The Doyle Report: Do Vendor Certifications Still Matter?

For more than a decade, a high-profile vendor certification was the key to more meaningful work, better job prospects and professional admiration. Not now.


January 26, 2017

3 Min Read
The Doyle Report: Do Vendor Certifications Still Matter?

Just a few years ago, it was commonplace for a customer proposal to include the names and types of vendor certifications technology partners were expected to bring to the table. Today? Not so much.

You know the ones I’m talking about. They go by the names of CCIE, MCSE and more.

This begs the question, “if customers don’t care, why should you?”

The topic came up several times during discussions at the Cloud Channel Conference in San Jose this week. (Full disclosure, I was an emcee and a panelist at the event, which featured speakers from Microsoft, Google, AWS, Salesforce, VMware, Impartner, the Spur Group and more.)

The event attracted some of the top thought leaders from the channel, including AWS Channel Chief Dorothy Copeland, former Cisco partner program architect Surinder Brar, VMware Channel Chief Ross Brown and Salesforce Channel Chief Neeracha Taychakhoonavudh, just to name a few.

In a breakout session moderated by Spur Group Founder and Principal Analyst Richard Flynn, channel program managers debated the worth of vendor certifications—and the wisdom of them.

From a value perspective, vendor certifications just aren’t worth what they once were. Partners used to pay a steep premium for an engineer with a vendor certification. Now? The premium is roughly half what it once was. In some cases, it’s far less. And in some extreme instances, it can be a negative, suggesting someone is “behind the times.”

How could this happen? Blame changing market conditions. Instead of technical excellence, the market now values customer outcomes and experiences.

Now consider things from a customer point of view: Who is likely to have a greater impact on your business today, a Cisco Certified Internet Engineer with eight years of networking experience, or a SaaS applications specialist with five customer reference accounts? Many now believe it’s the latter.

Which brings me to the wisdom of certifications: As hard as it is to believe, single-vendor certifications just don’t make as much sense today. This is exacerbated by the fact that technology changes rapidly and that a growing number of tech buyers work outside IT. Instead of infrastructure stability, these demanding customers prioritize business results—the kind that a hardware vendor certification does not promise. To a line of business manager, a body of work is far more impressive than a wall of certificates.

This, of course, has enormous implications for the tens of thousands of engineering professionals that work in the channel. For more than a decade, a high-profile vendor certification was the key to more meaningful work, better job prospects and professional admiration. Not now.

When thousands of CCEIs look at technical certifications, they cannot but help recognize the sea change in the market. 

Shouldn’t vendors and solution providers do the same? Don’t get me wrong, the industry absolutely needs proven talent. That’s why CompTIA continues to certify individuals by the thousands. An A+ is often the key to getting one’s first job. So are other certifications. But at solution provider after solution provider, customer experience is what employers value most today.

Though they are harder to quantify, business skills are the capabilities that will lead to a better future.

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