Skip to main content

PMI Agile Certification - what is it worth?

The Project Management Institute has started beta testing a new certification of Agile Project Leaders. What does this mean? Where does it fit in with the existing certifications? And what impact will it have on the Scrum Community?

Gregory Balestrero, President & CEO of PMI, attended the Orlando Scrum Gathering in 2009. When he got there what did he see? Half the attendees had a PMP!

These attendees were members of the PMI for whom the PMI was doing nothing! So this Scrum and Agile stuff was not just a passing fad, but represented a real need in the software space. The PMI had to do something, and that something is the PMI Agile Certification.

The program has now been published on their website. According to the PMI, their certification program should enable practitioners to:
  • "Demonstrate to employers their level of professionalism in Agile practices of project management
  • "Increase their professional versatility in both project management tools and techniques
  • "Show they have the capacity to lead basic Agile project teams by holding a certification that is more credible than existing training-only or exam-only based offerings."
The last point is clearly a poke in the ribs at the Scrum Alliance (basically a training-only certification) and Scrum.org (an exam-only certification).

What must you do to become a PMI certified Agile Professional? The details are spelled out on their website; here are the most essential points:
  1. General Project Management Experience — 2,000 hours working on project teams, earned within the last 5 years. Those holding a PMP credential already satisfy these requirements.
  2. Agile Project Management Experience — 1,500 hours working on Agile project teams or in Agile methodologies within the last two years.
  3. Agile Project Management Training — 21 contact hours; hours must be earned in Agile project management topics  
  4. Examination — Tests knowledge of Agile fundamentals and ability to apply to basic projects 
  5. Maintenance — 30 PDUs/3 CEUs every 3 years in Agile project management.
Note that Agile Project Management Experience cannot be double counted with general project management experience. A total of 3500 hours is necessary for the certification.

Twenty one contact hours basically translates to three days of Agile Training. The PMI has recognized  Scrum Alliance certified courses in the past, so this should continue in the future. Note that over the three years after initial certification, an average of 10 PDUs / year (1 PDU = 1 hour of training, conference attendance or similar activity) is required to maintain the certification.

What does the PMI Certification mean?

I was always impressed by the tag-line of the PMI: "Making project management indispensable for business results." It sounds to me like their primary purpose is to ensure their own existence, just like a bureaucracy would do. And in fact, when I visit companies, most of them want to shake off the sluggishness and bureaucracies that phase-oriented development models produce. The tag line of the Scrum Alliance: "Transforming the world of work". It's not just about managing projects, but making the workplace a better place to be.

What speaks in favor of the PMI certification? Certainly the size, influence and stability of the PMI mean that this will be an important certification. The Scrum Alliance has had problems establishing cohesion and direction since the split with Ken Schwaber. Schwaber's Scrum.org is a dot-org in name only. Scrum.org belongs to Ken Schwaber's family business, Advanced Development Methods, Inc. The PMI is on much more stable footing than the Scrum-specific alternatives.

A number of highly thoughtful and influential Agilists were involved in creating this program, including two CSTs and the leaders of other important schools of Agile thought. So the certification comes with good pedigree (although there are some caveats, see below).

For the candidate, it will be necessary to demonstrate substantial commitment, knowledge and experience. So I think the certification will enjoy a lot of credibility the marketplace. I believe it will have substantial impact on training programs related to Agile.

Still, Agility is not just a collection of practices. It is a frame of mind. The requirement that you already have a PMP and 2000 hours of classical, non-agile experience bothers me. In French, this is called the 'Déformation professionelle'. Training and experience form you, but they also deform you. PMI certified agilists will bring a lot non-agile baggage with them.

Remember the spoon scene from The Matrix?
Spoon boy: Do not try and bend the spoon. That's impossible. Instead... only try to realize the truth.
Neo: What truth?
Spoon boy: There is no spoon.
Neo: There is no spoon?
Spoon boy: Then you'll see, that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.
Learning Scrum is a lot about learning how to bend spoons, that is, learning to change yourself and your environment so that both become happier and more effective. Of course, I could be wrong on this one, but I while I see the PMI certifying many Agile Project Managers, I don't see the PMI producing the next generation of spoon benders. Yes, I think the PMI Agile Certification will be successful and influential. And yes, I think Scrum (and its relatives and descendants, e.g. XP and Radical Management) will continue to grow and thrive.

Comments

Tom said…
Hi Stevens

Do you know what counts as

"Agile Project Management Experience — 1,500 hours working on Agile project teams or in Agile methodologies within the last two years."

Does for example RUP does count as agile methodology?

Thomas
Peter said…
Hi Tom,

Good question! No I don't know. I'd be surprised if the PMI knows. ;-) I think RUP will be a tough call, simply because many RUP implementations are decidedly not agile. I'm not even sure it's possible to answer that question categorically.

I think you have touched on an important and very difficult subject. What is Agile? It's relatively easy to decide if someone is doing Scrum or XP, but 'is this person generically Agile' is much fuzzier and could be so fuzzy as to be worthless.

I will ask around and if I can get any concrete/useful guidance, then I will pass it on here or a blog entry.

Cheers, Peter

Popular posts from this blog

Scaling Scrum: SAFe, DAD, or LeSS?

Participants in last week's Scrum MasterClass wanted to evaluate approaches to scaling Scrum and Agile for their large enterprise. So I set out to review the available frameworks. Which one is best for your situation?

Recently a number of approaches have started gaining attention, including the Scaled Agile Framework ("SAFe") by Dean Leffingwell, Disciplined Agile Development (DAD), by Scott Ambler, and Large Scale Scrum (LeSS), by Craig Larman and Bas Vodde. (Follow the links for white papers or overviews of each approach).

How to compare these approaches? My starting point is Scrum in the team. Scrum has proven very effective at helping teams perform, even though it does not directly address the issues surrounding larger organizations and teams. An approach to scaling Scrum should not be inconsistent with Scrum itself.

Scrum implements a small number of principles and constraints: Inspect and Adapt. An interdisciplinary Team solves the problem. Deliver something of va…

Sample Definition of Done

Why does Scrum have a Definition of Done? Simple, everyone involved in the project needs to know and understand what Done means. Furthermore, Done should be really done, as in, 'there is nothing stopping us from earning value with this function, except maybe the go-ahead from the Product Owner. Consider the alternative:
Project Manager: Is this function done?
Developer: Yes
Project Manager: So we can ship it?
Developer: Well, No. It needs to be tested, and I need to write some documentation, but the code works, really. I tested it... (pause) ...on my machine. What's wrong with this exchange? To the developer and to the project manager, "done" means something rather different. To the developer in this case, done means: "I don't have to work on this piece of code any more (unless the tester tells me something is wrong)." The project leader is looking for a statement that the code is ready to ship.

At its most basic level, a definition of Done creates a sh…

10 Warning Signs, that your team is not self-organizing

How do you know that self-organization is working? The Bern Chapter of Scrum Breakfast Club looked into this questions, and identified the following warning signs (which I have taken the liberty of translating).

The team reports to the Scrum Master at the Daily ScrumPeople wait for instructions from the Scrum MasterTeam members don't hold each other responsible [for their commitments]The same impediment comes up twice"That's the way it is" => resignation"I" instead of "We"Flip charts are lonelyCulture of conflict-avoidanceDecisions processes are unclear, nor are they discussedPersonal goals are more important than team goals
To this list I would add my a couple of my favorites:
you don't see a triangle on the task board (not working according prioritization of stories)after the daily Scrum, people return directly to their desks (no collaboration)there are a least as many stories in progress as team members (no pairing)
P.S. You can join the …