PMBOK, Scrum

PMBOK vs. Scrum

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I wanted to spend some time writing down the commonalities and differences between the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) and Scrum. This post is an attempt to outline some high-level points that characterizes the 2.

PMBOK = set of guidelines | Scrum = values + tools

First and foremost, the main misconception from those who don’t know about PMBOK, is that it is a methodology that should be strictly followed and involving never-ending documentation. It’s not. PMBOK is a set of guidelines, that have been identified as being critical for successful projects delivery. It is up to the project manager, together with the stakeholders, to define what processes should be used and to which degree.

Scrum on the other side, is a combination of a values and tools based on the Agile Manifesto aiming at delivering (mostly but not only) software projects. Scrum values and artifacts are clearly defined and not following them means you’re not doing Scrum.

How does Scrum fit in the PMBOK (or not)?

1. All the values and artifacts present in Scrum fit in the PMBOK Knowledge Areas (Integration, Scope, Time, Cost, Quality, Risk, Procurement, Human Resources, Communication): Sprint planning, Sprint review, Product Backlog, estimations, team building, PDCA wheel (continuous improvement), doing the risky stuff first, defining ‘done’, close customer relationships, measuring success, daily Scrum, iterative planning – it all fits in the PMBOK Knowledge Areas, only with a different vocabulary. Again, it’s up to the project manager, together with the stakeholders, to define how all these areas should play together.

2. Both are embracing change: Scrum embraces change by allowing features to come in and out of the Backlog. PMBOK has a slightly different approach: simply put, any change  request should be documented, reviewed by a defined set of people, added to the WBS if accepted and updating the various baselines (scope, cost, quality). Actually let me rephrase my point with Scrum: the Product Owner is responsible with what comes and goes in and out of the Product Backlog. Yes, that’s right, again Scrum fits in the PMBOK when it comes to change management.

3. Project values drive how the project will be managed: Scrum wouldn’t be what it is without the underlying values of the Agile Manifesto. When projects start with Scrum as basis, the direction is clear as to how the team should work together. When PMBOK is used as basis for projects, there is no pre-defined set of values to guide the team: it’s up to the project manager, together with other stakeholders, to define the project values and use the tools or define the processes that will be aligned with the projects values the various stakeholders committed to.

It’s all about people

This post is in no way exhaustive, however it illustrated how I see Scrum fit within the PMBOK. As a final word, I would say (actually repeat) that project are successful because of the people that make them. The project manager needs to understand this in order to define the project values, together with the team, that will drive how the project will be executed.

Looking forward to your comment and feedback!

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