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What is Agile Project Management?

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Agile describes a family of methods that may be used to manage a project. The fact is this: there are many ways to manage a project. You may use predictive methods, choose adaptive methods, or create a hybrid combination that works best for you. The project you’re working on will help you determine which method to use. 

Ideally, you should have knowledge of many project management methods so you can choose the best approach to any given situation. To learn more about agile and how you can use it to better manage your projects, keep reading. 

Defining Traditional Project Management

The traditional project management method is also referred to as predictive or waterfall. When using a traditional methodology, teams often break the project into phases. The team completes one phase before moving to the next. Examples of common phases include conceptual, planning, construction, testing, implementation, and closure. The “Waterfall” name comes from the cascading effect… the results of one phase fall down, or cascade, to the next, lower phase.

Another popular grouping of processes comes from PMI and the PMBOK® Guide:

  • Initiation 
  • Planning
  • Execution
  • Monitoring & Controlling
  • Closing

The traditional method works well on projects where there are clear procedures that have proven successful on similar projects in the past. The traditional approach places a heavy emphasis on upfront planning. The project manager wants to nail down the scope as early as possible, break the work into components, and assign tasks to specialists to carry out the plans. This approach became popular with the Plan, Do, Check, Act cycle introduced by W. Edwards Deming. The team develops a plan based on a thorough understanding of the project requirements. The team “predicts” how things will go (hence the name “predictive”), executes the plan, checks results, and makes adjustments as necessary. The more certainty you have about those requirements, the more effective this traditional approach will be.

Documentation and upfront planning are vital in traditional project management. The more planning that is done upfront, the smoother the workflow will be. 

Traditional project management has been in use for decades, and it continues to be the best fit for many project teams and environments. 

Key benefits associated with traditional methods include: 

  • Objectives that are well defined upfront
  • Processes that are easy to measure and control 
  • Documentation that is complete and accurate
  • Roles and responsibilities are clearly defined
  • Progress and performance can be tracked  

Learn a practical approach to this type of project management in our instructor-led Project Management Fundamentals class or in this self-paced course.

Defining Agile Project Management

Agile was originally created as a method for developing software, as it allowed constant reworking of old ideas, customer collaboration, and a process that responded to change, which was great for the world of software. 

However, the agile method quickly broke free of the software industry when people realized it could apply to other areas as well. 

The agile manifesto has four core values: 

  1. Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  2. Working software over comprehensive documentation
  3. Customer collaboration over contract negotiation, and
  4. Responding to change over following a plan.

Agile project management has many benefits, but the main ones are: 

  • Drive to deliver value early and often
  • Ability to prioritize (and re-prioritize) the needs of the customer 
  • Hear the voice of the customer, as the product owner is embedded with the team
  • Better results and performance, as feedback loops are frequent and recurring
  • Empowered teams means self-accountability and ownership

An agile approach brings business people, designers, and developers to the same table to agree on priorities, plan the work, and solve problems. Agile includes a lot of collaboration, feedback, and reworking to reach the best results.   

Learn more about this approach to project management in our instructor-led Agile Project Management class or in these self-paced courses written by 3 different leading experts in the field.

Pros and Cons of Agile Project Management

The family of agile project management approaches includes Scrum, XP, Lean and others. However, agile doesn’t work for every project, nor should it. Each project environment, team, and situation must be evaluated to ensure agile is the right fit. 

Within this space of agile approaches, there are pros and cons. 

Pros:

  • Improved communication 
  • Faster to market (MMF and MVP)
  • More flexible and adaptive
  • Welcome change requests, instead of resisting them
  • Increased customer presence through the product owner role
  • Sense of ownership

Cons:

  • Harder to predict over traditional methods
  • The incremental product releases may not look like the final product
  • Documentation is not as thorough – not emphasized
  • Requires team members with broad skills – not narrow specialists
  • If cost of materials or the cost of mistakes is high, agile may not be a good fit
  • Scalability is a challenge

Deciding Which Method to Used Based on Your Project

Agile project management works best with projects that: 

  • Are small to medium in size (Hey – agile can be scaled; it’s just challenging!)
  • Have experienced team members with broad skills (test, develop, document)
  • Can be broken down into multiple discrete increments 
  • Require customer collaboration or interaction 

Because an agile approach does not require that the scope be fully known and decomposed at project inception, agile offers flexibility in those cases where the scope and requirements are emerging and ever-changing.

Checkout our online course, How to Know When Agile Isn’t the Right Tool for the Job, by PMI Fellow Eric Norman. 

How to Become Certified in Agile Management

If you want to become an expert on agile project management, take your resume to the next level, or increase your job prospects, you may want to consider becoming PMI-ACP certified. PMI-ACP stands for Project Management Institute – Agile Certified Practitioner. With a PMI-ACP certification, you’ll stand out from other practitioners as one who has the knowledge and experience with agile practices that are recognized in industry.

As agile becomes more and more well known in the project management space, an increasing number of companies are going to be looking for people who are PMI-ACPs. By starting now, you could get your foot in the door at a large company, making a high salary. Becoming a PMI-ACP may also help you increase your salary or position at your current job. 

Benefits of Certification

By becoming an Agile Certified Practitioner, you’ll have documentation that shows that you are not only dedicated to your craft but passionate about it. You’ll be the go-to person when it comes to agile methods, putting you first in line for promotions and salary increases. If you want to have the edge over other people applying for the same job, the PMI-ACP may be the route you want to take. 

Requirements for Certification

The PMI-ACP certification has a specific set of requirements, including the completion and passing of a 120 multiple-choice examination. On top of that, you must also: 

  • Have a secondary degree such as a high school diploma or an associate’s degree. 
  • Receive 21 contact hours of training in agile practices. 
  • Have at least 12 months of general project experience within the last five years. If you have a current PMP or PgMP, this will satisfy the requirement, but it is not required. 
  • Have 8 months of agile project experience within the last 3 years. 

In order to receive 21 hours of contact training in agile practices, you must go through a training program, such as the one we offer here at Velociteach. Not only will we provide you with the necessary training hours that you need, but we’ll also provide you with exam preparation and study materials

Preparing for and Taking the PMI-ACP Exam 

The good news is that the PMI-ACP exam is not considered quite as difficult as the PMP exam! However, the PMI-ACP exam still requires a lot of study, including a general knowledge of all agile practices, principles, roles, values, and more. You should be well versed in all things agile project management before attempting to take the exam.   

You can expect the exam to follow this structure: 

  • Domain I: Agile Principles and Mindset
  • Domain II: Value-Driven Delivery 
  • Domain III: Stakeholder Engagement
  • Domain IV: Team Performance
  • Domain V: Adaptive Planning
  • Domain VI: Problem Detection and Resolution 
  • Domain VII: Continuous Improvement (Product, Process, People) 

Each section is worth a different percentage, with some sections being worth much more than others. For example, Domain II. Value-driven Delivery is worth 20% of your total score, while Domain VII. Continuous Improvement is only worth 9% of your total score. 

You Should Become PMI-ACP Certified

Obviously, there are many reasons why you should become PMI-ACP certified. Increased pay, better job prospects, credibility, professional growth, and more. If you’re interested in furthering your education and continuing to add more tools to your project management belt, you should begin to look at certification options like PMI-ACP

And if you’re about to become certified for PMI-ACP, but you don’t have your PMP or PgMP certification, it may be time to start looking into those as well. The more passionate and dedicated you are to your career path, the more you’ll succeed in the long run. Let Velociteach help you succeed. 

Sources:

PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP) | Project Management Institute

What is agile project management? | Association for Project Management

Project Management Methodologies – An Overview | ProjectManager.com

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