As a Professional Trainer and Consultant, I often field questions about certifications in Agile, and particularly the multiple certifications available in Scrum. There is a lot of information available, and perhaps this blog is just one more to add to the plethora. All the same, I wanted to write my own guide to reference as a starting point for those who want to pursue certification or decide on their next one.
I want to get Scrum certified, but where do I start?
I describe the Scrum Master course as the gateway drug to Agile. Despite how others may feel about the commoditization of Scrum training, the Scrum Master certification has grown to be a valuable certification in the job marketplace. So yes, any Scrum Master certification is a solid place to start…AND… Although it is probably the most well-known certification, it is role-specific to the Scrum Master and may not be the right start for everyone. Therefore, I like to impart a little information as well as ask a few questions before someone invests in an expensive class or jumps into a certification path. There are several certifications available for the different Scrum roles and a few things you should know before you start.
Which organization is best?
This simple question requires a complex answer. There are two major organizations that certify practitioners in Scrum. The Scrum Alliance and Scrum.org.
First, a teeny bit of background — and just the basics. (If you want to know more, there is a lot of history documented elsewhere.)
In the early 1990s, Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland created Scrum. They founded the Scrum Alliance and developed the CSM, the Certified ScrumMaster® certification.
In 2009, Schwaber left Scrum Alliance and started Scrum.org to improve the professionalism of software development. Scrum.org developed the PSM, the Professional Scrum Master certification.
Both organizations have grown to have thriving memberships and enjoy global recognition. Rest assured, whether you get certified from Scrum Alliance or Scrum.org you are learning the particulars from the same 19-page source – the Scrum Guide, the definitive guide to Scrum which has been updated as recently as 2017. (You can read the Scrum Guide here.)
While both groups use the Scrum Guide as their core material, there are some differences in the two organizations highlighted here:
Are there any other differences?
Consistency One of the key differentiators between the two is that Scrum.org has a robust apprenticeship program and supplies training materials. This ensures that trainers are well versed in Scrum and vetted both from a culture perspective and real-world experience. The training materials are tested world-wide, and this consistency ensures that organizations who are geographically dispersed can use a variety of trainers around the globe while ensuring their students receive the same material and messaging.
You can recognize which certification belongs to which organization by the title. Scrum Alliance uses the word Certified in their certifications; Scrum.org uses the word Professional.
Both organizations have role specific courses, for the Scrum Master, the Product Owner and the Developer. They both have leadership and trainer certifications. Scrum Alliance offers an advanced coaching certification path and runs an annual conference. Scrum.org offers advanced courses in each role plus their own Scaling method, Nexus. They also offer new classes to meet the needs of a modern market – in 2019 they added the Scrum with Kanban and the Scrum with UX courses.
Here is a breakdown comparing the certifications:
*To read more about the best order to get Scrum Certifications, you can read more from Andre Luis Martin Gomes on the Scrum.org blog.
How did you pick? Should I just do both?
While I can’t answer which one is best for you, I can tell you about my path. I have several certifications from both Scrum Alliance and Scrum.org. I have quite the alphabet soup when it comes to certifications, which is evidence of my preference for continual learning. I feel there is a slight advantage as a consultant to have exposure to both, but as a practitioner, you do not need certifications from both.
Global Brand Awareness: Over the years, as I have worked in different regions, I have noticed that while Scrum Alliance seems to enjoy some brand name exposure in various US regions like the DC area, Scrum.org is known better in other regions, like Florida and Texas. I don’t have any hard marketing numbers to quantitatively analyze which one has a higher market value – if you do, please send them so I can include them here! However, I have been watching and admiring the rapid growth and brand awareness of the Scrum.org brand, particularly in the global market.
Clarity of brand and mission: I like that new courses are constantly being added to the Scrum.org roster to meet market needs, and the Scrum.org brand continues to align with their mission of improving professionalism of the craft. They are laser focused on providing value and I’ve been impressed with their dedication to this in the behind-the-scenes dialogues I’m involved with sometimes as a Trainer. I especially love the new Learning Pathways online and the fact that Scrum is free and open to anyone with a passion for learning like me. (If this has intrigued you, check out the Scrum Master Learning Path as a starting point.)
Alignment of Values: Several years ago, I decided to go further in my Scrum journey to become a Professional Scrum Trainer with Scrum.org as I feel their values as an organization most closely match mine.
The Scrum Values of Commitment, Courage, Focus, Openness, and Respect are the lifeblood of Scrum. They keep Scrum alive and can promote real transformation if applied properly and not just used as buzz words. My daily intent is to practice these values in all my affairs, not just when I am working with a Scrum Team.
I hope this was valuable and would appreciate any adds or clarifications so that it can stay relevant. Want to know which role you best align to? More on that later. Sign up for blog notifications to watch for that article.
In the meantime –
Hone your craft, speak your truth, show your thanks.
~Julee Everett, PST