What is The Difference Between PMBOK and PRINCE2?

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Last updated on
12th Jul, 2022
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19th Apr, 2022
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What is The Difference Between PMBOK and PRINCE2?

The PMBOK® Guide and Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2® are the two best-known project management publications. Both publications are referred to as embodying best practices in project management. They are perceived as being similar and should be treated as such.

An Overview of PMBOK Guide Structure

PMBOK® standards provide a set of common terms, knowledge, and guidelines for managing projects. It describes how projects should be managed as part of the standard. Throughout its history, PMI has been approved to be a standards developer by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). The PMBOK® Guide weighs in at 756 pages in its 6th edition. 

Despite PMI's origins in the USA, it has become a truly global organization with chapters around the world. PMBOK® Guides are often called descriptive. Therefore, it outlines the phases of project management, the inputs and outputs to processes, and the knowledge areas, but does not explain how these elements should be used. 

PRINCE2 Foundation and Practitioner certificate program is based on the PMBOK guide and helps you ace the certification exam. 

An Overview of PRINCE2 Structure

In 1996, the UK government also released PRINCE2 for the first time, and the manual's most recent edition was released in 2017. A previous version of the project management tool was known as PRINCE- Projects IN Controlled Environments. The technology was initially developed for use within the UK public sector but has since spread to both the public and private sectors around the world.

Often, PRINCE2 is described as a prescriptive method, meaning that it tells you what you need to do when you need to do it, and how to do it. Not only that, but PRINCE2 also complements PMBOK guide and your PMP in a manner shown in the image below. 

An Overview of PRINCE2 Structure

PMBOK Guide Strengths

The most striking feature of the PMBOK® Guide is its comprehensive treatment of a wide range of Knowledge Areas. Its coverage is similar to six of the seven PRINCE2 themes, as you can see from the comparison below. There is only one thing it does not cover from PRINCE2: the Business Case (more on that later). In contrast, it also addresses procurement management, which is not addressed by PRINCE2.  

PMBOK® Guide Knowledge AreaPRINCE2 Theme
Integration ManagementBusiness Case, Change, Progress
Scope ManagementPlans, Progress
Schedule ManagementPlans, Progress
Cost ManagementPlans, Progress
Quality ManagementQuality
Resource ManagementPlans
Communications ManagementOrganization
Risk ManagementRisk
Procurement ManagementNot Covered
Stakeholder ManagementOrganization

The table below contains a list of tools and techniques mentioned in the Schedule Management Knowledge Area. We see only one of these – analytical techniques – across all five Process Groups, appearing in 7 different processes. Analytical techniques used in the development of outputs are described in each process.

Schedule Management Knowledge Area: Tools and Techniques
Expert JudgementBottom-Up Estimating
Analytical TechniquesAnalogous Estimating
MeetingsParametric Estimating
DecompositionThree-Point Estimating
Rolling Wave PlanningReserve Analysis
Precedence Diagramming Method (PDM)Schedule Network Analysis
Dependency DeterminationCritical Path Method
Leads And LagsCritical Chain Method
Alternative AnalysisResource Optimization
Published Estimating DataSchedule Compression
Project Management SoftwareScheduling Tool
Group-Decision-MakingModelling
Performance Reviews

While the PMBOK® Guide describes many tools and techniques in brief, it is useful in part because it describes when these might be useful on a project. 

Another advantage of the PMBOK® Guide is the fact that each knowledge area can be handled separately. As a result, a project manager who wishes to gain more knowledge about earned value analysis might take a closer look at the PMBOK® Guide's Knowledge Area on Cost Management. 

PRINCE2 Strengths

Business Case

The key strength of RINCE2  is that it requires a thorough business case to be built before major decisions regarding a project are made. The benefits need to be weighed against the costs, timeframes, and risks. During the project's initiation, this understanding is refined to be more detailed. During the following stages, it is updated as new forecasts become available for the project. 

By doing this, the project is considered an instrument to achieve a goal rather than a goal. According to PRINCE2, the business case must be developed, maintained, and approved. 

The business case was only briefly described in the PMBOK® Guide before the 6th edition. Since the PMBOK® Guide's 6th edition, the business case guidance in PRINCE2 has been incorporated into the PMBOK® Guide as well. 

As part of the business case theme, the project's products' performance is also measured in their operational life. As a result, it can determine whether the predicted benefits are being realized. The organization should establish a benefits management component while initiating the project to help them plan how and by whom the benefits will be measured after the project closes. 

Similarly, the 6th edition of the PMBOK® Guide incorporates many of the business case practices described in PRINCE2 and introduces the concept of a Project Benefits Management Plan, very similar to PRINCE2's benefits management approach. 

Roles of Project Management Teams

Roles of Project Management Teams

In addition to describing multiple project management roles, PRINCE2 is extensive and very detailed. PRINCE2 contains a whole chapter that provides detailed descriptions of nine different roles within the project management team, whereas PMBOK® Guide focuses mainly on what the project manager does. Here is a table showing the different roles.

PRINCE2 Project Management Team RolesPMBOK® Guide equivalent
Project BoardNo Equivalent
Project ExecutiveProject Sponsor
Senior Project UserNo Equivalent
Senior Project SupplierNo Equivalent
Project AssuranceNo Equivalent
Project ManagerProject Manager
Project Team ManagerNo Equivalent
Project SupportProject Management Office (PMO)
Project Change AuthorityChange Control Board (CCB)

In some cases, these positions can be performed by two or more individuals, while in others, they can be combined so that one person can perform more than one role. As PRINCE2 is based on roles shared and/or combined, it is up to your project to determine which responsibilities all need to be assigned to who.  

Various Levels of Management

The PRINCE2 roles are categorized into three levels. The team manager position represents the lowest level (delivery), the project manager role represents the middle level (management), and the project board position represents the highest level (directing). There are three roles associated with this role, each representing a major project stakeholder, such as a business, a user, and a supplier. 

A fourth higher level of management is also responsible for the project board, but this latter level is not considered a part of the project management team. 

In case you are looking to make the jump to any of these levels, our best PRINCE2 foundation course is your ticket to that.

PMBOK Guide Weaknesses

  • The project Management Team

There are no specific responsibilities assigned for the members of the project management team in the PMBOK® Guide, which is a weakness. A project manager is when a member of a project team is directly responsible for implementing project management activities. 

We have already seen that PRINCE2 defines nine distinct role categories for project management teams, each with a clearly defined list of responsibilities. Despite the detailed approach of the PMBOK® Guide, there is still the possibility that many of these responsibilities can be left unaddressed, simply because it is unclear to whom each responsibility belongs. 

  • Overly Complicated

Furthermore, there are a number of elements that are over-detailed and too complex to understand. The PMBOK® Guide isn't doing itself any favors when it comes to complexity because, as previously mentioned, it's a hindrance, not a help. 

For example, the section describing the cost management plan indicates that the plan might establish whether to round up/down activity estimates according to the level of precision. According to me, this is an overly detailed section of the document that is of no importance in the long run. However, since it encompasses a lot of information, the authors probably thought it wasn't possible to exclude it. 

  • The American standard

With a large portion of its content written by North American authors (the PMI is a North American organization), the PMBOK® Guide is inevitably written from a North American perspective and cannot always be adapted to other cultures so easily. 

In many countries and cultures, HR practices differ from one another, and applying some of the PMBOK® Guide's recommendations won't be as straightforward as it would be in North America. Despite the age (1965), the model itself does not translate to many common, modern project team structures made up of virtual teams working in different time zones and languages. However, it doesn't translate well to the self-organization of teams used in agile environments. 

  • PRINCE2 Weakness

There are a lot of tools and techniques that are missing from PRINCE2. In PRINCE2, two techniques are described in detail: the quality review method and the product-based planning method. In PRINCE2, there is an activity for developing plans that integrate this technique. 

PRINCE2, on the other hand, states explicitly in its introductory chapter that there are many effective planning and control techniques outside the PRINCE2 manual that have been well documented elsewhere and do not need to be repeated. 

PMBOK - Pros and Cons

The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) is short for Project Management Body of Knowledge. Users of this system perceive it to contain stronger frameworks for contract management, scope management, and other features that are not as robust in PRINCE2. Despite this, many users find that PMBOK is not exactly satisfactory because it restricts decision-making to the project manager, making it difficult to hand over management aspects to other parties or senior managers. A PMBOK-based project manager is essentially a decision-maker, planner, problem solver, supervisor, and human resources manager as well.  

PRINCE2 - Pros and Cons

This project management program is known as PRINCE2, which stands for Projects in a Controlled Environment. It gives senior management more authority than just the project manager in terms of both function and finances. Project managers who are overseeing projects on behalf of senior executives can benefit from this program. PRINCE2 is a good method for managing projects since it provides a standard process for managing them, which is why governments and global companies like it so much. It also has the advantage of being easy to use, so anyone with even an average level of experience can easily learn it. PRINCE2 users, however, believe that it misses out on the importance of "soft skills" that a project manager should have.  

Conclusion

In order to perform their job effectively, skilled workers always need a variety of tools. The same applies to project management. The PMBOK® Guide and PRINCE2 both have their strengths and weaknesses, so practitioners should know which tool is most suitable for a given situation. You can know more about the project management certification online course or enroll for the KnowledgeHut PRINCE2 foundation and practitioner certificate as well.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What is the main difference between PMBOK and PRINCE2?

It’s important to recognize that PRINCE2 and PMBOK Guide differ on a very basic level: PRINCE2 is a methodology with defined roles and responsibilities and deliverables, while PMBOK Guide is a collection of good project management principles, techniques, and guidelines that help you manage projects. 

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