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Agile Certification Arrives

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The new International Consortium for Agile (ICAgile) is led by three agile community members. The first is Alistair Cockburn, a signatory of the Agile Manifesto. The second is Ahmed Sidky, a book author and a past executive-level organizer of the Agile Alliance 2009 conference. The third is Dr. Ash Rofail, a Adjunct Professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Business and an author of six software engineering books.

These three have created an all-new credentialing body, the International Consortium for Agile, found at

The goal of ICAgile is:

... to foster thinking and learning around agile methods, skills and tools....ICAgile certification is skills-based, and requires people to demonstrate they have learned both why (the value) and how (the mechanics) for a core set of skills.

ICAgile has wide-scale ambitions, including the issuance of several levels of certification and at least one conference per year. According to the ICAgile web site, ICAgile plans to run conferences. Those seeking higher-end ICAgile credentials such as Instructor or Expert must attend a conference to comply with the "live testing" requirements of these ICAgile certifications.

Credentials that ICAgile intends to issue (with the help of certified trainers) includes:

1. ICAgile Associate

2. ICAgile Professional

3. ICAgile Expert

4. ICAgile Instructor

5. ICAgile Fellow

The ICAgile program appears to generate considerable demand for the contemplated annual conference by requiring those seeking higher-level credentials to attend the conference event to get certified. For example, to gain the ICAgile Expert credential, its is manditory to demonstrate what you can do, at an ICAgile conference, while being rated and graded by certified ICAgile Experts and other qualified valuators.

ICAgile's Certification Roadmap

The basic credential is the ICAgile Associate certification. According the the ICAgile web site, for applicants the first step is a 'Fundamentals' phase; attending a course to get the level-setting basics. This leads to certification as an ICAgile Associate. The next step is a 'Focus' track and attendance in a Focus class. Focus track elective specialties include:

1. Agile Software Design and Programming

2. Agile Project Management

3. Agile Coaching and Facilitation

4. Agile Business Analysis

5. Agile Product Management

6. Agile Testing

7. Agile User Experience Design

Focus tracks are electives. Upon completion of the 2 educational steps including an assessment, the student may be certified as a ICAgile Professional.

The next step is to reach the level of ICAgile Expert. The web site states the following three steps for reaching Expert status:

Step 1: To pass the advanced assessment, the application will need to show evidence of having learned a second method or approach. The purpose is to show self-study, openness to new ideas, and facility in multiple approaches.

Step 2: The applicant provides a portfolio of work, references, and arranges for a preliminary screening (probably a phone interview). The purpose of this segment is to assess certain kinds of experiences and capabilities that cannot be captured either through an exam or even an in-person demo.

Step 3: The applicant performs work in front of a panel of experts. The [precedure] will be open to outsiders, so others can see how agile work is done, how the examination is done, and how the people in the assessment are doing.

Another high-level milestone is the ICAgile Agile Fellow designation. To reach the level of ICAgile Fellow, one must first become an ICAgile Expert to be considered. The entire ICAgile Roadmap is clearly described.

The entry point for all applicants is to attend certified training: to gain the basic ICAgile Associate credential, applicants must attend certified ICAgile classes. The ICAgile program includes a fair amount of latitude in how certified instructors create course material; however any custom course material developed by the instructor must deliver on the stated ICAgile Fundamentals learning objectives, and be approved by ICAgile itself.

What is interesting is the position on the Agile Alliance on this matter. According to the Agile Alliance, for certification to be effective it must be certifying actual experience:

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.

Vouching for someone else’s skill requires close observation or questioning by someone already possessing it. For anything other than uninterestingly simple skills, that’s a lot of work–which means it’s expensive. Therefore, the only skills worth formally vouching for are those that require substantial effort to learn.

The ICAgile certification details found at make for a very interesting read, and the program, while complex, is well thought-out. What happens next remains to be seen. Certification is now front-and-center and the Agile community as a whole can now choose to aquire certifications from many credentialing bodies, including (but not limited to) Scrum Alliance, and now, IC Agile. InfoQ is monitoring the certification scene closely and is planning more articles on the subject. A recent InfoQ story Reactions to the First Certified Scrum Developer Course has generated a high volume of blog posts, comments and controversy. There is clearly a strong interest in where certification is going in the Agile marketplace.

Stay tuned for more certification articles, interviews and subsquent news stories from InfoQ!

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