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

The qualifications scheme announced by the APM Group in November 2010 was developed in conjunction with the DSDM Consortium. Since its launch, more than 16,000 Agile Project Management examinations have been sat (until end of Q3 2014).

Agile Project Management certificate - Exam statistics

The graph shows that in 4 years more than 16,000 Agile Project Management exams have been sat. During that time, more than 9,600 Foundation level exams were sat and more than 6,500 Practitioner exams. Global pass rates in 2013 for the Foundation exam were 99.7% and 98.2% for Practitioner. As more and more professionals learn about the new qualifications scheme, these numbers are set to rise.

Who should take the Agile Project Management certification?

The Agile Project Management qualifications are aimed at professionals who are 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

Traditional project management approaches assume that requirements are well known at the start. These 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.

Often, such traditional project management methods are 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.

Traditional project management methods such as PRINCE2 can be applied sensibly or stupidly, depending upon the practitioners involved. In fact, one of the principles of PRINCE2 is that it must be tailored to suit the needs of the project. This therefore implies that if a project requires reams of documentation in the process of planning and controlling, perhaps for regulatory reasons, then this should be produced.

Conversely, if the documentation needs are not so high, the resulting documentation should be much lower. In other words, PRINCE2 only recommends doing as much as is required to deliver the products agreed with the users.

Agile handles changing requirements through iterative product releases

Agile approaches, which developed out of the software industry, recognize that users often don’t know their requirements at the start of projects and will inevitably change during the course of the project. Whilst changing requirements can often be seen as problematic in more traditional project management approaches, Agile approaches embrace these inevitable changes in requirements and have been designed to easily manage rapidly changing 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.

For professionals wanting to move into Agile project management as a career, or practising Agile project managers who are seeking professional qualifications, Agile Project Management training courses are becoming increasingly popular as the chart above shows.

Agile Project Management certification levels

The Agile Project Management qualifications offered by the APM Group enables accreditation by passing examinations at 2 levels: Foundation level, which is usually sat at the end of a 3 day intensive training course, and Practitioner which is taken on a 4th, additional day.

Agile Project Management examinations

Both examinations are in a multiple choice format 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 Agile PM 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 Agile Project Management 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.

Agile Project Management pre-requisites

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

Summary

Agile Project Management certification, along with the method itself, can be an extremely valuable asset to project managers who want to manage projects in an agile way.

Whilst the number of Agile PM certified people remains far less than the number of PRINCE2 certified practitioners, this is an advantage for those professionals willing to gain their Agile PM certification. Having such a qualification is a sure way to gain one step up from competitors in the jobs market when applying for Agile project manager roles.