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Driven by accelerating technology transitions and evolving job roles, Cisco has revised its Certified Network Professional (CCNP) Routing and Switching certification. The IT giant also updated courses for the Cisco Unified Contact Center Enterprise (UCCE) Training, and added several network programmability specialist certifications.

The new or enhanced courses are designed to help IT professionals at enterprises and in the channel to improve their job skills to meet changing technology and business requirements. These include new markets such as the Internet of things (IoT), big data and analytics, and software-defined networking (SDN), as well as new skill sets around managing risks and delivering innovation for business transformation, and meeting growing demand for higher productivity and collaboration within IT groups and between IT and line-of-business groups.

“We have a lot of lines of business and business, in general, putting a lot more pressure on IT departments to deliver solutions to business problems, but at the same time, we have technologies being added to that portfolio that IT has to support,” said Andy Gremett, senior product marketing manager, Learning@Cisco. “We’ve had mobility and cloud for some time, but now we’re talking about the IoT and big data and analytics.”

What’s even more problematic is the acceleration of these technologies being added while IT staff numbers remain relatively flat or slightly up, leading to a resource or talent gap, said Gremett.

Cisco’s proposed answer focuses on helping customers deal with innovation, education and collaboration. Some of the solutions are technical ones while others are educational in terms of helping IT departments address or help solve problems. “With properly educated IT or sales staff that can sell to IT, they can help companies bolster innovation and help with collaboration,” said Gremett.

Cisco’s training and certification programs take into consideration, not only what you learn, but how you learn it. Courses combine traditional topics—such as wireless, routing, switching, collaboration, video, security and data center—but it also now includes new technologies such as IoT, SDN and business transformation. Most of these certification courses are available as instructor-led and/or new e-learning courses, along with learning labs for hands-on training.

There are several ways to teach, said Ramesh Bijor, product marketing manager, Learning@Cisco. “Many channel employees can’t attend 15 days of training, so we created the e-learning courses with the same course materials as the instructor-led program, but they have the freedom of when and where they want to learn.”

Cisco Based Changes on Customer Input

The biggest changes to Cisco’s certification programs center on the CCNP Routing and Switching Certification, Network Programmability Specialists and Cisco’s UCCE. The new curriculums were created in collaboration with several Cisco customers who were invited for a week of discussion on job role and job task analysis.

–The CCNP Routing and Switching Certification program targets network professionals that have about two to three years of experience in networking and are ready for professional-level certification, said Bijor. Aimed at network engineers, support engineers and systems engineers, the curriculum has been updated to include some of the latest technologies, including Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6), to address workforce mobility and the growing use of Internet-connected devices, Virtual Switch Services (VSS) and Dynamic Multiport VPN (DMVPN). To gain CCNP certification, candidates must pass exams in routing, switching and troubleshooting.

–The Network Programmability Specialist certifications focus on emerging job roles that combine networking and software skills to help enterprises more closely integrate networking with business applications. Customers are asking for IT folks who have a mix of traditional networking skills with skills of a network programmability developer or business application developer, said Gremett.

The four new roles are business application engineer, network application developer, network programmability design specialist and network programmability engineer. Training topics include fundamental network skills, development for open environments, deploying an open infrastructure, and design simplification with innovative automation. Each specialist certification has two courses and two exams.

–The Cisco Industrial Networking Specialist certification program focuses on the convergence of IT and operational technologies that is expanding IP networking and Ethernet connectivity in industrial environments. Think IoT in the industrial space. These IT professionals need to be skilled in IT, networking and traditional control systems. This certification is aimed at helping businesses scale IoT within their organizations by providing IT/OT engineers with blended skill sets.

–The Cisco Enterprise IT Business Specialist certification was designed around training highly technical network architects and system architects on how to lead a discussion with a line-of-business owner about the ROI and total cost of ownership (TCO) of solutions along with having a “cogent discussion around implementation and adoption strategies,” said Gremett.

These specialists drive IT-enabled business transformation by providing technology analysis that takes business outcome into account, along with capabilities to communicate to business decision makers, and manage and support IT projects. Candidates learn business analysis and business case, technology analysis, finance basics, project management, and implementation and adoption strategies. This ensures they understand business needs, financial costs and benefits of IT solutions, as well as how to identify actions to gain broader adoption of IT capabilities and influence and communicate effectively with line-of-business owners, said Cisco.

–Cisco updated three courses for Cisco UCCE Training. UCCE v10.0 helps IT professionals design, configure and deploy a customer collaboration solution with integrated cloud and mobility features and APIs.

“With the update to the software release, we had to produce new training to cover those new areas, including real-time queuing and reporting, virtual-only deployments, and partner application hosting,” said Errol Hayward, senior product marketing manager, Learning@Cisco

The job roles associated with this training include customer care managers, system engineers, and field engineers. Some of Cisco’s largest customers for UCCE are channel partners and resellers. “They have system engineers and field engineers who are responsible for the design, deployment and management of UCCE software and products. It is very critical that they are properly trained on what the systems are, how to deploy them, and how they are best utilized,” said Hayward.

Gina Roos, a Channel Insider contributor, focuses on technology and the channel.