Is there a Purpose of Agile Certificates?

2011 – Agile has become Reality

Ten years after the agile manifesto, bringing a couple of experts and methods together, which had already worked successfully a couple of years, some sort of reunion will take place at the Agile 2011 conference.

Looking back ten years Agile obviously has grown up since then. Large organizations are utilizing Scrum, XP and others within their set of standard methodologies – whether for own projects or as consultants to other organizations. We are not only talking about agile guerilla projects, but discussing the Agile Enterprise and how senior management can support the implementation of agile values. A ScrumMaster certification seems to be a “must have” for project managers nowadays. Agile coaching has become some sort of new great profession and coding dojos / retreats, unconferences on agile spread worldwide.

Great time for creative people in this Agile space, as we have reached the critical mass to really work with many organizations, teams and projects in the public. And chances are good reaching the sustainable point, where it may be real fun working on IT projects and making them a success story for the team as well as for the business.

Speed of Agile leads to New Offerings

Still many companies and individuals are yet on their way transitioning to Agile or even far away from even thinking about this. The development towards Agile mainstream puts even more pressure upon their shoulders. An increasing number of project managers, business analysts, testers, not to forget developers (some even still deal with Cobol, PL/1 etc) and last but not least operators have to deal with Agile. Whether it’s being requested by customers, employers or simply one’s own team. This is the time, where even more communities are established by those experts, who want to exchange experiences with peers from their speciality. The Agile conference schedule is filling up rapidly. And new trainings & certificates are developed for project managers, analysts and testers.

But wondering – is this the right approach?! Take the Certified Agile Tester program, provided by iSQI (International Software Quality Institute GmbH). It’s a high qualitative course, which had been developed over a course of 1,5 years by a couple of real experts. Four days intensive training are followed by an essay-based certification test, taking several hours, even taking into consideration the candidate’s social skills based upon evaluation during the four days of training. It’s a high quality training helping test experts entering the world of Agile – new process, new roles, maybe changing techniques.

Is there a Purpose of Agile Certificates for Individuals and Experts?

Anyway, does the market really need such sort of trainings? Is this really a good approach? Wouldn’t we then also train a project manager separately for Agile (well, PMI does with PMI-ACP), do the same with business analysts (don’t forget the Scrum CSPO¬†and wait for Agile IREB?) and could do the same for architects (still required?) and developers (Scrum alliance helps out). Finally you have to wait for the big time, when all these people come back from training and meet in a real-life agile project. They are supposed to work in a team with even more focus on collaboration, leaving behind the nice little waterfalls with barriers in-between. But they did this training themselves together with peers from their own discipline, apart from others.

It’s good receiving training on methods, learn from experts and start unlearning out-dated stuff. Many of these courses will offer something for this purpose and they address specific specialists. But there is one pitfall – they train the individual instead of the team. They still keep focusing on the experts. There are basically no new software engineering practices to learn – anything used in Agile has been around since more than ten years and is being taught in various educational tracks and courses. Knowledge trained by PMI, ISTQB etc may still be useful. But what is usually missing is the knowledge about teamwork, the overcoming of boundaries, the will from experts for joining forces in a cross-functional team.

Therefore – if useful at all – such Agile trainings should only be a temporary phenomenon, hopefully being soon replaced by cross-functional team trainings. Training teams and management will open the door for real change, avoiding the clash of experts, who come back to the team from their Agile experts training.

So let’s forget about Agile certificates for individuals? Let’s grant certificates for Agile teams only? Value experts for their expertise, but request their collaboration in teams.

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3 Responses to Is there a Purpose of Agile Certificates?

  1. Vin D'Amico says:

    I believe that training is a very good thing but certification is not. Ideally, a project team should get trained together so they all hear the same messages and benefit from the same experiences. Being agile is about more than just approaching projects differently. It’s a mindset; a new way of getting stuff done.

    Therein is the problem I have with certifications. They often focus too heavily on procedures — do this, don’t do that. You can’t be agile by following a procedure. You must be willing to collaborate with others and think on your feet. How do you certify that?

    • Michael Leber says:

      Totally agree. People coming into an agile project will already bring in lot’s of technical skills. While an agile “process” will scale small and simple as useful (get rid of waste), the real hurdle is working in the team + collaborating with the customer. This is being learned in real life and can be facilitated by means of specific team trainings. Training individuals, who even go for “agile” certificates might be contra-productive.

  2. Michael Leber says:

    PMI initially didn’t plan a certification for Agile as part of their new initiative. Just when after they had done research on the status-quo and found out, how many definitions existed, that started driving the idea about including a certificate. Listen to this interview with Frank Schettini about the story of the PMI Agile Certificate: