Agile project management is often overly simplified as the project management practice of varying scope. This simplification loses the emphasis on the true benefits of Agile which are speed, innovation, leadership, and control. Proof that Agile can deliver these benefits in even the most complex environments is shown in its history.
Agile project management can trace its roots back to World War II, when Kelly Johnson formed “Skunkworks” within Lockheed Martin. Johnson used his 14 Rules of Management to run Skunkworks and create the world’s first fighter jet, the P-80, in just 143 days. Kelly Johnson’s 14 Rules of Management mirror the Agile Manifesto and its 12 Principles, which promote cross-functional, self-directed teams; response to change with minimal reports; collaboration between owner and vendor; and Incremental (and Iterative) Development. All modern Agile project management frameworks draw on these lessons from Kelly Johnson’s work. Other influences include Total Quality Management (TQM), Lean, the Theory of Constraints (TOC), and Adaptive Systems Theory.
These “Adaptive” approaches can appear to be very different, but at their core is the same driving purpose: to maximize the speed and sustainability of value delivered to the organization. This means emphasizing the value of the project’s output over its cost efficiency, understanding that speed and innovation change the value of that output, and that the most important organizational resources are its people and its customer relationships. Companies that embrace Agile principles continue to set record earnings and stock prices (e.g. AMZN, APPL, Netflix); and those that ignore them find themselves unable to compete.
Agile project management has proven that it works. Survey after survey provides the data that Agile Project Management increases success rates for projects, especially those with high levels of uncertainty. Success rates in one 2013 survey across industries showed that Agile was successful 64% of the time, while traditionally-managed projects were successful less than half the time (49%).
Recreated from Ambysoft’s 2013 survey, 173 respondents across industries, ranking Agile and Traditional methods from -10 to 10
The success in Agile Project Management, however, has produced an explosion in variants and frameworks. No Agile project looks the same or applies all principles in the same way. Often these adaptations of Agile are driven by the organizational structure, politics, vendor preference, levels of education, and market realities.
Learn at your own pace. To help meet the challenges of this new project environment, the University of Maryland Project Management Center for Excellence has developed an Agile Project Management Professional Certificate program on edX.org. This new program provides participants with the understanding, principles, and skills to confidently deliver faster, innovative solutions for their stakeholders. The Professional Certificate program consists of five courses designed to teach the mechanics of how to design and facilitate projects using “pure” Agile Scrum and Lean Continuous Delivery techniques. Through the series, participants will also explore other frameworks in order to understand differences in scale, structure, and empowerment. These courses are self-paced so learners can speed through them in a day (each is about 10 hours long) or complete the lessons based on a rhythm that suits their schedule.
Learn the science. Furthermore, students will then delve deeper into the science and essential principles to understand how to achieve the benefits of the Agile method: Speed, Innovation, Leadership, and Control. By the end of the series, participants will be able to explain how Agile techniques address faults in traditional project management techniques, the tradeoffs of these approaches, and when it’s best to apply them to maximize value to the organization.
Applicable to All Industries. There are a large variety of working professionals who would benefit from the completion of the Agile Project Management Certificate program: engineers, managers, designers, writers, creators and executers of all types. The principles taught in the certificate scale and apply to all industries to achieve delivery success. It does not matter if participants are delivering a small part of a project or portfolios of large multi-million-dollar government works. These courses include examples from Construction, Aerospace, Software, Automotive Industries, Logistics and Manufacturing, and more!
The Pilot Experience. The UMD Project Management Center for Excellence has already delivered the content of the Agile Project Management Professional Certificate program through a five part in-person series that was offered this past winter/spring. This was a cooperative initiative with the Southern Maryland chapter of the Project Management Institute (PMI). Feedback on the series was extremely positive and led to discussions with edX to deliver the content to a larger audience.
“Supporting US military efforts require accuracy and efficiency. We are passionate about it. In keeping with the integrity of our Nation’s military men and women, it is imperative that we provide them the best technology imaginable. The Agile Project Management program provides clear direction to channel team efforts in a more concise manner. I highly recommend this program to any organization relying on teams to get things done.”
— Debbie Gray, Director of Human Resources, GTMR Inc.
“This program took Agile from the theoretical to the practical. I shared information learned with my team after each session. The series was engaging and well worth my time.”
— Chandra Knabel, Director of IT Services Strategy and Compliance, Breakthru Beverage Group
“I wasn’t exactly sure Agile would be the right fit for our organization to meet our goals or our customers’ expectations, as software development is not one of our core business units. The understanding gained through the series continues to help us in areas we never before imagined.“
— Gary Miller, Senior Strategist and IA Director, Technology Specialists, Inc.
“I gained a better understanding of Agile ie what it is, how it differs from traditional project management, and most importantly, how to apply it to my current organization.”
— Greg Paradis, Program Manager, Precise Systems
The success of the in-person pilot program led to the development of the Agile Project Management Professional Certificate program online through the edX platform. University of Maryland Project Management Center for Excellence Director, John Cable, stated that “we are excited to be pioneering these Agile courses with edX. The edX platform is the perfect mechanism to deliver our Agile Project Management Professional Certificate program at a global scale. They have a solid reputation for high-quality courses, and with the early success of our Agile curriculum, we wanted to ensure quality was the focus in delivering the Professional Certificate program. Project managers around the world will learn how to empower teams to deliver faster and more innovative solutions using Agile techniques.”
About edX. EdX is a nonprofit, open-source learning destination that offers online educational programs and courses in alliance with more than 130 member institutions, comprised of both leading global universities and colleges, and a diverse group of prominent organizations from around the world. Founded by Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and based in Cambridge, MA, edX is focused on transforming online and classroom learning through groundbreaking methodologies, game-like educational experiences and cutting-edge research on an open-source platform.
“We are honored to work with The University of Maryland to offer a Professional Certificate program in Agile Project Management,” said Anant Agarwal, edX CEO and MIT Professor. “We’ve heard from our global community of learners that they are seeking courses to help them advance their careers. Professional Certificate programs on edX deliver career-relevant education in a flexible, affordable way, by focusing on the critical skills industry leaders and successful professionals are seeking today.”
Certificates and PDUs. All five courses are asynchronous which allows individual students to sign up and start the courses when they want and at their own pace. Students from all sides of the project management community will also be able to collaborate with others registered in the program. The five courses required to complete the Professional Certificate program are listed below. For those looking for PDUs, you can earn 10 PDUs per course for a total of 50 PDUs for all five courses.
- Applied Scrum for Agile Project Management (10 PDUs)
- Sprint Planning for Faster Agile Team Delivery (10 PDUs)
- Agile Innovation and Problem Solving Skills (10 PDUs)
- Agile Leadership Principles and Practices (10 PDUs)
- Agile Process, Project and Program Controls (10 PDUs)
Each course is free for the first four (4) weeks and it takes approximately ten (10) hours to complete. For a small fee, edX does provide a Verified Certificate which provides proof for an employer, school or other institution that the course was successfully completed by the student. To qualify for a Verified Certificate, participants complete all aspects of the courses which can include watching all videos, participating in discussion forms, and completing any required homework and exams with a passing grade. The cost for a verified version of each individual course in the Agile Project Management Professional Certificate program are $199 each and only $895.50 if you register for the entire series at once (a 10% discount and only $17.91 per PDU).
As stated, the benefits of utilizing Agile Project Management techniques are numerous and apply to organizations, project teams and products. The online professional certificate is the optimal way to obtain the training necessary to utilize the innovative solutions offered by agile techniques. The University of Maryland Project Management Center for Excellence provides content has been tested through numerous in-person offerings. The partnership with edX allows the University of Maryland Project Management Center for Excellence the opportunity to provide the content in format that is convenient, accessible and affordable.