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The Emerging Dynamics of Certification

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Scrum and agile certification is now very much in focus. The 'certification story' is unfolding to become a major subject of debate in 2010. The story has several facets, with action from the Scrum Alliance, and the community-at-large, including notable bloggers and the Agile Skills Project. At issue is the basic value of certification.

Skills Mind Map Fragment. from the AGILE SKILLS PROJECT

The story has several facets. The first facet is the recent blog post from Ron Jeffries asserting that certification divides the agile community. In that post, entitled Scrum Alliance: Drop "Certified"?, which also was analyzed in-depth in another InfoQ article, he asserts:

It’s time for the Scrum Alliance to stop using the C word, “Certified”. It is holding us all back by dividing and diluting our impact on the world of work.

The second facet of the certification story is the Scrum Alliance. The Scrum Alliance has authorized new certifications. The new Scrum Alliance certifications include Certified Scrum Developer (CSD) and Certified Scrum Coach (CSC). The Scrum Alliance's relatively new tagline, "Transforming the World of Work" symbolizes the very real changes taking place inside this credentialing organization.

These new credentials at the Scrum Alliance come on the heels of founder Ken Schwaber formally leaving the Scrum Alliance to create an all-new credentialing authority called Ken Schwaber is a signatory of the Agile Manifesto and a noted authority on agile and Scrum.

Thus the third facet of the certification story is the development of The mission of as listed on the Scrum.Org web site is as follows:'s purpose is to improve the profession of software development so that we love our work and our customers love working with us and trust our integrity. To do so:
  1. We maintain the consistency and integrity of the Scrum process.
  2. We work with select partners to develop courseware and knowledge on how to use Scrum in various domains or work, such as risk management.
  3. We work with trainers to learn and use the Program Development Partner courseware to help others learn how to build products using Scrum.
  4. We work with Scrum users to help them incrementally improve their ability to use Scrum, including the application of self-assessments.

Scrum certification is a hot topic, and getting even hotter with the development of new credentials by both the Scrum Alliance and the all-new Scrum.Org led by Ken Schwaber. Of particular interest is the fact that a Certified Scrum Developer (CSD) credential is offered by both and the Scrum Alliance.

A fourth facet, and perhaps the most interesting, is the emergence of the AgileSkillsProject at The organization describes itself as follows:

The Agile Skills Project is a non-commercial resource that will establish a common baseline of the skills an Agile developer needs to have, including a shared vocabulary and understanding of fundamental practices. The Project intends to:
  • Establish an evolving picture of the skills needed on Agile teams
  • Encourage life-long continuous learning
  • Establish a network of trust to help members find like-minded folk, and to identify new mentors in the community

The Agile Skills Project (ASP) has direct connections to Ron Jeffries and several others who are notable in the agile community. InfoQ is carefully following and reporting on this story; for more details, please see the previously-published news posts on the Agile Skills Project and the Agile Developer Skills Workshop.

What does the Agile Skills Project think about certification? One person involved in leadership of ASP is D. Andre Dhondt. In a recent email to InfoQ, Andre writes:

Following the recent flurry of blogs/tweets/etc. on Certifications (Robert Martin, Ron Jeffries, Chet Hendrickson,Tobias Mayer, Cory Foy, George Dinwiddie, Mike Sutton), I think it could be newsworthy to write an article about how certification really is just a red herring, as Sutton suggests. The Agile Skills Project (ASP) doesn't have an axe to grind here -- it's got no money, and doesn't make a profit for rating/ranking/qualifying classes/certs/etc.

The real, underlying problem is how do we get people hooked on lifetime skills improvement? I think the answer is a point-accumulating model in which people can show what they're doing, be it paid courses or self-trained study. Dan Pink says motivation comes from autonomy-mastery-purpose. We give people autonomy in choosing whether they go for certs or not, read books, or go to conferences -- but count it all as something that demonstrates progress, their way to mastery. We give purpose to the whole thing by making it community-owned...

One item of note regarding the Agile Skills Project is the ability of users of the ASP web site to post a personal "skills inventory". This amounts to a chronological summary of professional development activities over time, with an example of this being the skills inventory of D. Andre Dhondt.

The ASP project is seeking community feedback on everything they are doing. The project is now an element of an new and emerging certification landscape for agile practitioners.

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