Project management training and certification: agile or traditional?

Published: 05 Oct 2017

Project management training and certification: agile or traditional?

Training and certification is a great way for project professionals to demonstrate their knowledge and competences to current and future employers. Whether aligned to a particular framework or methodology, or a focus on the key attributes or a project manager, training and certification can prove incredibly valuable for enhancing skills and enabling career progression.

With a wide range of options available in the marketplace, it can be a difficult and time-consuming task identifying the best option/s for one’s career development.

This is further complicated by the rise of agile and its influence on the project management landscape, with more organisations and project professionals than ever embracing agile tools and frameworks as they aim to increase the success of – and return on investment from – projects and other change initiatives.

With agile now mainstream in project management, a key decision faces many project professionals considering training and certification, and indeed those embarking on a career in project management. The decision is linked to a question along the lines of:

Should I certify in agile or traditional/waterfall project management?

It’s a question that, understandably, does not have a one-size-fits-all answer. When considering the options, a range of key factors needs to be considered.

Your current skillset: If you’re already trained and certified in a traditional approach, it’s worth thinking about complementing that with agile training and certification (or vice-versa). Demonstrating knowledge and understanding of both approaches will do no harm when seeking employment and new opportunities. And, of course, it’s always good to learn new skills and open your mind to an alternative approach.

Your projects: The industry and nature of projects you’re involved with may determine your development path. For example, software development and IT projects are often better suited to agile approaches, which advocate a high-level plan and incremental development of solutions. Traditional approaches (which typically involve detailed, up-front planning and a linear approach to the project life cycle) are typically more suited to projects where the requirements are more stable and less likely to change (e.g. construction projects).

Your current environment: The environment in which you work is crucial to consider. For example, does your current organisation have an established framework for project management, aligned to either agile or traditional? Is the organisation considering, or open to, a change in their approach to project management? Are there differing approaches throughout the organisation? Consider the options that are likely to better suit the project environment.

Your personal objectives: Last, but not least, are your personal aspirations. For example, you may currently work in an environment that embraces a traditional approach, but like the idea of a move to a role (or an organisation) where agile is the chosen approach. In this case, it would naturally make sense to look at training and certification for an agile approach. Additionally, we’re all different and our skillsets vary. Consider the approach that seems to fit best with your skills, experience and attributes. Something as broad as a personality style is likely to suit one approach more than another.

In most cases, it’s a combination of these factors that will determine the best option, and it’s about choosing an approach that best suits your current circumstances, your future plans, or a combination of the two.

As eluded to above, there is a plethora of project management training and certification options available, from basic introductory courses to Master level qualifications.

The most recognised certifications for traditional (or waterfall) project management are those available via the Association for Project Management (APM), PRINCE2 and the PMP (Project Management Professional) from PMI.

Since its introduction in 2010, AgilePM (delivered by APMG International in partnership with the Agile Business Consortium) has fast established itself as a well-known framework and certification for agile project management.

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