Many VARs get certified for vendor-specific technology (Microsoft, Cisco, etc.). But a new wave of certifications and accreditations -- focused on the managed service provider and software as a service (SaaS) markets -- is emerging.
Certifications can help customers to find top-notch partners, and it potentially helps to weed weaker service providers out of the market.
But certifications and accreditations also introduce a new challenge: Small VARs and solutions providers that are just getting started in the managed services industry may not be able to afford certification fees. As an industry, we certainly don't want to create a new digital divide -- where deep-pocketed MSPs can afford certification but savvy startups can't.
So, what's the solution? Here are some thoughts, and I'd welcome yours as well.
Defining the ProblemFirst, why do we need certifications and accreditations?
In a recent Inc. magazine article, MSP Alliance President Charles Weaver estimates that only 5 percent of MSPs are really good at running their businesses.
I think far more MSPs are really good at their jobs. Yet, I agree with Weaver's basic premise: There needs to be a good way for customers to find truly qualified MSPs, while circumventing the bad ones. In many ways, certifications and accreditations can address that need.
Now, the challenge: Depending on which path you pursue, certifications and accreditations for MSPs and SaaS providers range anywhere from $2,500 to more than $25,000, depending on which path you take.
In the MSP market, lots of companies are lining up for MSP Alliance accreditation. Lane Smith, from Do IT Smarter, is discussing the accreditation program at the MSP Alliance's conference in Atlanta on March 31.
Since I'm not an MSP and I don't have experience with the accreditation program, I can't comment on its value. But Do IT Smarter has some good momentum going as a Master MSP, and I'm sure they'd welcome your questions about how and why they pursued accreditation with the MSP Alliance.
SaaS CertificationCertifications are also popping up in the SaaS market. For instance, Parallels, which makes virtualization software, has introduced an Application Packaging Standard (APS) Certification Service, which is maintained by Tier 1 Research. The certification service requires about 30 days to complete, and requires an annual re-certification process.
The initial certification fee is $10,000 for the Gold level for the first year and $5,000 for renewals each year after, while the Silver level is $2,500 for the first year and $1,250 for renewals, according to Parallels.
True believers in the Parallels certification include 1&1 Internet, a service provider that believes the certification will help attract independent software developers to the SaaS model, according to a prepared statement from 1&1.
Still, certifications are a bit like a high school or college degree. Just because you have a diploma hanging on the wall, that doesn't mean you'll be a successful managed service provider or SaaS provider.
So, are you pursuing a certification or accreditation this year for managed services or SaaS? Why or why not?