Are Agile methods compatible with the PMBOK?

by on November 22, 2012 in Featured Articles, PMI-ACP℠, PMP®, Project Management

Are Agile methods compatible with the PMBOK?

Today, there are two dominant schools in project management – PMBOK and the Agile Manifesto. While PMBOK is considered as the body of knowledge in project management and represents the traditional approach to project management, agile is a recent development. The Agile Manifesto was originally published in the year 2001 and over the twelve years, the level of acknowledgement for agile project management has increased hugely. Agile methodologies such as Scrum, Extreme Programming, Lean, Crystal, DSDM and more have found great recognition in the field of project management. People are moving from traditional to agile methods and the recent recognition of PMI towards agile has proved the fact that agile is not a passing fad. PMI has introduced a new certification program PMI-ACP Exam adopting agile principles and methodologies. Now, the question is how compatible are agile methods with the PMBOK and what are the missing areas in the PMBOK guide. Before making the comparison, let’s have a look at its individual existence.

The Agile Manifesto

Originally published in February 2001, this body of principles supports agile project management. Surveys state that use of agile methodologies tripled from December 2008. Also it has been reported that about 90% of PM managing software project use agile. Agile development promotes adaptive planning, evolutionary development and iterative approach. It focuses on delivering maximum value to customers. Popular agile methods are: Scrum, Extreme Programming, Lean, Crystal, DSDM etc.


Project Management Body of Knowledge is considered as the Bible of project management. It is the traditional approach towards project management. It defines nine knowledge areas of project management, namely Integration management, Scope management, Time management, Cost management, Quality management, Human resource management, Communications management, Risk management and Procurement management.

Comparing Agile and PMBOK

PMBOK defines 9 knowledge areas in project management and after going through all nine, one can see that there is no mention of value management anywhere. While on the other hand agile project development aims at creating value. Value management is not central to agile development but as review takes place at iteration, the prospect of better value is more. But PMBOK doesn’t mention any specific process for value management. In APM, there are a set of new terms and terminologies to define various old actions. APM has adopted new concepts and terms for already tried and true concepts mentioned in PMBOK such as creating a very detailed work breakdown structure, managing project performance against baselines, using earned value methodology and so on. Though many terms of PMBOK can be connected to agile methodology, the authors of APM emphasizes on usage of new terms and terminologies. The PMI has a different view of seeing at these facts. PMI views that agile methodologies are extensions of tools and techniques that are already defined in the PMBOK.

The PMBOK® Guide – Fourth Edition contains principles of project management and project management processes. These processes describe “what should be done during the management of a project.’ Agile methodologies are different in that they describe ‘how to do the things that should be done’ – in short, ‘what versus how’ (Source: FAQ page of website)

Agile can be considered as an extension of concepts defined in PMBOK minus certain methods that APM has rejected, namely the Waterfall model, Formal change and Configuration management and traditional project manager’s role. Agile focuses on developing project across processes in iterations and through agile methods. Agile promotes agility and iterative project development. Though the processes are slightly different, the idea is almost similar. One can iteratively use all five process groups within each phase of a project. This way one can use agile approach within traditional phases of a project. Thus, some agile methods are compatible with PMBOK and the rest of the debate will keep continuing. However, after the result of agile certification program from PMI and people adopting agile methodologies, the world really seems moving towards agile. To know more on agile development and PMBOK traditional approach, you can explore Simplilearn’s PMI-ACP Agile Certification Training and PMP Certification Training.

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  • Mike Marco - November 8, 2013

    Great article… I strongly believe that today’s managers must achieve three objectives: Learn, Adapt, Get It Done…flexibility in using different frameworks to get things done will make a difference…Since 2008 I have been building “A Guide to the Agile Management Body of
    Knowledge – ABOK”. At this point I have 358 pages of tools and
    techniques related to AGILE. Let me know if you would like to join me in
    this effort.


    Mike Marco

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