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PMI Agile Certification… The PMI Agile Project Professional

Mike Cottmeyer
Reading: PMI Agile Certification… The PMI Agile Project Professional


It’s been a long time coming… maybe the worst kept secret on the planet. The kind of news that catches you off guard, but when you think about it… realize it was inevitable. PMI has finally announced it intends to create an agile project management certification. In my opinion this is great news, though I realize that not every one will share my enthusiasm.

The agile certification space is something I’ve been involved with since 2006 when I was asked to lead a track on the APLN Learning & Recognition program.  We created a certification that ultimately became the DSDM Agile Project Leader designation. I’ve been fortunate to be involved with the PMI Agile group since it’s inception, and was in Philadelphia with Jesse Fewell over a year ago when this was first conceived.

We’ve had a ton of really smart people involved, people you’d know and respect in the agile community.  While I don’t think what we created is perfect, I do believe it is a step in the right direction.  I do believe we will learn from this and get better over time.  I believe this certification is solid enough to put my name behind and fully support its introduction into the market.  I am personally committed to making it better as we learn more.  PMI is committed to making this better as we learn more.

Here are some questions I was asked about this certification… I wanted to share my answers with you guys in their entirety… let me know what you think.

How is the PMI-APP good for project management practices?

I’m a believer that certification can be a useful tool to help people establish a baseline of understanding in a given field. Certification can give us shared language, and shared understanding, around the ideas we think are most important. There is a ton of education that needs to happen in order for project managers to safely and pragmatically apply agile concepts in their organizations. This certification will establish a baseline set of competencies for learning and education, and a way to be recognized as someone who understands the basics of agile project management.

How do you view the alignment of agile with PMI standards?

There is synergy between PMI standards and the PMI-APP certification, but they are not totally congruent. Agile challenges many of our traditional notions about project management, especially as they relate to our assumptions and expectations around uncertainty. In many fields, software product development being a prime example, it just isn’t in our best interest to know everything up front. Sometimes it is in our best interest to let some of our requirements emerge as we learn more about the developing system. We need credible strategies for managing time, cost, and scope, and being able to know what done looks like, in the face of overwhelming uncertainty.

Why is this certification important to the project management profession and to Agile?

Project managers need to have agile as part of their overall toolkit. It might not be the right answer for every project, or in every problem domain, but agile has become as essential approach for effectively delivering project work in environments where change is the norm. Agile gives us tools for converging on desired outcomes, and working in close collaboration with our customers to maximize the value our projects create. This certification will give us shared language for how to do this… a starting point if you will. It will also help us legitimize agile in organizations that have been resistant to giving these methods a try.

What makes this certification different than other certifications in Agile?

For a certification to be credible, it has to be experienced based and centered around a published set of criteria. The PMI certification requires significant field experience using agile methods, education hours specifically related to agile project management, and the ability to demonstrate your knowledge about agile in a controlled testing environment. This is a certification specifically designed to help project managers understand what it takes to competently deliver agile project work, and provide a way for them to be recognized for having that knowledge.

Is this good for the agile community, or the end of the world as we know it?  Could it be both?  I sure do hope so!

UPDATE:  For more information on the PMI Agile Certification, please go to this link or follow this hashtag on Twitter #PMIAgileCert.

Next Safety to Change

LeadingAgile CEO and Founder, Mike Cottmeyer is passionate about solving the challenges associated with agile in larger, more complex enterprises. To that end, he and his team are dedicated to providing large-scale agile transformation services to help pragmatically, incrementally, and safely introduce Agile methods.

Comments (15)

  1. Derek Huether

    After the announcement last night, I heard REM playing in the back of my head. “It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine”. Though I will admit I was nervous when I learned PMI was going to do an Agile certification, back in October, I made my peace with it. I came into the picture toward the tail end of the PMI “APP” process. As an independent reviewer of the competencies, techniques/tools, knowledge and skills, people of the Agile community should be assured that PMI is not trying to rewrite Agile as they know it.

    For those who were not at the PMI North American Congress back in October (2010), there was strong representation by the Agile Community of Practice and a lot of curiosity, and might I add ignorance, by the average Congress attendee. I didn’t find it surprising, considering there is a complete omission of the word “Agile” in PMI’s Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK®) version 4.0.

    It is my hope that this is the first step in correcting this. I do believe this is a step in the right direction.

  2. Benny Baggott

    Did we need another agile certification, or did they need Agile to continue to grow?

    • Mike Cottmeyer

      First question… do we have a meaningful agile certification? I don’t believe so.

      Second… a comment… I think PMI tries to maintain the PMBOK with relevant project management practices. Agile is now pretty universally recognized as a relevant PM practice. It deserves inclusion. I don’t believe it is only about growing, it’s about moving the BOK forward.

  3. Dave

    As a certified PMP and CSM, I believe that it is a good move to consolidate or at least remove the barriers that these two practices can exist without the unnecessary friction.

  4. Stan Yanakiev, PMP

    Great post, Mike! I am happy PMI came up with an Agile certificate and I definitely share your opinion that Agile has to be part of a PM’s toolset, especially in IT.

  5. Tony Perez

    Wow, this is great Mike! Do you know when they will start testing for this? So will this mean that we’ll have an agile PMBOK? You probably can’t tell, but this is very exciting for me. I’m in the IT / IS industry.


  6. Matt Anderson, PMP

    I am part of the PMBOK v5 working group and Agile is a consideration for this upcoming edition. PMI would not have a certification if it wasn’t going to be included.

    Agile is just another tool in a PM’s toolkit to be used when the project requires it. For almost all of my projects, it requires it, but I still use many PMI techniques to handle areas outside of the actual development to ensure complete project/program success.

    I will admit I am still a little skeptical about the certification, but plan on being part of the pilot group to take the initial test so I can have an informed opinion.

  7. Jon Birgel

    While I think it is great that PMI has decided to close the gap between traditional project management and agile I completely disagree with the above statement that there is no credible Agile certification. While the CSM is only an introductory course in the process of Scrum I have continued and now have my CSP which requires knowledge and approval from the board at Scrum Alliance. While I am getting ready to take my PMP exam I believe that PMI is a day late and a dollar short on rolling this cert out. I believe like other things they are looking for a piece of the pie as they see Scrum Alliance growing in numbers. The biggest thing I see coming out of this new certification is many will take it only because it cheaper than Scrum Alliance. Nothing against PMI, but from my opinion while it’s great to bring agile processes into their PMBOK why not include this section in the overall PMP test? Also until it’s required for jobs in the market PMI should prepare for a bumpy ride as currently Scrum Alliance is the authority on certs for this.

    • Mike Cottmeyer

      Interesting… The reason SA has struggled with credibility is only partly because of the 2-day certification. The other part has been due to a lack of a publish standard, and a closed system for assessing who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’. To me… that’s not credible… I’m fine that folks may disagree.

      PMI is not an early adopter. They are here because agile has now become a credible approach for managing projects. 10 years ago, that was not the case. 5 years ago that was not the case. It’s not that agile didn’t work, we knew it did… but it was not ready to address the concerns of many mainstream organizations.

      I know the people personally that are involved with this, and they really have nothing personal to gain from this. I trust their motives and the process they are going through to include a wide range of agile thought leaders. Like I said, this will be far from perfect, but I think we are going to move the needle.

      We know more now that we did then, and it is time.

  8. Jon Birgel

    Thanks for you input and feedback, Mike. I am not against PMI taking this road, I just think it should be an overall process related to the PMP and not a certification on it’s own if they think it is so important to project management. I think adding a detailed published standard really kills what agile is. (in my opinion). One size does not fit all and adaptability becomes extremely difficult if you start dictating rules. Although there are plenty of published real world experience agile books to fill any PMBOK gap in agile. While all of this is my opinion, I do appreciate PMI moving to include agile process, I just wish they had done so in a different way. Once more thing is that maybe a 2 day course does not make you an expert which is why I got my CSP. Also the who is “in” and who is “out” approach may not show expertise, but neither does passing a computer test. Thanks Mike!

  9. Mike Cottmeyer

    The PMBOK is a set of practices that are applicable on most projects, most of the time.

    I think it’s possible to create a ‘standard’ body of knowledge that most of us generally include in the canon of agile scripture. It’s the rate of change (or lack thereof) that will make it not agile. If it’s a base, that’s fine. If it is codified into law, we will have a problem. PMI will struggle with this. Project Managers will struggle with this. But I’ll tell ya… some Scrum people struggle with this. People tend to want to find the ‘one way’. Traditional or agile.

    The PMI program is based on experience, training, and a computer test. I don’t think certification means anything really, past what I mentioned in the blog. It’s like getting a drivers license… it gives you permission to start, doesn’t make you an expert.

    Anyway… I respect your opinion and appreciate the comments!


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