) into the PRINCE2 Framework. To date PRINCE2 AgileTM (AXELOS, 2015) is the recognized authority on the agile version of PRINCE2. Under the leadership of Keith Richards, AXELOS has taken a bold step forward. The next step is to augment that progress with several artifacts taken from the ECPM Framework and integrated into PRINCE2 Agile.

Through the integrations defined in this series I hope for two results:

  • To offer ProjectTimes readers some ideas to further enhance the performance of their PRINCE2 projects,
  • To encourage an exchange of ideas and other suggestions among the PRINCE2 community on both sides of the pond.

There is much to be gained from such exchanges. To that extent I welcome your comments below.

1. AXELOS, 2015,The Stationary Office
2. The Standish Group. “Chaos Manifesto 2013.”
3. Wysocki, Robert K. Effective Complex Project Management: An Adaptive Agile Framework for Delivering Business Value. J. Ross Publishing (2014).

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