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ACP Agile Management: Life After Earning Your PMP Certification

ACP Agile Management ACP Exam Prep Agile Project Management 9 min read

So, you successfully earned your PMP certification—congratulations!

Or maybe you are trying to determine whether you would benefit more from earning your PMP certification or ACP agile management certification.

Both PMP and ACP certification programs are incredibly valuable in the world of project management today. However, if you already work in an agile environment, then the ACP agile management certification program might be the best move for your project management career.

If you are considering entering a project management role that involves managing technical projects, software or application development projects, or managing IT teams, then you will likely benefit from earning your ACP certification.

In this article, we will provide you with some in-depth information about some key differences between traditional project management and agile project management; the ACP agile management program as a whole; and how you can benefit from this type of program.

The Birth of Agile Project Management

If you have experienced even the slightest taste project management, then you probably have at least heard of agile project management.

Agile project management (APM) is more than a buzzword; it has changed the face of project management, particularly regarding software development, app development, and IT projects. And as our use and demand for technology increases, this ultimately increases the demand for professionals with agile knowledge and experience.

With that being said, many professionals mistake APM for being a methodology. APM is really a project management philosophy that is made up with a handful of agile methodologies. We will get into this in a bit more detail later in this article.

Although it seems like APM has only been around in the last decade, believe it or not, APM methods were utilized dating as far back as 1957. However, APM wasn’t discussed in depth or as becoming an official form of project management until the 1970s.

Finally, in 2001, a group of software developers published the Agile Manifesto, which was a "formal proclamation of four key values and 12 principles to guide an iterative and people-centric approach to software development.”

What is APM?

Agile project management is an iterative approach to planning and guiding project processes. These processes within a project are completed in single development cycles. These cycles are known as “iterations”, or small sections, also commonly referred to as “sprints”. Typically “sprints” last between two weeks and up to 30 days, depending on the organization and the project.

The overarching goal of APM is continuous improvement. In fact, the agile philosophy and methodologies can greatly increase the likelihood of project success. In fact, according to the 2015 Pulse of the Profession® report published by the PMI, 75 percent more organizations that become highly agile and responsive to market changes and dynamics complete more of their projects successfully than their slower-moving counterparts (56 percent).

The Many “Faces” of APM

Understanding APM also means understanding the different types of micro-methodologies that make up the larger philosophy.

For example, APM is made up of several methodologies, which include the following:

  • Lean
  • Scrum
  • Kanban
  • Scaled Agile (or also SAFe)

These methodologies allow project teams to collaborate effectively as a team and even within cross-functional teams. The primary benefits of APM are enhancing flexibility, response, collaboration, and problem-solving.

How Does APM Work?

Upon completion of the “sprint” period, each task or iteration is then reviewed and critiqued by the project team. The project team can involve a group of software developers, IT specialists, and various stakeholders. The insights gathered and collected after completing each iteration or “sprint” can help determine the next step in the project.

This is also known as the sprint retrospective. The goal of this period is to determine what worked, what didn’t, how the team can learn from the sprint session, and what they can do better during the upcoming sprint.

Agile Tools and Leadership

Some key agile tools used to help manage iterations or sprints include the following:

  • Regular stand-up meetings to help enhance team collaboration
  • Often supported by visual workflows
  • Prioritized task backlogs
  • Shorter work cycles
  • Retrospectives

Many professional project managers and certified ACP practitioners think of APM as adopting a “servant”-like leadership role in order to effectively enhance team collaboration, productivity, and also building a sense of community. This type of leadership typically involves providing service and helping others while also sharing power in decision-making processes.

Agile project management leaders also effectively practice active listening, empathy, and build commitment among project team members.

As a result, many organizations have adopted APM methodologies, and have become widely used and practiced across many organizations today. Due to the demand for professionals with agile methodology knowledge and experienced, there are now a number of certification programs designed to help professionals expand their knowledge and experience with APM.

What Do You Need to Run a Sprint?

No, managers you don't actually have to run!

Agile project management only sounds complicated. Many professional project managers are often overwhelmed by it. However, this is because most struggle with wrapping their minds around the philosophy and gauging how APM is really supposed to work.

The good news is that APM and running sprints work best when you are trying to solve a complex problem, or if you are unsure of where to start.

Furthermore, APM doesn’t really require many tools; it just requires a different “prototype” mindset and management approach.

Here is what you need to do to run a sprint successfully:

  1. Assemble the project or sprint team
  2. Choose a challenge or target
  3. Map out the problem
  4. Get the project team to agree on an initial target
  5. Make sketches and brainstorm possible solutions
  6. Use voting and appoint on an official “Decider” to help make decisions
  7. Test your prototype

As far as actual physical tools, all you need is a whiteboard, dry erase markers, a handful of sticky notes, and conference room.

What Are the Benefits of APM?

APM encourages a level of design thinking, solving complex and unique problems and challenges, and focusing on continuous improvement. Therefore, the development of APM and incorporation of “sprints” has been adopted by many organizations today.

Because of the short iterations or sprints, many are under the false impression that APM is really best for shorter, cyclical projects. However, the truth is that APM can work for both short and long-term projects.

As Author of the New York Times bestseller SPRINT: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days, Jake Knapp claims, “the bigger the challenge, the better the sprint.”

Here are some key benefits to APM:

  • Focuses on solving problems
  • Addresses big challenges
  • Encourages design thinking
  • Encourages team collaboration
  • Motivates project team members
  • Increases productivity
  • Focuses on continuous improvement
  • Increases visualization (prioritized tasks and project status)
  • Boosts project speed

All in all, any challenge can benefit from APM.

Traditional Project Management vs. ACP Agile Management

If you are an aspiring project manager or an experienced project manager, you might wonder what the difference is between traditional project management and APM. Is there really a difference? The answer is yes.

Experienced project managers and certified PMPs think of the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) guide by the Project Management Institute (PMI) when they think of traditional project management.

For new and aspiring project managers, the PMBOK guide is full of traditional project management standards, methodologies, and techniques, most of which were established in the 1960s. The majority of these methodologies and techniques, such as the Critical Path and Critical Chain methodologies, were established to help manage government projects and military operations.

These methodologies are still widely used today. In fact, there are many businesses and industries that benefit most from traditional project management, such as architecture and construction projects, government projects, or engineering projects.

However, it’s no secret that project management has changed a lot since the 1960s. And because the traditional PMBOK Guide isn’t agile based, the PMI had to develop a new program that supports APM principles in order to keep up with the continuous evolution of project management.

Strategic Agility and APM: What is the Difference?

As we mentioned briefly above, APM is often associated with managing software and application development projects, building or developing website projects, or various IT projects. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that APM is only for these types of projects. APM can also help organizations with their strategic planning and design.

For project managers who are experienced with more strategic thinking than the level of design thinking often associated with APM, what is the difference between strategic agility and APM?

Here are the key differences between the two:

Strategic agility. Aims to bring more flexibility or agility to an organization in order to position it to better respond to market changes (opportunities and threats). This level of strategic agility involves the design, creation, and implementation of organizational structures and processes that position an organization to better respond to those market changes.

APM agility. Agile management is more focused on engaging customers and stakeholders through an iterative design process. In regards to the organization as a whole, APM focuses on driving the value proposition of products and services and delivering on that value.

In short, the key differences between the two are that strategic agility focuses on the strategic alignment of the organization with the market, increasing the organization’s agility to adapt to market changes. APM focuses on customer and stakeholder engagement through products and services.

What is ACP Agile Management?

Now that you have a better understanding of APM as a whole, what is ACP Agile Management? As we mentioned briefly above, ACP Agile Management is an additional certification program developed by the PMI.

The PMI-ACP certification is a great next step for project managers who have already earned the Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification. The PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® is designed to help professional project managers develop agile principles, skills, and knowledge of various agile techniques.

These techniques extend to the following:

  • Scrum
  • Kanban
  • Lean
  • Extreme Programming (XP)
  • Test-driven Development (TDD)

The PMI-ACP® is growing to become an incredibly popular certification program. The ACP Agile Management Certification program helps professional project managers increase their collaboration skills, embrace complex problems and projects with confidence, and increase versatility.

What Will I Learn From the ACP Agile Management Course?

In addition to various PMP Certification resources and exam prep courses, Project Vanguards also offers an ACP Agile Management exam preparation course. This course covers all the key areas of required study for the ACP certification exam. You will also learn real-world applications of the various agile approaches and methodologies, all of which are incredibly crucial to the future of project management.

In this course, you will gain the necessary knowledge of agile principles, practices, and tools used throughout various agile methodologies. You will also learn how to apply various agile methodologies to help decrease product defects. It will also teach you ways to improve team productivity, deliver business value, and increase overall project success.

How Earning Your ACP Certification Prepares You for the Future of Project Management

Earning your ACP Certification can significantly impact your project management career. It gives you a prime competitive edge over your peers and colleagues in today’s organizations and job market.

Due to its popularity and high demand, an ACP Certification and the knowledge of agile methods aren’t going away anytime soon. If anything, it will prepare you for the future of project management.

All in all, APM is incredibly important for the future of project management. So, if you are thinking about a career in project management, or how to accelerate your current project management career, earning your official ACP certification is a great place to start.

Your ACP certification will also make you shine even brighter to your employers, clients and stakeholders, and peers. It will also help you expand your knowledge and increase your versatility—wherever your projects or your career may take you.

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