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Are agile, DevOps and similar certifications worth it?

Sharon Florentine | April 21, 2016
DevOps, continuous delivery, scrum and agile are all necessary skills in an IT-driven workplace. But how much can certifications in these areas really prove?

Certifications have always been about benchmarking and assessing IT professionals' ability to use technology and provide something of a guarantee that candidates are competent with needed skills in the workplace. But as DevOps, continuous delivery, agile, scrum and other frameworks become necessary, the question around certification of these skills becomes this: How can you accurately assess and measure the less-tangible, softer skills hiring managers require? And if you're an IT pro, do you need one or more of these certifications at all?

"This isn't so different from the existing certification world in that it's about measuring people's ability to use tech to drive the business. We can use certifications to verify that they have the hard skills to do the job and use certain tools, but we also need to measure understanding of principles and best practices around technology," says François Déchery, co-founder and vice president of customer success at continuous delivery solutions company CloudBees.

A subjective assessment

That brings elements of subjectivity into an area that's traditionally been seen as a objective way to measure skills and competency. Organizations have unique needs and so their idea of "best practices" might be different from one business to another, says Déchery.

"Is there a 'right' answer? What is the best 'best practice' for some of these skills? By definition you're asking about what's 'best practice' not just for the frameworks and skills you're measuring, but how candidates will apply those to your business -- given X, Y and Z constraints, how would you design, build deploy and integrate tools? What about security? How about usage of management systems? Resource allocation and value? This is what many of these certifications are really trying to get at," Déchery says.

In newer, more niche areas like DevOps, agile and continuous delivery, where the space hasn't been fully defined, certification becomes even more important and can also help differentiate candidates in the marketplace by signaling not just technical competency, but also a candidate's approach to solving problems and addressing issues, says Jose Alvarez, cofounder and managing director of technology consulting firm Zivra.

"IT certifications around these areas can also be used to show which point of view you are representing. Where new definitions and points-of-view are being developed every day within these frameworks, IT certifications demonstrate which approach you will take to solving your customers' issues. For example, will you take an enterprise service view to DevOps, or are you certifying yourself in specific technology or automation?" Alvarez says.

Skills around DevOps and agile are much broader than one specific technology or process. In order to measure a candidate's capability in these areas, you need to know that they can work with more than one technology or process, and that's what many of these certifications are trying to address, Alvarez says.


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