Over the years that I have been a Certified Scrum Trainer, the attitude and composition of my typical Certified Scrum Product Owner course has changed dramatically. Years ago, my typical CSPO course attendee was someone who came to class telling me, “My developer said we are doing this thing called Scrum and I am something called a ‘product owner’. He said I needed to take this class.” I was often getting people who had zero experience with Scrum (or any agile concepts and practices, for that matter) and, consequently, my class had to essentially become an almost baby-fied version of “Intro to Scrum.”
Fast-forward a decade. Now, companies are taking the product owner role much more seriously because they realize how crucial it is. Because of that, the people coming to my typical CSPO course already have deep experience with Scrum and want to talk about much more complex topics. Indeed, I consider my CSPO course more advanced than the Certified ScrumMaster course. I recommend that my attendees who take both courses take the CSM first, followed by the CSPO.
For people pursuing a higher-level certification in Scrum, such as the Certified Scrum Professional (CSP) designation, the CSPO provides two important benefits. First, it gives attendees 16 Scrum Education Units to contribute to the total 70 SEUs they need to become a CSP (and, by the way, 16 PDUs for PMI types). Second, and just as importantly, it demonstrates breadth. We have too many agile coaches (and Certified Scrum Trainers, for that matter) who are teaching product owners their jobs while they themselves have never even filled that role in the real world. Such people tend to teach the product owner role “from the outside in”, meaning they don’t really know the true challenges and problems a product owner faces in the real world because they’ve never actually done the job themselves.
I feel lucky that my experience with Scrum is quite unusual among my peers. I actually started Scrum as a product owner. Because of this, I have a deep understanding of and sympathy for the unique challenges product owners face. I try to relay some of those practical bits of advice in my CSPO courses.
When comparing the CSM and CSPO courses, I often describe them as “looking in the same house through different windows.” Core Scrum is core Scrum – that is true. But in the CSPO course, we get to dive deep into the real-world problems that a typical product owner faces—emerging requirements, stakeholder conflicts, release planning—and I believe that sets my attendees up for success as they manage their own projects using Scrum.