The Agile Alliance Takes an Official Position on Certification
The numerous discussions that have been happening in distributed pockets of the community regarding certification of Agile processes has prompted the Agile Alliance to take an official stance. As Agile development practices spread, and employers look for qualified staff to help them build software, they have turned to certified individuals thinking that they were better qualified to fill the positions. The Agile Alliance stated that:
It is the position of the board of the Agile Alliance that employers should have confidence only in certifications that are skill-based and difficult to achieve. We also believe that employers should not require certification of employees.
The reasoning behind the Alliance's stance is simple. Certifications tell you that a person has been exposed to specific knowledge. And, although knowledge is useful, it is only the first step towards efficient practice and delivering value to the company.
A skill is not as simple to acquire as knowledge: the learner has to perform the skill badly, recover from mistakes, do it a bit better, and keep repeating the whole process. Especially for the interrelated and interpersonal skills required of Agile software development, much of the learning has to take place on real projects. It is that learning that a certification should vouch for.
This type of certification, which is not readily available in our community, is what the Alliance endorses. But, to be able to vouch for someone with this degree of certainty is time consuming, and therefore expensive.
Therefore, the only skills worth formally vouching for are those that require substantial effort to learn.
The Alliance goes even further suggesting that companies wanting to adopt Agile development should not require certification
Excluding them [non-certified practitioners] from consideration would be a poor business decision. Moreover, the state of the practice moves on. Skills decay when unused. The question is not whether an applicant once possessed appropriate skill; it's whether the applicant can do what's required today. A certificate cannot substitute for the hard work of individual evaluation.
Finally, they got specific with respect to current certification processes. Both Certified Scrum Master and DSDM Foundation designations were labeled as knowledge based certification. The Alliance was careful to point out that these certifications are valuable, and participants do get their money's worth, but that they are not evidence of skill. Other certifications such as Certified Scrum Practitioner and DSDM Practitioner were labeled as skill-based and have the official stamp of approval.
As the certification debate continues, we will expect to see lively debates and alternatives to the current certifications emerge.
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J. B. Rainsberger