Tag Archives: PMI-ACP Exam Preparation

Agile Project Management Roadmap

I recently published an article on “Preparing for the PMI-ACP® Exam“. I want to expand on that article in the broader context of: What is the “Agile Project Management Roadmap” for a Project Manager with little or no Agile experience to become a well-qualified Agile Project Manager and where does PMI-ACP® certification fit into that process? Here’s a simplified, high-level diagram that shows what I think that process looks like and how the online training I’ve developed fits into that “road map”:

Agile Project Management Training Roadmap

Here’s some notes on this “road map”

  • It’s important to recognize that the typical Project Manager who has little or no Agile experience can’t just go out and take the PMI-ACP certification exam (even if they took at least 21 hours of training first), you need at least 1,500 hours of experience in an Agile environment to qualify to take the exam
  • In order to get 1,500 hours experience in an Agile environment, you need some knowledge to be able to perform that role. That’s the primary need that my current online training courses fill. Those courses provide an excellent foundation and an equivalent level of knowledge for most of the topics required for PMI-ACP but it’s more focused on preparing someone to assume a real-world role rather than “exam prep” training
  • After you get the 1,500 hours of experience, you need to take an exam-prep course before you can take the PMI-ACP® exam. A total of at least 21 hours of training is required to qualify to take the exam. My courses, as they exist now, will satisfy about 7.5 hours of this requirement
  • Finally, it’s important to recognize that getting PMI-ACP® certification doesn’t immediately give someone the skills to get a job. PMI-ACP® certification is a test of general Agile knowledge and is not oriented around qualifying someone to perform a particular role. This is a very controversial topic; but, in general, there is no role for an Agile Project Manager at the team level in an Agile environment, the typical role for an Agile Project Manager would be at a higher enterprise level and PMI-ACP® definitely does not prepare someone for that role. That’s requires additional training beyond the level of PMI-ACP® certification and that’s the need my Advanced Agile PM Training course are designed to satisfy.

It’s very important to recognize that Agile will precipitate a dramatic transformation of the Project Management profession as we know it today and PMI-ACP® certification is a good step in the right direction but I think most people will agree that it’s just a test of general Agile knowledge and doesn’t go far enough to prepare project managers for a specific Agile Project Management role and to address the real challenge that many project managers face of “How do I blend Agile and traditional Project Management” principles and practices in the right proportions to fit a given situation?”

Preparing for the PMI-ACP Exam

Preparing for the PMI-ACP exam should not be an end-in-itself in my opinion…developing the knowledge and skills to do the job is what’s important. I’ve been engaged in some discussion lately on the PMI-ACP® certification and it caused me to do some research into how I can potentially help people prepare for the PMI-ACP® certification. I was among the earliest group of people to obtain the PMI-ACP® certification three years ago in 2012, I’ve published three books on Agile Project Management, and I’ve developed a number of online training courses on Agile Project Management. All of that effort has been focused around helping project managers successfully make the transition to a real-world Agile Project Management role and not specifically focused on helping people prepare for the PMI-ACP® exam; however, I do realize that having certifications can be valuable to help people get a job so I decided to do some analysis to see what, if anything, I could do to help people prepare for PMI-ACP certification.

First, let me explain my philosophy with regard to certifications in general. A lot of people chase after certifications to build up their resume. They cram for taking certification exams using a lot of rote memorization and focus on simply passing the exam. I’m not an advocate of that approach. I believe that the right approach is to build your knowledge and skills through training, self-directed study, and on-the-job experience to gain a solid foundation of the knowledge needed to do the job; and then, as a second step, take the certification exam to validate that you really do have the knowledge that you think you have.

Passing a certification exam should not be an end-in-itself in my opinion…developing the knowledge and skills to do the job is what’s important and a certification exam can be a good way of validating that you do have the knowledge and skills. One of the problems with the PMI-ACP exam; however, is it isn’t oriented around a particular job – it’s more of a test of general knowledge associated with Agile and Lean and isn’t really directly associated with a specific job role. That’s a very important consideration to recognize that getting through PMI-ACP® doesn’t really directly qualify you for a specific job. The role that an Agile Project Manager plays in the real world is not well-defined and it is even somewhat controversial among some Agile people that there is a role for an Agile Project Manager at all. I sat in on a presentation by a very well-known Agile consultant and book author a few years ago who made the statement that “An Agile Project Manager is an Oxymoron”.

There are a lot of PMI-ACP® exam prep courses out there but I’ve taken a different approach. I specifically didn’t want to develop an “exam prep” course for the reasons I mentioned above. I decided instead to focus on better defining the actual roles that an Agile Project Manager might play in the real world and designing online training around helping people prepare for those roles. My “Mastering Agile Project Management” course, for example, has a lot of material that defines the potential roles an Agile Project Manager is likely to play and some actual case studies showing how those roles are implemented in real world situations. That isn’t really an “exam prep” course per se, but I think it helps someone develop into a role to get the real world experience needed to qualify to take the certification exam.

Don’t forget that one of the requirements to take the PMI-ACP® exam is that someone has at least 2,000 hours of project management experience; and, in addition to that, has at least 1,500 hours working in an Agile environment. I think that’s a good requirement and it’s specifically designed to prevent someone from going out and cramming to get through the exam based primarily on rote memorization of information.

So, over the past few days, I did a gap analysis to compare the information in my online Agile Project Management courses to the material that is covered in the PMI-ACP® exam. To do that analysis, I looked at:

  • The PMI-ACP® Examination Content Outline
  • The outlines of several PMI-ACP® exam preparation courses
  • Mike Grifiths’ book PMI-ACP® Exam Prep Book
  • Plus numerous other books that are on the recommended reading list to prepare for the exam and many others I consider essential that are not on that list at all but should be (like latest book, The Project Manager’s Guide to Mastering Agile)
  • What I found from this analysis was that the material required for the PMI-ACP® exam fell into two categories:

    1. Information that is generally useful in an actual real-world Agile Project Management role, and
    2. Information that may have little or no value in the real world, but you have to know because it might be on the exam. Examples of information in this category include:
      • How many people really practice earned value management in an Agile environment?
      • How many people really do an elaborate quantitative value analysis based on NPR, IRR, etc. to optimize the value stream of an Agile project?

    The results of that analysis convinced me that:

    • I already cover most of the topics in category #1 above (topics that are really important in the real world); however, there are a few items that I think have real-world value that will further enhance my Agile Project Management courses. So, over the next few weeks, I will be beefing up my courses to more thoroughly cover those additional areas. The good news is that anyone who is currently enrolled in my courses or has taken my courses in the past will get the benefit of this new information at no additional cost.
    • I definitely don’t want to try to make my courses into an “exam prep” course because I would have to bog down the student in a lot of the information that is in category #2 above because it might be on the exam, even though it may have little or no real-world value
    • If you’re thinking about going for PMI-ACP® certification, my recommendation is don’t do it just to “get your ticket punched” that you have the certification. First go out and get the knowledge and experience required to fill an Agile Project Management role in the real world and then use the PMI-ACP® to validate that you do have that knowledge. The courses I’ve developed are not “exam prep” courses, but they are very well-aligned with that strategy which I think is a good strategy to pursue. When you do get to that point that you do have the knowledge and experience to take the exam, there are a number of resources to help you prepare to take the exam. In particular, I think Mike Griffiths’ book is a good resource but passing the exam and getting the certification shouldn’t be an end-in-itself. That’s only the final step in proving that you have successfully acquired that real-world knowledge and experience.

      Here’s a short video that explains how my courses can help you prepare to develop the knowledge and skills needed to qualify for PMI-ACP® certification:

      Preparing for the PMI-ACP Certification and Beyond,/p>

      It’s important to recognize that Agile is going to cause a major transformation of the project management profession over a period of time and I don’t think that anyone (including PMI) has figured out what the full impact of that transformation will be over time and the PMI-ACP® is only the first step towards making that transformation. It is a good certification and it is a step in the right direction but it is only a test of general Agile knowledge and doesn’t address the primary challenge that many project managers face of learning how to blend Agile and traditional project management principles and practices together in the right proportions to fit a given situation. That’s the challenge my courses are designed to address.

Advanced Agile Project Management Training

As many of you who have been following my blog post realize, I’m very passionate about closing the gap between the project management community and the Agile community and helping people see these two approaches as complementary rather than competitive. To that end, I’ve published three books on Agile Project Management and I’ve written over 60 articles in this blog site. However, I’m determined to go beyond that and develop an online Advanced Agile Project Management training curriculum that condenses a lot of that knowledge into a well-organized set of training courses that are easy to follow and understand. There are several needs that I’m trying to satisfy with those courses:

  1. Project Managers – Many project managers are unsure about the impact of Agile on the project management profession as well as on their own career direction.

    There are many project managers who have been heavily indoctrinated in a traditional, plan-driven approach to project management and see no need to learn anything about Agile. Agile is perceived to be something that is relevant only to software development and can be ignored by anyone who is not working in that area.I believe that Agile is a fundamental shift in thinking that applies, to some extent, to any area and learning how to integrate Agile principles and practices in the right proportions with a traditional plan-driven approach will make someone a stronger project manager even if they are never involved in a pure Agile project.

    It's a matter of learning to be adaptive and fitting the methodology to the project rather than using a "one size fits all" approach to force-fit all projects to a traditional, plan-driven approach.

    There are some project managers who may think it is just a matter of getting another certification such as PMI-ACP and they're done as soon as they get that certification.I think PMI-ACP is a step in the right direction but I don't think it goes far enough. PMI-ACP is mostly a test of your understanding of basic Agile and lean terminology.

    It doesn't address the real challenge that many project managers face of figuring out how to integrate Agile and traditional plan-driven principles and practices in the right proportions to fit a given situation.

    A key objective of the training I’ve developed is to help project managers develop a more adaptive approach to project management that integrates Agile as well as traditional plan-driven project management principles and practices in the right proportions to fit any situation. I do not believe that traditional plan-driven project principles and practices are obsolete and no longer needed; however, I do believe that any project manager who only knows how to do traditional plan-driven project management will be very limited in the not-too-distant future.

  2. Business Managers – Many project managers are a product of the environment that they work in and their organization’s management approach is heavily rooted in a plan-driven approach to project management.
    • The organization expects project managers to take charge of projects and to do whatever is needed to manage and control a project to make it successful. If a project is in trouble or fails, the project manager is the one held responsible. Naturally, that would tend to lead a project manager to take a “command-and-control” approach to managing projects.
    • There is also typically a heavy emphasis on management of project costs and schedules and a project that goes significantly over its schedule and cost goals is likely to be regarded as a failure. That would also naturally tend to favor a “Waterfall” approach where the project locks in the requirements upfront and does not encourage making changes once the project is in progress.

    A project manager who works in that kind of environment will have difficulty developing a more adaptive approach to project management if that isn’t consistent with what the organization expects of him/her. Many of these organizations see it as a binary and mutually-exclusive choice between “Agile” and “Waterfall” and think they have to force-fit their business and projects to one of those extremes and they’re scared to death of adopting an Agile approach for fear of totally dismantling their existing management systems and completely losing control of their business.

    That’s a key reason why I developed the “Making Agile Work for Your Business” course so that project managers who are stuck in that kind of environment can use that training to influence their organization to understand how to fit an Agile Project Management approach to any business environment.

  3. Agile Teams – You might ask, “Why would an Agile team need to know anything about ‘project management’?” The answer to that question may not be obvious but there are several good reasons why Agile teams need to learn how to integrate some level of project management principles and practices into their work.
    • There’s a common misconception that “project management” isn’t required in an Agile project at the team level because you typically won’t find anyone with the title of “Project Manager” at that level. The truth is that there is still a need for “project management”; it’s just a much more adaptive approach to “project management” and the “project management” functions are distributed among the members of the team rather than being performed by one individual with the title of “Project Manager”. Even a developer or a tester on an Agile team has some very basic project management responsibilities for planning and managing their own tasks and collaboratively working with the rest of the team to integrate all of the work of the team around a common goal.
    • Many projects require some level of predictability and control in addition to being Agile. A good example of that is an Agile contracting situation where it is essential to manage a customer’s expectations regarding costs and schedules in addition to being agile.
    • Many people on an Agile team have been thrust into the role that they’re in with little or know training at all. They may know something about the “mechanics” of how to do Agile and Scrum but they typically may have no project management background at all and they may even see “project management” as inconsistent with an Agile development approach. My courses will also help people on Agile teams see this in a broader perspective and learn how to integrate an appropriate level of “project management” focus into their efforts on an Agile team.