Scrum Certification: Too Easy?

July 28, 2010

There is a interesting debate out there today about Scrum certification and whether or not it should matter to employees.

From a job hunters perspective, however, the question might need to be simply does the certification matter to employees.

In Deborah Hartmann Preuss’ article, “Opinion: Time for an Agile Certification Program” she presents the argument that perhaps the reputation of the CSM is in danger by not having more rigorous hoops to jump through to get the certification. The CSM certification was created initially to provide a kind of continuity. Sort of like training fast food employees so that they all make the same-tasting milkshake, the CSM was designed so that once participants passed the certification exam employers could be assured that anyone with that certification would implement the same methods of project management. Specifcally, they would implement the same Scrum methods.

However, as things have played out, some CSM receipients have gone on to add their own “flavor” to the process and they implement what they are calling Scrum, but a close (and sometimes not even that close) analyzation of their practices reveal that their processes are not anywhere near what a “real” Scrum process should be.

The result is troubling because typically it is Scrum itself what catches the bad-press for failed projects when in reality if the PM had implemented Scrum properly then the project would have been better off. In the employer’s defense, they think they are hiring an expert because the PM has that CSM by their name, and therein lies the main argument in Deborah’s article.

If the Scrum certification is not providing the continuity of implementation that it was designed to facilitate, then does the program need reform? Perhaps it needs pre-requisites?

A counter argument might be to recognize that the Scrum certification is something like creating a franchise of the process. You have sold this great idea to several managers and no matter how great the system is, not everyone will manage it the same way. And some will manage it just plain badly. Just as not all McDonalds sell the same milkshakes all over the country, the implementation of Scrum will vary depending on who you have at the helm. So it sort of goes to show you that while certifications are important–and can increase your knowledge, skills, and career as an individual—-, maybe there should be a reform in how we evaluate potential employees?

In the meantime aspiring PMs will be encouraged to look closely at CSM, because regardless of the “should” factor, right now among employers, the CSM matters and will gain the holder a greater salary as a result.



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