Optimizing project management with a combination of PRINCE2 and PMBOK



Panagiotis Fiampolis,
Research & Development Director


Mike Acaster
PPM Portfolio Manager
AXELOS Global Best Practice

United Kingdom




The PMBOK® Guide and PRINCE2® have very different perspectives on project management but the combination of the two provides a powerful tool for organizations to achieve successful project outcomes. In this article we outline the differences and similarities between the two most recognized global project management approaches and discuss the benefits to be gained from using a combination of the two complementary approaches to project management


The PMBOK® Guide and PRINCE2® have very different perspectives on project management but the combination of the two provides a powerful tool for organizations to achieve successful project outcomes1. PMBOK takes the viewpoint of the project manager, providing everything the project manager needs to know and understand. PRINCE2, in contrast, takes the organizational viewpoint and is intended to meet the objectives of the organization, defining the roles and responsibilities of various stakeholders in the project delivery process.

Organizations may well be asking themselves whether they should be using PMBOK or PRINCE2 and which approach would be best for them. If so, they are asking themselves the wrong question. PMBOK and PRINCE2 have varying attributes; depending on the issues the organization needs to address they may work effectively together or in tandem with other approaches to project management, such as Agile or standards-based approaches. A PRINCE2 project manager needs a body of knowledge to call upon in order to be competent – PMBOK fits the bill. Meanwhile, the PMBOK Guide requires a method that the project management team can adopt – this can be PRINCE2.

Key differences in approach

PMBOK, with a heritage dating back to 1987, provides a knowledge base for the project manager, whereas PRINCE2 provides the end-to-end process to manage a project in an organization. PMBOK is a guide to the Project Management Institute’s Project Management Body Of Knowledge (PMBOK). It provides guidance as to what a project manager should be doing, as well as some specific tools and techniques for doing so. It does not include defined roles and responsibilities, product descriptions and the order of activities in processes – this is where PRINCE2 comes in. PRINCE2 is a clearly defined framework with roles, responsibilities, principles and processes. In some countries it is, in effect, mandatory for a project manager to be certified in PRINCE2.


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About the Authors

pmwj41-Dec2015-Fiampolis-FIAMPOLISPanagiotis Fiampolis

Research & Development Director, PEOPLECERT
United Kingdom


PEOPLECERT partners with multi-national organizations and government bodies for the development & management of globally recognized certification schemes and the delivery of their related standardized exams in over 150 countries. PEOPLECERT maintains certification programmes on behalf of a wide range of organizations, including the ECDL Foundation, City & Guilds, AXELOS (joint venture between the UK Cabinet Office and Capita plc.) for the Global Best Practice portfolio (including ITIL® and PRINCE2®). PEOPLECERT has been selected as an Examination Institute to deliver the new AXELOS PRINCE2® Agile certification. Panagiotis can be contacted at [email protected] ; Website: http://www.peoplecert.org/


pmwj41-Dec2015-Fiampolis-ACASTERMike Acaster

PPM Portfolio Manager, AXELOS Global Best Practice
United Kingdom


Mike Acaster
looks after the maintenance and development of PRINCE2, MSP, MoP, MoR, MoV, P3O and P3M3. Mike joined AXELOS from its inception having transferred from the Cabinet Office following its decision to establish a joint venture company with Capita plc. Mike led the development of PRINCE2 Agile™ from inception through to product launch of the first new products in the PPM portfolio since the formation of AXELOS. Website: https://www.axelos.com/. Mike can be contacted at [email protected]



1Klas Skogmar. ‘PRINCE2®, the PMBOK® Guide and ISO 21500:2012’.

ITIL® / PRINCE2® / MSP® / M_o_R® / P3O® / MoV® / MoP® are registered trademarks of AXELOS Limited. PRINCE2 Agile™ is a trade mark of AXELOS Limited.

PMBOK® is a registered mark of Project Management Institute, Inc. registered in the United States and other nations.

For further reading AXELOS recently commissioned a White Paper authored by Klas Skogmar to give further clarity on the synergies between PRINCE2, the PMBOK Guide and ISO21500