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Which Agile Certification is best for you? NK Shrivastava and Phillip George, RefineM Project Management Consultingwww.refineM.com ◆ contact@refineM.com ◆ 405 N. Jefferson Ave, Springfield, MO 65806 ◆ 417.414.9886 " id="pdf-obj-0-2" src="pdf-obj-0-2.jpg">

Which Agile Certification is best for you?

NK Shrivastava and Phillip George, RefineM Project Management Consulting

There are a lot of different agile organizations that offer agile practitioners certifications for varying methodologies and purposes. Some are methodology-specificparticularly for Scrumwhile others can be applied to any agile methodology. The Project Management Institute (PMI) offers the Agile-Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® certification, the Scrum Alliance offers Certified Scrum credentials, and other certifications include Scaled Agile, PSC, Scrum.org, and DSDM.

A newcomer to agile, or even a veteran of agile, may quickly become overwhelmed while trying to figure out what is the best certification for them. The certifications vary in terms of experience required, the format and difficulty of the exam (or whether there is one at all) and the specific roles that benefit. In this article, we aim to clear this confusion by listing the different types of agile certifications, the organizations sponsoring them, the qualifications for each, and which types of agile practitioners might be the best fit.

The certifications we describe are the PMI Agile-Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)®, Scrum Alliance’s Certified Scrum offerings, Scaled Agile’s SAFe® certifications, DSDM’s offerings, Scrum.org, and ICAgile. We do not explicitly endorse any of these certifications; our goal is primarily to help agile practitioners navigate the different certifications and determine for themselves what their best fit is. If you know where you are on your agile journey, and what role you want to have moving forward, that is an important first step in determining the right certification for you.

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PMI Agile-Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® The PMI-ACP first began in 2012 after a 2010 survey of PMIwww.refineM.com ◆ contact@refineM.com ◆ 405 N. Jefferson Ave, Springfield, MO 65806 ◆ 417.414.9886 " id="pdf-obj-1-2" src="pdf-obj-1-2.jpg">
PMI Agile-Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® The PMI-ACP first began in 2012 after a 2010 survey of PMIwww.refineM.com ◆ contact@refineM.com ◆ 405 N. Jefferson Ave, Springfield, MO 65806 ◆ 417.414.9886 " id="pdf-obj-1-4" src="pdf-obj-1-4.jpg">

PMI Agile-Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)®

The PMI-ACP first began in 2012 after a 2010 survey of PMI members indicated that many of them were using agile methodologies on their projects, according to Joseph Flahiff. 1 The goal of the PMI- ACP is to cut across different methodologies and show that the recipients have experience in agile that can apply in many different methodologies, industries, and situations. Holding the ACP also shows experience in agile as well as project management. Table 1 below shows the qualifications for testing for the PMI-ACP, which include both general project management experience and agile project experience 2 . Flahiff writes that within a short time after PMI began offering the ACP certification, many employers were already seeking people with the certification on their job postings 3 . Scrum, XP, and Kanban are all covered on the exam, and the study list includes many influential books from agile thought leaders 4 .

PMI states that the advantages of obtaining the PMI-ACP include demonstrating knowledge in agile methodologies, as well as learning a versatile range of tools with which to manage projects 5 . Because the PMI-ACP requires both general project management experience and experience in agile projects, newcomers may not be able to obtain it right away. There are many other certifications that require no project experience, which make them accessible to newcomers, but they may be less valuable to employers who are looking for proven experience.

Education

Experience

Contact Hours

1. Secondary degree (high school

  • 1. 2,000 hours of general project

1. 21 contact hours of training

diploma or global equivalent)

management experience within the last five years OR the Project

related to agile

Management Professional (PMP)® certification

  • 2. 1,500 hours of experience with

agile teams or methodologies within the last three years

Table 1. Qualifications for the PMI-ACP.

  • 1 Flahiff, Joseph (2012, April 30). PMI’s agile certified practitioner: A cert is born. TechRepublic. http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/tech- decision-maker/pmis-agile-certified-practitioner-a-cert-is-born/

  • 2 Project Management Institute (2014). PMI agile certified practitioner (PMI-ACP)® handbook. Project Management Institute, Newtown Square, Pa.

  • 3 Flahiff, Joseph (2012, April 30). PMI’s agile certified practitioner: A cert is born. TechRepublic. http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/tech- decisitionon-maker/pmis-agile-certified-practitioner-a-cert-is-born/

  • 4 Project Management Institute (2014). PMI agile certified practitioner (PMI-ACP)® handbook. Project Management Institute, Newtown Square, Pa.

  • 5 Project Management Institute (2014). PMI agile certified practitioner (PMI-ACP)® handbook. Project Management Institute, Newtown Square, Pa.

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ICAgile ICAgile, created by the International Consortium for Agile, is another certifying body that covers morewww.refineM.com ◆ contact@refineM.com ◆ 405 N. Jefferson Ave, Springfield, MO 65806 ◆ 417.414.9886 " id="pdf-obj-2-2" src="pdf-obj-2-2.jpg">
ICAgile ICAgile, created by the International Consortium for Agile, is another certifying body that covers morewww.refineM.com ◆ contact@refineM.com ◆ 405 N. Jefferson Ave, Springfield, MO 65806 ◆ 417.414.9886 " id="pdf-obj-2-4" src="pdf-obj-2-4.jpg">

ICAgile

ICAgile, created by the International Consortium for Agile, is another certifying body that covers more general agile topics than any specific methodology. The consortium describes its certifications as “methodology-agnostic,” meaning that they are not just for one methodology such as Scrum 6 . The consortium offers three levels: Professional, Expert, and Master. Professional level is knowledge-based, so candidates only need to take a course to obtain the certification; no exam is required. Expert and Master levels are competency-based, so candidates also need to pass an exam 7 . There are also ten Continued Learning Certifications, or CLCs, with two more in development. Table 2 summarizes the available certifications from ICAgile and lists the CLCs.

ICAgile Levels

 

ICAgile Disciplines

  • 1. Professional (knowledge-based) + 12 CLC

  • 1. Agile fundamentals

  • 2. Expert (competency) + 8 CLC

  • 2. Agile development

  • 3. Master (competency) + 1 CLC

  • 3. Agile management

  • 4. Agile coaching

  • 5. Agile testing

  • 6. Value management

  • 7. Enterprise Agile Coaching

  • 8. Agile leadership

ICAgile Continued Learning Certifications (CLCs)

 

ICAgile Certified Professional In

.

  • 1. Business Value Analysis (ICP-BVA)

  • 2. Agile Portfolio Management (ICP-PFM)

  • 3. Agile Project Management (ICP-APM)

  • 4. Adaptive Management (ICP-ADM)

  • 5. Agile Team Facilitation (ICP-ATF)

  • 6. Agile Coaching (ICP-ACC)

  • 7. Agile Programming (ICP-PRG)

  • 8. Agile Software Design (ICP-ASD)

  • 9. Agile Testing (ICP-TST)

  • 10. Agile Test Automation (ICP-ATA)

  • 11. Enterprise Agile Coaching (In Progress) and Agile Leadership (In Progress)

 

Table 2. Summary of ICAgile certifications and Continued Learning Certifications (CLCs).

  • 6 International Consortium for Agile (2014). ICAgile Roadmap. https://www.icagile.com/icagile-learning-roadmap

  • 7 International Consortium of Agile (2014). Professional-level certifications. https://www.icagile.com/professional-certifications

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Is an ICAgile certification for you? Some of the advantages of ICAgile include that it canwww.refineM.com ◆ contact@refineM.com ◆ 405 N. Jefferson Ave, Springfield, MO 65806 ◆ 417.414.9886 " id="pdf-obj-3-2" src="pdf-obj-3-2.jpg">
Is an ICAgile certification for you? Some of the advantages of ICAgile include that it canwww.refineM.com ◆ contact@refineM.com ◆ 405 N. Jefferson Ave, Springfield, MO 65806 ◆ 417.414.9886 " id="pdf-obj-3-4" src="pdf-obj-3-4.jpg">

Is an ICAgile certification for you? Some of the advantages of ICAgile include that it can be used with many different methodologies. Graham Dick of CMMI.net also argues that ICAgile can increase the value of other certifications because it focuses on the learning as the product and developing the agile mindset 8 . Anyone can undertake the learning without obtaining the certification, and it focuses on discipline rather than role. For example, as Dick argues, the ICAgile learning roadmap would certify that individuals understand and can apply the concepts of value judgment and business analysis rather than saying that they are a certified Business Analyst or Product Owner. This means that the ICAgile-certified individual could more easily apply his or her learning to the organization rather than the organization needing to conform to the learning. One disadvantage is that ICAgile is not as widespread, but that may change in the future.

DSDM

DSDM, or dynamic systems development method, is an agile framework, and DSDM’s Atern methodology closely follows basics of agile. According to the DSDM Atern Handbook, Atern’s key argument is that more projects fail due to people issues than technology 9 . While DSDM was typically confined to software development, Atern is designed to be used in different industries and project types. It is vendor-independent and consists of five core practices: facilitated workshops, MoSCoW prioritization (Must, should, could, won’t have), iterative development, modelling, and timeboxing.

DSDM offers several levels of certification based on role: foundation, advanced practitioner, trainer, coach, and consultant 10 . They also offer the AgilePM® certification and the Generic Agile certification at both Foundation and Practitioner level. Foundation levels do not require experience, but Practitioner levels do. This certification may be especially good for you if you are a practitioner living in the United Kingdom or elsewhere in Europe. DSDM is more prominent in Europe, and DSDM is designed to be compatible with other certifications, such as the PMP® and PRINCE2® 11 .

Scrum Alliance

The Scrum Alliance offers several certifications for agile practitioners in specific areas. The Certified Scrum Master (CSM)® is for practitioners who want to learn the fundamentals and become more effective scrum masters. The process starts with learning the team roles, activities, artifacts, and other details of Scrum. and the Certified Scrum Developer (CSD)®. The Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO)® certification reinforces knowledge of backlog grooming, ROI, the ability to create and evaluate user stories, and other topics to prepare certification holders to execute the role of product owner 12 .

  • 8 Dick, Graham (2014, July 3) ICAgile so what? CMMI.net. http://cmmi.net/2014/07/03/icagile-so-what/

  • 9 DSDM Consortium (2014). Introduction to the handbook. DSDM Consortium. http://www.dsdm.org/content/1-introduction-handbook

    • 10 DSDM Consortium (2014). Get Educated. DSDM Consortium. http://www.dsdm.org/get-educated

    • 11 DSDM Consortium (2014). Get Educated. DSDM Consortium. http://www.dsdm.org/get-educated

    • 12 Scrum Alliance (2014). Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO)®. http://www.scrumalliance.org/certifications/practitioners/cspo-certification

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Both certifications require training from a Certified Scrum Trainer (CST), which is also awarded through thewww.refineM.com ◆ contact@refineM.com ◆ 405 N. Jefferson Ave, Springfield, MO 65806 ◆ 417.414.9886 " id="pdf-obj-4-2" src="pdf-obj-4-2.jpg">
Both certifications require training from a Certified Scrum Trainer (CST), which is also awarded through thewww.refineM.com ◆ contact@refineM.com ◆ 405 N. Jefferson Ave, Springfield, MO 65806 ◆ 417.414.9886 " id="pdf-obj-4-4" src="pdf-obj-4-4.jpg">

Both certifications require training from a Certified Scrum Trainer (CST), which is also awarded through the Scrum Alliance. Certified Scrum Developers (CSDs) must complete five days’ worth of training and then pass an exam from their trainer to receive their certification, which helps them work as a developer in a Scrum environment 13 . To gain a CSPO, participants have to take a two-day course from a CST.

The highest level of practitioner certification offered by the Scrum Alliance is the Certified Scrum Professional (CSP)® which requires having agile project experience and one of the previous certifications. Obtaining the CSP yields many benefits to Scrum practitioners, including increased validation of their knowledge and experience in Scrum 14 . Figure 1 summarizes the different Scrum Alliance certifications and their requirements.

For Scrum professionals interested in passing on their knowledge, the Scrum Alliance offers several ways to do so. The Certified Scrum Trainer (CST) credential is available to any CSP who has taught classes with a current CST or in a “non-certified context,” meaning that the students did not qualify to earn a certification through the course 15 . Prospective CSTs need to fulfill several stringent requirements, including documented experience teaching Scrum concepts, the CSP certification, and the CSPO certification for CSTs who want to train CSPOs. They also need to show involvement in the Scrum community and obtain a recommendation from one or more existing CSTs. For organizations that want to teach certification and non-certification courses, the Scrum Alliance offers a Registered Education Provider (REP) designation similar to PMI’s R.E.P. program 16 .

For CSPs who want to be able to prove their skills and experience in coaching Scrum project teams, the Certified Scrum Coach (CSC)® credential is also available. Prospective CSCs are required to have a CSP, demonstrate experience in coaching clients on Scrum methodology, and obtain at least two client references 17 . This certification helps show the ability to lead Scrum project teams to success.

Of the Scrum Alliance certification, the CSP is the only one that requires previous agile project experience 18 . The entry-level certifications are a good way for specific role players in agile to demonstrate their knowledge and build experience toward the CSP or the PMI-ACP. Certified Scrum Masters or other certification holders will need additional education and experience to seek the PMI- ACP, though. If you are a team member, in or out of any specific role, who will be working mostly on projects using Scrum, then the Scrum Alliance certifications are justifiable.

  • 13 Scrum Alliance (2014). Certified Scrum Developer (CSD)®. http://www.scrumalliance.org/certifications/practitioners/csd-certification

  • 14 Scrum Alliance (2014). Certified Scrum Professional (CSP)®. http://www.scrumalliance.org/certifications/practitioners/csp-certification

  • 15 Scrum Alliance (2014). Certified Scrum Trainers (CST)®. https://www.scrumalliance.org/certifications/trainers/cst-certification

  • 16 Scrum Alliance (2014). Registered Education Provider (REP). https://www.scrumalliance.org/certifications/trainers/become-a-rep

  • 17 Scrum Alliance (2014). Certified Scrum Coach (CSC)®. https://www.scrumalliance.org/certifications/csc-certification

  • 18 Scrum Alliance (2014). Certified Scrum Professional (CSP)®. http://www.scrumalliance.org/certifications/practitioners/csp-certification

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Figure 1. Requirements and Pathways to Scrum Alliance Certifications. Scrum.org Scrum.org also offers several certifications, includingwww.refineM.com ◆ contact@refineM.com ◆ 405 N. Jefferson Ave, Springfield, MO 65806 ◆ 417.414.9886 " id="pdf-obj-5-2" src="pdf-obj-5-2.jpg">

Figure 1. Requirements and Pathways to Scrum Alliance Certifications.

Scrum.org

Scrum.org also offers several certifications, including Professional Scrum Master (PSM) I and II, Professional Scrum Product Owner (PSPO) I and II, and Professional Scrum Developer (PSD) I. These

certifications do not require a course, but Scrum.org states that the passing requirements are “stringent” meaning that candidates need to have a solid backing in Scrum to be able to obtain them 19 . Like the certifications offered through Scrum Alliance, Scrum.org’s certifications are geared toward

particular roles, like the Scrum master, product owner, and developer. If you are in one of these roles on a Scrum project, and have time to prepare for the certification exam, then you should consider one of

these certifications. The disadvantage is that Scrum.org’s certifications are not as widely known,

whereas the Certified Scrum Master has high visibility.

19 Scrum.org (2014). Scrum.org certifications. https://www.scrum.org/Assessments/Scrumorg-Certifications

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Scaled Agile Certification Many of the above certifications focus on agile practitioners or team members whowww.refineM.com ◆ contact@refineM.com ◆ 405 N. Jefferson Ave, Springfield, MO 65806 ◆ 417.414.9886 " id="pdf-obj-6-2" src="pdf-obj-6-2.jpg">
Scaled Agile Certification Many of the above certifications focus on agile practitioners or team members whowww.refineM.com ◆ contact@refineM.com ◆ 405 N. Jefferson Ave, Springfield, MO 65806 ◆ 417.414.9886 " id="pdf-obj-6-4" src="pdf-obj-6-4.jpg">

Scaled Agile Certification

Many of the above certifications focus on agile practitioners or team members who will be using agile methodologies on projects. The final group we will examine, the Scaled Agile certifications, has a broader, more organization-level, focus. The Scaled Agile Framework® or SAFe®, is a methodology geared toward scaling agile at the enterprise level 20 . Rather than promoting the tools and techniques of agile, Scaled Agile is more about how to grow agile in your organization.

There are three certifications associated with it. The SAFe Agilist (SA) is for executives, managers, and agile change agents who want to lead adoption efforts. The SAFe Program Consultant (SPC) is for internal agile change agents and consultants who want to train leaders and teams. Finally, the SAFe Practitioner (SP) is for developers, testers, project managers, and other team members who are likely to participate in agile and need help scaling it at the enterprise level. Many companies have implemented Scaled Agile approaches successfully, including John Deere and Spotify. 21

For many agile newcomers and practitioners wondering whether they should get the Scaled Agile certifications, the answer may very likely be no. Scaled Agile certifications are geared heavily toward the niche of organizations who want to become more consistent with their agile approach. They may be organizations where a few teams have tried agile with success and they want to expand their approach, or ones where there are inconsistent approaches across teams and the organization needs to unify their processes. Either way, the Scaled Agile framework certifications have a very defined niche and many agile practitioners will not fall under it.

For those who do fall into this niche and want to obtain a certification geared toward scaling agile, be aware that the requirements for these certifications include both project experience and agile experience, as well as coursework and a certification test. The SP requires one or more years in software development, business analysis, testing, product management, or project management. The SA requires five or more years in these areas as well as agile experience. The SPC, which is the most stringent of the three, requires five or more years in these areas, at least three years of agile experience, and one or more relevant agile certifications including PMI-ACP, Scrum Alliance, DSDM, Scrum.org, and ICAgile. All of the Scaled Agile certifications require at least a two-day course and passing a certification exam. 22 Those who obtain one of these certifications should be prepared to take agile to the next level in their organization.

  • 20 Leffingwell, Dean (2014). Scaled Agile Framework. Leffingwell, LLC. http://scaledagileframework.com/

  • 21 Leffingwell, Dean (2014). Scaled Agile Framework. Leffingwell, LLC. http://scaledagileframework.com/

  • 22 Leffingwell, Dean (2014). Scaled Agile Framework. Leffingwell, LLC. http://scaledagileframework.com/

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Conclusion This article was a brief overview of what agile certifications are out there and whatKnowledge Base , where we have assembled templates, articles, and presentations about agile and project management topics. You can also sign up for future agile trainings , including workshops and PMI-ACP® exam preparation courses. 23 Larsen, Diana (2010, April 6). Agile certification: a position statement. Agile Alliance. http://www.agilealliance.org/news/agile-certification- a-position-statement/ www.refineM.com ◆ contact@refineM.com ◆ 405 N. Jefferson Ave, Springfield, MO 65806 ◆ 417.414.9886 " id="pdf-obj-7-2" src="pdf-obj-7-2.jpg">
Conclusion This article was a brief overview of what agile certifications are out there and whatKnowledge Base , where we have assembled templates, articles, and presentations about agile and project management topics. You can also sign up for future agile trainings , including workshops and PMI-ACP® exam preparation courses. 23 Larsen, Diana (2010, April 6). Agile certification: a position statement. Agile Alliance. http://www.agilealliance.org/news/agile-certification- a-position-statement/ www.refineM.com ◆ contact@refineM.com ◆ 405 N. Jefferson Ave, Springfield, MO 65806 ◆ 417.414.9886 " id="pdf-obj-7-4" src="pdf-obj-7-4.jpg">

Conclusion

This article was a brief overview of what agile certifications are out there and what someone has to have in terms of education or experience to obtain each one. If you are still wondering what certification is best for you, remember that one of the most important steps is to figure out where you are on your agile journey. From there, figure out where you want to go. Are you a tester on Scrum projects who wants to transition to Scrum Master? If so, Certified Scrum Master may be best. Have you spent several years on agile projects and want a certification to take your career to the next level? If so, then PMI- ACP® or ICAgile certification might be best. If you are looking to grow agile in your organization, Scaled Agile will probably be ideal.

Another important question to ask is whether you need a certification at all. The Agile Alliance’s position, from a statement released in 2010, contains two points. First, “employers should have

confidence only in certifications that are skill-based and difficult to achieve.” Second, “employers should not require certification of employees.” 23 With this position, the Agile Alliance has distanced itself from endorsing any particular certification, and also reinforced the position that certification might not be for everyone. If you are looking to advance in your career, or stay competitive, certification is probably a good idea. However, if your company is mature already in its agile practices, and you are in a role that is already established, you may be okay without certification.

Finally, look at career postings for the position you want and see what employers in your area are looking for. If you live outside of the United States, DSDM might be better than PMI-ACP®. If you live in an area where a lot of organizations use Scrum, then you might want to obtain a Scrum Alliance certification. Develop your agile roadmap and determine where you need to be, then use this article as a guide to find the best combination of learning and certification to boost your agile career.

We hope you enjoyed this article. To learn more about agile from RefineM, check out our Knowledge Base, where we have assembled templates, articles, and presentations about agile and project management topics. You can also sign up for future agile trainings, including workshops and PMI-ACP® exam preparation courses.

23 Larsen, Diana (2010, April 6). Agile certification: a position statement. Agile Alliance. http://www.agilealliance.org/news/agile-certification- a-position-statement/

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