Agile is one of many project management methodologies, with certifications that include Agile Foundation and Agile Practitioner. The Foundation certification is the first step, while the Practitioner certification is the second step towards being Agile certified. Let us start by looking at how Agile relates to project management and some of the more traditional approaches project management contains.
Agile Project Management Overview
A traditional Project Manager is seen as someone who is involved in directing work-flow by instructing their team on what needs to be done. A specific, detailed plan for each step of the project is created by the Project Manager. An approach that is associated with traditional project management is known as the waterfall model.
The waterfall model favours projects with clear requirements and the creation of an upfront master plan. It assumes that every requirement of the project can be identified before the project commences. It is an approach where progress is seen flowing steadily downwards through the sequential phases. One phase must be completed before proceeding to the next. Once the testing stage has been reached, it is very difficult, costly and perhaps even impossible to go back and change something that was possibly not well thought-out in a previous stage of the process.
The Agile approach focuses on complex projects with unclear and changing requirements. The project begins with a simplistic design and is then shaped by short development cycles that allow the overall project design to change when the need arises. Agile follows an incremental approach which delivers value to the customer in frequent iterations or ‘sprints’. These iterations lend to customer feedback which often results in products that are relevant and up to date. Unlike the waterfall approach, Agile assesses the project throughout and is considered to be more flexible to change.
Agile Methodology Overview
- Dynamic Systems Development Ltd
- Embraces change
- Cyclical flow
- Empirical Control Method
Agile Project Management (Agile PM) is a registered trademark of Dynamic Systems Development Ltd. It is a project management method that embraces change and focuses on collaboration and interaction. It started with the need to drive innovation in every part of the business as an alternative to traditional project management.
This cyclical flow encourages flexibility and constant feedback. It does this by breaking up the project into increments that are done in iterations or ‘sprints’ which allow for feedback at the end of each sprint or short time frame – usually 2 to 4 weeks. The Agile method is characterised by workers who are organised into small groups and given a short span of time to complete their tasks as opposed to workers in the traditional approach, who are given deadlines that are months apart with little opportunity for constructive feedback during the project.
An example of how Agile can be implemented is seen in software development, where an empirical control method can be used. This method requires observing realities in the project and then making decisions based on what has been observed. It requires:
- Transparency – everyone knows the progress of the project
- Inspection – frequent regulation of the project
- Adaptation – inspection may show the need for change, which allows for quick adaptations
It’s important to note that Agile is not only for the IT field. It can be used in almost every part of the business model, some people even manage to incorporate Agile concepts into their personal lives. Agile is for anyone with a desire for leadership and innovation.
Now that we understand Agile’s place in the field of project management, let us look at the first two steps of becoming Agile certified.
Agile Project Management Training Levels
Agile Foundation and Practitioner Certifications
The Agile Foundation and Agile Practitioner are the first two steps towards becoming Agile certified. The Agile Foundation is the entry-level certification while Agile Practitioner is the subsequent step after gaining your Foundation certificate. While the two courses may be booked as a single unit it is, however, important to note that the Agile Practitioner certification has different requirements than the Foundation certification. If you do not meet the requirements for the Agile Practitioner certification, it is possible to complete it at a later stage.
Agile Foundation Certification (Level 1)
The Agile Foundation is the first level of training in Agile which outlines the core principles that are needed to facilitate a successful project. This course introduces students to the fundamentals of the Agile approach.
1.Who is this for? : It is aimed at Business and IT professionals who have a desire to learn and apply Agile practices. This can include aspiring Project Managers, Project Coordinators or even aspiring Project Planners.
2. Where can I receive training? : There are various training providers, however, it is important to select an accredited training provider whether it be in a classroom setting or with an online training provider.
3.What are the topics that are covered in the course? : The course curriculum covers
- History, Philosophy and Principles
- Roles and Responsibilities
- The Atern Life cycle and Products
- Planning and Control
- Quality, Risk and Estimating
- Implementing Agile PM
4. What is the exam format? : The exam is 40min long with a multiple-choice format, which consists of 50 questions. The pass mark is 50% and it is a closed-book exam.
5. Where can I take the exam? : The exam can be completed online, with a training provider or at a public exam venue.
6. What is the next step? : Once you have passed Agile Foundation you will then qualify for the Agile Practitioner course.
Agile Practitioner Certification (Level 2)
The Agile Practitioner certification focuses on the application of Agile solutions. It validates the practitioner’s ability to understand and apply Agile practices and principles on projects. As this certification is not only exam-based, it can be seen as a recognised way for Project Managers to demonstrate their experience and professional versatility.
Who is this for? : Agile Practitioner is for those who have project management experience and have passed the Agile Foundation exam. This is for anyone who is involved or will be involved in a project that requires an Agile approach to practices in the business. This can include Marketing Managers, Business Analysts as well as Product Managers
Where can I receive training? : There are various training providers, however, it is important to select an accredited training provider whether it be in a classroom setting or with an online platform.
What are the topics that are covered in the course? : The layout of this course focuses more on the application of learned knowledge hence the topics will be covered by looking at case studies, theory and activities. The course curriculum covers
- People and Roles – Overview
- Techniques – Overview
- Control – Overview
- Life cycle and Objectives
What is the exam format? : 50% of the exam will cover Agile tools and techniques while the other 50% will cover Agile knowledge and skills. You will be given 2.5 hours to complete the objective testing-based exam with a format that comprises of 4 scenario questions which are each worth 20 marks. This exam is open-book, however, you will only be permitted to use the official Agile manual to assist you during the exam. The pass mark is the same as the Foundation exam, being 50%.
Where can I take the exam? : The exam can be completed online via a proctor service, or with an accredited training provider.
Wrapping it all up
By the end of the Agile Foundation and Agile Practitioner courses you should be able to not only understand, but implement Agile methods to increase productivity and deliver value to customers. These courses give students the ability to put theory into practice and provides them with a greater level of knowledge of the Agile approach.
The pros of implementing Agile methodologies into workplace practices and projects can benefit both the individual members of the team and the organisation as a whole.
The individual members of the team benefit by being able to deliver small amounts of work in a short space of time which makes deadlines seem less daunting and stressful. By delivering bite size chunks, their work can be guided in the right direction. This keeps the project relevant to the client’s needs instead of failing at the end of the project. By focusing on collaboration and interaction, individuals are part of the project and have the opportunity to be self-organised instead of micro-managed.
The organisation benefits in the success of the project too. By implementing Agile into project management practices it is proven to have increased the success of products and services by delivering value to the customer. Agile allows for problems to be dealt with immediately, which saves time and money in the long term. Projects with a high success rate can often be due to constant feedback and accountability, which drives innovation and ensures value is delivered. Therefore, completing the Agile Foundation and Agile Practitioner certifications is beneficial not only to the employee, but also to the organisation as a whole.