Warning: this post gets a little acronym heavy.
I recently successfully applied to become a Certified Scrum Professional (CSP) and thought I would share some thoughts on the certification.
The CSP is a second level qualification above Certified Scrum Master (CSM), Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO) or Certified Scrum Developer (CSD). All of these certification are run by the Scrum Alliance. I myself was already a CSM and was looking to upgrade my qualification after a few years as a practicing ScrumMaster.
The reason I went to the trouble and the expense ($250) is because of a problem I feel is implicit in the CSM qualification. For those not familiar with the CSM certification process I’ll describe it briefly. Candidates pay around $1,500 to attend a two day training course hosted by a Certified Scrum Trainer (CST). Then…well that’s it, they’re a CSM. The CST pays for their first two years of certification on their behalf out of their training fee. That’s right, no exam, no follow-up, nothing to prove that they’ve taken it in. This is classic sheep-dip training in the guise of certification.
(In no way do I want to denigrate the CSM training course itself. I had been practicing Scrum as a team member for about a year when I attended a CSM course in late 2007 hosted by Martine Devos. I found the experience to be very enlightening and a great setup for taking on the role of ScrumMaster within my project.)
That was back in 2007 and, to be fair, things have changed a little. Now you have to take a CSM evaluation online some time after your training course ends. I thought this may be an improvement until I read that you don’t even need to pass the evaluation. If you fail it you still get to describe yourself as a CSM. I find this to be more than a little crazy – there is no actual certification involved in CSM. The ‘C’ should be replaced with a ‘T’ for ‘Trained’.
I wanted to differentiate myself from non-practicing CSMs. I know a lot of CSMs and while most of them are conscientious ScrumMasters a minority of them fall into a worrying bracket: they go on a CSM course, put the letters on their LinkedIn profile but do not practice real Scrum.
Fortunately the CSP qualification looked to be a good way to differentiate myself. The CSP requires you to have used Scrum in some capacity for at least a year and to complete an application form. I won’t write about the content of the application (the CSP agreement forbids it) except to say that I found the questions to be suitably searching and I believe that a practising ScrumMaster can demonstrate real experience by answering them.
I believe that the CSP is a big step up from the CSM as a candidate has to have real experience with Scrum which is then evaluated by (presumably) an expert at the Scrum Alliance. In addition, in two years time the candidate has to re-certify via the same process (but answering different questions). This sounds more like real certification to me.
I spread the completion of the application over several days and spent a total of 2-3 hours thinking about the questions, drafting and proofing my answers. The only painful part of the process is waiting for feedback. The Scrum Alliance site is very upfront about the fact that it can take up to two months to get an answer to your application. In the event the certification coordinator warned me of a three month wait on application. Fortunately two months was what it actually took. However, I still feel this is too long – especially when you consider the $250 fee payable on the event of a successful application.
In closing I would urge any practicing CSM to go to the trouble of upgrading to the CSP. After paying out so much money to be a CSM the extra outlay in time and money for the addition of a CSP qualification is relatively small. After all, there may be Scrum-aware hiring managers who share my opinion of the worthlessness of the ‘C’ in ‘CSM’.