Monday, September 19, 2011

PMI Agile Certification: Filling a Gap in Industry (PMI Article: ManageIndia Volume 3 Issue 3)

PMI Agile Certification: Filling a Gap in Industry
The certification comes at a time when agile practices are gaining ground across India
Keep it flexible, keep it agile. Increasingly, organizations are realizing the need to keep their development processes open to change. If the market conditions are dynamic, shouldn’t the product development environment reflect the changing forces at work? With organizations adopting agile practices to align their development environment to changing market needs, the requirement for project managers trained in agile practices is going up. The new PMI agile-Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)SMaddresses this requirement from industry.

Recent PMI research on the growing adoption of agile showed that 68 percent of organizations using agile practices would find value in an agile certification for their practitioners. The research also revealed that 63 percent of hiring managers would encourage their project managers to pursue an agile certification. The PMI-ACPSM validates a practitioner’s ability to understand and apply agile principles and practices on basic projects. Of particular value to managers, the PMI-ACPSM program is one that encompasses the broad range of agile practices and techniques, rather than methodology specific programs currently available in the industry.

A research report published by Forrester in May 2010 showed that agile is becoming mainstream. A total of 35 percent of surveyed organizations described their primary development method as agile. Moreover, 11 percent said Scrum was the most popular agile development approach. In another survey, Forrester examined the level of agile adoption and found that 39 percent of the surveyed organizations considered their implementation mature.

The need for agile practices and techniques
In India, agile is finding appeal across industries. In software development, it is increasingly becoming the main project management approach. Mr. Jesse Fewell, PMP, CST, founder, PMI Agile Community of Practice and managing director, RippleRock India says, “Today’s market is extremely impatient. Business owners want elements of their projects delivered as soon as possible. Iterative delivery adds value sooner.”

Mr. Rahul Sudame, PMP, CSP, CSM, corporate relations director, PMI Pune-Deccan India Chapter, and senior project manager, Calsoft Pvt. Ltd., says the momentum toward agile is picking up because of the changing business scenario. “The traditional way of signing off the requirements document with the customers and then implementing only those frozen requirements is not the most practical way. With agile methodologies, the customer or product manager in case of product-based organizations can modify the requirements when needed, yet keep to the release schedule,” he explains. This approach works best if the customer or the product manager is an integral part of the process and there is organizational buy-in for agile.

Mr. Hiren Doshi, PMP, CSM, CSP, founder, PracticeAgile, finds that the adoption of agile is no longer limited to software development and companies into infrastructure projects and IT services are also seeing the benefits of implementing agile. “Agile incorporates customer feedback as the project progresses and aims at customer satisfaction by delivering working functionality with business value early and frequently. Agile does not solve the problems faced with the traditional development model; it exposes the risks and impediments early in the development so that corrective action can be taken on time,” he says.

Agile works best for projects in which the customer is not sure of what to expect or where the requirements change frequently. Agile has been successfully used by many organizations for more than a decade. “Agile might not be appropriate for projects when a high level of regulation is needed. In such applications, generate all the requirements upfront, do a detailed design and then implement. Agile can work during the implementation phase to monitor and track the progress of the project,” adds Mr. Doshi.

Time for some agile myth-busting
There are several myths around agile, and mostly the myths stem from half-baked knowledge from untrained practitioners or incorrect interpretation of the Agile Manifesto. Some of the common comments are: “We are agile, we don’t have to do any documentation,” “In agile, we don’t need any processes,” “We are agile because we do daily stand-ups,” “We are agile, we can change requirements anytime we like,” or “We are going agile, I am going to lose my management position.” In reality, a project needs processes and tools, documentation, contracts, and a project plan for project success. The key is in the right balance and that comes from identifying the work that is needed to see the project through.

“One myth is that agile means no planning. In truth, by using release planning, iteration planning, and daily standups, agile techniques require a commitment to ongoing real-time re-planning. The key difference is that customer satisfaction is the primary measure of success, rather than performance-to-plan,” says Mr. Fewell. Each project needs a plan, a vision but details of each phase can be firmed up only when the project reaches that phase.

Mr. Sudame finds practitioners sometimes leave predictability out as a non-agile feature that can affect project success. “Agile methodologies provide adaptability and traditional Waterfall provides predictability. One of the myths is to ignore predictability in agile. Organizations need both adaptability and predictability, which makes release and iteration level planning and tracking important even in agile,” he explains.

How will PMI-ACPSM certification help?
The PMI agile certification comes at a time when industry is warming up to agile and is looking for validation of practitioners’ knowledge and expertise in this approach. “The PMI agile certification provides a manager an opportunity to understand the various aspects of implementing agile in the organization and his/her role in it. A certified manager will be able to handle agile projects more effectively and thereby build on the confidence of customers,” says Mr. Sudame.

Mr. Doshi feels the certification will help give structure to the agile body of knowledge. “Over the years, some organizations have embraced agile in its purest form and some have tailored agile to meet their needs. However, there has been no common structured body of knowledge. I’m delighted to see that PMI has put together a structured agile certification program,” he says.

The certification will take the momentum that is building around agile to the next level. “PMI first offered agile programs at SeminarsWorld and Global Congress, then came the PMI Agile Community of Practice, and now PMI-ACPSM. We have professional development programs, a community, and now a certification,” says Mr. Fewell.

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