PMP vs. PMI-ACP – What should I do?

September 8th, 2017

We frequently hear this question, “PMP vs. PMI-ACP – What should I do?” Project Management Professional (PMP) and PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP), both are globally well respected project management certifications. So, even experienced professionals are now puzzled because there are too many certifications available in the market and every governing body claims that their certifications are the best. When you Google it to find its answer, you find some “politically correct” answers, which ask you to decide based on the given facts. Obviously, it doesn’t help and you deserve a direct answer.

There are many well respected brands available in the market, e.g. Project Management Institute (PMI), Scaled Agile (SAFe), Disciplined Agile (DA), Scrum Alliance,, Lean Kanban University, etc. Since both, PMP and PMI-ACP, are from the Project Management Institute, their branding is not an issue at all.

As of 30 June 2017, worldwide PMP count is massive 7,74,406 but PMI-ACP count is only 16,283. This data is bit old but clearly shows that their industry acceptance is not the same. Now the billion-dollar question is – Why?

First, let’s spend some time on understanding the focus areas of these two elite certifications.

The latest PMBOK Guide – Sixth Edition has the following 10 knowledge areas.

• Project Integration Management
• Project Scope Management
• Project Schedule Management
• Project Cost Management
• Project Quality Management
• Project Resource Management
• Project Communications Management
• Project Risk Management
• Project Procurement Management
• Project Stakeholder Management

Are they applicable only to the traditional projects? Or they are equally useful for the Agile projects as well… What do you think?

You must understand Scope, Schedule, Cost, Quality, Risk, etc. management in every type of project, irrespective of the Project Management methodology (i.e. Lean, Agile or Waterfall) followed. Having this basic knowledge is mandatory for any type of project.

That’s the reason PMP is so popular and relevant for you as well, in every case!

Why is PMI-ACP not very popular then? The reason is crystal clear. Although it checks your high-level knowledge in multiple Agile areas (e.g. Scrum, Extreme Programming (XP), Lean, Kanban, Agile Estimation and Planning, etc.), it doesn’t prepare you for any standard Agile role (e.g. Scrum Master, Product Owner, Product Manager, etc.). Remember, Project Manager role doesn’t exist in the Agile world, so having PMP alone or having basic Agile knowledge is not enough.

Becoming jack of all but master of none, doesn’t work in the industry!

So, what’s the solution?

The answer is simple. Do PMP to master the Project Management domain and acquire a relevant role based Agile certification as well, to master that specific role.
What’s the best role based certification? I suggest, SAFe Scrum Master (SSM) certification for the Scrum Masters/Agile Coaches and SAFe Agilist (SA) plus SAFe Product Owner/Product Manager (POPM) certifications for the Product Owners/Product Managers.

If you are using Kanban, you should also do KMP certification, or if your organization is following Disciplined Agile (DA) then you should do CDA certification as well.
To summarize, first master the basic Project Management knowledge by doing PMP and in addition, get a relevant Agile certification (e.g. SSM, SASM, POPM, SA, SP, KMP, CDA, etc.) to get in-depth knowledge. This Agile certification should be relevant to your current context, so choose it carefully!