The Great Certification Circus

The general consensus these days is that the value of IT certification is in decline. It’s little wonder given the fact that the vast majority of the vendor community thinks of certifications as a fee to be imposed on the channel that helps weed out solution providers that are not worthy of their attention.

From a vendors point of view, certifications are one of the few tools they think they can rely on to determine which partners should be in their gold or silver programs while the rest of the channel pretty much gets treated as the great unwashed mass.

From the solution provider’s point of view, certifications are pretty much a tax that vendors impose for gaining the privilege to sell their products, event though the solution provider does most of the work when it comes to doing the actual selling.

It only follows that solution providers basically hire people to take certification tests on behalf of the whole company while their more experienced people spend their time out in the field generating revenue because it’s not like the end customer really cares about who has exactly what certification.

They are much more impressed by breath of knowledge and experience than they are a piece paper bearing the logo of a vendor.
While there are still a handful of certifications that still matter, the simple truth is that vendors have nobody to blame for the declining value of IT certifications than themselves.

If they made any real effort to put some teeth into their certification programs, things might be different. If they then spent any real time promoting the value of certifications to their end customers, things might be different.

But as it stands today only a handful of vendors are making any real effort when it comes to certifications.
For example, IBM’s Tivoli unit recently put into place a tiered approach to certifications for 84 accredited partners where the partners are given triple A, double A and single A designations that denote their level of expertise based on the certifications they have. IBM estimates that about half of the 84 partners will get single A ratings while 20 percent will wind up with triple A ratings with the remaining 30 percent picking up double A ratings.

This represents a step in the right direction but against the rising tide of certification disaffection, it’s a drop in the bucket. And whether IBM has the ability or desire to put any real marketing muscle behind it is doubtful.

What’s really needed is for the vendor community to come together on some third-party approach to certifications that matter. This probably means that they will need to back a lot more vendor-neutral certifications to make it practical for people to invest in getting certifications.

Whether this effort is administered by some organization such as CompTIA or other neutral body needs to be also hashed out. And finally, vendors have to commit marketing dollars to the organization to promote the value of certifications to the end user community.

Until the vendor community decides to do something about these issues as industry, certifications will simply continue to move from being a three-ring circus with no ringmaster to something that looks and feels like a carnival show that’s sole purpose is to part fools from their money.

Michael Vizard is Strategic Content Expert for Ziff Davis Enterprise. He can be reached at [email protected]

Michael Vizard
Michael Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist, with nearly 30 years of experience writing and editing about enterprise IT issues. He is a contributor to publications including Programmableweb, IT Business Edge, CIOinsight, Channel Insider and UBM Tech. He formerly was editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise, where he launched the company’s custom content division, and has also served as editor in chief for CRN and InfoWorld. He also has held editorial positions at PC Week, Computerworld and Digital Review.

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