The Project Management Institute (PMI®) recently came up with a brand new Agile Practice Guide. It is for the first time that PMI® has attempted to come up with a document like this and for this, it has collaborated with the Agile Alliance®. PMI® has also said that the PMI-ACP® examination will change some time in the first quarter of 2018. This is an attempt to figure out what the changes might be and how PMI-ACP® aspirants should prepare for these.

1. First thing to note is that there is no indication from PMI® that the Examination Content Outline (ECO) for PMI-ACP® is changing. So we have to assume that everything (Tasks, Knowledge & Skills, and Weightage of questions across the 7 domains) that is stated in the ECO will still remain valid.

2. It is also interesting to note that the new Practice Guide does not necessarily invalidate any of the existing information. It does not try to describe or extend any existing methodology. So everything you know about Scrum, Extreme Programming (XP), DSDM, etc. still remains valid.

3. That said, there are some new insights and ideas that it aims to bring forth. I believe the question bank for the examination will feature questions based on these new ideas and some of the existing questions that are deemed less important will be weeded out. I shall explain which topics are likely to become more important and less important later in this post.

4. The Agile Practice Guide tries to promote the notion that Agile is moving towards becoming a truly multi-disciplinary approach and methodology and not simply restricted to Software Development. The only places where it uses the words “software” are used in the guide is in the Agile manifesto and principles which are quoted verbatim. What this implies to me is that questions related to specific software development practices (e.g. Continuous Integration, Unit testing, etc.) might be replaced with more generic practices or be moved out. Note that none of the 13 references that PMI® suggests is related to XP. The 2014 update to the ECO removed “The Art of Agile Development by James Shore” from the list of references. So expect less focus on XP in general and software specific practices in particular.

5. Agile proponents have long positioned Lean and Kanban methods as either tangential or a subset of Agile methods. Figure 2-4 in the Practice Guide clearly indicates that PMI® views Lean thinking as central to all Agile methods and Kanban. Therefore, expect more emphasis on Value Stream Mapping, Lean Principles and thinking, along with practices like Kanban. This is also in continuation with the 2014 changes wherein 2 books related to Kanban have been added to the list of suggested references for PMI-ACP®.

6. The Practice Guide devotes the entire Section-3 to describing differences between Predictive, Iterative, Incremental and Agile life-cycles. The selection of life-cycle based upon the nature of the project is described in this section. Expect some questions about the life-cycle models and the rationale for their application in projects.

7. Section 3.3 in the Practice Guide provides guidelines for tailoring guidelines for projects. The scenarios and guidance provided is pretty specific. Expect some questions to be added bases on this section.

8. Section 4 in the Practice Guide articulates the notion of Servant Leadership and attributes for Project Managers and different roles within the team. None of these ideas are new but it is interesting that the guide does not mention the word Scrum Master (except when it is explicitly describing Scrum) and instead chooses a neutral word “Team Facilitator”. I have a hunch we might find reduced usage of Scrum (indeed any methodology) specific terminology in the examination. Instead, we might be led towards use of more generic terms and asked to focus on the concept and application.

9. Section 5 describes many of the Practices (e.g. Stand-ups, Demos, Retrospectives, etc.) and measurements (e.g. Burndown/Burnups, Cycle/Lead times, etc.). Again, these are described in very generic terms. Particularly interesting is Section 5.3, where under “troubleshooting Agile project challenges”, very specific guidance is provided for different pain points observed during Agile implementations. This might well be the source for scenario questions and the language may shift to using more generic terms.

10. Section 6 deals with Organizational support for Agile transitions. It covers many topics that are often ignored by specific methods and frameworks, such as Agile PMO’s, Contract types used in Agile, etc. Expect some questions about these topics as well.

11. In the Appendixes, it provides a mapping of practices to processes in the PMBOK® Guide, mapping with Agile manifesto and principles, and a very short description of many well-known Agile methods (e.g. Scrum, XP, DSDM, etc.) and scaling frameworks (SAFe®, LeSS®, etc.). This will ensure some acceptable level of continuity with the existing questions and frameworks.

So while the Agile Practice Guide is an attempt to summarize the current “state-of-the-art” without really bringing in too much radical new thought, it is quite clear that there is potential for significant changes to come about in the PMI-ACP® content and examination. How widespread would these changes be is yet to be seen. Past experience suggests that every time either a Standard or ECO is updated, the exam ends up about 20-25% different. There is no reason to expect anything different this time.

Do get in touch if you have any questions or comments.