Agile Certification? C’mon Folks!

I wrote previously about agile certification. I don’t like the idea. However, some new arguments arose recently.

For example. Peter Stevens wrote: “In a time when every office worker gets told ‘A Microsoft Office certification is good for your career,’ it is clear that certification is part of the game”.

It is not the case for companies applied agile software development. For example, at TargetProcess we do not pay almost any attention to official certificates. They all sucks. I personally interviewed many people having several Microsoft Certificates, but many of them were bad developers. They were coders, and that is something we are fighting against. It appeared that certification has nothing in common with developers skills. We hired several people with no certificates at all, and we hired several with certificates. There is no any relations between good developer and certificates they have.

Agile implementation changes company culture. Without this shift agile adoption will fail in the long term.

I do believe that there are many Certified Scrum Masters that did not get the Scrum process right. People are different. Someone may attend the course and work hard to improve his knowledge. Someone may attend the course and take SCM title with honor, thinking that he knows everything to implement Scrum in his company.

On my opinion that is one of the reasons why Scrum adoption fails in companies.

How To Certify Meta Process?

Software development process is a complex thing, that should be adopted to each company, environment, etc. Some best practices may not work in some conditions. It means we can’t include practices into certification test at all. What we can include is things that shape the process, things that focus on development process improvements, like retrospective meetings, communication empowerment, self-organization, emergency. But can you imagine how the questions sound like?

  • Have you something in place that enables process evaluation and improvements?
  • Do you have practices that power communication?
  • Do you have practices that enable self-organization?

Guess what answers can we get on such general questions: “Yes, our top managers meets every year and discuss development process improvements”, “Yes, we have Outlook, it is great for communication!”, “Yes, team located in one room, so it is easy to shout out and assign particular task”. The result is obvious though.

What Type of Agile Certification May Work?

Agile certification may be developed in the future, but for the very strict set of conditions. For example, there may be quite good set of questions for the team under the following conditions:

  • Team size: 4-6
  • Project type: Typical web site
  • Project complexity: Average
  • Distributed Team: No
  • Region: Europe
  • Technology: Ruby

If someone creates questions based on the criteria above, that may work. All other attempts to certify teams using General tests will miserably fail in the long term.

6 thoughts on “Agile Certification? C’mon Folks!”

  1. I don’t agree with such vision of web-site. A typical web-site doesn’t need 4-6 developers. It’s usually not project management but account management.

    So why to “agile develop” in simple business-process?


  2. Well, that is just an example, I agree that typical web site is not very good example, but the main idea is there are many criteria that should be taken into account.


  3. I see your point, I ran into this during my PMP and CMM Certifications. I found that all PMPers and CMMers that had certifications could not do the work charge to them. Certifications mean little without demonstrated ability to perform under those certifications. If we are going to certify folks, then we need to devise a way to observe and or track demonstrated ability.

    I also think that these certifications need to be really, really expensive or Free. That way, we can remove the whole stigma of just testing and buying one’s certification.


  4. IMHO, all kind of certifications have been intended for the official purpose to ensure quality. But if you look at that deeper, can you honestly admit that all the companies with ISO, CMMI etc. certifications do deliver faultless quality work on all levels of their organization? Same for developers, as mentioned in this post? Do you think that rigidly documented CMMI or ISO procedures will cover every possible aspect of communication, every possible problem that might happen? In my opinion, there can be no agile certification by definition – certified companies are based on rigid set of rules to be followed in all the circumstances, no matter what the issue or problem is. Agile – and it’s fundamental principles – are not about following rigid, documented, set-in-stone procedures and rules, but about people, communication and finding the best possible solution to each particular issue, with the main aim to solve the problem – as opposed to following rules and procedures just for the sake of following them! I’d say certification is a crutch for trust. Trusting that someone or some company does a good job takes time. So, to save this time people use tags – certifications. But this tag can not guarantee that at the end of it all you get quality service or quality product.


  5. The certification indeed has question marks to it but, it does not accurately describe what happens whit Scrum Certification. Scrum Certification is a pathway that builds a demonstrated experience record over time. It is not just take an exam and pass. The scrum certification is your first step towards deep industry validated, documented experience.


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