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InfoQ Homepage News Agile Certification Debate Heats Up

Agile Certification Debate Heats Up

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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