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PMI-ACP Certification Roadmap

Preparing for the PMI-ACP exam can be difficult. However, simply passing the exam should not be an end-in-itself. In my opinion, it’s important to develop a roadmap that goes beyond PMI-ACP certification and helps you develop the knowledge and skills to do a real-world Agile Project Management job is what’s important. If you do that, you should pass the exam easily.

Background

I’m very passionate about helping project managers transform themselves into a more Agile Project Management approach. I think that is critical to the future of the project management profession:

  • I was among the earliest group of people to obtain the PMI-ACP® certification 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

Certification and Training Philosophy

First, let me explain my philosophy with regard to certifications and training 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. That should give you a solid foundation of the knowledge needed to do the job; and
  • Then, as a final step, take the certification exam to validate that you really do have the knowledge that you think you have. Using that approach will make the information much more meaningful and easier to retain because you can easily relate it to your real-world experience

I really believe a certification exam should be “evidence that you can do a job” and not “a ticket to get a job”. That is a key reason why PMI requires some level of actual experience in addition to taking a certification exam.

Things to Consider to Prepare for PMI-ACP Certification

There are several important things to consider in preparing for the PMI-ACP exam:

  • One of the limitations of the PMI-ACP exam is that it isn’t oriented around a particular job. It’s more of a test of general knowledge associated with Agile and Lean
  • That’s a very important consideration to recognize that getting through PMI-ACP® certification doesn’t really directly qualify you for a specific job
  • You have to shape your own training and development around a particular role that you want to play and you can’t really rely totally on PMI-ACP to prepare you for that specific role

The Future of Project Management

Preparing yourself for a real-world Agile Project Management role is not an easy thing to do:

  • The role that an Agile Project Manager plays in the real world is not well-defined
  • It is even somewhat controversial that there is a role for an Agile Project Manager at all in a true Agile project at the team level

Agile is going to cause a major transformation of the project management profession over a period of time. I don’t think that anyone (including PMI) has figured out exactly what the full impact of that transformation will be.

  • 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 and Lean knowledge.
  • It 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

A Typical “Exam Prep” Approach Doesn’t Work

You can’t just do some typical “exam prep” training and/or buy an “exam prep” book and then go out and pass the exam for several reasons:

  • PMI won’t allow that – PMI requires a  minimum of 1,500 hours of working in an Agile environment before you can even apply to take the exam
  • There’s such a broad range of topics on the exam, it would be very difficult or impossible to pass the exam for someone who just “crammed” to pass the exam with little or no real-world Agile experience
  • Even if you could do that, simply “cramming” to pass the exam would have very limited value because it would have little credibility without some real-world experience to go along with it

Online Curriculum Summary

The online training curriculum that I’ve developed is designed around exactly this approach of preparing you for a real-world Agile Project Management role. 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 a complete, online training curriculum around helping people prepare for those real-world roles

It’s also important to remember that one of the requirements to qualify to take the PMI-ACP® exam is that you have to have:

  • 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

My primary seven courses are designed to help you achieve that goal.

Overall Summary

If you’re thinking about going for PMI-ACP® certification, my recommendation is don’t do it just to “get your ticket punched”. Here is a summary of my recommendations:

1. UNDERSTAND THE REAL-WORLD ROLE OF AN AGILE PROJECT MANAGER

First, it’s important to understand the roles that an Agile Project Manager can potentially play in the real-world:

  • Develop a vision for yourself of what that target role is
  • Understand the overall “road map” for moving into that role
  • Focus your training around that role

2. Don’t Limit Your Focus to Passing the Exam

Don’t limit your focus to simply passing the exam:

  • Focus on developing solid, credible, real-world experience and
  • Use the PMI-ACP certification exam to validate that you do have the knowledge and experience needed to perform that role

3. Get Some Real-world Experience in an Agile Environment

First go out and get the knowledge and experience required to fill a real-world Agile Project Management role

  • The seven primary courses I’ve developed are very well-aligned with that strategy which I think is a good strategy to pursue
  • Then get some real-world experience in an Agile environment. And, finally, use the PMI-ACP® exam to validate your proficiency

4. Final Steps to Prepare for the PMI-ACP Exam

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:

  • I have developed a specific course called “How to Prepare for PMI-ACP Certification” to help you prepare. That course cross-references all the material in my seven primary courses to the PMI-ACP certification requirements
  • As a final step, there are a number of exam-prep books and courses that I believe are useful. In particular, I think Mike Griffiths’ book is a good resource.
  • However, please remember that passing the exam and getting the certification shouldn’t be an end-in-itself

A Suggested PMI-ACP Certification Road-map

The questions many project managers have are:

  • What is the “Agile Project Management Road-map” 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”:

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 will need to do a final review to prepare to take the exam. My course “How to Prepare for PMI-ACP certification is designed to help you do this final review. It cross-references all the material in my seven primary Agile Project Management courses against the knowledge and skill requirements for the PMI-ACP exam

It’s very important to recognize that Agile will precipitate a dramatic transformation of the Project Management profession as we know it today. PMI-ACP is a good step in the right direction; however, it has some limitations:

  • Most people will agree that it’s just a test of general Agile and Lean knowledge and doesn’t go far enough to prepare project managers for a specific Agile Project Management role, and
  • It doesn’t 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?”

Related Articles

You can find related articles on the topic of “PMI-ACP Certification” here:

Additional Resources

You will find much more detail on this in my Online Agile Project Management Training.

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