MSPAlliance, MSP Partners Clash over Accreditation

By Lawrence Walsh  |  Print this article Print


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MSP Partners' new accreditation ruffles members of MSPAlliance, who worry about confusion and redundancy in having competing professional certifications. MSP Partners says its accreditations—supported by CompTIA and Everything Channel—is a complement to the MSPAlliance program.

A feud, of sorts, is brewing between two of the channel’s largest associations of managed service providers—the MSPAlliance and MSP Partners—over which organization is best positioned to deliver training and certification to providers in the burgeoning managed services marketplace.

MSP Partners—an organization founded by Level Platforms, Microsoft, Cisco Systems, Ingram Micro and other vendors—recently announced that it will partner with CompTIA and Everything Channel’s Institute for Partner Education and Development (IPED) to create a managed services accreditation program around its existing training and education materials.

"Our new MSP accreditation exam is another vital step in providing solution providers with the tools and business level validations they need to grow and prosper during their business transformation to managed services," says MSP Partners Executive Director Jim Hamilton in a statement. "This new exam will be based both on real world experience and the educational content provided to our members on the MSP Partners site."

MSP Partners’ accreditation is similar to a program administered by MSPAlliance for several years. Members of MSPAlliance are upset by the new certification, but it’s more than competition. Because MSP Partners is primarily an organization based on and underwritten by vendors, the value of the certification is compromised from the start.

"Vendors just have one objective, and that is to sell more product," says Bob Longo, a member of the MSPAlliance board and director of sales and business development at ClearPointe, an MSP in Little Rock, Ark. "Being associated with a certification that is established and maintained by vendors devalues the whole certification system."

MSPAlliance, which will officially unveil a new certification for managed services professionals next week at MSPWorld in Orlando, Fla., believes its certification is superior to the offering being developed by MSP Partners, since it's agnostic in nature, based on the experiences of managed services professionals and organizations, and tested by field experience.

Channel Insider recently announced a strategic partnership with MSPAlliance to develop market research and intelligence for managed service providers. Channel Insider is a gold media sponsor of and in a content distribution relationship with MSP Partners.

MSP Partners doesn’t discount the value of the MSPAlliance certification. Hamilton describes the difference between the two programs as "MSP Partners is like a bachelor’s degree, where MSPAlliance’s certification is more like a master's degree."

While MSP Partners was founded by a group of vendors and receives much support from its vendor members, Hamilton says the content and administration of its accreditation with CompTIA and IPED add to the credibility of the certification and the certification process.

"CompTIA is a worldwide leader in the development of IT certifications and accreditations with tens of thousands of A+ certifications. … As an independent industry association with an established track record of accreditation exam development, they were MSP Partners' logical choice to develop and implement this element of the program. In developing the accreditation, they worked extensively with a panel of leading MSPs," Hamilton said in an e-mail to Channel Insider.

Tommy Wald, CEO and president of managed services provider Riata Technologies in Austin, Texas, isn’t a member of either organization, but does see the value of a certification to demonstrate competencies to the marketplace. He dismisses the notion that vendor involvement detracts from a certification’s credibility, since solution providers want vendors to recognize their certifications and provide incentives in their programs. However, he doesn’t see the need for competing certifications.

"They need to come to a more narrowly defined certification rather than having multiple certifications," Wald says. "Certifications lend credibility to the provider. They need to be standards-based so clients and companies have more of an understanding of what they’re about."


Lawrence Walsh Lawrence Walsh is editor of Baseline magazine, overseeing print and online editorial content and the strategic direction of the publication. He is also a regular columnist for Ziff Davis Enterprise's Channel Insider. Mr. Walsh is well versed in IT technology and issues, and he is an expert in IT security technologies and policies, managed services, business intelligence software and IT reseller channels. An award-winning journalist, Mr. Walsh has served as editor of CMP Technology's VARBusiness and GovernmentVAR magazines, and TechTarget's Information Security magazine. He has written hundreds of articles, analyses and commentaries on the development of reseller businesses, the IT marketplace and managed services, as well as information security policy, strategy and technology. Prior to his magazine career, Mr. Walsh was a newspaper editor and reporter, having held editorial positions at the Boston Globe, MetroWest Daily News, Brockton Enterprise and Community Newspaper Company.