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They Could Have Been Contenders

There’s been a lot of talk in the agile community recently around Software Development Practices, or Engineering Practices, being in Scrum. Scrum, if you’ll remember, is brought up around the 3/3/3 – 3 Roles (ScrumMaster, Product Owner and “Other”), 3 Artifacts (Burndown, Product Backlog, Sprint Backlog) and 3 Ceremonies (Sprint Planning, Daily Stand-Up, Sprint Review).


The orange dots you see may really look like the Scrum Alliance logo, but really means “magic happens here”. That’s because Scrum is a framework, designed for application in any industry. At the Scrum Gathering in Munich, they even had a lawyer present how she used Scrum as a part of her practice.

So, if Scrum is a framework, design to be applied to any type of business, why all the fuss about engineering practices? I’ll save you a lot of headaches and just say that software development teams happen to be the primary people who use Scrum, and for them, they need more than “magic happens here”.

Certified Scrum Developer

And, that’s OK. The Scrum Alliance back in 2009 even started down the path of creating guidance for developers. They called it the “Certified Scrum Developer” program, and they got together a group of people like Ron Jeffries, Chet Hendrickson, Brian Marick and Jim Shore to hash out what the heck a CSD would even mean. And what they came up with was more along the lines of a long-term commitment – not one you could teach in a 5-day class, but instead something which led down the practitioner path. In fact, internally there was a big push to say that if they were going to be “stuck” with a CSD program (more on that in a moment) then they should define a CSDP (Certified Scrum Developer Practitioner) which could likely pass the muster of what the community was pushing for.

At Agile 2009, Ron and Chet held an open-space session on the CSD program. At the time, I was the community liaison for the Scrum Alliance, and was there as well. What I saw was a community fed up with where we all stand as developers and development teams. And that desire to change meant there was a lot of passion into the CSD program. And honestly, I think it could have been a great thing. Love it or hate it, (and you can see which side I’m on) the CSM has spread through large organizations and smaller companies like wildfire, and the CSD/CSDP program stood a chance of actually being worthwhile and riding the coattails of the CSM to have a serious impact in the fundamentals of how corporate software is built.

The Scrum Alliance and the Community

One of the challenges the Scrum Alliance faced was community support. There was – and is – a lot of distrust around the Scrum Alliance. I was asked to join after the Orlando Scrum User Group debacle to help with the outreach and communication to the community. I truly believed that the Scrum Alliance was trying to be much more open, honest and transparent in their operations. They certainly were challenged in that none of the people working for the Scrum Alliance had a software background, and so hadn’t been much involved in building software communities (not counting board members). But I was willing to push hard for them in the community because I believed in the direction they were going.

Internally, however, there was a lot of strife going on. Staff members were being told to go in two different directions, and to top it all off, here I was, practically the antichrist to the Scrum Alliance (at least based on what the staff told me). And then, just before the Scrum Gathering in Munich in October, was the final showdown. It led to Ken Schwaber leaving the Scrum Alliance, and appeared to also have Jim Cundiff leaving as well. Lowell Lindstrom became the Managing Director, and the people in Munich were greeted by a board they hardly knew, a CSM Test that no one could say for sure what was going on, and unsatisfied feelings by some (OK, OK, I know, Andy’s hard to please anyway. ;))


It seemed like good things might still be on the horizon. The Scrum Alliance had the chance to really break free. They still had the support of the community on the CSD program, and a community energized by the open space session in Munich. What happened next surprised many people. They simply stopped communicating. 22 out of 26 CST applicants were rejected (with very little reason why). The questions around the exam were left open. The CSD program went nowhere and was eventually dropped as a priority due to lack of support from the board or management. As the community liaison, I started finding out information by blog posts and emails from the community rather than internal communications.

In the meantime, Ken Schwaber moved on to create Scrum.org, which caused even more confusion. And, to top it all off, the CSD program – the one I said was dead earlier? It was still moving forward under Ken and Microsoft. All of the alphas and betas of the course still happened.

Towards the end of the year the Scrum Alliance got Mike Cohn on as a board member, and hired Tobias Mayer as “Creative Director”. In general this is viewed as a very good thing. However, the transparency still doesn’t seem to be there – for example, Jim Cundiff is back as the Managing Director and Lowell has stepped back down, but there haven’t been any real announcements around that (although they could be just waiting for the Orlando Gathering). And to cause some more confusion, Mike Cohn has been telling classes that a change is afoot to the naming of the certifications.

Professional Scrum Developer

Which leads us to Ken’s announcement that Scrum.org is putting together a Professional Scrum Developer (PDF) program. The program looks strangely similar to the one I saw around the CSD program, so I imagine it is the same. This particular version didn’t get the input that the community put together which doesn’t make it good, bad or ugly. Time will have to tell, but right now it’s the only thing going, and it’s being heavily promoted in the Microsoft / .NET space (with versions planned for Java as well).

Whether it takes off or not, the truth is the Scrum community has a fracture in it. The support for CSD has moved on to other things, the main figurehead of Scrum is doing his own thing, and it isn’t clear what’s going to happen next. I do know Luke Hohmann has been working closely with the Scrum Alliance using his Innovation Games to help them decide next steps.

But all of this has led us to forget about those developers and team members, working in Scrum Teams, building software, who need guidance. As Mike Cottmeyer points out:

I do not believe it is right to offer certification when there is not standard or a published set of competencies. We should not certify more than Scrum is willing to include in its body of knowledge. 

I still strongly believe that helping teams build better software should be the primary focus of the Scrum Alliance – not “Changing the World of Work”. And while I have no idea what they have planned, this is my wishlist:

  1. Cut the “C” – We get it. It’s a cash cow. In Munich I learned there were Scrum Trainers making $400k USD a year + just doing CSM trainings. 2 day class * 15 students * $1500 a head – you do the math. But the CSM needs to die. Now. Make the CSM worthless, and put all of the focus on the CSP.
  2. Refocus on the development space – Software Teams doing Scrum need help and guidance. Should those teams go to Scrum.org? And, if so, then why shouldn’t they go there for everything?
  3. Change the focus of the Scrum Alliance – According to the Scrum Alliance site: “The Scrum Alliance is a nonprofit organization committed to delivering articles, resources, courses, and events that will help Scrum users be successful.” What we really need is leadership in the Scrum Community.
  4. State the intent for CSTs – Is the goal to have only high-quality CSTs, or to actually reach out to the community? I know people are concerned that if the market is flooded with CSTs, that the cost per class won’t be as high. I say, “That’s great!”. The cost for an instructor shouldn’t be based on the scarcity of instructors around the topic, but about what the instructor brings. People like Jeff Sutherland, Mitch Lacey, Ron Jeffries, Tobias Mayer and others deserve every penny they get.
  5. Be transparent – for Realz, yo. Community-Vet the CST applicants. Be open about changes in management and the board. Clue us in on what is going on with name changes and what you all think about them. The Scrum mailing list is a great start.

I suspect that lots of news will happen out of the Orlando Scrum Gathering, so we should all watch that space closely. In the interim, keep pushing for transparency and integrity in certifications, and remember – the Scrum Alliance members pay the Scrum Alliance’s salary ($50 a year for CSMs, $250 for CSPs, $750 for CSCs, $7500 for CSTs). So stay involved – either through the Improvement Communities, the Mailing Lists, or good ‘ol moaning and whining. If we want change, we need to make that change happen. So let’s do it.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Scott Dunn February 26, 2010, 6:28 pm

    Thanks for the excellent post, Cory. I’ve been wondering what’s been happening for some time, getting bits and pieces from different people at different levels. Also, I had a good discussion with Jim Shore last year about certification, and for some of the reasons you mention, wish it would move forward. It may not be perfect, but the S.A. can iterate. Others are moving forward anyways, and it seems to only pull the community apart further. Also, as a trainer and coach, there is no standard, baseline body of knowledge I can send developers to in order to assure they get all the good fundamentals, yet I can do so for the much smaller percentage of the team which is the ScrumMasters and Product Owners? That limits me. I could go on, but thank you, and Mike Cottmeyer for being such great community conduits. Hope to meet you both in Orlando.

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