Scrum Certification: The Dynamics of Authorization

Scrum certification is now very much in focus. The Scrum Alliance has authorized new certifications, and a new role called Creative Director.The new role is currently held by the outspoken Tobias Mayer. The new Scrum Alliance certifications include Certified Scrum Developer (CSD) and Certified Scrum Coach (CSC). The Scrum Alliance’s relatively new tagline, “Transforming the World or Work” symbolizes the very real changes taking place inside this credentialing organization.

These new credentials and new roles at the Scrum Alliance come on the heels of founder Ken Schwaber formally leaving the Scrum Alliance to create an all-new credentialing authority called Ken Schwaber is a signatory of the Agile Manifesto and a noted authority on agile and Scrum.

The mission of as listed on the Scrum.Org web site is as follows:

<quote>’s purpose is to improve the profession of software development so that we love our work and our customers love working with us and trust our integrity. To do so:

1. We maintain the consistency and integrity of the Scrum process.

2. We work with select partners to develop courseware and knowledge on how to use Scrum in various domains or work, such as risk management.

3. We work with trainers to learn and use the Program Development Partner courseware to help others learn how to build products using Scrum.

4. We work with Scrum users to help them incrementally improve their ability to use Scrum, including the application of self-assessments.


Scrum certification is a hot topic, and getting even hotter with the development of new credentials by both the Scrum Alliance and the all-new Scrum.Org led by Ken Schwaber. (InfoQ articles on the emergent and ever-evolving nature of Scrum certification are listed below.)

Noted authorities in the agile/Scrum community are now engaging in active and often very heated discussions about the current and emerging dynamics of Scrum certifications.

Ron Jeffries, a signatory of the Agile Manifesto, is asserting with authority that Scrum certifications divide the community rather than unify it.

In a recent high-impact blog post entitled Scrum Alliance: Drop Certified ??, he asserts:


It’s time for the Scrum Alliance to stop using the C word, “Certified”. It is holding us all back by dividing and diluting our impact on the world of work.


Ron goes on to say:


I’m writing this as a challenge to the Scrum Alliance (and as well).

I’m challenging you people to drop the word “certified” from your offering. Figure out a revenue model based on delivering real value to people, not on extracting $50 for a PDF certificate, not on extracting many more dollars for a REP licence, not on extracting way more than that to be a “Certified” trainer. Base the value of the Scrum Alliance — and you, too, Ken — on making real people more successful and happier.

Yes, I know your hearts are good and the damage is low among the world at large. The damage from the C word is high, however, in the community that matters, the community of people who do this work.

It’s time to do the right thing. Stop using the C word.


Mike Sutton, a UK-based Scrum coach and trainer, is the first comment, with a re-focus on community:



We should drop it if we think it is so tainted. But – I don’t. I think the agile community is railing against the level of rigour that is behind the C word, the ease of getting ‘Certified’ (effectively if you pay your money, you get certified) and the fact that there is no emphasis on continuous improvement – either by the need to recertify or the threat of decertification.

In many ways the Certification is not the issue. It masks the issue. We *all* want professionals (folk who are paid to do something) that are technically competent (in whatever they are paid to do), seek to continuously improve, know and constantly finding ways to collaborate, are passionate about doing great work and are mature enough to reflecton how they can achieve that. Some of that needs knowledge of process (agile) , but most of all it requires ongoing almost pastoral support of the individual by the community they are a part of.

Now that is the C word that we should be focusing on – Community.


So far, so good. But it only takes a little while for a post like this to get the attention of Tobias Mayer. Tobias, a Scrum Alliance staffer, is compelled to weigh in on the debate. He responds with a delicate suggestion for Ron Jeffries..that he stop offering certified Scrum training:


Ron, clearly you are opposed to Scrum certification, yet you say you ride the bandwagon to reap some of the benefits thereof. Perhaps that is what really needs to be addressed here. True change begins within oneself, not in other people, so “be the change you want to see in the world”.

You are an asset to the Scrum Trainer community, and I think almost without exception other trainers respect you, and value your contributions, but being a CST does NOT mean you must deliver CSM (and now CSD) training. The latter is a privilege of the former, but they are not bound. So practice what you preach in this post, and stop offering certificates with your training. Given your strong feelings on the matter it would seem the honorable thing to do.

And perhaps your example will encourage others to follow a similar path.


A little later on, an outspoken blogger named John Sonmez weighs in. He makes the following comments and provides a link to heated and scathing rebuke of both and the Scrum Alliance:



Keep beating that drum. Right on. I agree whole-heartedly.
I just posted about the subject here:

I also agree about XP.


This high-impact and authoritative blog post from Ron Jeffries entitled Scrum Alliance: Drop Certified ?? is now closed to comments. Many others posted comments to this hot blog post before comments closed, and the post certainly keeps the Scrum certification debate alive.

With the very real changes at Scrum Alliance and the advent of Ken Schwaber’s, the Scrum certification story is far from over … and in fact seems to be entering an entirely new phase of development.

Related InfoQ articles:

Is Scrum Certification Having Another Makeover?

Scrum Certification Test

About the Author

Dan Mezick is an Agile coach and trainer focused on Scrum. He’s a 3-time presenter at Agile2007, 2008 and 2009 and an invited speaker to the Scrum Gathering (Orlando) in 2010. Dan’s company provides Scrum training and Agile coaching, counsel and guidance to executives, managers and teams. Learn more about Dan here.