The Scrum Alliance Problem We’re Not Solving……Yet!

As of today, the Scrum Alliance identifies 322,157 people as Certified ScrumMasters (CSM). You can find 66,813 people identified as Certified Scrum Product Owners (CSPO), and a number of people have both certifications. Although the anemic number of Product Owners relative to ScrumMasters raises some questions, the more serious problem is the drop-off in people reaching the next level. Only 3,943 people achieved the level of Certified Scrum Professional.

This is not a small problem. This is an order of magnitude problem! And we need to solve it.

We need more people with three or more years of Scrum experience and demonstrated initiative to continue learning.

We need more people who have learned how to be successful leveraging Scrum to increase organizational value. And we need them to continue their success and to help others achieve success.

We need more Scrum coaches - both enterprise coaches and people striving for the new team coach certification. We need organizational change experts or, at the very least, people who have been through at least one change experience and have learned what works.

And we need more trainers. The 191 trainers and 80 coaches aren’t getting any younger. At the current rate of growth of CSPs, we may have a shortage of certified trainers and coaches within five years.

So, if you agree that the Scrum Alliance does have an important problem to solve, you may be wondering the same thing as me…What’s going on with the hundreds of thousands of people who haven’t reached CSP yet?

Could the certification be too hard to achieve?

The answer is subjective. To apply, people must:

  • Be a current holder of an active CSM, CSPO or Certified Scrum Developer credential.
  • Have at least three years of Agile/Scrum work experience within the past 5 years implementing Scrum in any role.
  • Gather and submit 70 Scrum Education Units (SEUs) from the past three years.
  • Invest $100 to apply and $150 when approved.

And people get a head start - 16 SEUs from the CSM class, up to 24 from CSD, and/or up to 16 from CSPO - and those certifications could have been earned more than 3 years prior to submitting the application. All other SEUs need to be earned within 3 years of the application.

So, over 300,000 people meet the first requirement. Based on membership statistics, over 150,000 people meet the second requirement, assuming they continued to apply Scrum after their classes in 2012 or earlier.

Perhaps the SEUs present a challenge?

  • Up to 45 SEUs may be earned from Scrum events like gatherings, local user groups or other Scrum Alliance events - 1 hour of participation = 1 SEU.
  • People can earn an unlimited number of SEUs working with CSTs, REPs and coaches. People can apply their initial training for this category. 
  • The next category is up to 15 SEUs at events outside the Scrum Alliance - like Agile conferences or other training.
  • People can also volunteer to provide non-compensated Scrum services for up to 15 SEUs.
  • The next bucket of up to 15 SEUs is independent learning - reading a book, preparing a presentation, watched a training video, writing a blog post or article, almost anything could apply.
  • The last category of up to 15 SEUs is other collaborative learning.

My subjective assessment is that gathering 70 SEUs isn’t too hard. So many activities qualify for credit that getting involved and continuing to learn in multiple ways seems very possible for most people.

Could the certification lack value?

Objectively, the market perceives relatively low value. A quick (unscientific) Monster.com search yielded 57 jobs for CSP compared to 1,432 for CSM and over 1,000 more for Product Owner. Further, while the number of CSPs continues to grow, the rate is nowhere near CSM or CSPO growth, which leads me to believe potentially qualified members may not perceive a lot of value either.

Subjectively, the value far exceeds the effort. For at least the short term, the CSP designation distinguishes people within the Scrum Alliance as high achievers. In the long run, CSPs will advance to team and enterprise coaching certifications and/or Certified Scrum Trainer. Beyond the extrinsic value, completing the Scrum professional certification provides intrinsic value - achieving the next level of personal mastery. 

Could the membership lack awareness?

Based on the people I meet in my CSM and CSPO courses, I observe very low awareness about the Scrum Alliance certification path and I make time to discuss what people can do next. In the past year, we collected additional qualitative and quantitative data that also shows relatively low awareness in the community. The upside - people ask a lot of questions about what to do next once they learn about CSP and the more advanced credentials.

Now What?

The Scrum Alliance community, particularly the certified trainers and coaches, as well as current CSPs, needs to increase CSP awareness and encourage more people to apply for CSP. We also need to reach out to organizations, particularly human resources, managers and other people who plan hiring and write job descriptions to explain the different credentials and the value of CSP (and the coaching designations).

And we need to offer help to navigate the journey. While the CSP FastPass program exists to provide extensive in-person and online training, one-on-one mentoring, group discussions, SEU tracking and application assistance, we continue to assist CSP candidates outside the program. If every trainer and coach helped one person a month in 2016, we could triple the number of new CSPs compared to 2015 and nearly double the total number of CSPs globally.

Let’s Go!