Certified Scrum Master or Project Management Professional: Which Certification is More Valuable in Today’s IT Environment?

Certified Scrum Master or Project Management Professional: Which Certification is More Valuable in Today’s IT Environment?

Anyone working in an IT environment will agree: the pace of technology and change has increased over the last decade and shows no signs of slowing down. As a new Technology Project Manager, certain certifications can help secure job opportunities. But what’s the right path to take to advance your skills? There are both advantages and disadvantages to becoming Scrum Alliance (Agile) Certified Scrum Master or PMI Project Management Professional certification. So, let’s take a look at what they are.

Scrum Alliance (Agile) Certified Scrum Master

The Certified Scrum Master (CSM) body of knowledge is primarily focused around the business tools and methods necessary for delivering projects in an Agile style. It is based on the Agile Manifesto for Software Development, which identifies 12 Principles for Software Delivery, focusing on customer delight, team collaboration for defining and designing solutions, and a high tolerance for iterative changes to requirements along the way.

Many organizations are moving toward Agile for project delivery. The Scrum Alliance CSM training delivers the following content: defined project participant roles such as Product Owner and Scrum Master, the use of stand-ups for group communication and work coordination, and the use of Sprints and Product Backlogs for organizing work tasks.

The cost and time associated with obtaining the CSM certification is less, which makes it attractive for new Project Managers. This approach can be useful in an environment that embraces change and values quick delivery over flawless execution. It is more and more popular as organizations focus on attracting the next generation of workers.

PMI Project Management Professional

The Project Management Professional (PMP) certification from Project Management Institute (PMI) focuses heavily on the PMI publication: The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK). PMI is the largest Project Management organization worldwide, with thousands of local chapters around the globe. The PMP Certification has been considered the gold standard for Project Management best practices and standards for decades. In fact, many recruiters decline to consider a Project Manager’s resume without three letters—PMP—listed.

The PMBOK lays out the project management organizational tools, functions, and expectations for managing 10 elements of Project Management: Project Integration Management, Scope Management, Time Management, Cost Management, Quality Management, Human Resource Management, Communications Management, Risk Management, Procurement Management, and Stakeholder Management. PMI PMP Certification requires you have a prescribed number of hours of experience as a Project Manager combined with a number of years of post-baccalaureate education and you pass an exam.  Additionally, members must adhere to requirements for continual education or risk losing their certification after each three-year period.

The PMI method for project delivery is commonly referred to as Waterfall* and is a prescriptive-phased approach to delivering projects from Inception to Sustainment. Sounds like a lot to learn. Is it really needed? Consider the needs and expectations clients have for Project Managers to answer that question.

*Note: PMI also offers PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP) certification.

Needs and Expectations for a Consulting Project Manager

Although there are new start-up companies popping up every day and more and more companies moving to Agile method for project delivery, leadership at these start-ups typically are experienced IT professionals who have worked in the industry for most of their careers – and old habits die hard. Even as an organization implements Agile methods for project delivery, you will find that the management of the company is still focused on cost and schedule, which is more closely associated with Waterfall.

Companies must manage their annual budgets to stay solvent and may have customer-facing product launch expectations, which require scheduling. It can be difficult to stay within cost targets without locked requirements and the Project Manager is expected to manage these elements of the project.

Agile is best suited for Software Delivery. For Construction or Infrastructure projects, Waterfall is a better fit since there are hard dependencies related to having all the requirements identified before you start ordering materials and building data centers. As an IT Project Manager you will also be expected to understand how to: gather requirements, get a solution designed, apply best practices for quality management and control, test practices and organization, coordinate and deliver training, plan a successful hand-off to your client, and ensure sustaining practices are in place once the product has been delivered to the client.

Bottom line: So, which certification is more valuable? BOTH are necessary for Project Managers in today’s IT environment. Understanding these two frameworks and maintaining both certifications provides you with more tools in your toolbox and enables you to work in any IT environment.

Interested in more? Check out our on-demand webinar Agile Development in ServiceNow: Master Your Scrum Skills.


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