Lifting the lid

Partner certifications, and how vendors and distributors implement such initiatives to resellers, is an area where they are constantly looking for improvement.

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Lifting the lid James Saldanha, Divisional Director, Critical Infrastructure and Enterprise Mobility, WestconME Group
By  Manda Banda Published  March 26, 2013

Partner certifications, and how vendors and distributors implement such initiatives to resellers, is an area where they are constantly looking for improvement. Manda Banda lifts the lid on partner certification programmes in the regional IT channel.

Partner training and certification programmes are being rolled out in various ways, but unless they help a vendor or distributor to consolidate, grow its market share and contribute to skills development, they can account for a lot of investment for a frustratingly low ROI.

Partner training and certification programmes have played a pivotal role in developing skills in the regional reseller channel. But as the IT industry has evolved and continues to do so in the Middle East, so too has the role of partner certification initiatives and training.

While one cannot deny the importance of having vendor certifications, most resellers in the across the Middle East region are reluctant to invest in company and individual certifications for varying reasons.

Channel partners routinely weigh the value of training versus experience and the business they stand to gain when they have a particular certification badge to their name. Specifically, they have to decide, often several times, whether spending the money on training and testing employees for certification on a particular product is worth more than relying on their experience with a particular product as a credential.

As more vendors create more certification and specialisation programmes within existing initiatives, the value of any individual certificate becomes less obvious.
Industry pundits say the main reason resellers don’t invest in certification is they don’t believe there is enough value.

However, some vendors like Cisco won’t let you sell a product or implement a solution without a certification. Others think experience can be qualification enough but is that enough to convince a CIO, IT director or manager that wants to justify every penny of the money they spend on IT?

Given the increasing scrutiny of businesses to engage with partners that have the right certification and specialisations, it is hardly surprising that vendors are constantly tweaking and fine tuning their programmes and applying more rigorous checks.

According to analyst and research firm Frost & Sullivan, the IT skills shortage is such a problem in the channel at the moment that there is need for equipment suppliers to work together to extend training avenues in the region.

Andy Baul Lewis, director, Information and Communication Technologies Practice at Frost & Sullivan, said in the short-term IT manufacturers need to step up more certification and training initiatives for channel partners. Resellers are often reluctant to spend money on training and it is up to the vendors to develop programmes that alleviate this burden that resellers normally carry, he said.

“Resellers need to make sure that they are offering solid career paths and actual benefits of certification to staff, otherwise well-trained staff will get “poached” or leave for more lucrative offers. They have to use all the tools of good human resource to keep and retain talent and qualified staff. Their business is people and their skills – companies will not survive without one or the other,” Lewis observed.

Industry insiders say vendors and distributors that go the extra mile to equip and train their channels always reap the dividends of their efforts.

At Optimus Technology and Telecommunications, a regional VAD and authorised training provider for several vendors, the company offers certification programmes for partners to enhance their knowledge base and most importantly, business credentials.

Meera Kaul, managing director, Optimus Technology and Telecommunications, said resellers will always end-up reaping the benefits of investment in training and certification through premium on providing their services through skilled and certified resources. Kaul said as the market moves to appreciate a services-based model, the value of a skilled resource is highly realised.

“The gap in skill sets to implement, execute and sustain new technologies is immense in the Middle East market. Adoption of new business models in technology and their propagation is highly dependent on the skill sets available in the local market to implement, support and execute these models, and therefore if the tech channel does not invest in certifications and training, such adoption will be hampered,” she said.

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