PMI-ACP: Why It’s Important

By Chuck Snead

So, PMI has come out with yet another certification; this one an acknowledgement of the importance of Agile methodologies. And it was immediately compared to the Certified Scrum Master, with many people in both the PMP and Agile communities asking “why bother”?

To which I respond, “yes, bother.”

Disclaimer: I am PMI-ACP certified. I am also a CSM. And a PMP. Hopefully, this may provide a useful insight in how these certifications relate to one another…

That being said, perhaps a short story is in order. A long time ago, in a land far, far away, a rather studious fellow by the name of Vitruvius jotted down some notes on how to best build things and wrote a series of tomes about the issue. Then a couple of thousand years went by, some people added to the body of knowledge along the way, a “science” evolved, the U. S. defense department and a couple of companies created some formal frameworks, and eventually, the Project Management Institute was formed. Sometime thereafter, the fine folks at the PMI decided it would be great to have a process by which project managers could be certified, and, in 1984, the Project Management Professional certification came into being. And because tomes are cool, they went on to create A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, first published in 1996, and which is currently up to Edition 5.

And things were great. With a long, illustrious history built on science and engineering, project managers collectively applied their vast analytical skills to utilize structured methods to solve project management problems; created intricate procedures and quantitative calculations for predicting project risk and success; and managed it all with a highly interconnected intricacy and complexity that required not insignificant amounts of daily tweaking and computing power to successfully execute.

And then software development projects came along and shook the whole foundation to its core. The engineering mindset is not one that readily lends itself to change. Once a problem is solved, it is solved, no matter what those pesky business types say. Indeed, they should have thought of all those new features two years ago, when the project was being planned. After all, if something as complex as a skyscraper can be mapped out years in advance, then surely software programs can follow the same paradigm, right? All that has to be done is just create another process, and add some more procedural controls…

Except that software development is about as analogous to building a skyscraper as creating a unique, high performance race car is to mass producing minivans.

And so a community of software engineers banded together and, in 2001, the Agile Manifesto was born. And a whole, new way of managing IT projects was conceived that promised to be much more light weight, responsive to ever changing business needs and customer requirements, and that would produce software (amongst other things) that answered the needs of today, and not those determined years before in some project “planning phase.” And everything would just happen by magic (at least from the perspective of the PMP community), and the world would rejoice!

Well, amongst the rejoicing, even the Agile community eventually saw the need for some level of standardization and certification, and so such method-specific certs as the Certified Scrum Master and Certified DSDM Professional came into being. Yet, while these are great for their specific methodologies, there was no “Agile” certification that crossed domains.

Enter, the PMI-Agile Certified Practitioner.

In my personal experience, the PMI-ACP certification process has accomplished two things. First, it gave me a broader view of Agile methods than as a Certified Scrum Master. CSM is great for people who want to practice Scrum (and I’m glad to have become certified), but I wanted something that demonstrated a cross-domain mastery of Agile in general so as to increase my tool-set. Second, PMI-ACP has helped me to bridge the gap between my PMP and CSM. I can now better see how the two can work as a mutually reinforcing continuum, instead of diametrically opposed camps.

So, this is why I consider the PMI-ACP important: it is not “PMP Lite,” nor is it in direct competition with the CSM. It is an essential bridge between the two, and upon which a foundation of project management can be constructed that both meets the daily, “street-level” needs of software development, all the way up through formalized, long term strategic and tactical planning. And, too me, that is a worthy skill to have!

Chuck Snead is a Project Management Professional (PMP), PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP), and Certified Scrum Master (CSM) with over fifteen years of experience managing Waterfall/Traditional and Agile projects, for both the private and public sectors. He also has a Master’s degrees in both Information Technology and Business Administration, and he teaches various IT and project management courses as an adjunct professor. You can read more articles from Chuck on his blog.

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