Episode 395: How to Pass the PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® Exam
Categories: PMI-ACP Exam
This is another episode where I’m asking: Are you currently studying or thinking about studying for your PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® Exam? Wonderful. That’s what we are going to be talking about.
In this interview you are going to meet Yazmine Darcy (https://www.linkedin.com/in/yazminedarcy). Yazmine is not only one of my students and coworkers, she is also the project manager in charge of developing the sample exam questions that we use in our PMI-ACP Simulator. And so, if you not only want to know how to prepare for your own PMI-ACP Exam but also want to hear about all the work that goes into creating one of the training tools you could be using, then you have come to the right place.
As you know, the rules of all Project Management Institute (PMI)® exams are such that we are not allowed to discuss specific questions from the exam. But we can discuss her overall experience, general thoughts on the process and her recommendations to you. So you can look forward to an experience and tip filled interview on how to prepare for and pass your PMI-ACP Exam.
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 go for the PMP 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 is based on PMI’s 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!!!
Preparing for the PMI-ACP exam is a project in itself. So, why not wear your agile project manager hat as you tackle the exam? Here are 2 reasons why you should handle it like an awesome project manager that you are.
Reason #1: You are already a pro in creating a project plan.
The material covered by the PMI-ACP Exam is extensive, detailed, and spread throughout many sources of reference material. This is not an examination you can “cram” for in a couple of weekends or simply rely upon your experience in order to pass. The best way to conduct your studies for successfully passing the exam is to treat it like a project and create a project plan.
Like any project, your study plan has project constraints that you will have to manage in order to be successful. First of all, you need to determine your project budget by determining how much you have to spend on training and materials to prepare to sit for the PMI-ACP Exam. Although the best study plan will include a combination of written, audio-visual and live training, this will all be dependent on your budget. Using a combination of a PMI-ACP Exam Prep Study Guide and a series of podcasts, such as the Agile PrepCast can be just as effective as attending a live class.
The second consideration for your study plan is your schedule and time constraints. If you are currently working full time then you may only have an hour or two per day that you can use to study, so your study/project plan schedule may encompass a few months. On the other hand, if you are working part time or are ‘in transition’ then you may have up to 40 hours a week to dedicate to your studies, which will shorten your study schedule. The important thing to remember in terms of your study schedule is to be realistic with the time you ‘actually’ have available so that you do not sabotage your chances for success.
Although we have only touched on two of the six project constraints in this tip, you should also consider the other constraints of scope, quality, resources and risk when creating your PMI-ACP exam prep. By treating your study plan as one of the most important projects you will ever execute you will help to ensure a successful end to your PMI-ACP certification journey.
Wondering how The Agile PrepCast can help you prepare for the PMI-ACP exam? Watch this free Agile PrepCast lesson. In this free Agile PrepCast lesson, we review The Declaration of Interdependence. The Declaration of Interdependence was published in 2005 by a group of Agile practitioners to help implement guidelines set forth in the Agile Manifesto. It contains six principles essential to "management' in general, not just to "project' or "product' management, and outlines leadership methods used to manage the interdependency of people, processes and value in order to perform work.
Reason #2: You can take the agile approach as you study for the PMI-ACP exam
Although Agile is a relatively new project management framework (compared to Traditional/Waterfall project management), there are countless resources available to help you study for the PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP) certification. As a result, you could potentially spend weeks or even months reading different materials to study for the PMI-ACP Exam. You might find, however, that all you are likely doing is duplicating your efforts - simply reading the same information over and over and, to some extent, wasting your time.
So why doesn’t PMI offer a Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) to help you study for the PMI-ACP certification…a body of Agile-related knowledge from which all the questions on the exam are drawn? Well, one of the most appealing aspects of Agile is that there isn’t a single methodology that ‘IS’ Agile; Agile is a dynamic and evolving framework.
So how do you hone in on the best resources and make the most of your study time? PMI has provided a list of reference materials that will provide you with all of the knowledge necessary to pass the PMI-ACP Exam. However, no one wants to read all 3,888 pages of the 11 reference books on which the PMI-ACP Exam is based. So we recommend that you take an agile approach by researching different materials that are available as “all-in-one” study resources to pass the PMI-ACP Exam, select one or two of them and stick with them for use during your studies. Most resources will include everything you need to know — you don’t need to read the same information over and over. After you’ve selected several resources, focus your efforts on mastering the Agile Manifesto and sharpening your Agile experience. Armed with a deep knowledge of Agile principles and core values, as well as your Agile experience, you’re sure to be successful at becoming PMI-ACP certified.
Things to remember for your PMI-ACP Exam
Get the most powerful tools available to you for free for the PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® Exam. This is the use of the “Brain Dump Sheet” both as a study aid and also to use on the day of the exam.