Saturday, December 17, 2011

PMP® or PMI-ACP® (Agile) ?

There's really no question in my mind - both. Which first? Doesn't matter, but I lean towards the PMP® as you probably want a job now, not 5 years from now. A recent Gartner report cites that about 1/3 of shops are using some form of Agile method, so it is gaining in use, and it will be a set of tools you will want in your kit. What has not happened yet is wide adoption outside software development. In that area, the Traditional Project Management (TPM) methodology still rules.

When it comes to qualification credentials for the exam, the ACP is lower (understandable given its less widespread use) but it's still not "light". You need 2000 hours of PM experience PLUS 1500 hours experience with Agile methods (non-specific, which is good). Total = 3500 hours. So if you're not already a PMP, you're looking at a couple years work to add up the hours. If you are a PMP, the 2000 hours PM experience are satisfied.

It's surprising, but Project Management is just recently starting to mature into a recognized profession by the masses. PM has been around for a long time, but when you reflect on the past 30-40 years, it's really only in the past 10 or so that you could tell your Mom you're a PM and she didn't go "What's that?" Agile still gets the question though (even from other PM's). Within "our little world" though, Agile is going to make some serious inroads I think pretty quickly. The idea of a 6 month project (of any type) being burdened with 3 months of PMO process on top (I just did a project like that) isn't going to last - it's just plain too inefficient. Having those Agile skills already at your disposal is going to put you ahead of the curve.

In practice though (initially), Agile is probably harder than TPM. It requires much more discipline and engagement from everyone. There are multiple methods and the method used on one project may not be exactly the same as on the next project of the same type. It's more important in Agile to keep a Team together, not throw them around from project to project willy-nilly.

The more you know and understand about all the "flavors" of Agile, the better you'll be at it. It is going to be a major paradigm shift for just about every company, and helping them transition is going to be part of your job. They (everyone!) have been trained for more than half a century in some form of TPM. Agile is a whole new way of thinking. Embrace change! Constant, consistent engagement of the customer with all the team members! Whew - that's a lot of emotional change for a manager trained in the '80's or '90's. They're going to need your help (and it's on the exam too).

Who in the world thought Project Management was easy?

“PMI”, “PMP”, “PMBOK Guide” are registered marks of the Project Management Institute

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

What you need to understand about the PMP® Certification

The PMP® certification is a Professional Certification.  Don't think of it lightly.  It's one of the toughest exams I've taken, and I have dozens of certifications, licenses, and 4 degrees.  The key mindset to get is that the PMP exam is just that - an examination.  It's not a test.  You can't "memorize" your way to a PMP certification as you can just about any technology oriented certification.  Oracle, Microsoft, Cisco -- read the book, memorize some facts, take the test - shazam!  The closest tech cert I can think of is the CCIE from Cisco, which, if you talk to some techies about it, they have a great deal of respect for.  It is not easy or inexpensive to achieve.  Experience counts, must be demonstrated, and is a mandatory requirement to even applying for the certification. 

Experienced PM's, that is roughly 10 years experience in at least several different companies and disciplines, can usually get by with about 60-70 hours total study time (that includes the 40 odd hours of the exam prep course and it's reading assignments).  Yep, even with all that experience, you can expect to spend 20-30 hours additional study after class - maybe more.  It's not that the PMP exam is "hard" - it is very broad in it's scope.  There is the basic PM framework you need to memorize (there is some memorization for sure) - and then there is the practical understanding of how to execute the PM framework that you can only really understand if you've done it.  Add to that HR, Procurement, Risk Management, team building, decision making, motivation theory, communications, finance, - there are a total of 9 Knowledge areas (domains) of expertise required, some of which have sub-domains of expertise like Earned Value Management in Finance.  Hint - they are not all covered in the PMBOK® Guide, some not even mentioned!  You see, the PMP exam is not based ONLY on the PMBOK Guide.  One other source of information for the exam, hence required reading, is the PMP Handbook you can get for free at the site.  In addition to all the info about the exam, it talks at the high level about what the exam covers.  While you are there, get a copy of the PMP Exam Content Outline.  This guide provides greater detail on what the exam covers.

“PMI”, “PMP”, “PMBOK Guide” are registered marks of the Project Management Institute

Live Classroom or Online - Which do you choose?

Online classes can save you some money – always nice.  There are courses out there for as little at $350 that you can take online, on-demand, and earn the 35 contact hour requirement for the PMP® application.  

The question you have to ask yourself is – how do I learn?  How well do I know myself?  When you opt for online learning, there is no instructor to ask questions of.  Many providers today do provide at least the option to email a question, though the turnaround is slow.  Live online instruction is a little better, though - do be patient as the instructor needs to identify you, as raising your hand for example, and because you have no visual queues, you need to have the self-confidence and assurance that you will be seen – eventually.  Unfortunately, far too many people don’t know how to use conference bridges and they leave their microphones open, and you hear all the background distractions which prompts the leader to mute all microphones, etc. etc.  Coordinating and teaching an online class is more complex that you might think.

The big piece missing from online or distance training, live or otherwise, is the instructor being able to gaze around the room, notice the glassy look in your eyes, recognize you’re lost (or need a bio break), and then prompt YOU with a question.  Another missing component is Class exercises and queries by other students.  How do you know to ask the question you don't know?  For that reason alone, we do not do any form of online training - yet.  When telepresence has become ubiquitous, we will be right there.  Until then, we want that face-to-face interaction that can fill voids of knowledge.  By the way – it is no accident that the Agile Manifesto lists as a core value face-to-face interaction.  If it is key to the success of a project, how much less can it be a key to success in learning project management?

The decision is of course yours, but do think about it from many avenues before you decide.  It is a bit of an inconvenience to go to a class, but it will typically get you the best bang for the buck.  PLUS, you have the opportunity to make contacts.  SHOP AROUND.  There are online classes that cost more than classroom courses, and the range I’ve seen for classroom PMP exam prep courses is $750-$3,275!  ALL PMP exam prep classes are teaching you the same thing – the PMBOK Guide®.  There is more to the exam than “just” the PMBOK Guide®, but can one course be worth $2,500 more (a healthy down payment on a car BTW) than another?  I guess is possible, but I think it’s highly unlikely.