Why agile skills are more valuable than certifications

Why agile skills are more valuable than certifications

Businesses struggling to align their IT projects with larger business goals and strategies are emphasizing agile project management skills.

Demand for mission-critical IT projects is increasing as the economy improves, but the supply of resources available to handle those demands isn't keeping pace, according to the recent annual Project and Portfolio Management Landscape survey conducted by Innotas, a cloud portfolio management (PPM) solutions provider.

The survey was conducted online this year between January 1 and March 30 with 126 organizations with project and portfolio management responsibilities responding. Results indicated that resourcing is a major source of worry for IT professionals, with 37 percent this year and 51 percent of respondents last year citing it as their most pressing challenge. In fact, 61 percent of those IT professionals polled did not have enough resources and/or staff to manage demand for IT projects in their business or organization.

Simply put, IT professionals cannot keep pace with IT project demands, says Tushar Patel, vice president of marketing at Innotas.

"Budgets have loosened up for most organizations, and hiring has increased for many of our clients. But what we're seeing is, even though they're hiring more, they're still struggling to make sure those people are working on the right things - the projects and initiatives that are most strategic to the larger business goals," Patel says.

Adopting an agile mindset

To help ensure alignment -- that available resources are being used strategically to advance the most critical business goals and drive growth -- many of Innotas' clients are adopting an 'agile' mindset instead of a more traditional waterfall approach to project management and are hiring project managers with the same agile approach.

"Traditional project management certifications are taking a backseat to professionals who can look at the organization holistically and see how they can squeeze the most value out of the limited supply of resources. They're the ones who can see the big picture of how specific projects and initiatives are more strategic to the business," says Patel.

Without agility, expect business failures

There's been a huge shift toward this mindset in the last year, according to Patel. "With limited resources available, our customers are seeing that if they don't have business agility to adapt to the rapid changes in IT markets, then they're going to fail. A traditional, process-heavy approach to project management where they're heavy on planning and it's taking lots of time to map out a waterfall approach to IT projects just isn't going to work," he says.

Projects that were in line with the business goals of a previous year -- or even a previous month -- could end up completely missing the mark as customer needs shift and the market demands change in the blink of an eye. The promise of agile is in its emphasis on iterations -- quick changes to product requirements that keep pace with the rapidly evolving market landscape so projects have a greater chance of success.

Hire Agile

And those rapid changes are even affecting how organizations source, recruit and hire project management professionals, says Jennifer Jaffe, vice president of product and marketing at Jama software. Traditional certification of project management skills isn't as important nowadays as real-world, on-the-job experience with the agile methodology and business agility in mind, she says.

"For me, personally, as a hiring manager I don't necessarily look for these certifications when I'm trying to fill a project manager or product manager role; there's just no substitute for that kind of experience analyzing larger business trends and breaking that down into tangible requirements and actionable steps in the process," Jaffe says.

Adopting an agile project management mindset is a lot like running a microbusiness, according to Jaffe. While traditional project management tends to focus on individual projects in a vacuum, an agile approach can place projects and initiatives with the larger context of the entire business so project managers can see how their work impacts the entire organization.

"I am always excited to see project managers who can look at both the individual project's impact and the larger business strategy and implications -- they are the 'versatilists.' These tech workers are truly of value to an organization whether they have certifications or not. That holistic view and big picture' experience is what makes them great project managers," Jaffe says.

And project managers with that type of experience are able to command much higher salaries, too, says Innotas' Patel, because of their ability to add value to the business.

"Good, experienced, versatile project management talent is where businesses should invest the most money. You aren't spending on infrastructure anymore -- it's all in the cloud. You aren't spending on office space -- most people work remotely. You aren't even spending on software as much -- a lot of its SaaS. So what you are spending should go toward making sure you've got the right people with the right mindset to work on the right things," says Patel.

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