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InfoQ Homepage News A Fresh Wave Of Agile Certification Criticism

A Fresh Wave Of Agile Certification Criticism

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The topic of agile certification has been a common kernel of much recurring debate within the community for a long time. Is it desirable? Is it possible? Is it a farce, a scam? There has been recent wave of discussion arguing against certification, largely in reaction to a new company claiming to provide such "agile certification".

Elisabeth Hendrickson was the first in this wave of agile certification criticism to post her thoughts on the topic. In her article she presents her take on how a certification offers little value for most of what comprises agile development, as well as clarifies when and how certification might be useful. Summarizing her experience with past certification programs, she says this:

It is not clear to me that there is any evidence demonstrating a positive correlation between competence at software testing and possession of an ISTQB certification. (Some wags have argued that there is a negative correlation. I’m not going there.)

Rather, I suspect there is no correlation. I do not believe that certified software testers are any better at testing, on average, than uncertified testers.

And because I do not think there is a correlation between tester certification and competence, I see no value in software testing certifications. I think they’re a marketing scheme concocted to increase training revenues.

But people buy into this stuff, and classes leading to certification outsell classes that don’t lead to certification.


In his article Why I Don't Provide Agile Certification, Jim Shore talks about the risks of agile certification and why we should argue against it. He discusses the possible reasons people like certification, then follows with this conclusion about the realities of it:

These [previously stated points] are great reasons to like certification... if you're interested in being mediocre. There's nothing in there about "superior training" or "proven ability." Far from it. No, certification isn't about ability. It's about the easy way out: for employers, an easy way to filter resumes; for employees, an easy way to get noticed. And one thing I know for sure is that people and companies who want the easy way out are not going to be great. 


Much of this recent discussion is rooted in reaction to a newly announced organization, the World Agile Qualifications Board. As explained in the various articles referenced here, the claims of this organization to have the ability to create a "Certified Agile Developer and Tester" is what lies at the heart of much of the agile communities opposition to agile certification programs. In short, the fear that people put faith in and chase after programs claiming to make them agile "overnight", something any experienced agilist can confirm is not possible.

Gojko Adzic states his feelings on this point, also specifying how this particular instance bothers him:

First of all, their first training course is a complete rip-off of the excellent Agile Testing book by Lisa Crispin and Janet Gregory without giving any credit to the authors. The course summary is literally the table of contents from the book verbatim copied into a web page.
The second thing is the name of the organisation, which really hit a nerve. World certifications? Yeah right.
With such an aggressive plan and ripping off other people’s work, this seems a sure recipe for disaster.

Regarding this first point, Lisa Crispin had earlier made a public statement on the Agile Testing yahoo group clarifying her displeasure with the use of her book's content for this purpose, as well as her general opposition to certification programs overall.

Possibly most forthright among the various responses to the claims of the World Agile Qualifications Board, Michael Bolton highlights the crux of why many people in the community oppose what such an organization might represent:

In my opinion, all this shows signs for the WAQB being a scam, and a racket. My opinion is that of an experienced tester, a member of several testing communities, and a teacher of and consultant in testing. I consider the WAQB to be a racket even worse, even more transparent, even more nakedly a way to separate people from their money than the usual certification schemes. Everyone is free to make his own decision, but I believe that one would be a fool to have his or her pocket picked by these people (or this person). And you're not a fool, right?


To be clear, it's not the intention of InfoQ to evaluate the value or legitimacy of the World Agile Qualifications Board in and of itself. This news is intended to highlight the discussion prompted by it, and to summarize how this discussion ties into to the overall topic of agile certification in our community. We hope for you to read these sources, as well as others not referenced here, and to add to the discussion with your own opinions about the subject. In other words, what do you think?

Previously on InfoQ: Agilists Certifying Agilists, "We Vouch For..."

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