How to Use Agile in Project Management as a PMP® Credential Holder
A Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification shows that, as a project manager, you understand the agile approach to project management. The PMP certification exam requires you to have an understanding of standard agile methodology, tools, and techniques and how to integrate the agile approach properly into a project environment, when beneficial.
On this page:
- Agile Practices in Project Management
- Project Management Institute and the Agile Approach
- Incorporating Agile into Your Project Management
- Four Core Values of Agile
- The Value in Acquiring a PMI-ACP
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Agile Practices in Project Management
Agile is many things to project management. Organizations may seek or make Agile transformations. Project managers may seek agile-based professional certifications and achievements. Projects are shaped by the way work is accomplished by the team. In all instances, agile is a way of working and thinking designed to better react to change and harness innovative and adaptive thinking.
The origins of Agile are rooted in the Agile Manifesto issued in 2001 by a team of passionate IT professionals seeking a way to work that reflected their technology-driven environment in ways traditional project management failed to do. Agile development involves principles and practices emphasizing collaboration, customer feedback, and iterative development. Agile development teams typically work in iterations, or short periods of time (usually 1-4 weeks), during which they complete a specific set of tasks. The team reviews their progress and plans for the next sprint at the end of each sprint.
Knowing the foundations of Agile will enhance your professional skill set and desirability as a project management candidate, prepare you for Project Management Institute (PMI) certifications, and improve your approach to project management overall. What companies learn when Agile is fully adopted is that it can be a means to reduce cost while increasing business agility.
Project Management Institute and the Agile Approach
PMI describes the Agile approach to project management as follows:
“Agile approaches to project management aim for early, measurable ROI through defined, iterative delivery of product increments. They feature continuous involvement of the customer throughout the product development cycle. Although agile has its roots in software and IT, agile adoption is growing and expanding in a wide range of industries.” — PMI.org featured topic agile
PMI updated the PMP® certification exam in 2021 to be more reflective of the most common practices, tools, and principles of the Project Management profession, which included the agile approach. With that PMP® certification update, exam questions test your knowledge of Predictive (waterfall), Agile, and Hybrid project approaches. At a minimum, PMP certification seekers need to understand the basics of agile methodology, how to apply agile concepts to projects, and how to determine which project approach best suits the team’s needs given the work that needs to be accomplished.
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Incorporating Agile into Your Project Management
Agile project management is an iterative approach focused on ongoing improvements throughout a project to maximize the potential value delivered to the customer. It is not feasible nor practical to suddenly switch from traditional to fully agile project management. A project manager should take a few steps to incorporate agile into their predictive project management processes and include the project team in those steps to gain their buy-in. To begin using agile practices in a waterfall or predictive project management setting, the project manager should:
- First, assess the project and determine which aspects would benefit from agile practices.
- Next, develop a plan for using agile practices throughout the project.
- Then, implement the agile practices and tools into the project.
- Finally, monitor the results to ensure that the project is proceeding as expected.
Incorporating agile into project management is heavily impacted by the level of agile within the larger organization. Some businesses fully embrace agile as a mindset and as a project management approach. They have moved, or are in the process of moving, from more traditional and hierarchical ways of working to a more agile and flexible one. For the business or organization, the shift from traditional agile is known as agile transformation. Options for agile tools and practices used within a project are directly impacted by how agile is incorporated into the business’s information-sharing processes, budget and resource approval requirements, and personnel processes.
At a project level, another way to use agile practices is to implement specific agile tools and techniques during certain phases of the project. For example, a project manager might use agile estimation methods during the planning phase for a more accurate picture of how much work needs to occur. Another example of how a PMP certification holder could use agile practices in project management is by using agile tools and techniques during the execution and delivery phases of the project. They may opt to use agile methods, such as task boards, for tracking progress and managing changes. Additionally, the team might use agile practices, like establishing Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), for testing and quality assurance during these phases to ensure that the final product meets customer expectations.
Four Core Values of Agile
The values of the Agile Manifesto embedded in every Agile method, e.g., Kanban or Scrum, are the same for every project. Embrace the values of Agile in all things and select the agile methodology that best suits the project. The four values of agile to be embedded and applied within every project are:
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.
These values emphasize the importance of collaboration, customer feedback, and iterative development. The agile approach is grounded in the knowledge that any project has inherent uncertainty. The predictive project management approach, informally called “PMP Methodology,” is founded in controls at every step. Project management is about control, but it should also be about adapting to changes and being flexible enough to meet goals through change.
The Value in Acquiring a PMI-ACP
There is no “Agile PMP methodology,” but Project Management Institute’s project management and agile project management standards and resources, including the PMP certification, include agile as an approach and known agile project management methods.
There is no Agile Project Management certification or Agile PMP certification. Instead, PMI offers the Project Management Professional (PMP) and the PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® certification. The PMI-ACP exam addresses the fact that there is more than one approach to agile, including Scrum, Kanban, Lean, extreme programming (XP), as well as other well-known approaches like test-driven development (TDD.) Therefore, going beyond the PMP certification, and earning the PMI-ACP certification is a testament to your deep knowledge of agile project management and the agile methodology.
Do not look at the PMI-ACP certificate as a replacement for the globally recognized PMP certification. Both have incredible professional value. The best approach is when the project manager or project professional works to gain knowledge in both traditional and Agile projects. A deep understanding of traditional and agile project management enhances your value across all project environments. Take the opportunity to learn agile while preparing for both the PMP® and PMI-ACP certification exams while growing a competitive professional skill set.
A PMP certification holder, or any project manager, should understand agile practices, tools, and methods to apply them appropriately to a project. There are several different ways to begin utilizing agile practices in your daily project management tasks. One way is to use agile principles to manage the project from start to finish. To do that, the project manager would work with the team to constantly assess and adapt the project plan based on customer feedback. Another way could be to incorporate Agile values in your project management work regardless of the methodology used. No matter what approach you take to incorporating Agile, a good first step is to learn and demonstrate your knowledge of Agile by earning a professional certification. Earning either the PMP or PMI-ACP certification furthers your project management career options and demonstrates your commitment to the profession.
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