How To Be a Successful Agile Project Manager

Jan 24, 2019 | Project Management

Agile project management might seem incredibly complicated.

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Many professional traditional project managers are often overwhelmed by it. In fact, many project managers joke and refer to agile project management as “organized chaos”.

Regardless of popular belief, agile project management, or APM is different than traditional project management.

However, we promise that APM only sounds complicated.

Yes, APM involves a different way of thinking about and approaching projects, but it is a proven methodology for completing projects successfully.

Furthermore, having a firm understanding of APM provides project managers with a competitive edge in their organizations as well as in the job market as a whole.

In this article, we will talk about what is involved in managing agile projects and how project managers can prepare for the ACP certification exam.

What The Heck is a Sprint?

No, we aren’t talking about track and field games or running a 5k marathon.

We are talking about specific project iterations involved in agile project management.

Rather than assigning specific dates and times for all tasks and subtasks within a project all at once, project managers prioritize and then break out necessary tasks into two-week (or 30-day) “sprints”. During each sprint, project team members must work on the assigned tasks within the specified sprint time period.

At the end of each sprint, the project team and project manager meet to discuss what worked and what didn’t during the most recent sprint, and even discuss the next steps in the project. This is also known as a retrospective meeting.

Why and How Do Sprints Work?

You may have heard of sprints before. And if you aren’t well versed in the world of agile project management, then you may be wondering why and how sprints are so important.

Sprints work best when organizations and project teams are trying to solve a complex problem. Sprints also help project managers and teams when they are unsure of where to start or how to tackle a complex project or problem.

The good news is that APM doesn’t really require many tools; it just requires a different project management approach and mindset.

Here is what is needed to run a sprint successfully:

  1. Assemble the project or sprint team
  2. Choose a challenge or target
  3. Map out the problem
  4. Get the project team to agree on an initial target
  5. Make sketches and brainstorm possible solutions
  6. Use voting and appoint on an official “Decider” to help make decisions
  7. Test your prototype

Furthermore, managing sprints doesn’t require a huge investment in software.

Yes, there are a number of agile project management tools out there that support APM, including Jira and Trello, just to name a few.

However, project managers and teams can get away with only using a whiteboard, dry erase markers, sticky notes, and conference room, if they prefer.

What Are the Benefits of APM?

As we mentioned briefly above, APM encourages a different level of thinking, specifically design thinking. The focus of APM is solving complex and unique problems and challenges as well as continuous improvement.

As a result, many project managers and organizations have adopted APM and incorporated “sprints” into managing projects and helping them to reach their goals.

Because of the short iterations or sprints, many are under the false impression that APM is really best for shorter, cyclical projects. However, the truth is that APM can work for both short and long-term projects.

As Author of the New York Times bestseller SPRINT: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days, Jake Knapp claims, “the bigger the challenge, the better the sprint.”

Here are some key benefits to APM:

  • Focuses on solving problems and addressing big challenges
  • Encourages design thinking
  • Encourages team collaboration
  • Motivates project team members
  • Increases productivity
  • Helps solve challenges
  • Focuses on continuous improvement
  • Increases visualization (prioritized tasks and project status)
  • Boosts project speed

Traditional vs. Agile Project Management: Which is Better?

This question doesn’t really have a straightforward answer. Ultimately, the project management methodology or philosophy you choose should align with organizational goals and objectives.

Therefore, you may determine that traditional project management is a better fit for your type of projects and organization. In fact, there are many businesses and industries that benefit most from traditional project management, such as architecture and construction projects, government projects, or engineering projects.

On the other hand, IT departments, tech and software companies, and even small startup businesses typically resort to APM for managing projects. This doesn’t necessarily mean that these types of businesses and entities only benefit from APM; it just might make more sense for their types of projects.

Again, virtually any organization, project, and challenge can benefit from APM. However, those organizations that do adopt APM as their primary project management philosophy often see greater and more successful project outcomes.

How Earning Your ACP Certification Advances Your Project Management Career

It’s no secret that project management has greatly evolved through the decades. In an effort to keep up with changing project management trends, and in recognition for the need and demand for professionals with APM experience, the Project Management Institute (PMI), developed the ACP Certification program.

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The ACP certification is an official agile project management certification, which professional project managers can earn to further advance their careers, specifically in the areas of managing agile projects. Furthermore, certified project managers (PMPs), can also “stack” their certifications by earning the ACP certification.

Earning your ACP Certification can positively impact your project management career, giving you a prime competitive edge over your peers and colleagues in today’s organizations and job market.

All in all, APM is incredibly important for the future of project management. So, if you are thinking about a career in project management, or how to accelerate your current project management career, earning your official ACP certification is a great place to start and secure your project management career.

Where Can I Find An ACP Agile Management Course?

In addition to various PMP Certification resources and exam prep courses, Project Vanguards also offers an ACP Agile Management exam preparation course, which covers all the key areas you will need to know to study and prepare for the ACP certification exam.

This course covers the following:

  • General knowledge of agile principles, practices, and tools
  • How to apply various agile methodologies
  • How to improve team productivity
  • How to deliver product and business value
  • How to increase overall project success
  • How to apply the various agile principles in real-life situations and projects

All in all, much like the PMP exam, you should study for and prepare for the ACP certification exam for at least three to six months prior to taking the exam. Although it definitely requires a bit of a time and financial investment on your part, earning your ACP certification just might be what your project management career has been missing.

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