The Value of Partner certifications

Building value in the Middle East IT market has proved a challenge for many channel partners. With more emerging technologies impacting the development of the much-needed IT skills, what value do partner certifications and training offer resellers?

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The Value of Partner certifications
By  Manda Banda Published  July 24, 2014

Partner training programmes and certifications come in all shapes and schemes but unless they help a reseller, solution provider or systems integrator to win new deals and grow market share, they can represent a lot of effort for a frustratingly slow return on investment.

Incentives, education, rebates, loyalty and specialisation initiatives are tried and tested ways for vendors to engage with, persuade and invigorate channel partners. And in such a competitive market, with new technology and IT models showering down on customers from the cloud and third platform, the need for solid training and certification schemes that support existing partner relationships, while attracting appropriate and significant new resellers, has never been greater. For even the world’s biggest vendors, mixing traditional certification programme elements with innovative approaches that reward a more service-led approach to long-term growth has become a priority.

The Middle East channel is typically comprised of skilled IT professionals migrating from other regions of the world and locally developed talent.

Cem Ocal, sales director, Distribution, Middle East at networking infrastructure vendor Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise, said there are two aspects to the IT skills sector in the region. On one hand, Ocal said skilled IT professionals are expats coming from other regions and on the other hand, it’s local talent. “The Middle East is experiencing an unprecedented youth bulge with an estimated 30% of the population being between the ages of 15 – 29 years. While education is easily accessible in the region, there is still a pronounced skills gap, especially within the IT sector,” he said.

Industry pundits say the GCC countries are at a better footing as compared to the rest of the region when it comes to education. However, there still exists a skills gap, especially within the IT industry.

The governments in the GCC are aware of this and have initiated comprehensive reforms to the education systems to bridge the skills shortfall. In addition, private organisations are also now investing in work-based training programmes to help employees acquire the much-needed skills in demand.

Ocal pointed out that to effectively combat the skills gaps within the IT sector across the Middle East, it is imperative that governments, education stakeholders and employers work together. “When these forces join to agree and implement a solid strategy, the region will be able to produce high quality skilled IT professionals that are on par with international talent,” he said.

Zornitza Hadjitodorova, head, Ingram Micro Training Academy Middle East and Africa (MEA), concurred and explained that the overall quality of skills needs significant brush-up. “We must collectively work to develop the skills pool beyond the level of developed markets. Companies are responsible for motivating and retaining top talent. We must all look beyond the short-term goals and realise that it is only top talent that can guarantee us repeated business and profitability in the long-run,” she said.

However, she acknowledged that finding the right talent is always a challenge in the Middle East. “We face shortages both in specific geographical regions and in certain occupations,” she added. “There is a general lack of appreciation for the short- and long-term impact of not addressing the issue of IT skills and a failure to grasp its negative impact on the overall channel success.”

Although there has been a good deal of media hyperbole about the IT recruitment crisis, most people in the IT and or HR fields agree that recruitment problems are reaching critical levels. The staffing crisis has caused IT departments to work more closely and in new ways with HR departments to implement innovative approaches on how they can attract and retain skilled IT staff.

Meera Kaul, managing director, Optimus Technology and Telecom, said the skills gap in the technology vertical is ever widening across the Middle East region.

According to Kaul, it’s not only a dearth of existing IT skill sets that plagues the infrastructure space, but also the advancement to acquire new skill sets to cater to ever evolving technology changes that makes the gap to widen. “Immigration policies, education systems and legal parameters at times are huge detriments to better quality resources finding and this has been an on-going challenge,” she said.

However, Kaul pointed out that Optimus has an in-house policy of certifying its engineers across multiple technologies and this has been a huge reason for the company’s success.

At StorIT, the distributor doesn’t necessarily look for talent that has several certifications as it believes training is an ongoing process.

Manju Mathew, marketing manager, StorIT Distribution, said the company has continued to invest a lot to get its current staff to get trained and certified, thus ensuring outstanding service to partners.

Mathew said StorIT believes that intensive training and channel enablement programmes are the reason for partner motivation to sell innovative technologies and evangelise the offerings to their customers. “We have a dedicated programme called ‘Taalim’ aimed at training, educating, enabling, supporting and strengthening our partners. We align our training and education programmes with those of our vendor partners,” she said.

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