When responsibility for PRINCE2 and the remainder of what was the OGC PPM (project & portfolio management) suite of qualifications was transferred to the new commercial entity AXELOS (owned 51 per cent by Capita and 49 per cent by the Cabinet Office), government sources estimated that it would generate revenues for the taxpayer of £500 million over ten years.

Great value for the taxpayer, no doubt, but there were concerns that project management training - for which there was a pressing need in the light of a cavalcade of failed and challenged projects - would be sucked dry of resources by the need to pay out these huge sums. Would there be anything left to develop much-needed enhancements to project management best practices?

PROMSG was lucky enough to get Mike Acaster, the AXELOS PPM Portfolio Manager, to speak at its April meeting in London. If you were unable to attend there is a copy of Mike’s overheads and an audio recording of the talk in the PROMSG members restricted area of the BCS website.

Mike seemed to Project Eye to be a sound chap. He has worked with the best practices portfolio for a number of years both for OGC and AXELOS, which demonstrates an ongoing continuity of development of the portfolio.

Mike reported on three recent developments in the project management part of the portfolio. Firstly there has been some further work on ‘PRINCE2 integration’ in response to requests from the practitioner community about further guidance in tailoring PRINCE2.

Mike pointed out that there are two sides to this: aligning PRINCE2 with the practices of an organisation, but also modifying the way an organisation operates to fit in with PRINCE2. An example could be the precise way an organisation populates a project board so as to represent the various stakeholders in a project. It seems to Project Eye that this renewed emphasis on organisational issues is a useful corrective to the tendency in the earlier days of PRINCE2 for staff to be sent off on PRINCE2 courses and then be expected to somehow sort out how its principles could be applied back in the office - and this with scant support or even interest from higher management.

A complementary AXELOS development has been an enhancement of AXELOS P3M3, that is the Project, Programme and Portfolio Management Maturity Model. This is a way of assessing sophistication and effectiveness of the project management within an organisation.

It claims to be a generic PM model, not just some kind of PRINCE2 checklist. It follows the example of the seminal US Capability Maturity Model in rating organisations at one of five levels of capability. Project Eye has already noted above that, at least in the early days, PRINCE2 focused almost exclusively on training individual project managers, while of course for PRINCE2 to be successful the organisation as a whole in which it was embedded needed fully to embrace the approach. The focus of P3M3 seems to be a healthy corrective.

More than one practitioner has told Project Eye about the practical headaches when you try to reconcile the management of agile development practices with PRINCE2. Mike announced the imminent release of an extension to PRINCE2 that attempts to bridge the chasm between the two world views. Keith Richards - and as far as Project Eye he is THE Keith Richards - is the lead author here.

Keith has already written on the topic and has been a good friend to PROMSG in the past. An interesting snippet here is that the aim of the new extension to PRINCE2 is to expand the capability of existing PRINCE2 practitioners to deal with agile development, rather than trying win over existing agile developers to an acceptance of a higher level of overall project control.

PRINCE2 has never really been a project management 'body of knowledge' attempting to cover everything a project manager might need to know, unlike the aspirations of PMI and APM. Where it scored was that it presented a useful set of practical procedures for managing a project.

Project Eye was intrigued to hear that PMI, the giant US project management professional body was about to produce its own set of programme procedures in response to the perceived threat of PRINCE2. It will be interesting to see how this story unfolds.