The 2018 PMI-ACP® Exam Changes

by | Feb 13, 2018

The Project Management Institute (PMI®) has proceeded down the path of embracing Agile. On March 26, 2018 both the PMP® and PMI-ACP® exams with be updated to reflect PMI's new Agile Practice Guide and the PMBOK® 6th edition. You can read about the changes here.

My Observations

PMI stated there were not any changes to the overall course outline for the PMI-ACP exam, but changes were made to "harmonize with terminology" used in the practice guide. After scouring the guide, I made a number of updates to my practice exam questions, training content and my self-study training.

Here are my takeaways after reviewing the guide in detail:

  • Ultimately their goal is to become framework neutral so there is an attempt to create some common terminology and practices.
  • There are now 3 generic Agile roles, taken primarily from Scrum:
    • Team Facilitator
    • Cross Functional Team Members
    • Product Owner
  • There was recognition that there is no PM role in Agile but the PM can play the role of Team Facilitator
  • They have stated the need for PMOs in an Agile environment
  • There are now 2 generic Agile approaches:
    • Iteration-based Agile (essentially Scrum)
    • Flow-based Agile (essentially Kanban)
  • Transparency, Inspection and Adaptation (from Scrum) are now considered to be generally Agile principles
  • Stories (for Agile requirements) now seem to be accepted terminology. I don't think they were even referred to in the initial version of the exam
  • I like how they now have a Venn diagram for Lean and Agile and how Kanban bridges both. That will become a popular training graphic
  • Hybrid and scaling were now acknowledged, though minimally. I don't expect to see many more questions on this area yet- too much inconsistency in the marketplace.
  • I think they have embraced the following pure Agile concepts even though they are the very opposite of traditional PM:
    • Servant leadership
    • Generalizing specialists
    • Burndown charts and Kanban boards instead of Gantt charts
  • Even though there was a lot alignment with Scrum, there were still some contradictions:
    • "The Product Owner sees the demonstration and accepts or declines the stories" - that is a big faux-pas in formal Scrum. The Product Owner should be signing off throughout the iteration and showing the final product to stakeholders at the demonstration.
    • Iterations are usually 2 weeks - that is another false reality. I trained hundreds if not thousands of people over the years and the length of a Sprint is anywhere from a week to a month. If anything, three weeks seems to be as popular as two weeks.
    • The Product Owner asks a "triad"; a developer, tester and analyst, to get together to write a story as a way to refine the backlog. Hmmm that sounds dysfunctional to so many ways...

Summary

In addition to those terminology changes I mentioned, the guide provided a little more detail into some of the definitions of terms that were already in the exam outline. Though it is by no means perfect, it is a big step in developing a common terminology and set of practices called "Agile."  The exam is difficult to study for and difficult to train because there was, and still is, so many contradictory terms in the Agile community. Even within PMI's recommended reading list the authors contradict each other. The best part is that the Agile Practice Guide is a little more than 100 pages, as opposed to the nearly 1000 pages in the latest PMBOK. Let's hope it stays that way!

Remember, if you are studying for the exam I have the most popular FREE PMI-ACP study guide and other great resources for studying for the exam.

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