Wednesday, August 22, 2018

PMI-ACP: Agile Toolkit - Domain - Tools and Techniques - Knowledge and Skills

Hello There! I’m back after a recovery from long time ailment. I trust that everyone are happy and keeping good.

Through this blog post I would like to share few basics of PMI’s agile certification called and branded as “Project Management Institute – Agile Certified Practitioner [PMI-ACP®]” and steps to earn the certificate.

It’s new Avatar! The exam was revised 2nd time lastly and recently this year on 26th March 2018 which is a 3rd version of exam content with a latest Agile Practice Guide (released in Sep’17).
As per the exam content outline (blue print) is based on the topic areas (or domains). However, any given certification measures the knowledge and skills gained out of it. Therefore, PMI-ACP® certification also caters the exam contents into a toolkit under 10 group items and each item is mapped to the group of tools and techniques.

PMI’s PMI-ACP® Toolkit Categories:
Agile Analysis & Design
Agile Estimation
Interpersonal Skills
Planning Monitoring Adapting
Process Improvement
Product Quality
Risk Management
Value-Based Prioritization

For our easy reference and readability from exam perspective I have grouped the tools & techniques and relevant knowledge & skills are directly mapped to each domain areas as the following table (DTTKS) lists them:

Domain# (% of items on Test) ([#-SDs,] ##-Ts)
Tools & Techniques (toolkit #)
Knowledge & Skills

D1. Agile Principles and Mindset (16%) (9-Ts)

Servant Leadership4
Agile frameworks and terminology
Agile methods and approaches
Agile values and principles

D2. Value-Driven Delivery (20%) (4-SDs, 4-Ts)

Sub Domains: 
Define Positive Value (3-Ts)
Avoid Potential Downsides (3-Ts)
Prioritization (3-Ts)
Incremental Development (5-Ts)
Agile Tooling3
Continuous Integration8
Cumulative Flow Diagrams6
Customer-Valued Prioritization10
EVM for agile Projects5
Frequent Verification & Validation8
Kanban Board6
Kano Analysis10
Minimal Marketable Feature10
Minimal Viable Product10
Relative Prioritization/ Ranking10
Task Board6
Testing, including exploratory & usability8
WIP limits6
Work in Progress5
Agile contracting
Agile project accounting principles
Incremental delivery
Managing with agile KPIs
Regulatory compliance

D3. Stakeholder Engagement (17%) (3-SDs, 9-Ts)

Sub Domains: 
Understand Stakeholder Needs (2-Ts)
Ensure Stakeholder Involvement (3-Ts)
Manage Stakeholder Expectations (4-Ts)
Active Listening3
Agile Modeling1
Collaboration Games1
Conflict resolution4
Definition of Done8
Emotional Intelligence4
Information Radiator3
Social Media-Based Communication3
2-Way Communications (trustworthy, conversation driven)3
Agile project chartering
Assessing and incorporating community and stakeholder values
Communication management
Facilitation methods
Knowledge sharing/ written communication
Participatory decision models (convergent, shared collaboration)
Stakeholder management

D4. Team Performance (16%) (3-SDs, 9-Ts)

Sub Domains:  
Team Formation (2-Ts)
Team Empowerment (3-Ts)
Team Collaboration & Commitment (4-Ts)

Adaptive Leadership4
Burndown / Burnup charts6
Osmotic Communication for collocated and / or distributed teams3
Team Space3
Building agile teams
Developmental mastery models (Tuckman, Dreyfus, Shu-Ha-Ri)
Global, Cultural, and Team Diversity
Physical & Virtual co-location
Team Motivation
Training, Coaching, and Mentoring

D5. Adaptive Planning (12%) (3-SDs, 10-Ts)

Sub Domains:  
Levels of Planning (3-Ts)
Adaptation (2-Ts)
Agile Sizing & Estimation (5-Ts)
Affinity Estimating2
Architectural Spike9
Backlog Grooming/ Refinement6
Daily Stand-Ups6
Ideal Time2
Iteration and Release Planning6
Product Roadmap1
Progressive Elaboration1
Relative Sizing / Story Points / T-Shirt Sizing2
Requirements Reviews10
Risk-Based Spike9
Story Maps1
User Stories/ Backlog1
Widebank Delphi / Planning Poker2
Agile Discovery
Agile Sizing and Estimation
Value-Based Analysis and Decomposition

D6. Problem Detection & Resolution (10%) (5-Ts)
Control Limits7
Cycle Time5
Defect Rate5
Lead Time5
Risk Adjusted Backlog9
Problem Solving

D7. Continuous Improvement (9%) (6-Ts)
(Product, Process, People)
Approved Iterations5
Feedback Methods3
Fishbone Diagram Analysis7
Learning Cycle1
Pre-Morterm (rule setting, failure analysis)7
Process Tailoring7
Product Feedback Loop6
Retrospectives, Intraspectives7
Value Stream Mapping7
Agile Hybrid Models
Continuous Improvement
PMI’s code of Ethics and Professional Conduct
Principles of Systems Thinking (Complex, Adaptive, Chaos)
Process Analysis
Self-Assessment Tools and Techniques

  • Earlier version of exam outline was based on only Tools & Techniques (50%) and Knowledge & Skills (50%), hence it tells the how important they are.
  • Revised exam content is based on the % allocation of each Domain, hence the exam questions are proportioned accordingly.
  • Each Domain is further divided into sub-domains (SDs) optionally and tasks (Ts) either under SDs or to domains.
  • In total there are 7-Domains, 13-Sub-domains, and 52-Tasks.

PMI-ACP Certification Benefits:

  • Demands Hard Work: One who want to secure PMI-ACP® certification requires a lot of dedication and commitment from the beginning of the process till successful completion of exam. 
  • Very Methodology: As the certification is issued by PMI, it is understood that the structure of the curriculum and depth of the details of content are very much high in nature and structured and consists industry proven practices.
  • Builds confidence: It builds more confidence in the way of doing the agile projects by following its processes and skills learned through.
  • More Value & Weightage: Certification gives more weightage to the CV and possibly the value of the person in terms of higher salary / promotions to next levels.
  • Trusted & Norms: The PMI as the organization is a non-profit organization and trusted by many professionals nearly 50 years. It has its global presence across all countries. PMI continuously revises its certifications and contents by updating regularly according to the industry standards and practices being followed across the industries at best.
  • Extended Scope of Subject: PMI-ACP® covers all the agile methods, by not limiting to one method when we compare with other agile based certifications out there. Therefore, it’s one stop shop rather spending time and money for securing worthless individual certifications issued by other groups / institutions.
  • More Visibility: On securing the certification it yields to one with a lot of pride to self and more visibility to his/her peers and their managers and help to stay on top among all very distinctly. In short and simple – Neighbor’s envy: Owner’s Pride!!
  • Emphasize Hands-On: The process of going through any PMI’s certification demands one to have (mandatory) hands-on experience at first before securing the certification. So no exception to the PMI-ACP, it has the eligibility requirements of a) Educational Background b) General Project Experience c) Agile Project Experience d) and Training in Agile Practices.
  • Less to Invest and More on Payback: Compare to agile certifications from other institutions the PMI-ACP certification costs very less, together the boot-camp ($400+) and certification’s ($495 for non-member) cost. Hence, the cost price one who spends / invest will definitely see the doubling the payback value short after the outcome of successfully securing certification.
  • Time Consuming Process: No Pain, No Gain! Indeed, it takes a long time to go through the entire cycle of the certification process from the time of initiating the application until who secures the certification by passing the exam. I would phase out entire cycle into 5 stages: 1) Boot Camp 2) Application Processing 3) Exam Prep 4) Take Exam and 5) Certification maintenance and renewals.

Phase-1: A boot camp of 2-3 days of instructor led classroom based or online courses to meet 21 PDUs requirements.

Phase-2: Typically, the processes goes this way: Application Submission (90 days window time to submit) -> Application Completeness Review) -> [Audit Process (if selected, 90 days window time to submit audit materials; 5-7 days to process audit materials)] -> Application Payment Process -> Examination Eligibility (1 year window time to sit for exam)

Phase-3: Exam Prep

I would strongly suggest to follow these 2 books:
I recommend anyone who wants to secure certification, should first have to meet 1) eligibility criteria and 2) enough preparations for the exam (refer above given books, aim for 2-3 months prep) 3) cursory level attempts of mock-up tests (some websites host mock-up tests freely online) before initiating application process with PMI, which is all after you gain 21 PDU’s from boot camp (online or instructor led [2/3 days training]).

Phase-4: Take Exam (3 hours / 120 Qs)

Painful and nerve cutting process!! But, once you pass the exam.. it’s THEee.. HaHaah.. moment!!
My note to you here is take the certification exam after scheduling with Prometric only, if you are very much confident after many trials of scoring more than 80% from mock-ups. And, make sure you are relaxed a day before the exam and not stressed out by any means of work pressure or late night preps.

Phase-5: Certification Maintenance & Renewals:

Certification Cycle (starts once secured) -> Certification Maintenance (3 years with 30 PDUs) -> Certification Renewal (submit renewal fees with 30 PDUs gained report) -> Certification Suspension (1 year from 3rd anniversary of the day was passed) -> Certification Expiration (at the end of suspension period, needs reapply the same processes to hold again).

  • Increases productivity & Customer Satisfaction: As the agile processes and techniques are meant for team level practitioners, on gaining the certificate it increases team’s productivity by the way of approaching and executing the agile projects with practitioners (team members) and at the same time it allows the business to gain customer’s satisfaction very quickly than other legacy models.

In my earlier posts I would have already detailed about few of the agile tools & techniques, however I would be happy to go for the details and specifics for uncovered items through upcoming blog posts. I hope this blog post is informative for you and I thank you very much for you time in reading through my post.