Is certification important?
The Scrum framework has steadily been gaining popularity since it emerged around 2002. Employers are increasingly expecting candidates to have experience of agile approaches and Scrum is the most popular agile framework (according to research by Rally Software).
About 15% of Microsoft Dynamics 365 positions include Scrum as a desirable requirement, and I expect this percentage to keep increasing. Why?
Microsoft customers, today more than ever before, are asking Microsoft partners for rapid implementations and phased deployments. Scrum is perfectly suited to successfully delivering value quickly. Certainly, much better suited than Microsoft Dynamics Sure Step and other traditional, plan-driven methodologies.
Microsoft customers are asking about Scrum and increasingly Microsoft partners need experienced Scrum practitioners on their team. But just like achieving your Dynamics 365 certifications, Scrum certification isn't a guarantee of expertise. It demonstrates a knowledge of the Scrum framework's foundation and people on their first Scrum project become Scrum experts 10x faster if they have achieved their certification.
Scrum certification options
There are two well-known and well-regarded Scrum certifications:
(I've no idea why Scrum Alliance doesn't use a space in Scrum Master, but that's their thing.)
Scrum Alliance was founded by Ken Schwaber and others in 2002. Until 2012, anyone completing the two day Certified ScrumMaster training class was given a CSM certificate, but since 2012 they've had to pass a multiple choice assessment shortly after taking the class.
The two-day training class costs between $900 and $1500 depending on the trainer and attendance at a class is required before students can take the assessment. There are about 150,000 Certified ScrumMasters. Certification lasts for two years before it needs to be renewed. Renewal costs about $100.
Scrum Alliance offers lots of advanced courses and certifications for ScrumMasters, product owners, developers, trainers and coaches.
Ken Schwaber left Scrum Alliance and set up Scrum.org in 2009. Scrum.org also offers training and certification for Scrum practitioners.
Scrum practitioners can take the Professional Scrum Master assessment online without taking the training course. The PSM level I assessment can be taken for $150.
Scrum.org also offers lots of advanced courses and certifications for Scrum Masters, product owners, developers, trainers and coaches.
My recommendation: Professional Scrum Master
Today I recommend the Scrum.org Professional Scrum Master I as the starter certification for new Scrum practitioners. I like that you can take the PSM assessment without being forced to take a two-day, in-person training course.
Having passed both the Scrum Alliance CSM and Scrum.org PSM assessments, they are both a fair reflection of your Scrum knowledge.
How to pass the Professional Scrum Master assessment
Here are the steps I recommend before taking the PSM I assessment:
- Read and re-read the Scrum Guide. It's less than pages but it contains almost everything you need to know for the assessment. Have it handy when you take the assessment (it's an open book online test).
- Complete a online course like my Introduction to Scrum for Dynamics 365. The course expands on all the content in the Scrum Guide and includes quizzes to test your knowledge.
- Take the Scrum.org open assessment. It's 30 sample questions in 30 minutes. Retake it until you consistently score 95% or higher.
- Take the practice assessment included in the Introduction to Scrum for Dynamics 365. It has 80 questions and a 60 minute time limit, just like the real PSM I assessment.
- Read about burndown charts and scaled Scrum. Both topics are likely to be assessed in PSM I but are not covered in the Scrum Guide.
When taking the certification assessment, read the questions carefully but don't overthink them (there are no trick questions). Timing is tight. If you can't answer a question straight away, flag it and come back later after answering all the other questions.