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Agile project management qualifications

By Simon Buehring on 18 Jan 2019

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Agile project management qualifications are rising fast! Whilst agile development methods such as Scum dominate the software industry, they are gaining popularity in other industries too.

As more businesses adopt agile, they are seeking dedicated agile project management methods to help them. Individuals with agile project management certifications can therefore command a premium in the jobs market.

Read on to find out more about the growing agile project management certification.

AgilePM® qualifications

The AgilePM qualifications scheme announced by the APM Group (APMG) in 2010 was developed in conjunction with the Agile Business Consortium (formerly the DSDM Consortium). Since its launch in 2010, AgilePM has fast established itself as the leading framework and certification for agile project management.

Agile Project Management (AgilePM) qualifications are showing increasing demand from professionals eager to extend their professional project management qualifications.

In December 2018, the APMG announced that the total number of AgilePM examinations sat had reached 100,000.

2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 Total
AgilePM Foundation 612 1,677 3,032 6,481 8,986 12,104 16,851 n/a n/a
AgilePM Practitioner 540 1,308 2,114 3,791 4,864 6,130 7,850 n/a n/a
Total 1,152 2,985 5,146 10,272 13,850 18,234 24,701 n/a 100,000
% year on year increase n/a 159% 72% 100% 35% 32% 35% 31%  n/a

By the end of 2018, approximately 65,000 AgilePM Foundation exams and over 35,000 AgilePM Practitioner exams have been sat worldwide. As more and more professionals learn about the new qualifications scheme, these numbers are set to rise.

In 2017, approximately one third of AgilePM Foundation exams taken were sat in the UK.

Global pass rates in 2018 for the Foundation exam were 98.5% and 94.7% for Practitioner.

Why is AgilePM so popular?

There are 6 key factors why AgilePM is proving to be popular.

It provides governance and agility

Based upon the Agile Project Framework (APF) which was established over 20 years ago, AgilePM blends both corporate governance aspects with key agile concepts and is specifically aimed at project managers. The authors of the APF were the DSDM, one of the founding signatories to the agile manifesto.

Never compromise quality

Never compromising quality is an underlying principle of AgilePM. This is helped by agreeing high-level acceptance criteria throughout the full project lifecycle.

Risk management

A starting point in AgilePM for understanding risks is the Project Approach Questionnaire. This enables a shared understanding of project risks and how to mitigate them.

Goes beyond product development approaches

Whereas common agile methods such as Scrum offer product development approaches, they do not address project management. AgilePM goes further than Scrum by offering an agile project management approach.

Clear roles and responsibilities

AgilePM assigns clear roles and responsibilities to individuals from the business, user, technical and management areas so that effective stakeholder collaboration can be achieved.

Incorporates popular agile practices

Key agile practices such as MoSCoW, timeboxing and iterative development are incorporated into AgilePM to support effective product development.

Who should get AgilePM certification?

APMG’s AgilePM qualifications are aimed at professionals working in an agile environment who want some of the discipline which more structured project management approaches can offer.

With the demands on businesses ever increasing, there is pressure on project managers to deliver products faster, cheaper and more efficiently than ever before.

Traditional project management

Requirements

Falsely, traditional project management approaches assume that requirements are well known at the start.

Such methods use the commonly understood ‘project triangle’ of time, cost and scope whereby the scope is fixed at the start of the project and both time and cost are varied as the project continues. This is one reason why many such projects suffer from time and cost overruns.

Bureaucratic

Traditional project management methods are often seen as bureaucratic and heavy on documentation, managed in a top-down ‘command and control’ type of way. How such methods are seen and how they are used are two entirely different things however.

Not designed for agile

Traditional project management methods such as PRINCE2 can be adapted to suit the needs of agile projects, but they were never designed from the ground up to do so.

Agile delivers product releases iteratively

Changing requirements

Agile approaches recognize that users often don’t fully know their requirements when projects start and therefore they will likely change during the project. Whilst changing requirements can often be problematic in more traditional project management approaches, agile approaches embrace changes in requirements.

On agile projects time and cost are normally the fixed elements but the requirements and scope of the project are variable. Agile therefore is better at delivering on time than more traditional project management approaches.

Agile approaches focus on incremental and iterative releases of products to users and customers, each iteration or incremental release giving the user yet more functionality. Agile can therefore deliver products early to users and this helps users better understand and refine their requirements after a period of use.

Agile is branching out

Although agile methods developed in the software industry, the agile philosophy has moved beyond its initial beginnings and has started to be used in other industries – particularly digital media and marketing.

How to become AgilePM certified

To become AgilePM certified requires you to pass one of the 2 AgilePM exams: Foundation and Practitioner.

Usually, students either attend an AgilePM classroom course or an online course. Classroom Foundation courses last 3 days with a further day for the Practitioner part.

AgilePM Foundation online courses can be completed in 20 hours including exam.

AgilePM examinations

Both examinations are in multiple-choice formats with a pass mark of 50%. The Foundation examination contains 60 questions to be answered in one hour. This exam is closed-book and tests students’ ability to recognise and distinguish between the main elements of the AgilePM approach. Agile project management training courses at Foundation level are aimed at people who are already practising agile project managers, or members of agile project teams who are seeking to step up into agile project management.

The Practitioner exam paper contains 4 questions with 15 marks available for each question. It’s an open book exam lasting two hours and tests students’ ability to apply and tailor the AgilePM guidance to a given project scenario. It is designed to test a candidate’s competence to begin working as an Agile Project Manager on a non-complex project.

AgilePM pre-requisites

The pre-requisites for taking the AgilePM Practitioner examination is passing either the AgilePM Foundation certificate (above), or either the DSDM Atern Foundation or Practitioner certificate.

Summary

AgilePM certification, along with the method itself, can be an extremely valuable asset to project managers wanting to manage projects in an agile way.

Whilst the number of AgilePM certified people remains far less than the number of PRINCE2 certified practitioners, this is an advantage for those professionals willing to gain their AgilePM certification.

Having an AgilePM qualification is a great way to stand out from competitors in the jobs market when applying for agile project manager roles.