Confused About the PMI Agile Certifications?

Confused About the Agile Certifications from PMI

I’ve been writing about PMI and the acquisition of Disciplined Agile since right after it happened in the fall of 2019. I made some outlandish predictions then. But one thing I did not anticipate was the confusion and lack of consistency that PMI would have after acquiring 6 Disciplined Agile certifications.

With the purchase of Disciplined Agile and Flex, PMI gained 6 new certifications from DA with possibly one more coming for Flex. That makes 7 or possibly 8 total PMI Agile Certifications. Curiously, we are coming up on one year after the purchase and PMI has not yet integrated those 6 DA certifications into the PMI family.

Check out the monthly certification statistics reported by PMI in the July/August 2020 PMI Today magazine. Notice anything missing?

PMI Today Certification Statistics for July 2020

Yep thats right, there are no Disciplined Agile or Flex certifications. Why hasn’t PMI integrated the six existing Disciplined Agile certifications into the fold? After all, these agile related certifications may be key to PMI’s future relevance.

PMI has been pretty quiet on this topic. Scott Ambler did recently hint about changes to come to the DA certification roadmap. He went on record saying that the PMI-ACP will remain though it may be tweaked in the future to increase coverage of advanced agile and lean topics from DA.

Traditional PM Certifications are Cash Cows

Coming back to the PMI Today chart above, it is interesting to note that though there are eight existing PMI certifications, those certifications are not all equal. Most of the certification money is in the PMP and CAPM certifications! Maybe you already knew that. It may help to look at the PMI certification data from a few different angles.

Though few people use the BCG Growth Share Matrix these days, I like it and think it can be useful. The Growth Share matrix is a 2×2 matrix showing growth along the vertical axis and market share across the horizontal.

  • Cash cows are products with high market share and low growth.
  • Stars are products with high market share and high growth
  • Pets are products with low market share and low growth prospects; these used to be called dogs but apparently dogs took offense at the term so they switched to pets which is slightly less offensive
  • Question mark are those products with low market share and high growth

BCG Growth Share Matrix

If we apply the growth share matrix to the PMI certifications, we can call the PMP and CAPM what they are, Cash Cows. They are cash cows because they have high market share in a market that has little growth.

Together, these two certifications account for a whopping 95% of all PMI certifications. And PMI is the dominant player in project management certification.

The PMP was released in 1984 and is twice as old as the CAPM. The training requirement and the 3-year renewal cycle puts both of these certifications in the Ronco ‘set it and forget it’ category. PMI can sit back and wait for the money to roll in.

The chart below shows the growth over time, based on the lifespan for each of those certifications.

Growth of PMI Core PM Certifications

But cash cows are cash cows because they are in the low growth, high market share category. Over time, there is a risk that these cows will stop providing the proverbial milk. Then what? Well, the traditional wisdom is that PMI would introduce new certifications.

Introducing New PMI Certifications

PMI did what any organization would do, they introduced new certification offerings. Starting with the Program Management Certification (PgMP) in 2007 and the Risk Management (RMP) and Scheduling Professional (PMI-SP) Certifications in 2008. Later came the Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP) in 2012 and the Business Analysis (PMI-PBA) and Portfolio Management (PfMP) in 2014. (Check our PMI-ACP course flyer here)

The problem is that these certifications are all Dogs (er, Pets). Low Growth market, and low market share. With the exception of one that is.

Take a look at the chart below which shows the growth of those newer PMI certifications over time, based on age. Can you pick out the Star from among the Dogs?

Yep, the one Agile-related certification is by far outpacing everyone else. The PMI-ACP is even growing faster than the CAPM did at the same age.

Growth of PMI non-Core PM Certifications

Hmmm, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that while the project management certification market is not growing, the agile certification market is. Already, the Scrum Alliance and have each certified a million or more people for their Scrum certifications. Even these are dwarfed by the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) certification machine.

So PMI observes that the PMI-ACP is doing well but they are getting their ass kicked by Scrum Alliance, and Scaled Agile. The obvious next step is to offer more competing agile certifications, like the PMI-ACP. But how? Well, the answer seems clear in hindsight – they buy and prop up existing agile certifications.

PMI Buys the Disciplined Agile Certifications

Enter Disciplined Agile. DA was one of the lesser known agile approaches with a basket of certifications offerings that were not well-promoted or valued in the marketplace. With the August 2019 purchase of Disciplined Agile, PMI expanded their agile-related certification offerings from just one (PMI-ACP) to seven. Here are the newest PMI Agile certifications from DA:

  • Disciplined Agile (DA)
  • Certified Disciplined Agile (CDA)
  • Certified Disciplined Agile Practitioner (CDAP)
  • Disciplined Agile Lean Scrum Master (DALSM)
  • Certified Disciplined Agile Coach (CDAC)
  • Certified Disciplined Agile Instructor (CDAI)

That said, after nearly a year, why aren’t the DA certifications included on the PMI certification leader board? What gives?

PMI Today Certification Statistics for July 2020

What gives is that the DA certifications themselves are a bit of a mess. I took DA training and was able to achieve four of the six PMI Disciplined Agile Certifications earlier this year. There was a somewhat convoluted process for obtaining the certifications and certification names that did not make sense (e.g. what is a Disciplined Agile Lean Scrum Master?). But most important, there is a lack of market recognition and value. These are problems that PMI may be able to fix.

Somethings Gotta Give, and Soon

I am thinking that something is going to change, and soon. PMI is going to finish digesting those six DA certifications and they will probably spit out just two of them. Three if you count Flex from NetObjectives. Then PMI needs to get solidly behind them and promote the hell out of them to the PMI faithful – those one million or so PMP holders who don’t have any agile certification.

Until they do, we can keep the six DA certifications in the question mark pile.

UPDATE August 19, 2020:

PMI sent the following, rather ambiguous non-announcement yesterday.

The PMI Non Announcement

And if you check out the PMI DA site, they have reduced this list of certifications from 6 to 3. What remains is DALSM, CDAI and CDAC. I wager that DALSM (Disciplined Agile Lean Scrum Master) is going to get rebranded as “Team Leader”. CDAC (coach) will remain. And the CDAI will be quietly retired and rolled into the Authorized Training Partner program.

Related Posts

By Anthony Mersino

Anthony Mersino is the founder of Vitality Chicago, an Agile Training and Coaching firm devoted to helping Teams THRIVE and Organizations TRANSFORM. He is also the author of two books, Agile Project Management, and Emotional Intelligence for Project Managers.


  1. Hi Anthony,

    Interesting article. There is a lot going on behind the scenes with Disciplined Agile and we are preparing for a big launch of the new agile certification journey very soon. As I am sure you can appreciate, integration of PMI’s existing agile offerings, DA, and also Flex from NetObjectives is a significant amount of work. As is redesigning the supporting certifications, and ensuring that it meets PMI’s standards of quality and credibility. It is indeed true that we stumbled out of the gate with the DALSM cert, trying to merge it into the existing DA certs, as well as the ACP. But we learned, and took some time to step back and redesign the program. We think that the new journey is solid and will provide great opportunities for personal growth and better job opportunities.

    The numbers of DA certs are not included in the tables you depicted above. We simply have not taken the opportunity to group them in with the existing certs. Perhaps we should! I can tell you that we expect significant growth in 2021.

    Regarding usage of DA, there are hundreds of companies around the world that use it. Keep in mind that methods such as Scrum, XP, SAFe are composed of the practices from the DA Toolkit. So companies don’t need to declare themselves as a “DA Shop” to be using it. We have been gathering some new case studies so watch for those to appear soon on Here is an example Regarding the future, in the last year I have personally spoken with senior execs and PMOs at many of the largest orgs in the world and the interest is very high in the pragmatic, agnostic DA tool kit that can be used to upskill their agile teams beyond existing certs.

    We have some very exciting plans for DA in 2021 so stay tuned. If you would like to have a conversation about any of this, please DM me on twitter @mark_lines

    Thank you for your interest in DA.

    1. Hi Mark, thank you for taking the time to comment on this post. I’ve been watching the PMI acquisition closely and am excited to see how it all pans out.

      I will check out the case studies you shared and yes, I understand that the instances of people claiming to be a DA shop may be understated for the reasons you stated. That said, I keep asking about it and I don’t hear of people using it, at least where I live. It may be more popular in Canada or in Europe than in the US.

      Published statistics about certifications would be one indicator in understanding the relative demand for DA. We have data from other PMI certs, Scrum and SAFe so making the DA certs public will be helpful. I guess one challenge will be that they are now all different so historical rates may not mean much.

      I don’t know how DA will do under PMI. We joined DA as an authorized partner earlier this year because we thought there was a market to be served. So far, the jury is still out. I was an early adopter and champion of the PMI-ACP back in 2012 but as I’ve noted in various blogs, the adoption rates for it remains low, especially compared to the more mainstream certifications like Scrum and SAFe. The PMI-ACP was more popular than the other more traditional PMI certifications like risk and scheduling.

      If you are up for it, I would like to schedule some time to chat and I can post it here on this blog. I will reach out via email.

      Thank you,

  2. Hi Anthony, This is the Insightful information to be implemented in our professional life to become a PMI Agile Certifications. Would like to know more about the advantages of being a certified scrum product owner. Keep sharing thanks.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.