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Value of Certifications for Agile Transformation

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Most debatable question in agile world is related to certifications. Does agile certification depict the knowledge of professional? Cliff Berg, independent IT agile and devops transformation consultant shared his views on the same in his recent blog.

Cliff states that one of the greatest impediments for agile transformation is obtaining the new skills that are needed. It is therefore important to understand the role of certifications in recruiting for the required skills.

Cliff asks: does certification ensure that the person has required skills and knowledge of agile? Many people find certifications useful but only by seeing certifications organizations cannot hire people. He says that having substantial prior experience adds value to certification. Only two days of training cannot give anyone end to end agile transformation knowledge. It comes by time having good work experience.

Certification does not provide any kind of metric about the quality of someone’s knowledge. Certification does not prove advanced knowledge: it only proves that someone has been introduced to the most rudimentary concepts. It should therefore not be criteria for finding the best people.

Recently in the LinkedIn group “Agile”, Alan Moran,Managing Director at Institute for Agile Risk Management Switzerland posted a question, “How valuable is agile certification to you?” The general consensus is that certification is helpful in terms of getting a job.

Joseph Percivall, Software Engineer at 42six Solutions, Maryland wrote,

I found it to be very valuable to set me apart from other applicants in my job/internship search. It was a talking point in every interview I had. It showed that I wanted to learn more about my field and thrive in it.”

Agile is not something that anyone can learn in two or three days. To really understand Agile, one has to have a pretty substantial career of software development behind.Agile is first and foremost about judgment - not prescription and judgment requires professional maturity. Cliff says:

I see Agile not in terms of strict practices such as standups, but rather in terms of a set of values: focusing on what really matters and not on things that don’t actually matter, working incrementally in small chunks, elaborating a design as you go, and having continual communication among team members. A course in an Agile methodology can help one to think these values through in the context of that methodology, but one could just as easily do that by reading a book. What matters is the background of experience that helps one to put Agile into the proper perspective, so that it can inform one’s judgment.

Cliff says that all the certification programs like CSM, PMI-ACP focus more on scrum but for agile transformation other skills are also required like knowledge of XP, Devops, Lean etc.The technical practices of agile are not supported by certifications. Tools such as Jenkins, Cucumber, Selenium, Vagrant, and Chef – these things are not covered by the Scrum Master or ACP certifications.It is far smarter to find people who are experienced with a range of these tools, and who are adept at learning new tools.

Daniel Sloan, Enterprise Agile Coach at Madison Henry and Professional Scrum Trainer with Scrum.org, says that aside from the diverse skills, tools and unique mindset needed, one must have many years of experience to be really good at this. He says that PSM II exam by Scrum.org judges the practical scenarios related to agile.

Cliff concluded that certification does not provide any kind of metric about the quality of someone’s knowledge. Certification does not prove advanced knowledge, it only proves that someone has been introduced to the most rudimentary concepts. It should therefore not be criteria for finding the best people, only for finding the lowest common denominator.

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