Agile is not scrum

Very often people use the terms agile and scrum interchangeably and that can be quite confusing for those who are new to the agile world. Agile is the umbrella under which there are several frameworks like;

As we can see from the above list, agile is the common terminology used for the iterative and incremental models. Of these, scrum is the easiest to understand, hence it is the right starting point to bring in the agile culture to the organization, and then to be open to the good practices of all the available frameworks to solve the specific issues challenging agility or to simply enhance your agility.

Scrum pages – New

I have added a new page Scrum pages. This is for those who want to get an over view of agile and an in depth understanding of scrum, which is one of the most popular agile frameworks. Keep following Scrum pages to understand and master scrum. If you are willing to pay for my time, I am open for scheduled online meetings to mentor you. Knowledge of agile is inevitable for future project managers. For further details contact me

Project portfolio management

Organizations have business goals to achieve. These business goals are achieved through execution of carefully selected projects, programs and other work which are in true alignment to the organizations strategy to achieve their business goals. There are three stages to project portfolio management;

  • Selection of the right projects, programs and other work, which has the best fitment to the organizations strategy for growth.
  • Execution of these projects and maintaining their alignment to the organizational strategy throughout execution.
  • Measurement of the actual benefits derived from these and comparing them with the forecasts made while choosing these.

All these steps collectively is known as project portfolio management. Portfolios are managed by portfolio managers. The managers of the programs, projects and other work of the portfolio report to the portfolio manager.

Portfolio can exist at the organization level, division level and unit level. Portfolio management is always associated with the achievement of strategic business goals.

Programs and program management

  • Collection of inter related projects
  • When done together gives more value than doing them one after the other
  • Managed by program managers
  • The individual projects that constitute the program are managed by project managers. These project managers report to the program manager

Improving the traffic sysyems within the city to eliminate traffic congestions can be a program, supported by projects like;

  • Enhancing the existing roads
  • Implementing car pooling
  • Establishing metro rail
  • Implementing traffic monitoring system
  • Implementing boat services
  • Implementing cycling tracks
  • Conducting traffic awareness programs

Each of these individual projects will be managed by project managers and they report to the program manager. The cumulative effect of doing these projects together as a program is much better than performing them one after another.

Do not become what you do not like. A weekend reflection.

I have come across many project managers (with PMP credential) and scrum masters (with CSM) with absolutely no passion for their work, hence ending up like glorified secretaries who ends up doing just what other stakeholders ask them to do. All they have is the basic knowledge of

the jargons and practice tests. Most probably, they have not taken any initiative to further their knowledge post certification. Like many, they also thought that certification is the end goal. In the process they suffer, their project suffers, project team suffers and the customer suffers, because the project manager, scrum master roles are leadership roles.

The general characteristics of this category of project managers are;

  • Their main focus is on firefighting than proactive problem prevention.
  • They are in the business of pleasing their bosses alone.
  • They always put the blame on to others.
  • They are not passionate about the area of their certification, hence not confident.
  • They negotiate only with those report to them, they are scared to negotiate with other stakeholders.
  • They always follow , never lead.
  • They do not evangelize professionalism.
  • They consider most of the good practices as theory and not practical.
  • They use the words ‘but’ and ‘they’ frequently.
  • They actively seek empathy from others.

One can improve to some extent and at the same time it is very difficult to achieve excellence without a career path correction , if you are in the wrong career.

I must also appreciate the fact that a good percentage of the project managers and scrum masters are passionate and knowledgeable about their work irrespective of the certifications they hold or do not hold. That is just passion about their work. That is the hope.

This post partially answers the question ‘After certification what is next?’

Projects and operations

  • Projects have definite start and end dates
  • Projects deliver unique products or services
  • Projects are temporary in nature. Upon completion the team is dismantled
  • Projects are constrained by the limited resources of time, cost and scope
  • A project is considered as successful if it is completed within the agreed upon time, cost and scope, and met its business objectives
  • Projects are managed by project managers
  • Operations are ongoing in nature
  • Operations produce standard outputs
  • Operations are managed by operations / functional managers

Designing a new car is a project. Manufacturing cars are operatiins.

Which certification to pursue?

Which certification to pursue?..that is a million dollar question which every professional face, at some point in time of their career. This discussion is based on which certifications one should pursue, after making a concrete decision to tread the project management route. Within project management, we have two major schools;

  • The agile project management
  • Traditional project management

Both are valuable, and complementary.  Which one will give you the fastest return on investment depends on;

  • The industry to which you belong to
  • The industry where you want to spend your future
  • The country where you will be working

The globally well known certifications for project managers

  • Project Management Professional (PMI, USA)
  • Projects in controlled environment (UK)
  • Certified Scrum Master (CSM), by Scrumalliance
  • Professional Scrum Master (PSM) by Scrum.org
  • Agile Certified Practitioner (ACP) by PMI-USA

If you are from the information technology domain, it is better to with any one of the agile certifications straightaway. The certified Scrum Master (CSM) by Scrumalliance is expensive and has the early starter advantage, where as PSM is not that expensive, and at the same time it is very authentic, because it is coming from Ken Schwaber’s Scrum.org. For those of you who do not know Ken Schwaber, he founded scrum along with Jeff Sutherland, and both of them together developed the scrum guide, which is the most authentic documentation on scrum, becuase it is coming from the founders. The syllabus for these two certifications (CSM and PSM) are the ScrumGuide, and upon completion of the certification process, one will have the proficiency to play the role of a scrum master (project manager, in the traditional forms).

Then we have the PMI-ACP certification. The syllabus for this certification is a cocktail of all the frameworks available out there and calls for;

  • Complete understanding of  SCRUM
  • A very good understanding of Extreme Programming
  • Some key concepts like earned value management, risk management, communications management from the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK)
  • Complete understanding of Agile body of knowledge

After getting anyone of the agile certifications, then try for PMP credential. Without a proper understanding of the ten knowledge areas of PMBOK;

  • Integration management
  • Scope management
  • Time management
  • Cost management
  • Quality management
  • Communications management
  • Human resource management
  • Risk management
  • Procurement management

one will fail, when it comes to real life project management. More than that, while the future holds good for the Agile, many customers insist on PMP’s to manage their projects. If you are from the I.T background, these two certifications are mandatory. Start with agile, and then graduate into PMBOK. Both complements.

If you are from any other domain, other than I.T, then the options are either PMP or PRINCE2. Since the origins of PRINCE2 are from U.K, it is appreciated there, and the rest of the world is with PMP. So, based on where you are, and where your customers are, you have to decide.

Please post all your additional queries as comments to this page, and I will reply.