Agile and various bodies of knowledge (PMBOK and BABOK)

In case you aren’t aware, there are at least two international organizations which have created impressive bodies of knowledge.  The International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA – and the Project Management Institute (PMI – have created the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK) and Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) respectively.  Both of these works are impressive in their scope and level of detail, but I believe they both have a fundamental flaw.It is my belief that someone blindly following either the BABOK or PMBOK will end up with a process and result consistent with the waterfall model.  This is interesting to me because both organizations claim their works are process agnostic and simply represent best industry practices regardless of the underlying process.  I actually agree with them – SURPRISE!  But, with a caveat – you have to look at the practices with what I’ll call “agile glasses” in order to end up being consistent with an agile process.   You simply cannot blindly follow what is written because it is too easy to fall into the waterfall mindset when you do things in that manner.  Instead, look at each generally accepted practice through agile glasses and decide if the practice has a useful place in your process, and if it does, how you would use the practice effectively.

Both the BABOK and PMBOK are consistent with an agile approach to software development, but not without interpretation.  Remember, both works are simply guides that clearly define generally accepted practices.  They are not meant to define process, so don’t interpret either one from a process perspective.  Instead examine the practices to determine which fit and how they fit and you will end up with an agile framework which is still consistent with either or both documents.

I guess the Bob-ism here is “Attempting to use the practices in a body of knowledge document is likely to lead to a waterfall implementation if an agile interpretation is not kept in mind.”

If you want a heavyweight process then feel free to follow the documents as written.  If you want to maintain a lightweight agile process then interpret the documents from that perspective and utilize generally accepted industry practices to actually improve your agile process!  You may be surprised how you can improve through the use of generally accepted practices used in an agile appropriate manner.


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Bob Hartman

Known as Agile Bob, brings over 30 years of experience and broad industry knowledge cultivated by serving in almost every role in the software industry including developer, tester, documentation writer, trainer, product manager, project manager, business analyst, senior software engineer, development manager and executive. Over the past 15 years Bob has grown from being an early adopter of Agile to his current status as a Certified Scrum Trainer® (CST) and Certified Enterprise Coach℠ (CEC) and an expert in training, coaching and mentoring across all areas of Agile development. Bob is a popular speaker, having spoken at numerous major conferences, seminars, workshops and user group meetings where his engaging style, holistic view of development and personal anecdotes are always well received by attendees.

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