DO I QUALIFY TO TAKE THE PMI ACP EXAM?

A quick search on any job board will tell you that project managers with Agile knowledge and experience are in high demand. Gartner predicts that within two years, 80% of all software projects will be using Agile practices. Combine these two data points and it seems like the demand for those who know how to apply Agile methods to their projects will only increase.

Do not get left behind! Successfully passing the PMI-ACP exam and getting your certification could give you that competitive advantage when you are looking for your next opportunity. If you are now persuaded that getting the PMI-ACP is an advantage for you, you are probably wondering how to go get it?

Well the requirements and qualifications are significantly more rigorous than other agile certifications, but do not presume you do not (or cannot) qualify. Here is a summary of the Agile Certification eligibility requirements directly from PMI’s website. These requirements were recently updated to be more inclusive of all job roles and not just project management:General Project Experience2,000 hours working on project teams. These hours must be earned within the last 5 years. DescriptionRequirement

Note: for those holding a PMP® credential, PMI has already verified that the candidate has exceeded these requirements. Thus, a PMP will be accepted to fulfill these requirements.1,500 hours working on agile project teams. These hours are in addition to the 2,000 hours required in general project experience. These hours must be earned within the last 3 years.Agile Project Experience21 contact hours; hours must be earned in agile project topicsAgile Project TrainingTests knowledge of agile fundamentalsExamination 

The greatest roadblock might be the 1,500 additional hours working on agile project teams, so let’s break that down a bit. The PMI Handbook states that you need 8 months of working on Agile project teams within the last 3 years and when you apply, they will ask what role you played.

The PMI-ACP exam focuses on a high level understanding of all Agile practices including Scrum, eXtreme Programming (XP), and Lean Software Development. If you are in an ideal situation your organization has decided to use one or some combination of these methods to manage and release products.

Ideally, your team has gone through training, development teams are building products incrementally, those teams are using Agile development and test practices, and the team is inspecting progress by collaborating with one another and the customer (or someone representing the customer). But maybe your organization has not decided to go ‘all in’ and is just piloting some of the practices that go along with Agile development?

Do not discount these experimental or pilot efforts, these hours count! Or maybe you are using Agile practices but using different terminology consistent with the culture in your organization.  (Note that they will look for appropriate titles in your job role so if you are using different terminology more justification may be required in your application).

Considering the following for managing scope in a project…

  • Is your team ordering requirements by business value and then working on the items with the most value first, rather than maximizing all requested content within a release?
  • As a team are you collaborating with the customer or someone representing the customer and incorporating their feedback into the product as it is being built?
  • Is your organization using this feedback to be more responsive to change? Does your organization allow new requirements to emerge as everyone learns about how the product should work and then factor that feedback into an ordered product backlog?

Considering the following for managing time in a project…

  • Is your project using a ‘fixed-time, variable scope’ model, using a series of incremental iterations to create a releasable product?  And working in short, fixed-length iterations?
  • Are you time-boxing planning and review activities as a way to focus the team on the task at hand and then making adjustments as needed?
  • Is your team using velocity predictions to create a release strategy and placing requirements into target iterations that span the release?

Considering the following for managing cost in a project…

  • Is your team estimating the budget at a release level and then getting more granular, detailed, and accurate at the iteration level as the time horizon decreases?
  • Are you tracking overall planned budget to actual cost or Earned Value Management concepts to create a cost performance index?

Considering the following for managing quality for a project…

  • Does your organization value simple designs so that the product design can more easily change when new requirements emerge?
  • As an organization are you using more modeling and prototyping to envision and explore product solutions?
  • Do your test engineers perform exploratory testing or test continually as the product is being built rather than wait for a test hand off once all development is complete?
  • Are your developers experimenting with pair programming practices, continuous integration, or collective code ownership?
  • Are your developers writing unit tests first and then writing code that will cause that test to pass eventually?
  • Is your team writing and using acceptance tests to ensure the customer’s needs are met?
  • Are your developers refactoring code, improving its sustainability, and removing technical debt on a regular basis?
  • Are you examining your processes and refining or even eliminating wasteful procedures that add no value?

Considering the following for managing the people working on a project…

  • Has your organization empowered teams to define how requirements are to be built, rather than just assigning tasks? Are these teams structured so that as a group they can complete a feature or requirement and potentially ship it?
  • Are your teams maintaining a sustainable pace and a regular cadence?
  • Is your team using a shared work space, relying less on documentation as the primary method of team communication, and realizing greater collaboration?
  • Are your project leaders and teams adapting the team, process and product based on lessons learned on a regular basis? Are they help to create an environment that will help the team to be successful?
  • Has your organization found a way to reward teamwork maybe even to value it over individual achievement?

Considering the following for managing the communications on a project…

  •  Is your team using accurate information to keep their status visible to all stakeholders?
  • Are you using reviews and demonstrations to share working product as project status rather than just marking tasks complete on a Gantt chart?
  • Is your team meeting daily to collaborate, identify solutions, remove obstacles, and to meet the goals of the project?
  • Are you using burndown and burnup charts, task boards or other visible information sharing tools to communicate status?

Considering the following for managing project risks…

  • Are risks identified and managed throughout the project?
  • Are they jointly owned by the team rather than falling on the shoulders of one project manager?
  • Does the team use information from their inspection processes, reviews, and their daily meetings to identify and resolve project risks?

If your organization is using some if not most of the practices above then you are using Agile methods to manage your projects. Next step is to count these hours up to see if you qualify to take the exam and if so, register for a training course to help prepare and go for it- take the test!