Common Ground with PMI Agile Certification?

May 20, 2011

When you are young, you are more welcoming to change because you haven’t built a career around a certain way of doing things. Change is more difficult to contend with as you get older, particularly when you have a spouse and house along with some kids, pets, and in-laws that demand your attention, let alone how additional responsibilities pile into your work day as your career progresses. Time becomes a scarce commodity, limiting your ability to develop an understanding – let alone adapt – to change on any front.

Despite understanding that it’s a bad idea to resist change in today’s fast-paced, competitive world, people do get comfortable with established ways of working, and it can be costly.

One example comes to mind from an experience I had in the implementation of one of our products several years ago. I traveled to a company to spend two days reviewing our software with key users so that they could develop a deeper understanding of our product and to determine if any modifications were necessary for their implementation.

The morning of the first day we were all gathered in the boardroom with the CIO of the company, who advised his people to evaluate our product on its merits and not on the way they did currently did business. He made a very specific, clear point that many of their internal processes were built around their existing product that they wanted to replace with ours, and not to get caught up in modifying our system to look and act like their existing system. He sincerely wanted to adapt their processes and leverage our product to give them an advantage.

Unfortunately, the CIO walked out of the room and was missing in action for the next two days. But he left some strong personalities in the room who were very used to working with their old system and could not (or would not) see any other way of operating. I came away with a long list of desired enhancements that basically tailored our system to look and act like the one they already had.

I'm not sure about what happened internally at this company, but this ended with the CIO eventually (weeks later) signing off on all of the enhancements. The customer ended up paying a large premium to accomplish nothing more than swapping the underlying technology and vendor of a key component of their business. But I couldn’t see where they gained any real business advantage or improvement for the time and effort spent.

I’m worried that the same scenario could arise with PMI Agile Certification. Agile development is a fundamental change in approach, more than just swapping of terminology. There are some real, significant changes lurking under the surface of Agile. However, I’m delighted with the concept of PMI Agile Certification, and I remain optimistic that some common ground can be established between what some consider to be incompatible views.