Inside the PMI’s Agile Certification Examination Content Outline

The PMI has now published the Agile Certification Examination Content Outline, you can download it here. It outlines the “Tools and Techniques” and “Knowledge and Skills” areas that the exam will be broken into. As we have it now, 50% of the examination marks will be awarded for Tools and Techniques and 50% for Knowledge and Skills.

  PMI Agile Certification 1

As part of the Steering Committee it was interesting to take part the discussions around these weightings. As recent as a month ago the split being suggested for the exam weighting was 70% of the exam would be based on Tools and Techniques with just 30% on Knowledge and Skills. We had steering committee members suggest a 60, 40% split the other way, but in the end the 50%, 50% split was selected.

  PMI Agile Certification 1a      PMI Agile Certification 1b

Doubtless people are reading through these categories trying to get a handle on the scope of the exam. My recommendation would be to focus less on these divisions (that overlap anyway) and focus on the domains that underpin them.

As an example we see Knowledge and Skills Level 1 mentions “Building Empowered Teams”,  Level 2 has “Building High Performance Teams”, and the Tools and Techniques section has items for “Communications” including “daily stand-ups”  and “collaboration”. These are obviously all closely related, but listed in separate areas which could be confusing,  but if you adjust your view to focus on the domains, there is a better separation into logical areas.

PMI Agile Certification 2
I am hoping that there will be a reissue of the Examination Content Outline, since the current form needs word-smithing. The text we generated for it was our short hand notes. For instance Domain 1 Task 1 reads:

Define features and project work in terms of end-user and stakeholder value by focusing on maximizing value delivered and minimizing non-value-added activities in order to keep the delivery team focused on maximizing the value developed.” Is quite the mouthful that made sense to us, but could perhaps be restated along the lines of:

Define project features and work items in terms of end-user and stakeholder value, by always looking for and clarifying the business value. Focusing on maximizing value delivered by the project and try to eliminate any non-value-added activities. This keeps the delivery team focused on maximizing the business value and reduces the likelihood of wasteful activities, feature bloat and gold-plating.” While this is longer, hopefully it is in easier to absorb chunks.

Anyway, as the categories evolve and the questions get developed I will keep readers updated here.

PMI Agile Work

San Antonio Riverwalk It has been a busy week for PMI Agile work. Last week I was in San Antonio with the PMI Agile Certification Steering Committee reviewing the latest market research and next steps for the certification launch. Things are also moving forward on the PMBOK v5 Guide with some more agile terms defined and content suggested for Chapter 6.

The PMI recently sent a detailed Agile survey out to a sample of its members and received feedback from >1,300 people. They were looking for feedback on the types of project managers using agile and their adoption of the domains and knowledge areas that comprise the Domains and Knowledge & Skills that will be in the exam.

Nearly 60% of the respondents were from the US with Canada, India, and Brazil being the next most popular. Not surprisingly the biggest industry sector was in IT, with Finance and Consulting being well represented. Most had 2 or more years’ agile experience and had participated in 4 projects or more in a leadership role. 80% held PMP certifications and nearly 30% CSM certifications.

One of the aims of the survey was to ask for rankings of the Techniques, Tools, Knowledge and Skills that will form the body of knowledge  that the exam is based upon. I would love to share these categories here but have been asked not to until after the official release on April 15th. This is understandable, and only fair, but once they are publicized I will have plenty to say about them.

I am sure the 1500 or so PMI Registered Education Providers  (REPs) along the Scrum CST’s who will be offering exam preparation courses will be having a busy Spring and Summer.

Meanwhile on the PMBOK v5 Guide, each of the chapter teams are busy completing the initial chapter re-writes ahead of integration and review. I have been surprised at the rigour and constraints imposed on the writing. Due to the guide being translated into a dozen languages, readability and consistency is key. As, for instance, on our latest effort one PMI reviewer commented that the Microsoft Word 2007 Readability Statistics show a Flesch Reading Ease score of 26.6, which is considered to be "very confusing" and "not easily understood by college graduates". A score between 60 and 70 is largely considered acceptable. So we have rewritten chunks and tried to simplify.

The increased accommodation of agile content is great, not just in my chapter, but I am  hearing  about agile content for the other chapters too. When the call for feedback goes out we will get to see what has been incorporated. I will publicize it here and encourage people to review the new PMBOK v5 Guide for agile content and suggest where more can be added – if appropriate.

That’s the update for now, stay tuned for more on the certification categories after the PMI reveal. Rest assured since we had a great mix of Agile Manifesto authors, PM experts, and pragmatic agilists working on it I don’t think people will be disappointed.

More Details about PMI’s Agile Certification

PMI Agile Certification News The new PMI Agile certification will come on stream in two waves. The first is the pilot program starting in May where participants get the chance to sit the 120 question, multiple choice, 3 hr exam and instead of pressing the dreaded “Submit” button at the end, they will be advised 10-12 weeks later. This long wait is to allow the PMI to score everyone in the pilot and then calibrate the cut-off scores.

For enduring the wait, and I guess being guinea pigs in the process, pilot participants will receive a 20% refund on the exam fee bringing the cost to members of $435 down to $348. To qualify to sit the exam participants must satisfy the following criteria:

• High school or equivalent education
• 2,000 hours general project management experience within the last 5 years (if you already hold a PMP you can forget this since you had to prove that for your PMP)
• 1,500 hours agile project management experience working on agile project teams or in agile methodologies within the last 2 years. These hours are in addition to the 2,000 hours required in general project management experience
• 21 hours agile project management training


The full certification program will be publically available in the third quarter of 2011. To maintain the credential you must earn 30 PDUs every 3 years in agile project management and these hours would also count toward fulfilling PMP requirements.


PMI Unveils Agile Certification Program

PMI-APP The PMI took the wraps off their new PMI Agile Certification program today. If that sounds like an oxymoron then take a closer look. There have been a growing number of agile sessions at PMI conferences over the last 6 years and an entire agile track at the last PMI Global Congress. The PMI reports that 65% of its members are involved in IT projects and Gartner are predicting agile will be used by 80% of software projects by 2012, so the demand is huge. My PMI SeminarsWorld course is popular not because anyone wants to see me, but instead the demand is high for information on how to run agile projects within PMI based organizations.

I have been working with the PMI on the program for about 18 months now, but muffled under NDA contracts so it is nice for it to be out in the open. Doubtless there will be criticism against the whole idea of certification and then again about an agile certification from the PMI. I thought long and hard before agreeing to participate, but then committed enthusiastically. Two things were clear to me.

  1. The PMI had a big elephant in the room. Many IT projects were using agile methods and project managers were offered little guidance from the PMI on how to incorporate such endeavours.
  2. The PMI were committed to providing a knowledge base, training options, and a certification program with or without me. If it was going to happen anyway, I wanted to be on the inside trying to steer it in the right direction rather than on the outside wondering if it might suddenly take a left turn.

Fortunately others felt the same way and the core team of steering committee has a wealth of grass roots agile knowledge. With Agile Manifesto authors and industry experts, we have a great pool of agile knowledge feeding into the design. Plus for some of us it was not the first go round of defining an agile project management certification. Mike Cottmeyer  and myself were engaged on the APLN effort that morphed into the DSDM program and is now quite popular in the UK. The PMI-APP materials, training and certification will provide people with vetted information based on practices found to work in these hybrid environments.

While the routes taken by agile and PMBOK methods can appear very different to the lay person (explore and validate versus plan, plan, plan) both approaches have the same ultimate destination of successful projects and satisfied stakeholders. Tools and techniques that help determine the appropriate level of planning and introduce agile team benefits are vital tools for today’s project manager’s toolbox.

While certifications do not assure competence or capability to manage projects, they are a useful learning tool for people new to the domain. In this role I welcome the certification for the training and awareness it will bring to this important and expanding field.

I am especially pleased by the quality of the agile thought leaders engaged in the design and evolution of the program. By having expert contributors from the agile field, the risk of misapplication by the uninitiated, or rejection by the agile community should be reduced (but not eliminated).

So for me it is not so much about the certification, but hopefully the training materials, studying and increased awareness of successful adoption strategies it should bring. 

What do you think? I would love you hear your thoughts…