Why Scrum Product Owner certifications are not worth your time?


Certification – the action or process of providing someone or something with an official document attesting to a status or level of achievement.

Aspiring product owners/managers often are in a dilemma as to whether they should go for a Scrum product owner certification or not. If yes, then which one? As the market is flooded with so many options. There are so many blogs, articles available on the internet on how to pass various product owner certifications. Before delving more into the subject, let me explore why part of it?

Why does one aspire to be PSPO or CSPO certified? Is it related to gain true knowledge of the product management field or as a mean to get shortlisted for any open product positions in the job market? Whatever be the reason from my personal experience, I didn’t find them to be useful especially when it comes to real-world application.

Tip:- I passed PSPO-1 and PSPO – Advanced certifications in 2020, while PSPO-1 was a piece of cake (in terms of difficulty), my expectations from PSPO-A were sky high but eventually, it turned out to be a poor cousin of PSPO-1. Approximately, 60% of questions were very basic or were taken directly from PSPO-1. To any aspiring product owner, if (s)he is planning to appear in Scrum.Org’s Professional Scrum Product Owner certification then my recommendation is to skip PSPO-1, save money/time and directly go for PSPO-A.

Why Agile certifications don’t always fit the bill?

First and foremost, these Scrum Product Owner certifications are mostly focused on the tactical part of the product management i.e. product development or execution. They don’t cover the product/customer discovery aspect of it. Without proper product discovery, one can not build a product that is loved by the customers. So, the assumption here is that someone will do the discovery work for you and create the initial product backlog. The product owner will then own the product backlog, prioritise the user stories and start working with the development team on the product development using either XP, Scrum or Kanban frameworks.

Over the years these certifications have become money minting machines. Every year there is a new certification introduced. You might have noticed that with most of the advanced level certifications, there is a recommendation to go for a two-day training course (usually paid). The course fee varies based on where you take that training (even if it’s online you will have to pay the full amount based on the geography of the trainer).

What is the best way forward for aspiring product folks?

  • Try to focus on the problem space than the solution space. If you can nail down the customer pain points and can come up with the right value proposition then developing a product shouldn’t be that difficult.
  • Rather than just focusing on the Scrum, Safe, LeSS frameworks, try to understand other important frameworks like the Lean Startup, Design Sprints, Jobs to be done etc.
  • Read books, blogs, watch videos, case studies, attend industry meet-ups, understand the business model canvas, try to solve a real-world problem to further strengthen your product knowledge.
  • Explore the latest product, technology trends and also study your competition.
  • Remain curious and ready to learn, you will find ways to be a great product manager.

Conclusion

Any agile certification that doesn’t require candidates to have some kind of hands-on, practical training or testing is detrimental, not just for the candidates, but for organizations that hire them and for the software development field in general

– Dave West, Scrum.Org

How much should hiring managers rely on the agile credentials to take the measure of a candidate’s expertise and experience? To me personally, I don’t care if someone has all the agile product owner certifications in his/her kitty but can’t answer a basic product estimation question.

just as certification doesn’t guarantee that a candidate is proficient in agile, hiring professionals with certification credentials doesn’t automatically make your organization agile.

Finally, I’ll conclude with Albert Einstein’s quote:

The Only source of knowledge is experience.

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