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Friday, December 09, 2005

Certification Programmes

Well my colleagues seem to be debating the pros and cons of certification programmes at the moment, and I have a couple of views on that so here goes......

I feel that the primary reason certification programmes exist is to set a standard, and this is a good thing. Testing has historically been seen as the IT backwater - where you go if you cant do anything well, or they cant think where else to put you. This is / was a reputation that was not good for testing as a whole, and any move to systematically remove that poor perception of what we do is something I welcome.

There are three areas that I feel are a bit astray at the moment with regards to certification:
  1. Practical Skills - Most importantly testing is a practical subject. It can be argued therefore that any certification programme without practical, useful, applicable skills is not really good enough. At present exams like ISEB Foundation and Practitioner don't seem to contain any 'hands on' stuff - and this diminishes the value of the qualification and thus the very standard (or 'bar') we were trying to set is perceived as lower.
  2. Standards Body - Any standards body will be having a headache trying to make a one size fits all programme that incorporates aptitude, practical and theory across development methodologies, industries and even countries. The key here however is consultation and I don't know how you can get involved in influencing and changing the certification programmes for the better.
  3. Commercial Interruption - My feelings on free trade and the removal of commercial barriers are very positive in general, but when it comes to certification and qualification programmes I feel that commercial interests should take a back seat. The current state of our market place, the money to be gained from training programmes and the commercial interests of some people who are involved with the certification side of things has, in my opinion corrupted areas of the usefulness of the current courses. There are areas of study within these courses devoted to commercial, trade marked methods and this goes a long way to creating an improper social construct of reality that these methods are a standard in their own right. Also for a majority of training providers the focus is on churn rather than quality of delivery and this generates content to the courses and behaviors in teaching that are improper.

So, what I would like to see happening is for the certification programmes to be more deeply routed into a more academic mind set. One where the standards would be set to achieve the right balance between Aptitude, Practical Skills and Theory - and they should link directly to / or perhaps from - qualifications such as University Degree courses. This will help to set a uniform bar without as much commercial influence.

Most importantly though, it must be time for the certification groups to extend consultation groups into centres of testing excellence and get some practical skills and measures into the programmes. Let people learn to test and show how good they are. Lets build on the idea of being an expert tester and show people how to approach anything, absolutely anything, with a testing mindset. Lets see more people adopt the tactics of James Bach, John Bach, James Lyndsay, Mark Garnett and James Whittaker in bringing people down this path and lets see some measure of this skill that shows how valuable it is. After all it isn't everyone that can do it!

In summary then, I feel that these certification programmes are a good start,
but they just aren't good enough right now. Time for a change. Time to
prove that testing is BRILLIANT and Expert Testers have a real,
valuable place in the IT landscape.

What do you think? Let me know your opinion - or take a look at the Blogs of Mark Garnett and/or James Bach to see some more opinions on this topic.

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