There are many great opportunities to further your knowledge and expertise in scrum and agile practices. The best thing you can do overall is to own your own learning and mastery outside of any specific organizational boundaries. This means reading books and articles, attending trainings whenever you get a chance, interacting with user groups to hone your knowledge and skills, and the taking advantage of opportunities to put scrum and agile into practice. That said, the organization(s) you are involved with and/or get certified with does make a difference so I thought I would use this blog post to highlight some of the important differences to help you make a well-educated decision.
There are multiple organizations that train and provide scrum based accreditation options for various levels of knowledge and proficiency and each organization has their specific strengths. I can personally speak to the two largest and best known Scrum organizations: Scrum.org and Scrum Alliance. For full disclosure I currently hold the Professional Scrum Master Level I (PSM I), Professional Scrum Master Level II (PSM II), Professional Scrum Master Level III (PSM III), and Professional Scrum Trainer (PST) certifications with Scrum.org and the Certified Scrum Master (CSM), Certified Product Owner (CSPO), and Certified Scrum Professional (CSP) certifications with Scrum Alliance. I will also briefly touch on Project Management Institute (PMI) who is a relative newcomer to the scene after making an about turn from their position of effectively rejecting agile project management for many years. I initially started with Scrum Alliance as they were more prevalent in the Washington DC area where I lived and learned a lot through the courses and pursuit of learning with them. However, in the last several years I have mostly switched over to involvement with Scrum.org as I believe that the organization and certification structure is setup more in the best interests of Scrum practitioners and companies vs the trainers or the organization itself. I still attend as many Scrum Alliance affiliated user group meetings as well because they are more of them and I find interacting with other scrum practitioners is one of the best ways to learn.
Pros of Scrum.org
For anyone in the software development profession I would recommend pursuing the Scrum.org path. I have found that Scrum.org has more in depth training options, more thorough validation of knowledge for assessments, and lower initial and recurring costs to participants. The organization itself is setup around the certification tests versus trainers having a lock on access to the certifications. What this means is that there is added incentive for trainers to continually improve the training to keep it up-to date and relevant. I have also found that Scrum.org really lives the values of empiricism and constantly provides feedback and growth suggestions at every stage of the certification process. In terms of rigor, passing the PSM I certification does a lot more to validate knowledge than the Scrum Alliance CSM which has a token test with a 99%+ pass rate. Either participating in the Professional Scrum Foundations (hands on scrum overview similar to the CSM in depth and breadth of material), or the more in-depth Professional Scrum Master (PSM) courses is of course recommended but not required to pass the certification exams.
Pros of Scrum Alliance
If you are in a domain that is outside of software you will find more support with Scrum Alliance as there are several trainers that focus on scrum in hardware manufacturing. The Scrum Alliance user group community is currently more active as well (depending on where you are), so that is also something to look into. The Certified Scrum Master (CSM) or Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO) are easier to get (but cost more) than the PSM as they pretty much just require class attendance. Higher level certifications like the Certified Scrum Practitioner (CSP) certification require a substantial amount of continuing education (weighted to paid class attendance & coaching, and user group involvement), which does foster a good focus on continued education.
Pros of PMI
If you already have a PMP certification and a relationship with PMI, then I think it would make sense to go down this path initially at least. The PMI-ACP certification requires both validation of experience and covers other agile methodologies other than scrum as well. If you do get the PMI-ACP I would still encourage involvement in a local scrum/agile user group instead of just the PMI chapter, and also consider some of the additional Scrum.org certifications/trainings as they can count for continuing education needed to maintain the PMI-ACP.
Training and Certification Reference Chart:
To better compare the different available certifications offered by each organization, and help track which ones I was pursuing, I have put together this reference table, which I have been maintaining for several years. It by no means contains all the possible info I could have entered but I thought it would be helpful to share. I have highlighted the certifications I have gone through personally for your reference.
I hope you found this information helpful. I would encourage you to get involved in your local agile/scrum community and look for opportunities to deepen your knowledge through training classes or coaching available to you. If you have further questions about training and coaching we offer, certification options, or just how to get more involved in your local scrum community feel free to get in touch at agile@skylinetechnologies. I look forward to hearing from you.