You are on page 1of 9

Scrum Product Owners Live in An Agile World

Scrum is the most commonly used Agile framework for completing complex projects. Work evolves
through fixed-length iterations between self-organizing, cross-functional teams. While Scrum was
originally conceived for software development, it can be applied to almost any complex, large scale
project.
Scrum development teams have three specific roles: the Product Owner, Scrum Master, and the
Development Team, which usually consists of 5 to 7 members with different specialities. To help those
looking for training and certification, two CSPO experts weighed in:
Mark Levison is a Certified Scrum Trainer and Agile Coach with Agile Pain Relief Consulting.
Levison an Agile Editor at InfoQ, has written dozens of articles on Agile topics, publishes a blog,
Notes from a Tool User, and writes frequently on the neuroscience of learning. Scrum is a tool to help
an organization build better products that are focused on their customers needs, he says. It does this
by building a high performance team and giving that team a clear target.
Faith Cooley is ITIL Certified, PMP, Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, a Certified Scrum Master, Certified
Scrum Product Owner, Agile coach, and Kanban Sensei who works on start-to-finish management of
multimillion-dollar projects, like her current assignment with Astro, a Malaysian direct broadcast
satellite Pay TV service. Shes a Scrum evangelist who says, The beauty of Scrum is that it allows for
changing business priorities without thrashing your whole plan! Its empowering to every team
memberwhich is why I have found it to be more effective than other project management
methodologies.
They are both part of the growing global Scrum movement, exemplified by more than 1,000 books
published on the topic. Scrum is used by Fortune 500 companies around the world, and is being applied
to the broader world of work beyond software development to manufacturing, marketing, operations
and education.

The Genesis of Scrum and Certification Organizations


Scrum began with The New New Product Development Game written by Hirotaka Takeuchi and
Ikujiro Nonaka in 1986. The Harvard professors used the rugby analogy (scrum) to illustrate their ideas
about how development teams can work as a unit to deliver business value. Software developers Jeff
Sutherland and Ken Schwaber took their inspiration from that paper, conceived Scrum software
development in the early 1990s, presented it in 1995 at the Oopsla conference in Austin, Texas and
then published the paper SCRUM Development Process.
In 2002, Ken Schwaber founded the Scrum Alliance with Mike Cohn and Esther Derby, and then
created the Certified Scrum Master program and its derivatives. In 2006, Jeff Sutherland formed Scrum
Inc., while continuing to offer and teach the Certified Scrum courses. Schwaber left the Scrum Alliance
in 2009 and founded Scrum.org.
Certification affiliated with founders Schwaber and Sutherland carry the most weight with employers
something to consider when youre looking at potential organizations for your training.
Why You Need Scrum Product Owner Certification and Who Needs It
Learning about Scrum and gaining certification is important because the method has seen an
application in every major vertical industry. Scrum is transforming product development work, but its
also used for graphic design, supply chain managementeven wedding planning. Levison noted that
certification is great, but, What matters is being exposed to the range of tools a good Product Owner
needs to be effective. A CSPO course is a way of getting practice with a large variety of tools and then
having a badge to show that. Levison offers a reading list for Product Owners so they can better
understand the tools.
You could read books and learn on the job. However, the transition to Scrum requires a specific
mindset and enculturation throughout the organization, and acquiring that mindset is one of the most
valuable aspects of training. It can mean the difference between a team that makes the most of Scrum
and one thats just going through the motions. To keep the methodology thriving, practitioners need to
be informed by interaction with peers and understand the most up to date, best practices based on
successful implementations on actual projects.
Who should consider training and certification? Product Owners represent the voice of the customer in
product and project development, so if your job requires you to feed client needs to the development
team, certification may be right for you. Since company adoption is so important, many successful
Agile adoptions have included Scrum training for everyone, from the CEO to the Sales staff. Scrum
Product Owner training is especially appropriate for anyone in the corporate structure dealing with
rapidly changing demands and decision-making responsibilities.
Cooley agrees. Enculturation and engagement throughout the organization is important for Scrum to
be successful, she says. It can be used across industries on large and small scale projects, but
everyone needs to be on board, so it matters that management is knowledgeable and in tune. Because
quite honestly if management doesnt buy in, it can be challenging. Since CSPOs are involved with
company stakeholders, they can help bring Scrum collaborative culture into other areas of the
organization. The Product Owner is the interface to the business, with a big picture view and
knowledge about making choices that will positively impact the business, so they can help coach and
spread the word.

Certified Scrum Product Owners Learning Objectives


There are many facets to becoming an effective Scrum Product Owner, like understanding the Scrum
Framework, responsibilities, and how team members work together. The key is that the Product
Owner needs to be able to write the stories (requirements) and work with the Scrum Master and break
down the project into workable pieces, said Cooley. For me, thats what is at the center of the role.

Understanding the Scrum Framework


CSPOs first task is to understand the Scrum framework. It looks simple, and can be applied to the most
complex types of projects, but implementation can be challenginganother reason to gain
certification.
Levison said, The Scrum Masters role is to help coach/build the high performance team. The Product
Owner has the focus of building the right product. The Product Owner does this using a variety of tools
from Story Mapping, Prioritization, Lean Startup, Lean UX, Personas, and more.
While there are many tools, the process can be broken down into six steps:
1. The Scrum Product Owner creates a prioritized project list called a product backlog.
2. During Sprint planning, the team pulls a small chunk from the top of the product backlog and
decides how to implement those pieces.
3. The Scrum Development Team is allotted a specific timeframe called a Sprint (between two and
four weeks) to complete the assigned work, and meets daily to assess progress (daily Scrum).
The stories are prioritized by the Product Owner.
4. Along the way, the Scrum Master keeps the team focused on its goal.
5. At the end of the Sprint, the work should be potentially shippable: ready to hand to a customer,
put on a store shelf, or demo for a stakeholder.
6. The Sprint ends with a sprint review and retrospective, an aspect of continuous improvement
that is fundamental to the process.
To begin the next Sprint, the team chooses the next highest priority from the product backlog and starts
another Sprint cycle. Again, the Scrum Product Owner takes the lead. Scrum ensures that the most
valuable tasks have been accomplished.

Understanding Scrum Team Responsibilities


As you can see from the framework, projects begin with the Scrum Product Owner, and its the Product
Owner whos responsible for the ROI of the teams efforts. Successful Product Owners have a deep
customer service mentality that helps the development team deliver value. The individual needs to
know project expectations and why those elements are important to stakeholders, and then represent
those interests to the Scrum team.
Being a Scrum Product Owner is an Agile balancing act. An excellent Product Owner (PO) is
someone who is open minded and always looking for new ideas to improve their client relationships.
At the same time, a great PO remains focused on the vision and the goal while bridging the
communication gap between the development team and the customer, said Levison.
The Product Owner is also focused on what to build, while the Scrum Master helps the team work
together to meet delivery. The Product Owner has a long list of management duties: product discovery,
identifying and listing requirements, and getting the product backlog cued up. The Project Owner
decides on content release and planning, reviews work, and provides feedback to the team, and releases
content, all while managing a large number of stakeholders - the many diverse responsibilities make
this a challenging role. Whats more, Product Owners take on some of the duties usually identified with
product marketer, product manager, and project manager roles. The complexity of the job is one of the
reasons certification can be so valuable. Learn more about Scrum teams and efficient project
management.

The Benefits of Training to Become a Certified Scrum Product Owner


The Scrum Alliance's 2015 State of Scrum Report found that certification is extremely beneficial to 81
percent of the 4,452 respondents who said that certifications helped improve their Scrum practice. To
maintain all my certifications and simply keep up with what I need to know, I need to continue training
hours. I always go into the classroom, said Cooley. Anyone can read a book, but I find that its very
important to have the interaction and someone to answer my questions. Levison agreed. Given the
interactive nature of both the Product Owner and Scrum Master roles I think trainings will need to be in
person for the foreseeable future, he said.
In addition to improving the role as a Product Owner and increasing ROI, management efficiency, team
communication, and satisfy stakeholders, certification does help broaden career opportunities. With
Agile and Scrum in high demand, Agile adoption is forcing businesses to compete for talent: in the
VersionOne State of Agile Survey, 94 percent of respondents who are looking for the greater ROI and
efficiency it promises were using some form of Agile. Thats why certification is important,
particularly for younger workers: hiring managers are evaluating candidates not only on their
experience and expertise, but also based on their potential as skilled Agile practitioners.
I hire Scrum Masters and Product Owners and I do look for certification, noted Cooley. While it
isnt a substitute for experience, it does show commitment to the practice and professional
improvement.

4 Things To Look for In a Scrum Product Owner Certification Program


Whether youre looking to improve your skills, or your company is prompting you to certify, there are
many certifying organizations available. Here are some considerations as you begin your search:
1. Options. Scrum is an ongoing endeavor. Make sure the organization you choose offers a
progressive path of education across certifications, teaching, coaching, and other Scrum-related
topics. Levison added, Choose a trainer whose training style matches your own. For instance,
my courses have few (or no) slides, a thick workbook for reference, and lots of exercises. If
youre looking for slides, my course will not be for you.
2. Longevity. Do some research. Verify that the organization is recognized in the industry as a
reputable and long-standing organization.
3. Quality. Engagement and exemplifying the Scrum way are important in the way classes are
provided. Training should be attendee and exercise driven, said Levison. Standard learning
objectives and high accreditation of trainers are two ways a certifying organization can deliver
the consistent quality students expect. Dont forget to look at the resources provided beyond
certification - an organization that values continuous improvement for themselves is walking the
walk.
4. Community. An active and engaged community of peers can help you take the next step, and
the next, and the next. Local, regional, and global Scrum user groups and events provide the
chance to learn, teach, and share along your entire Scrum journey.
One of the best ways to find the right place for your certification is to see what Product Owners and
scrummers are saying on LinkedIn and other social networks.

Comparing Scrum Product Owner Certifications from Various Organizations


If youre at the beginning of your Scrum Product Owner journey, a CSPO certification from Scrum
Alliance or the Professional Scrum Master I (PSM I) from Scrum.org make sense because they are
respected by human resource representatives and hiring managers. Heres a look at course length, price,
and renewal from the top 3 providers.
Scrum Alliance
The original Scrum-focused non-profit group is popular: As of December 31, 2015, they have trained
88,899 CSPO students. The Scrum Alliance offers a wide variety of certifications and the opportunity
to continue your education. Joining Scrum Alliance also offers a job board to members.

Course length. A CSPO certification from Scrum Alliance requires attendance at a two-day,
16-hour training course. Certification testing is required within 90 days.
Price. Depending on the trainer, CSPO courses are priced between $1,000 and $2,000. Courses
for other Scrum Alliance certifications are also available at an additional cost.
Renewal. CSPO certifications must be renewed every two years for a fee of $100, but there is
no continuing education requirement. If you have more than one certification, they can be
renewed in tandem with the Combined Certified Scrum Master and Certified Scrum Product
Owner and/or Certified Scrum Developer option.
Available certifications: Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) Certified Scrum Product Owner
(CSPO) Certified Scrum Developer (CSD) Certified Scrum Professional (CSP) Certified
Team Coach (CTC), Certified Enterprise Coach (CEC, and Certified Scrum Trainer (CST)
Certified Agile Leadership (CAL).
Pros and Cons. Scrum Alliance certifications are widely recognizeda great confidence and
career builder. In addition, Scrum Alliance courses are taught worldwide, and have a long list of
instructors.
Scrum.org
Although non-profit Scrum.org was founded eight years after Scrum Alliance and has issued thousands
fewer certifications in comparison, Scrum.org is highly respected among industry professionals and in
some ways demonstrates more rigor than the Scrum Alliance.

Course length. The Professional Scrum Product Owner (PSPO) is a two-day course.
Price. The cost of the course is between $1,200 and $1,500
Renewal. Certification renewals are free.
Available certifications. Professional Scrum Master I(PSM I), Professional Scrum Master II
(PSM II), Professional Scrum Product Owner (PSPO), Professional Scrum Foundations (PSF),
and Scaled Professional Scrum (SPS).
Pros and Cons. A major pro is that courses are standardized, so there is consistency no matter
who is teaching. Programs are also designed to advance students from novice to expert through
the curriculum - meaning that all attendees acquire identical core content. Another benefit of
Scrum.org certifications is that Microsoft uses the PSM I assessment to validate knowledge as
part of its Silver and Gold Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) competencies.
Scrum Inc.
Jeff Sutherland, one of the originators of Scrum, formed this organization in 2006. He teaches many of
the CSPO courses himself. Scrum Inc. provides training, consulting, and online educational content.

Course length. The Certified Scrum Master Course is a two-day workshop.


Price. The cost of the course is $2,000 when taught by Jeff Sutherland; other instructors
command a $1,900 fee.
Renewal. The certification is valid for two years.
Available certifications. Certified Scrum Master (CSM) - Certified Scrum Product Owner
(CSPO).
Pros and Cons. Many of the in-person classes are conducted by Jeff Sutherland. Low priced
plans are provided through online/on-demand courses. There are fewer courses and
certifications available through Scrum Inc. than Scrum Alliance and Scrum.org, although Scrum
Inc. provides additional courses such as Scrum at Scale.
Project Management Institute
Although PMI doesn't offer specific Scrum certifications, its PMI-ACP certification is popular among
Scrum practitioners and employers because it covers several Scrum practices, as well as other Agile
approaches.

Course length. There are no Scrum courses available, but PMI offers its own Agile-related
courses to gain PMI-ACP Certification and professional development units for certification
renewal.
Price. Exam prices are $435 for PMI members and $495 for non-members. Regardless of your
experience and education, you should still prepare vigorously for the exam, PMI advises.
Successful candidates will typically use multiple study aids including courses, self-study and
study groups.
Renewal. PMI-ACP certification holders must earn 30 professional development units (PDUs)
involving Agile topics every three years to renew the certification.
Pros & Cons. PMI-ACP certification acknowledges the real-world experience of certificate
seekers, which can be a plus for many Scrum candidates. However, the prerequisites for the
PMI-ACP certification exam exceed those of entry-level Scrum Master certification tests and
requires many hours of coursework and project experience. To take the exam, you must have 21
contact hours of training in Agile practices, as well as 2,000 hours of general project experience.
A Project Management Professional or Program Management Professional certification will
satisfy this requirement, but is not required to apply for the PMI-ACP. In addition to the 2,000
hours requirement, you must have 1,500 hours of experience working on Agile project teams or
with Agile methodologies.

Additional Organizations and Certified Scrum Product Owner Training Options


Based on sheer demand, there are many organizations that offer CSPO certifications. For example,
Scrum Alliance founder Mike Cohn owns Mountain Goat Software, which provides certification, and
many other for-profits have Alliance-certified trainers offering certification that is recognized by the
Alliance or PMI.
As an independent, I pay for my own training, and I want real value and great trainers because my
clients expect it, said Cooley. I go to SolutionsIQ because my clients respect their expertise and
name recognition. I like them because the trainers and consultants also work with clients, they have a
real sense of what works and pass it along to me.
Exploring options through your peer networks is a good way to begin your search for an organization
and trainers that fit your needs, those of your employer, and your learning style.

Next Steps After Scrum Product Owner Certification


Youve completed your training and are certified as a CSPO. Whats next? Becoming Agile is a
commitment by Scrum Product Owners to continuous improvement, so the Scrum Alliance suggests:

Join a user group


Spread your knowledge by writing an article
Attend meetings
Join a CSPO LinkedIn Group
Earn Additional Qualifications
Become a Certified Scrum Professional
I have Product Owner and Scrum Master certification, plus quite a few more, because coaching is
extremely important, Cooley continued, Let me give you an example: when I converted from
Waterfall to Agile, I was so uncomfortable. Stories were requirements. I just didnt get it. Agile
coaching helped get me to understand the dexterity I needed.

Scrum and CSPO Resources


There are thousands of books, hundreds of articles, and meetings near you and across the globe to
gather Scrum and CSPO insights and experiences. Here is a sampling:

Agile Product Management with Scrum: Creating Products that Customers Love by Roman
Pichler
Do Better Scrum by Peter Hundermark
The Elements of Scrum by Chris Sims and Hillary Louise Johnson
Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time by Jeff Sutherland and J.J.
Sutherland
The Scrum Field: Agile Advice for Your First Year and Beyond by Mitch Lacey
Scrum Product Ownership Balancing Value from the Inside Out by Robert Galen
Scrum Guide Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland
The Scrum Papers by Jeff Sutherland
Succeeding with Agile: Software Development Using Scrum by Mike Cohn
Here are some of the presentations from past Global Scrum Gatherings.

Making the Entire Organization Agile by Steve Denning


Managing a Collaborative Multi-national Team in Real-Time Using Agile/Lean/Scrum/XP
Building a 100-MPG Road Car in Three Months by Joe Justice
Focus and the Four Flows by Clarke Ching

Why Certified Scrum Product Owners Choose Smartsheet


Im using Smartsheet for the multi-national project Im managing right now, said Cooley. The team
is spread across the globe, but we use the same Smartsheet and can easily tie it all together. Im also
using Smartsheet for some volunteer work Im doing for a childrens hospice in Seattle - its simple to
keep everyone on the same page.

Smartsheet is a spreadsheet-inspired task and project management tool with powerful collaboration and
communication features. In Smartsheet, you can track assigned tasks, due dates, and Sprint status
through spreadsheet, Gantt, Card and calendars views. Invite team members to the plan sheet for
seamless coordination and collaboration with your team and external stakeholders. Attach files and
working documents, and add notes and status details to keep everything related to Sprints in a central
location. Use Smartsheet to manage discussions, reminders, and attachments, and make changes in real
time.
Our newest view, Card View, gives Scrum teams a more highly-visual way to work, communicate, and
collaborate in Smartsheet. Card View enables you to focus attention with rich cards, gain perspective
with flexible views, and prioritize and adjust work more visually.
In fact, you can use Card View as a Scrum board to manage and track your Sprints. Display
information on cards including custom fields, images, and color coding to better focus your teams
attention. Categorize cards into lanes to organize your work more visually. Intuitively change lanes and
filter cards to see the flow of work from multiple perspectives. Act on tasks and change status of work
by dragging and dropping cards through lanes to immediately share decisions with the entire team.
Start with a pre-built template for your project type, or import existing projects directly from another
service, such as Trello.
See how easy it can be to use Smartsheet Card View during your next Scrum meeting. Try Card View
with your team for free for 30 days.
Manage Your Project in Smartsheet
If you liked this post, visit our Resources page for more scrum management and how-to articles.