Scrum Alliance or Scrum.org?

This is a question I get a lot, what are Scrum Alliance and Scrum.org and which is “best”? The truth is there is no best, both have different certifications and a different business model. In this post I want to explain the differences between the two and help you decide which to choose.

Scrum.org & Scrum Alliance Compared - TheScrumMaster.co.uk

Let’s start with what they do. Both Scrum.org and Scrum Alliance offer training courses and certifications for Scrum Masters and Agile Professionals. Both offer a variety of courses for Product Owners, Engineers, and other professions but in this post I’ll focus purely on the scrum masters.

You can think of these organisations like Exam Boards, if you pass their exam you get a certificate which you can present to any employer and it will prove that you have a certain level of scrum knowledge. You can also show the badges off to your friends and family but personally I’d recommend against that. I spent half an hour explaining to my mum that a Scrum Master had nothing to do with Dungeons and Dragons…

Both organisations offer three levels of Scrum Master certification. For Scrum Alliance these are the Certified Scrum Master (CSM), the Advanced Certified Scrum Master (A-CSM), and Certified Scrum Professional Scrum Master (or CSP-SM). Scrum.org offers the Professional Scrum Master levels 1, 2, and 3 (more commonly known as PSM-I, PSM-II, and PSM-III).

Personally I hold the CSM from Scrum Alliance as well as the PSM-I and PSM-II from Scrum.org.

Where these organisations differ is in how they go about granting the certificates. Scrum Alliance require you to attend a training course organised by a certified trainer. The prices of these vary depending on whether they are being held remotely or in person, which country they are being held in, and the level of the course. Typically in the UK you will pay around £700 for a remote course and £2000 for an in person one. Obviously the trainer then pays a fee onto Scrum Alliance. Once you have completed the course you will be sent a link to take the exam on Scrum Alliance’s website. If you pass (the pass mark is 37/50 questions) you’ll be awarded your certificate.

Scrum.org also offer training courses. However, their courses are not a prerequisite to taking the exam. Personally I have never done a Scrum.org course, I simply logged onto the website and purchased the exam token. These vary slightly depending on level but the PSM-I exam is $150 dollars.

It is also worth noting that Scrum Alliance certificates expire and you will either need to attend another course or pay (about £30 I believe) to renew it every couple of years. Scrum.org certificates do not expire.

The next most obvious question is which is easier!? There is a general feeling that the Scrum.org exams are a little more challenging, however I’ve never seen any data to back this up. Personally I scored a couple of percent higher on the Scrum.org exam than the Scrum Alliance one however not enough to state clearly. If you’re looking for a simple answer on which one would be easier to achieve or which holds more market value then I can’t give that. I would say however that the PSM-II (and I assume the A-CSM) covers significantly more ground than the PSM-I and asks questions based drawn from personal knowledge rather than simply knowing the subject matter. There is a distinct step up in difficulty and, although I’ve never taken it I wouldn’t be surprised if the PSM-III was far more challenging again.

So there you have it, all the differences that I’m aware of between the two organisations. If you’re looking for a taught course with a certificate at the end then Scrum Alliance may be for you. If you’re interested in self study and funding then Scrum.org may be the better alternative however I’ve found that both are extremely high quality certificates.

Measure What Matters Book Review

I’ve had this book for a while and it finally reached the top of my Audible list. Measure What Matters has intrigued me for a while, especially as I am focusing on setting and meeting goals at the moment.

Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the  World with Okrs: Amazon.co.uk: 9780525536222: Books

I have to confess to being a little disappointed. At it’s core the book discusses OKRs, a kind of public goal which does a very nice job of splitting out the goal and the actionable tasks required to complete it. Visibility creates transparency to make sure no teams are duplicating effort or conflicting priorities, they also allow people to assist each other in meeting their goals.

So far so good, I didn’t have a problem with any of that.

However, the majority of the book was a list of testamonials from the author’s long list of supporters. It was genuinely interesting to see how the technique has been applied to everything from IBM to U2. But I’m really not sure wheeling out the famous and successful was really needed (in the audiobook many of them actually contributed their parts). It felt more like a sales pitch of OKRs rather than a practical guide of implementing them.

I kept finding myself expecting the next chapter to be a “How to get started with OKRs in your business.” but alas, it never came.

Enlightening by adding a new way to think about goals, however disappointing because although I’m intrigued I feel far from equipped to take advantage of the concept.

Do you agree? Have you read Measure What Matters? What did you think?

Interviews With People Who Have Made The Journey

I’ve spent three months describing the role and life of a Junior Software engineer and hopefully providing some useful tips and advice along the way. To wrap up this series I wanted to do something a little different and talk with some of the junior engineers I currently work with to ask them about the journey they’ve made and what advice they would give.

I’m sure this goes without saying but this is a personal blog and the views expressed are personal and do not reflect the views of our current employer or any of my previous companies.

I asked Lizzie and Thaj how they found becoming junior developers. Photo by CoWomen on Pexels.com

Neither of you came from a Computer Science background. What made you want to move into Software Development?

I identified my interest in software programming when I used software programming for certain taught modules whilst studying for an Electronic Engineering degree. As for my final year project at university, I wanted to select it purely of my interest, consisting of mostly software programming. I then developed a tool that is currently being used within the University to extract embedded features in an Electromyography signal. This was the turning point that gave me the confidence to pursue a career in Software development even with a different degree background.

Thaj

I studied Maths at Newcastle University, and was exposed to a small amount of programming, but it was usually used in our statistics modules to model data.  I joined the company as a Client Service Desk Technician in Operations, and worked comfortably in the role for a couple of years, before wanting to utilize my maths degree whilst staying in the organisation, as I really like working hereand love the culture.  I applied successfully for the Graduate Scheme and started in Delivery as an Associate Engineer in 2019, working on my competencies to progress to be an Engineer 1.

If I were to change my journey, I would still choose to study maths at University, however, I would choose to take some computer science modules to understand the fundamentals of software development. I think I would also choose to start reading about and learning programming from a younger age, which would have given me a platform of knowledge to build on when I did start the Graduate Scheme. 

Lizzie

What advice would you give to someone who didn’t study IT at university but was interested in becoming a Software Engineer?

Get as much exposure to as many development materials as possible; if these are online courses, reading online videos, starting your own side projects, you name it.  It’s not essential to study computing at University to become a Software Engineer, but I think an understanding of IT and software development processes is important for building knowledge learned whilst on the job.

Lizzie

If you are goal-oriented and have a true passion for IT, it is not an impossible challenge. Identifying where the passion lies is the first challenge; having the passion for what you want to do always makes it easier to be successful. It will be a comfortable journey if you have a tech background. However, even if not, there are many available resources, including books, articles, blogs which are beneficial whether you are a new starter or an experienced professional.

Thaj

You have both had a challenging journey. Has there been overwhelmed and felt you made a bad decision going into IT? What did you do?

At the beginning of the Graduate Scheme, we undertook a number of workshops run by experienced engineers already working at TU.  There were parts of the workshops that I failed to understand or grasp straight away, which caused me to feel overwhelmed as the other members of my graduate cohort were more advanced than myself.  It did cause me to second guess my abilities, however, I took myself away to calm myself down, reassured myself that this is common for junior engineers that are new to software development (I was also reminded of this by Adam who was running the cohort this year) and carried on.

Lizzie

As a learning aspect from such situations, I have learned not to make decisions quickly based on incomplete information. It is a matter of being more patient and not rushing to conclusions. The methods that I have been following to improve decision-making are reflecting, understanding the context that led to a bad decision, and communicating with an experienced person to gain an opinion before rushing to decide. Never let yourself down and always work towards improving yourself while taking chances to correct the mistakes that led to wrong decisions.

Thaj

There is a lot of discussion at the moment about how to address the huge gender imbalance in IT, especially in Software Development. As a young white male I can’t begin to understand what it must have been like to join an industry which was so male dominated. I asked Lizzie how she found it.

As a young lady joining a male dominated industry must have been quite daunting, what would you say to any young woman thinking about moving into development?

I think it takes a little bit of time to adjust to working with the split of men and women, as the dynamic is slightly different to begin with.  But I wouldn’t allow it to discourage you from applying for a role in a male dominated industry.  There is a massive drive at the moment for Women in Tech around the world, which should hopefully encourage young women to be confident in working in male dominated ‘worlds’, and to understand that the thought of working with predominantly men shouldn’t be daunting!

Lizzie

Finally I wanted to know about the success stories of the pair since becoming developers.

What has been your proudest moment in your development career so far?

Passing my competencies and becoming an Engineer 1 last year.  I initially found the transition to working from home quite difficult, as I had to move to a new house unexpectedly, meaning my work from home environment changed overnight.  I also found it challenging adapting to asking for help and gaining exposure to pieces of work as we weren’t all in the office, but my team were extremely supportive of one another, and we managed to get into the swing of working from home together, and therefore, felt like a big achievement to be promoted to Engineer 1.

Lizzie

I have a couple of moments that I am proud of as a junior Engineer with less than 2 years of working experience. Firstly, securing my first internal promotion even while working from home for almost a year due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. Secondly, I have been involved in organising tech talks for the development community within my workplace, and as a result, I was rewarded with an Excellent value award.

Thaj

I want to give a huge thank you to Thajanee and Lizzie for agreeing to answer my questions and sharing their experience with my readers. They have not had an easy introduction to the industry, adjusting to working at home while still in a very early phase of their career however both have achieved huge success at our company.

I want to wrap up this series of Junior Developer posts by thanking you for following along, I do hope that this has entertained and hopefully inspired a few people to considering giving Software Development a try. I am always contactable so if I can be of any further support please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Best of luck!