Slowdown in ScrumMaster (CSM) Certifications?

From time-to-time I like to visit the Scrum Alliance site and check in on the growing list of Certified ScrumMasters. As an active member of the Scrum and Agile community, it has been a source of great pleasure over the past couple of years to see the escalating rate of Agile adoption. Though it is by no means scientific, and I am sure flawed with inconsistencies, one of the indicators I have used to gauge Agile adoption patterns is the rate of ScrumMaster certifications — not so much the number of certifications, but rather the rate of growth. Though I have to empirical data to prove it, I have always felt that the rate of ScrumMaster certifications mirrored the overall Scrum and Agile market adoption trends.
CSM Registrations as of May 2007

In 2005 and 2006 we had tremendous growth in the number of CSM certifications. In 2004, there were little over 900 certifications registered. In 2005 the number of new CSM’s grew to 2,600 and then jumped to a whopping 7,000 new CSM’s registered in 2006. This is extremely good news for us Agilists — the rate of Scrum and Agile adoption seems to be growing in leaps and bounds. At this rate, one would anticipate the number of new CSM’s in 2007 to top 20,000 if not more. So imagine my shock and surprise when I inspected the list today only to see that fewer than 1,700 new CSM’s registered in the first quarter of 2007. This is almost the same number as registered in the first quarter of last year – far short of the number of CSM registered the previous quarter – and far off the pace that seemed inevitable at the end of last year.

Perhaps this is just a clerical mistake – a delay in updating the list.  If this is the case, I’m sure all the people who paid their money and sat through the 2-day training would appreciate having their names added ASAP. It is mid-May – half way through the second quarter.

But what if the numbers are true?  What if there is no delay, just fewer people getting certified?  Well, in this case, I feel there is cause for some concern. There are only four reasonable explanations I could come up with:

  1. Current Active Trainers Cannot Support Growing Demand
    I guess this would be considered the best-case scenario – if one exists. Perhaps the reason is simply the active CST’s out there are maxed-out. They are slammed with all the trainees they can handle. Not enough supply to meet demand. If this is the case the answer seems simple enough – lets get more trainers. I personally know of many qualified, talented coaches and teachers who would excel at the task and would more than adequately represent the goals and principles of the Scrum community.
  2. Interest in Agile is Shrinking
    This is somewhat a scary proposition. He we were thinking that the Agile process has crossed the chasm. Could it be that it has only been in mid flight and is now suddenly coming up dangerously short? My observations have indicated otherwise. We’re seeing more interest from larger enterprises. There are more Agile conferences, and more Agile topics at non-Agile conferences. Agile blogs (like this one) are sprouting every day. It appears that demand in Agile is not only alive and kicking, but seems ready to reach new heights in the months to come.
  3. Interest in Scrum is Shrinking
    Perhaps it is merely the interest in Scrum that is shrinking. Maybe the other Agile paradigms are drawing more interest than Scrum – hence the fewer CSM’s. This is possible, but still seems unlikely. Looking on the jobs posting websites, the number of jobs for people with Scrum experience is growing. Without a doubt the current wave of Agile adoption is being driven by larger enterprises. Scrum addresses key ideas and concepts that resonate with such organizations.
  4. Interest in the Certification is Shrinking
    This is a tough one. There has been much written about the CSM certification and its governing body. Check the newsgroups and you’ll get an eyeful of rants and raves. But until now I thought the debate was limited to those deeply entrenched in the Agile and Scrum communities. Is it possible that the bickering has spread beyond the zealot contributors of these forums? I don’t have the answer – and I’m open to ideas. The one thing I am sure of is our responsibility to promote Scrum’s adoption – I only hope we have not crippled our ability to do so with infighting and discord.

I do not claim to have the answers. On the contrary, reading back on this post I seem to offer little more than questions. Of course I realize that the CSM registration rates are not mathematically correlated to Agile adoption rates. I also know that one quarter’s worth of data may simply be an anomaly – or bad data. But in my search I have not seen an index or metric that adequately represent Agile and Scrum adoption rates. If this is one is a credible one, any sign of decline should be a call to action.