PMI Agile Certification

PMI regularly surveys project practitioners to identify trends in the practice and needs related to project management. One of the practices that PMI has monitored over the last several years is the continuing growth and usage of Agile practices in project management. Since Agile is a topic of growing importance in project management many project professionals are eager to gain Agile techniques to apply on the job. Similarly, organizations that utilize project management to serve both internal and external clients are seeing value in Agile methods to deliver projects for these clients more quickly.

Because of these changes in the project management environment, PMI is developing an Agile certification. This certification will complement the existing PMI offerings in Agile, such as our Agile Community of Practice, SeminarsWorld and eSeminarsWorld classes, and Global Congress area of focus sessions.

My entire focus over the last decade has been responsibly connecting Agile and Project Management to help organizations deliver technology that makes a different to the business. I am passionate about where PMI is going with this. Over the past year or so, I have invested significant time and travel in the groups that are helping connect Agile and the PMI community.  These efforts include:

Agile Certification Overview

I have talked about why I value certification and what certification means previously. I am an advocate of communities generating shared language and exploring how to do what they do better. And I believe that a certificate that exposes a basic understanding with that community is valuable. There is a HUGE gap in understanding between the traditional Project Management practitioner and project management based on an Agile foundation.

PMI’s Agile Certification builds on six key competency areas. Here are the six key areas and a conceptual view of how they may contrast with traditional thinking. Pragmatically, these all exist on a continuum. The key is that most organizations lean toward the traditional side of the equation and that most Project Management implementation put up barriers to delivering projects with practices that lean toward the Agile end of the continuum.

1. Value Driven Delivery

Agile: Deliver value by understanding and prioritizing what is important to the customer and the business, continually refining the smallest and simplest thing that might possible work, delivering quality results incrementally, and obtaining feedback to improve the result.

Traditional: Define the project up front. Use robust change management to protect against / prevent change.

2. Stakeholder Engagement

Agile: Establish and maintain mechanisms that ensure that all current and future interested parties are appropriately participating throughout the lifecycle of the project.

Traditional: Throw projects over the wall across Analysis, Design, Development, QA, and Production. Engage end-users at the end. Leave significant strategic decisions to the interpretation of the development organization while the project is in the black-box of development.

3. Boost Team Performance

Agile: Boost team performance through creating an environment of trust, learning, collaborative decision making, commitment and conflict resolution, thereby enhancing relationships amongst individual team members.

Traditional: Focus on resource optimization. Form teams around projects. Share resources across multiple projects simultaneously. Take power away so people just do what they are told according to the standards. Put all decision making into the hands of few key managers.

4. Adaptive Planning

Agile: Work with the team and the stakeholders to produce and maintain an evolving plan from initiation to close based on goals, business values, risks, constraints, and stakeholder feedback.

Traditional: Plan the work and work the plan. Stick to the Gantt Chart.

5. Problem Detection and Resolution

Agile: The team identifies problems, impediments, and risks; determines strategies for dealing with them; and executes the strategy.

Traditional: Management identifies problems, impediments, and risks; determines strategies for dealing with them; and executes the strategy.

6. Continuous Improvement

Agile: Improve the quality, effectiveness, and flexibility of the product, process and team and influence the organization in order to better deliver value now and in the future.

Traditional: Perform lessons learned at the end of the project. Use those to update organizational processes and standards.


If you are a traditional and experienced project manager you may not agree with the dichotomy between Agile and Traditional that I presented above. This is either because you view the Agile approach as irresponsible or because you believe you apply Agile in situation specific ways without having to call it Agile. In theory, I agree. In practice I see way more traditional project management than agile project management. Right now, most organizations don’t even have language or feel it is safe to discuss how Agile fits in.

Having open and responsible discussion around the concepts of value drive delivery, stakeholder engagement, boosting team performance, adaptive planning, and continuous improvement can do nothing but help organizations improve performance.  I don’t believe PMI has gotten it perfect in this effort. They have made great progress toward establishing language around the important conversations and have expressed a desire to evolve this body of knowledge rapidly. Creating the Agile Certificate will create safety for organizations to explore the Agile options responsibly.  I am excited about the where the Agile Certification today and where it is heading in the future. But, within five years – I hope that these Agile concepts aren’t controversial. I hope they just become part of the generally accepted way of delivering projects.

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7 Responses to “PMI Agile Certification”

  1. Tweets that mention Dennis Stevens » Blog Archive » PMI Agile Certification -- says on :

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mike Cottmeyer, Dave Garrett. Dave Garrett said: DStevens: #pmot PMI Agile Certification [...]

  2. Joel Bancroft-Connors says on :


    Thank you for the excellent review. The ordered, project manager, side of my brain can see the value of this and how it will create a common language for project managers.

    The former art student part of my brain can see why folks like Tobias Mayer feel this is trying to put a straight jacket on development flexibility.

    I just hope those of us that have been straddling the traditional and agile worlds can make the former happen without the latter becoming true.

    Joel BC

  3. Dennis Stevens says on :


    Thanks for your comment. I would like to explore the idea that this is trying to put a straight jacket on development flexibility. Can you share any underlying assumptions or context that could explain how this certification can reduce flexibility?


  4. Louis-Philippe Carignan says on :

    Good article. I couldn’t find a link tough to the six key competency covered by the PMI Agile certification. Would it be possible to post a link about where this information is from?

    Based on the info on, I couldn’t understand how the process works? Do I have to submit an application paper to prove my eligibility, get accepted based on this form and pass the exam? It wasn’t crystal clear.

  5. Craig Brown says on :

    Dennis, I’ve reflected on this since the day you posted and here is where I got to; Certifications are a barrier to true long term improvement.

    They’re fine in the short term as they get people to study the test, but just like a fad diet, once the test is passed people stop learning. There is no more reason, right? They have the cert.

    Look at education models as a model for what we should be doing in management. Grades aren’t the answer. Fertile learning environments are.

  6. Satya Mukhopadhyay says on :

    Over the past few years ‘Agile’ way of work made inroads to many organizations. Having a roadmap and showing eagerness to seriously adopt Agile practices against the backdrop of traditional project management is definitely a first step to embrace ‘Agile’ process. Thanks Dennis – for sharing your views on how Agile compares against some key areas of Traditional Project Management.

  7. David Pederson says on :


    Thanks for putting this out there. Now can I ask you to expand and incorporate?

    The thing I love most about Agile is that it brings the user, my client, and the team deep into the project so that as it evolves so does my support network, and conversely, when things are going south we are all on the same plane deciding when to parachute together.

    Realistically, successful iteration is a gift that is hard to receive but profound when accepted and I am glad it is pushing traditional project management to adapt. Personally, I could never go back.

    I am also a big fan of the other parts that help agile become so elegant like Kanban. I don’t think practitioners can truly get enough to turn project management into a Shibumi experience unless people like you proliferate their knowledge.

    So, please continue into the deep waters and write about what you find.


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