The world of Scrum is consists of two camps: Scrum.org and Scrum Alliance. These are the main organizations for defining, training and certifying Scrum. Which is the most popular framework in agile software development. This article will explain what the main differences between them are. And which one I think you should choose for your training and certification.
To understand the difference between these organizations, it is important to learn some history.
The Agile Manifesto was written in 2001 by 17 people who met in a ski resort in Snowbird, Utah. But this was not the beginning of agile! The people there had been thinking up and practising various types of agile approaches for years. One of the signatories was Ken Schwaber, who (along with Jeff Sutherland and Mike Beedle) had created the Scrum framework in the 1990s.
After the Snowbird meeting, the signatories created the Agile Alliance. This was a framework-agnostic not-for-profit that exists today. However, that was not the end of the other frameworks.
Just a year later, in 2002, Ken Schwaber (along with Mike Beedle and Esther Derby) founded the Scrum Alliance. This organization is of course still around today, and is responsible for well-known certifications like the CSM (Certified Scrum Master) certification.
However, in 2009, Ken Schwaber had a big falling out with the other directors of Scrum Alliance. It was mainly over their certification paths and trademarking policy. He founded the Scrum.org organization, which exists today, and offers alternate certification paths, such as PSM (Professional Scrum Master).
|Leadership||Led by Ken Schwaber, co-founder of Scrum||Led by a board of directors|
|Certifications||PSM (Professional Scrum Master) path – levels I, II and III|
PSD (Professional Scrum Developer)
PSPO (Professional Scrum Product Owner) path – levels I, II and III
SPS (Scaled Professional Scrum)
PSK1 (Professional Scrum with Kanban)
PAL and PAL-EBM (Professional Agile Leadership / with Evidence Based Management
PSU (Professional Scrum with User Experience)
|CSM (Certified Scrum Master) path – CSM, A-CSM, P-CSM|
CPO (Certified Product Owner) path – C-SPO, A-CSPO, CSP-CO
CSD (Certified Scrum Developer) path- CSD, A-CSD, CSP
CAL (Certified Agile Leadership) path – CAL-E, CAL-T, CAL-O, CAL-II
|Course materials||Standard material used used by all trainers||Each trainer creates their own training materials|
|Assessment||Most certifications can be passed with an online exam||Must attend a training session to get certified|
|Cost||Assessments cost $150, and are for life||Cost of the training, plus $100 every two years to maintain certifications|
Although the Scrum Alliance was founded by Ken Schwaber, it is not his organization any more. He left and founded Scrum.org, which he is currently the chair of.
Scrum Alliance is headed by a board of directors, currently chaired by Michael Meissner.
The two offer different certifications, though there are some similarities.
For example, both offer a Scrum Master path with multiple levels (for Scrum.org it is PSM-1, PSM-2 and PSM-3, for Scrum Alliance it is CSM, A-CSM, CSP-SM), and a Product Owner path with multiple levels (for Scrum.org it is PSPO levels 1 2 and 3, for Scrum Alliance it is CSPO, A-CSPO and CSP-CO).
There are some differences, though. Scrum.org only offers one certification for a developer (PSD), while Scrum Alliance offers several – Certified Scrum Developer, Advanced Certified Scrum Developer and Certified Scrum Professional.
Each offers a range of certifications in the Agile Leadership space, though they are quite different. Scrum.org offers Professional Agile Leadership and Professional Agile Leadership – Evidence Based Management (PAL and PAL-EBM), while the Scrum Alliance offers a complex path. You can do Certified Agile Leadership in Essentials, Teams and Organizations, then if you have two of those three, you can progress to Certified Agile Leadership II.
The crucial difference is in how the organizations offer certifications. For Scrum.org, you can get trained any way you like, and then attempt an online exam to get your certification. This usually costs $150 per attempt.
For Scrum Alliance, you must attend a training session (usually one to three days long), and then will basically be given your certification (assuming you turned up and paid attention).
If you have studied and are prepared, the Scrum.org method is much cheaper. If you get it first go, your total cost will be $150. The cheapest Scrum training sessions will be $1000 or more (sometimes two or three times that much). You don’t have to pass an exam, but the training is very expensive compared to the online exam.
The Scrum.org method would only be more expensive if you failed six or more times before you succeed – and if that’s happening, then Scrum might not be for you! The online exams are pretty straight-forward, and are open book (you do it at home, so you can use any materials you can find online to answer the questions).
This is another major difference. Scrum.org certifications are for life – I got my PSM certification in 2013 and it still stands. For Scrum Alliance, you have to pay $100 every two years, or they lapse and are invalid.
This makes Scrum Alliance more annoying and expensive in both the short and the long term.
Some people say the certification renewals are for a good reason (to ensure people stay up to date in the field), but I would disagree. Scrum practitioners should be doing Scrum day in and day out, every day. And that keeps you up to date better than any certification scheme.
I hope you can see the key differences between Scrum.org and Scrum Alliance. I am certified with Scrum.org and I recommend others do the same. It is the official organization of Ken Schwaber (the founder of Scrum). It offers a cheap and easy path to get your certification, and they do not lapse.
Of course, I am not pretending that anyone who sits the exam is actually a Master of Scrum. But that goes for anyone who sits a training course, too. Mastery of Scrum comes through practice, not pieces of paper.
The current work environment requires or values certifications for many positions, so this is something that Scrum practitioners need to keep in mind, when considering the practical matters of employment.
If you have any thoughts or questions on this subject, please leave them in the comments section below! I read and reply to every one.