Professional/Certified Scrum Developer – Lamentable Takeup

Recently Ken Schwaber posted on his blog about perhaps licensing Software Developers and those who practice in the field in much the same way we license other professions.  The even greater reliance on software these days requires even more reliable delivery of that software.

I somewhat agree, but I don’t think the rest of the world does.

I looked at the PSD certification that Ken’s provides. certifications are the more difficult ones out there and is a deliberate response to toughen up the certification space.  For the PSD certification there as of 11 May 2014 only 1341 holders.  This compares against 21,112 who hold the PSM 1 certification.  I could not find any figures for the Scrum Alliance’s CSD certification, however they have some 300,000 holders of their comparatively easier CSM certification.  Given that there are only 74 members of the CSD linked in group the ratio is probably similar.

Why is this?  Looking at the reading material for PSD course though, it’s quite large with 29 books listed.  I’ve read all but four of these books and this has taken a long time over a long period of time.  I do intend sitting the exam as well but only when I feel absolutely certain I’ll pass with a score around 95%.  The test is 80 questions in 60 minutes with a pass mark of 85% – the hardest of all the Agile certifications (those only involving an online exam) that I’m aware of.

So the difficulty in the exam and it’s sheer volume of content could be a problem.  But there are courses in PSD that run for 3-5 days depending on who’s offering it.  But there are hardly any offerings on at the moment.  It would seem people aren’t clamouring to be do the course.  Supposedly this would put you in a good place to pass the exam.  I do wonder if this is the right way in any case.   Granted courses are good for learning something that you may not have known previously but maybe should not be viewed as a shortcut to certification.  Some experience component is required.

So taking a course is not high on the agenda.  Perhaps there are people who’d like to take the course but can’t because their employer won’t allow 5 days away.  Generally this could not be the case as all employers allow time for training.

Is it the content – yes there is a lot.  The quality could/should not questioned.  The authors and the books are well accepted.

Maybe what Ken suggests is correct.  Forcing a licensing approach could create better developers and improve the state of software delivery.



2 responses to “Professional/Certified Scrum Developer – Lamentable Takeup

  • Derek Davidson

    Hi Nick

    With reference to Ken’s blog, I took the view that Ken was lamenting the lack of skills in many people that title themselves as software developers. I gained the impression that his motivation is to improve the profession of software development and the article wanted to effect this from the grass roots by setting a minimum expectation of skills.

    I don’t think he was promoting the Professional Scrum Developer’s course and I wanted to be clear about that before covering my experiences in helping teams to adopt agile technical practices.

    My experience of Scrum adoptions is that improvement in the technical elements (QA, software development) lag significantly behind the business elements. The reasons are usually simple: Little perceived value for high initial cost.

    I was once contracted on a large Scrum adoption with the clear requirement to teach and coach on agile development skills. I was asked to work with the Head of Technical Services, but despite setting many appointments to meet and implement an organization plan, he never made a single appointment, declaring himself too busy. As a result, adoption of technical skills was patchy at best.

    That experience though, is typical. Usually the software developers themselves are happy to learn and practice the skills. It’s the organization that usually proves resistant, especially if the developers are contracted.

    Organizations can often take the view that external, contracted staff should already have the skills and, if they don’t, they should pay to get them.

    For internal staff, organizations can take the view that they don’t want to pay to teach staff these skills because those same staff may then leave to work elsewhere.

    But underpinning it all is the question “What do I get out of it?”

    For their part, contractors will only pay good money, and give up valuable time, if they see value in a course. Right now, there is no pressing demand for PSD qualified contractors.

    For organizations, they don’t want to lose a valuable technical resource for ‘n’ days, for training. They especially don’t want to lose them to training when the organisation have to pay for that training! Unless, there’s an obvious pay back like improved productivity.

    In my (very humble) opinion, what would make courses like PSD achieve greater uptake is emphasis on the value they provide.

    To bring my comment full circle, Ken’s blog favoured a governing body for the software profession. We establish a minimum skillset for a software developer and maybe, require them to prove their technical ability. If this were to happen, you can be certain that both contractors and organizations alike would flock to it. Curiously though, not because they’re forced to but, because they see value.

    Value is the motivator.

  • Nick

    Hi Derek,

    Appreciate the detailed response. I agree that Ken wasn’t necessarily promoting the PSD course either.

    I was drawing my own link to that as it’s provided some inspiration.

    It’s shame that organizations are placing limited value in training for technical practices. I can see parallels in my experiences as well.

    Keep up your good work. I don’t expect the situation to change anytime soon, but will keep up the cause and realize the value.



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