An interesting question that some of my students have been asking lately is whether they should spend time studying for the Project Management Professional (PMP)® Exam or concentrate on studying for the PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® Exam. In response to this question I give one of my favorite answers as an instructor – “Well…. it depends!” You might as well ask me "Should I get a Master’s Degree in Mathematics or Physics?” Or "Should I become a Painter or a Philosopher?"
The answer to this question cannot really come from me, but it has to come from within you and depends largely on your goals, desired career path and preferences. For example, do you want to be managing a 10-Year project for SpaceX to send satellites to Jupiter? Then do your PMP® Exam prep first, because we are talking serious Waterfall-based approaches. Or do you want to be working for a small startup company developing software? Then go for PMI-ACP® because you need Agility. So the answer isn't "what Cornelius says", but instead "what you want and what you need". To help you determine which is a better fit for you, let’s delve into the benefits of each approach and then you can make your own educated decision.
Waterfall or Agile? – Projects and Career Path
In order to determine which certification is more important for you to obtain as a project manager really starts with the question of what type of career you are seeking in the project management field. Just like many organizations need to decide if Waterfall or Agile Project Management is the right choice for any specific project, so it is also true that an aspiring or current project managers need to decide which type of project management training and experience will help them successfully continue their project management career well into the future. The PMP exam is largely based on A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide), which outlines mainly a Waterfall Project Management best practice approach to successfully executing projects, while the PMI-ACP (as well as other Agile Project Management certifications) are based on an Agile Project Management best practice approach.
Waterfall Project Management Overview
Waterfall (sometimes referred as ‘Traditional’) Project Management involves an in-depth upfront planning process and follows a linear, pre-determined project schedule over a specified period of time. Waterfall projects are typically predictable, have a definitive end date, and have explicit procedures of how projects are initiated, planned, executed, monitored and controlled, and closed (Deming's Plan-Do-Check-Act Cycle). The advantages of using the Waterfall method to manage projects is having clear expectations and meeting those expectations by achieving certain milestones. Waterfall originated in the Manufacturing industry as a result of understanding that changes in scope mid-project were usually very costly. Generally companies use Waterfall on their projects when:
Agile Project Management Overview
Agile Project Management is an iterative approach that helps project teams deliver the highest value work possible to the customer within a rapidly changing environment. The essential aim of Agile is to be flexible and be able to adapt to changes rather than being forced to execute against a pre-defined plan that may become obsolete as the project progresses. There is usually no definitive end date because the customer may decide at any point in the project that the functionality already delivered is sufficient for their needs. And Agile also uses Deming's Plan-Do-Check-Act Cycle. The only difference is that product components are delivered to the customer every 2-4 weeks rather than only at the end of the project, so that they can provide feedback to ensure the project team is headed in the right direction. Agile originated in the Software Development and Mobile Application industries to help companies be first to market with new and innovative products, giving them a competitive advantage. Generally companies use Agile on their projects when:
The Future of Waterfall and Agile Project Management
So you may be wondering what the future of both Waterfall and Agile Project Management is and what types of opportunities will be available to you as a project manager. Well I firmly believe that Waterfall will never truly go away since some of the basic principles are also used in Agile, such as decomposition, rolling wave planning, continuous improvement and process tailoring, to name a few. Aerospace, Medical Device and Government Contracting will still be alive and well for many years to come, although they are now embracing a ‘Hybrid’ Project Management approach, which allows companies to tailor their processes to a combination of the best practices of both Waterfall and Agile. However, it will be important to have your PMP certification in order to understand the basics of how these mainly traditional companies have been operating in the past.
Waterfall or Agile? – What’s Right for You?
If you decide that Agile is the career path for you then there are a few different ways you can go. The first would be once again to gain a good foundation in Waterfall by obtaining your PMP certification but also getting your PMI-ACP Certification soon after, which will provide you an overview of Agile principles, best practices and different Agile methods. This will give you a solid background in both Waterfall and Agile Project Management methodologies that will position you nicely for the new ‘Hybrid’ approach that many companies are embracing. You can also choose to go with an organization that is new to Agile and become a champion or driving force for change across the company using Agile. And lastly, if you really want to be ‘extreme’, you can choose to seek out companies that are cutting-edge and use advanced Agile methods such as Lean Software Development, Kanban and Extreme Programming, which will require more extensive and specialized certification training outside the realm of the PMI-ACP certification.
Waterfall or Agile? – How About Both?
In my own experience I have seen that many aspiring or current project managers decide to obtain their PMP first since it is the most globally-recognized Project Management certification and is still the methodology used on the majority of projects being executed, and then obtain their PMI-ACP certification in addition to their PMP. I believe this is a good way to go because once you understand the basics of general project management by obtaining your PMP, you may start to work on a few Agile projects with your company and decide it’s a better fit for you. And bear in mind again that the majority of contemporary projects are no longer strictly ‘Waterfall-Only’ or ‘Agile-Only’. More traditional companies in the Aerospace, Medical Device and Government Contracting industries are now embracing a ‘Hybrid’ Project Management approach, which allows them to tailor their processes to a combination of the best practices of both Waterfall and Agile.
So… once again… when you ask me the question ”Should I become PMP Certified or PMI-ACP Certified?”, in the end… it depends! And it really depends on you!!!
Test your PMP knowledge right now with this 8th Set of 15 free PMP Exam sample questions in an online exam:
Don't let this chance pass by. Practice always makes perfect!
While I hope it doesn’t happen to you, some people fail the PMP exam 3 times. If you do find yourself in that situation, you will have to wait a year from the date of your last exam before you will be able to apply for your PMP certification again.
1: You lack understanding of the PMP exam concepts
Perhaps the reason for failing the exam 3 times is simply that you don’t understand the concepts in A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, (PMBOK® Guide) - Fifth Edition or they did not sink in properly. While you may have studied everything several times, for some reason you simply haven’t been able to get them to make sense in a way that allows you to apply the concepts and pass the exam.
2: You struggle with standardized exams
Many students know the material, have the experience and have prepared well, but then they simply "freeze up" during a standardized test. They find the pressure too intense and can’t perform with that amount of stress.
3: English may not be your first language
My own mother tongue is German and I must admit that when I took the exam I had difficulty understanding and clearly distinguishing between the various PMI terms and concepts that were so new to me.
4: You can’t handle the exam room distractions
The exam rooms are not only used for PMP exams, so people will be coming in and out and there could be other distractions. The most severe case of this that I know of is a student who reported that a maid came into the exam room and cleaned her screen while she was taking the exam - she failed her test. Of course this is rare! But you should be ready for any sort of distraction during the exam and able to recover from it quickly (or ignore it completely).
5: You didn’t take any practice exams
Unfortunately some of my students didn’t listen to my advice and attempted to take the PMP exam several times without logging on to a PMP exam simulator and practicing at home. Practice exams really will help you perform better during the real thing.
6: You’ve lost confidence
After failing the exam several times it’s not unusual for someone to lose confidence in their ability to pass. I see this often: students just don't believe in themselves any longer.
This week's featured lessons learned comes to us courtesy of Sachin Vehale.
In this lessons learned Sachin shared with us his experiences and preparations for the PMP exam.
The following PMP® exam sample question is taken from the Free PMP Exam Simulator (The answer is at the very bottom):
You are managing a construction project. You have just finished defining your activities and you are now estimating their durations. Obtaining government permits is one of the project activities that is critical to the success of your project. You obtain expert opinion regarding time requirements for this activity, and you have determined that the duration will most likely be 15 days. It would be very optimistic to expect to obtain the permits in 10 days. In addition, taking the current environmental factors into consideration, it may take up to 30 days to obtain the permits. What estimate should you use for this activity if you want to put more weight on the most likely duration with a further 10 percent contingency reserve? (Round to the nearest day.)
A) 17 Days
Use the PERT formula to determine your initial estimate.
Answer and Explanation:
The Correct Answer is B. As you want to put more weight on the most likely estimate, you should use the PERT formula for your initial estimate rather than taking a simple average of the three values. Your PERT estimate will be (10 + 4*15 + 30) / 6 = 16.67 days. Adding a 10 percent contingency reserve to it will give 16.67*1.1 = 18.33 days. Rounding your estimate to the nearest day will give 18 days.
* All our questions are updated to the latest PMBOK® Guide standard. Stop by at http://free.pm-exam-simulator.com and try the PMP Exam Simulator free for 3 days. We also offer 110 free questions at http://www.free-pm-exam-questions.com. We are a PMI Registered Education Provider.