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Agile Certification Debate Heats Up

by Kurt Christensen on Feb 15, 2007 |
The debate over agile certification rages on, with a recent entry in the Agile Chronicles taking aim specifically at Scrum certification:
As it stands today, the [Certified Scrum Master (CSM)] program is a fairly hollow certification. Pay the tuition, sit through a couple days of class, and you're in. And while I realize there's quite the CSM training industry taking advantage of the current program... I would encourage those that continue to milk it to take a step back and consider whether they're doing more harm than good.
Arguments for and against certification have been lobbed back and forth within the agile community for years. But assuming certification is even a worthwhile goal, what can be done to make the certifications meaningful? The Agile Chronicles article offers many of the same suggestions voiced by Martin Fowler and others: 
Make it a certification with some real substance:
  • Have some real pre-reqs: relevant experience and an assessed level of knowledge about scrum & agile methods
  • Incorporate a practicum of sorts
  • Actually evaluate knowledge & practical experience, preferably via interview vs. written

Other professions have certification processes that demand all this and more. In a recent InfoQ interview, Kent Beck drew comparisons and contrasts between the agile community and the medical community:

I think it makes sense for practitioners to be accountable for their own skills and results. I don't think traditional certification processes - take a test, get a piece of paper - do this. On the other hand, other professions have meaningful certifications. If you are a board certified physician, it means something. The process is very different from the certifications in computing, though. It takes a long time, it's expensive, the examiners are experts, it requires a significant amount of study and a demonstration of the precise use of your knowledge in real situations.
There are two problems with trying to implement such a rigorous certification process within the agile community. In medicine, the stakes are life and death, and so society demands a minimum level of competency before allowing anyone to practice medicine at all. Therefore, potential doctors have an incentive that simply doesn't exist in the software community, and isn't likely to ever exist. In addition, board certification for medical doctors is overseen by a non-profit organization which essentially acts as a regulatory agency. In the software community, the few certification bodies which do exist do so for profit, and thus have at least a partial interest in seeing more people become certified.

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Scrum Certification is valuable... by Mike Funk

The classes offered by the Scrum gurus are valuable. The certifications they award are also valuable.

That said, the essence of Scrum can be described to anyone in the span of 5 - 10 minutes - as it should be.

Anyone who as participated on a Scrum team, can most certainly participate and/or lead another Scrum team. That's the beauty of Scrum - it's simple, straight forward and effective. Toss in a few XP practices, and you've got a winning development process - IMHO.

Re: Scrum Certification is valuable... by Marco Abis

While I agree that the CSM thing is getting out of control (and I expressed my dubts about the use of the word "certification" in 2003 on the Scrumdev list) I invite people to actually read the descriptions of the certification levels: www.scrumalliance.org/view/certification

It's very clear from that page that a CSM has just attended a basic course, nothing more. Only a CSP (Practitioner) has certified, demonstrated competence. As far as the ScrumAlliance is concerned of course...

There is mastery of the basics and then there is mastery of your profession by Mike Dwyer

Scrum and PMP certifications are designed to provide a baseline skill level for customers of our profession to use in determine a person's minimum competency. Neither organization warranties the quality of the individual's work, just that the person has done what is needed to meet the certification criteria.

If these two approaches were dance steps, SCRUM would be the waltz and PMP would be the Minuet (aka Menuet).

Scrum and the waltz are made up of a small number of very easily learned steps and a couple of variations. Easy to master, the waltz is effectively emp;loyed for teaching 9 year olds the basics of 1,2,3 1,2,3 1,2,3 and world champion dancers, skaters, and rollerbladers the components to attaining gold medals, money and closets full of outrageous clothes.
PMP and the Minuet are composed of dozens and dozens of structured, detailed steps that are chosen carefully and learned over time to produce movie backdrops for times long past.

So what do you want to do?

Re: There is mastery of the basics and then there is mastery of your profes by Deborah Hartmann

> PMP [is]... composed of dozens and dozens of structured, detailed steps that are chosen carefully and learned over time to produce movie backdrops for times long past.

Well Mike, that explains a LOT! ;->

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