Friday, September 26, 2008

Rant about Agile Certification...

If you hadn't noticed, the title of this post notes that this is a rant. I know I will upset certain people in the community, but I believe in this and I've got to speak up.

I endorse scrum as a good approach within Agile to pursue. It is one option of several and I've had success with it. I'm also a CSM, certified scrum master. This was paid by my prior employer and I was trained by one of the original 40 CSTs, certified scrum trainers.


At Agile 2007, I talked to someone in the Scrum Alliance booth and found out that there is a great money sucking scheme behind this certification thing. First of all, it expires after a year. Secondly, you can renew it by simply paying for it. Back then, they sent you a new sticker for the new year to place on your certificate. They didn't even take the time to print and send you a new one.

So basically, the certification is a scam. It certifies that you sat in a class that has no test at the end. It doesn't require you to have experience. It doesn't require anything for renewal but money. Oh yeah... now that everyone has it, they offer several other upgrade certifications: CSC, CSP, CSPO, CST. Why not a CSBSer?

What triggered this rant a year after I gained this knowledge at Agile 2007? Recently, Bob Sarni did an awesome thing by creating a LinkedIn group for the Scrum Alliance. It was one of the few LinkedIn groups that had some real discussion. Recently, he handed the baton off for the group to someone else. After a few weeks, there is an announcement that members of the group should divide themselves by the above acronyms and join new groups. Oh yeah, and-
Each requires active membership in the Scrum Alliance and appropriate certification. Please feel free to join any of the other groups you are certified for...
So, now they are using LinkedIn to milk money out of the certification machine.

It's a shame because its stuff like this that helps people lump agile into the same bucket as all the other has-been process certifications over the years.

Agile is supposed to be an inclusive community. We are all supposed to be striving together for higher understanding. We are all supposed to be helping each other. This smells like an old boys club.

I'm not alone in this thinking... here is a post on InfoQ, a second one, and the formal Agile Alliance stance on certifications.


I am glad I have the certification. The training was valuable and helpful for my education in Agile. I am honored to have worked with some of the people in the Scrum Alliance. I'm just opening a real debate around how it sets a perception of elitism.

In related news, there is a driving movement towards peer certifications that I do endorse (assuming it continues in the direction it is currently heading).

Invitation: I seriously welcome any thoughts on this topic. I will let them all through... I only moderate comments to block spam.

Update Nov 2008: this post got a lot of traffic... there is good news... they are adding a test to this certification! I don't know how well it will work, but it is a start.


  1. Greetings Kevin,

    I apoligize for responding so late. Just wanted to share that I fully supported the change of the Scrum Alliance Inc LinkedIn group ownership to the Scrum Alliance. It was always meant to be a group for active members of the Scrum Alliance. I actually welcomed the change, it was quite overwhelming keeping it up!

    I know certification is a well debated subject in the Agile community, I personally support the certification path of the Scrum Alliance. It is important that we understand the progression from knowledge (introduction) to practitioner to guide. I also fully respect the opinions of those that do not agree with it.

    Note: the Scrum Alliance is developing a knowledge based certification test in partnership with Certified Scrum Trainers and other Scrum Practitioners. You can contact the Scrum Alliance for more details.

    I can not respond to your comments about the certification being a money sucking scheme. I do know the the Scrum Alliance is a non-profit organization and all their board members are volunteers and not compensated.

    Would love to discuss further, please feel free to contact me offline.

  2. Bob-

    I welcome your response. This is definitely a well debated subject as implied by the links to InfoQ articles I had in the above post.

    Noting that the Scrum Alliance is non-profit is a valuable point. It does deflate the "money-sucking" (clearly emotional) statement in my original post.

    It's good to hear that the S.A. is developing a knowledge based certification test. Sitting in a classroom is not a good way to prove someone is ready for anything. Now that agile is a buzzword, too many people will sit half asleep in a classroom (at any cost) to add an acronym to their name to get job interviews. If we are going to certify something, it should have some proven value (test or experience).

    I have to admit that one of the things that made me flip my bozo bit (to use someone else's words) was the demand that people split into their appropriate CSM, CSP, CST groups. This bothers me since most mentors/coaches learn by teaching and students are part of that. I felt that the LinkedIn group was so successful because of the intertwined roles and experiences. By dividing it up... there is a creation of silos or cube walls which feels anti-agile.

  3. Interesting post. Couple of comments:

    1. I don't think agile money sucking machine that you say, SA is, is a bad thing at all. They are making money legally and are open about it - all the good. I am sure people who renew membership find some benefit in it and attach a value to it.

    2. I am not sure if peer reviewed/ knowledge based tests are a good thing either. For me, a reference from someone I know is good, works better. If there is no reference, then its altogether a different story though.

  4. The rhetoric in this post certainly attracted a lot of attention, and if I were to write it today, I might tone it down a bit. (but it also attracts attention!) Agile Diary has good points and here is a link to his post on the topic.

  5. Agile Alliance viewpoint on certification-