Thursday, August 27, 2009

Thoughts on Certifying Scrum Developers

Diploma Tied With Blue Ribbon
Responding to Ron Jefferies request (via Twitter) for thoughts on a Scrum Alliance Certified Developer, I put together these ideas. I'm sure many of these thoughts have already been covered in Alliance conversations and the exhausting threads covering this on various lists, but it helps me organize my thoughts. First, allow me to start with a bit of my background, in case that helps set the context I'm coming from, with regards to certifications. I was a charter member of Microsoft's Certified Application Developer (.Net) certification, a Certified Scrum Master and a Certified Scrum Practitioner.

The interested parties in certifications are the people wanting to be certified, the people hiring them and the Alliance as the certifying authority. Are the interests of all three equally weighted? I thought of another interested group the training/testing delivery people.

Looking at my experiences for why I pursued certifications, one primary reason, especially for my MCAD and CSP ones, was to differentiate myself in the eyes of potential future employers. A secondary interest for the MCAD cert and a primary one for CSM was to learn more in those areas. Differentiation and education are pretty common for others I know that have pursued certification, usually pretty heavily weighted to the former. As such the pursuer of certification wants the certification to be difficult enough to provide real differentiation but still achievable in a reasonable amount of time and at a reasonable cost.

Looking at what I have liked and disliked about each, I feel that the CSM certification is too easy to obtain, an opinion I expressed to Mike Cohn after he delivered my course. Some of that is an unfortunate side effect of the title Certified Scrum Master. I'm being certified as a Master of something after a couple of days of training? Really? And then that is the most recognizable title in the field? I wish the toothpaste could be put back in and the initial certification was as a Practitioner (or Apprentice), the later one as Master. I liked the extensive application process for CSP. That felt more substantive. Unfortunately, I have not discerned much talk int he community of the importance of being a CSP or any difference in interest from potential employers. This is a current interest since Borland was acquired by Micro Focus a month ago. :) For the MCAD, I liked the Core + Elective set up so that you could focus on areas of interest or relevance. I did not like that it was a developer certification based on multiple choice tests.

Turning a bit to the hiring company side, I wrote here about some things I look for when interviewing candidates and I've been thinking about this conversation on the Software Craftmanship list about selecting for the wrong things in the interview process and this post on weeding out gross incompetence. I'd like to see the certification be tiered, just not with 'Master' at the first tier. When meeting someone with the first tier of certification, I'd know that they had a base level of understanding of the Scrum methods having been in a course for a couple of days. When meeting someone with the higher tier, I'd know that they had been on Scrum projects for some amount of time and had to go through an application and review process to be approved. An unanswered question in my mind is related to the Craftmanship discussion - how do I know they were effective as part of a team delivering software? It is probably too subjective to be answered in the certification process. The quality control aspects of both the course (material and delivery) and the approval/review process being under the purview of the Scrum Alliance are also important to the certification retaining value for the certified developer and the companies.

Going from the starting point Ron specified- that there will be a Scrum Certified Developer what would like to see it entail?

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