I’ve written a number of articles on the future of project management and I still get a lot of questions from project managers who are confused about the impact of Agile on project management and ask questions like “What Agile certification should I get?”. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as just going out and getting another certification like PMI-ACP and “poof – you are an Agile Project Manager”. The PMI-ACP certification is a step in the right direction and it’s not an easy certification to get but it’s just a test of general Lean and Agile knowledge and is not aligned with a particular role. In fact, the role of an Agile Project Manager Is not well-defined and there is even some controversy among some people that there is a role for an Project Manager In an Agile environment.
Confusion Over Project Management Direction
It’s totally understandable why there would be a lot of confusion among project managers as to how Agile and the future of project management impact their career direction. There are some project managers who are in “denial” and want to assume that traditional, plan-driven project management is the only way to do project management, will go on forever unchanged, and Agile isn’t really a valid form of project management at all. I’m not an Agile zealot – I try to take a very objective and pragmatic approach. In one of my courses I have a slide that says “Saying Agile is better than Waterfall” is like saying “A car is better than a boat”. They both have advantages and disadvantages depending on the environment. You have to be able to fit the approach to the problem rather than force-fitting all problems to one of those extremes. I am convinced that project managers who only
know how to do traditional, plan-driven project management and try to force-fit all projects to that approach will be at a severe disadvantage relative to other project managers who know how to blend Agile and traditional project management in the right proportions to fit the situation.
What’s Wrong with Traditional, Plan-driven Project Management?
There’s nothing inherently wrong with the traditional, plan-driven approach to project management; the problem is in how its applied. The primary problem with the traditional, plan-driven approach is that it works for situations where the requirements are well-defined and the primary concern is planning and managing a project to meet those well-defined requirements within a given budgeted cost and schedule. That approach just doesn’t work well in situations where the requirements are much more uncertain and the primary concern is not just managing costs and schedules but taking an adaptive approach to maximize the business results and value that the project produces. In today’s rapidly-changing business environment the need for taking that kind of approach is becoming increasingly common.
The Future of Project Management
There’s essentially two sides of this equation: value and cost – in the past, with most traditional plan-driven projects, the value side has been assumed to be well-defined and fixed and project managers only needed to worry about the cost side. In this new environment, that is no longer true – project managers now need to worry about both maximizing value as well as managing costs and schedules. That’s a fundamental shift in thinking for many project managers – it means:
- Taking a broader focus on maximizing the business value that a project produces and using whatever methodology (or combination of methodologies) that makes sense to achieve those goals
- Fitting the project management approach to the nature of the business problem rather than force-fitting all projects to a standard, plan-driven approach.
That raises the bar significantly for many project managers and there is no certification that I know of that will prepare you to take on that role. Even PMI hasn’t completely figured this out – Agile and traditional plan-driven project management are still treated as separate and independent domains of knowledge with little or no integration between the two. It’s left up to the project manager to figure out how to blend those two seemingly disparate approaches together in the right proportions to fit the situation.
The Agile Project Management Academy
That’s exactly the challenge for the future of project management profession that the courses in the Agile Project Management Academy are designed to address, but at this point in time, you have to be somewhat of a pioneer to lead the rest of the project management profession into a new vision for the future of project management that embraces Agile as well as a traditional, plan-driven project management approach.
I hope you will join me in taking on this challenge to prove to the world that there is an important, value-added role for project managers in an Agile environment.