Having seen the challenges that can be encountered with the Waterfall, or PRINCE2, model, I am keen to learn more about this alternative approach. To that end, I sent myself off on a SCRUMMaster course.
In this post I want to give my impression of the training course – what was good about it, what worked, what didn’t, and what was wrong with the course.
Before I do, I need to clarify that these are my own opinions and not those of my anyone else that I have regular, or irregular contact with.
Also, please note that I won’t be going into the merits, or shortcomings of SCRUM. I won’t be entering into the “discussion” taking place in the Project Management community surrounding the SCRUM Master Certification. Nor will I be giving a blow-by-blow account of the 2 days.
Course Name: Certified ScrumMaster Course
Course Provider: Collabnet – a reasonably large company that specializes in collaboration software development. Agile training is also part of their offerings, and they give courses in multiple locations in North America and Europe.
The training course was help in a conference room in a Marriott hotel. This meant that there were excellent refreshments, and a great lunch. (Always an important factor when attending such an event.)
For this course, the trainer was Rafael Sabbagh Armony.
I was very impressed with his style of teaching he used. The training material he gave us seemed to be merely a formality as not once did Rafael refer to it. His style was more an interactive one. Through a series of “group exercises” he created an environment of learning through exploration, questioning, and peer-learning.
Obviously, a group exercise is a very contrived event and has very little resemblance to a “real world” equivalent, but in the process of working through the exercise, it encourages one to relate it to other situations (perhaps ones that are based in the real-world). This fostered further questioning, and discussion (both within the group, and within the whole class.
Rafael seemed very knowledgeable in his subject (Agile) and drew upon real-life situations that he had been involved in, when discussing SCRUM, both in answering individual questions, or contributing to one of the many class discussions.
On the understanding that the course was focused on a SCRUM Master, and was not an overview of Agile, or even SCRUM itself, I did feel that, at the end of the course, I had a far-better understanding of this Framework.
One interesting thing was that, after registering for the course, I received access to a collection of on-line SCRUM training material. This included a SCRUM quick-reference guide, and a series of training videos, that took me through the fundamentals of SCRUM.
Knowing very little about SCRUM at this point, I found these resources to have a lot of value. It also meant that, during the training course itself, time was spent with “group exercises” (see above), and discussion, rather than going through the basics.
Could be better
On the first day of the class, we were each given the course notes. These were in color (always helps), but had a thermal bind cover on them. While keeping the pages together in a very tidy fashion, it meant that for you to lay the “book” open fully, you had to damage the spine and binding material.
Left hand oblivious to what the right hand is doing
While Collabnet describe themselves as “The Leader in Agile Development in the Cloud” they came across as a organization made up of business units that seemed to have absolutely no idea what the other business units were doing. They also didn’t appear to have a coördinated approach to dealing with customers.
My point in case is this: On the 6th of December, I registered, and paid, for this course, and immediately received a confirmation from the department that handles course registration. This was as expected. However, on the 12th of December (less than a week later) I received a promotional e-mail from Collabnet offering me a 40% discount if I “book now!”
I was furious. A 40% discount was quite a lot (especially when I was, indirectly, paying for the course myself). I contacted Collabnet and asked why I wasn’t told about this when I first registered, and requested the same discount. The response I got was a simple “Sorry – we can’t retroactively apply the discount”! Unbelievable! (Maybe I was asking the wrong person, but then I would have expected my e-mail to be forward to the correct person, and to get a response from them.)
And to make matters worse, I still receive “promotional” announcements on a regular basis.
One would expect any company that is involved with the “Cloud” to be socially aware. They do have a Twitter account (@Collabnet), but seem to use this merely as a “hey – look at us” type of account. I sent out a tweet about the 40% discount “complaint” I had, and even included “@Collabnet”. Did I get a reaction? No. This gave me the impression that Collabnet were not responsive to their customers.
Spelling. Grammar, Images
The training notes were full of typographical errors.
At the time, this did not cause too much concern (My recommendation is to check out something that most businesses that provide material to customers, and the public – a spellchecker. It doesn’t take long to do it, and, in many cases can be initiated by just clicking on a menu item.
The fact that there were many, many spelling mistakes is, in this case, not of too much concern. As I mentioned above, Rafael delivered the course without referring to the notes, and did it in such a way that the real value came from what he was saying, rather than what we were reading.
However, having words incorrectly spelt (especially in your course material) does send a poor message. And it does not take long to run a spell check over the content before “publishing” it.
With regards “images” – I have only one small complaint – make sure the images used don’t cover up the text (especially when they are being used on a page that discusses “transparency”).
Overall, I was satisfied with the course.
Having the pre-course training material available was excellent. I was really happy with that.
The classroom training, as delivered by Rafael, was also very good. I did not walk away at the end it feeling unsatisfied. The method of delivery was great, Rafael didn’t just “read from the book”
However, the “Bad” points I mentioned are worth thinking about. Collabnet came across as a Big Company that didn’t really care about its little customers.