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Why Vendors Like Certification Programs

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Aspiring IT professionals frequently seek certifications, and the value of certification programs is often described from the seeker’s perspective. But vendors also have a lot to gain from providing such programs. This article explores the impetus behind certification programs and how those programs benefit certification seekers and vendors alike.
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Most industry watchers agree that certification programs open doors into new job markets, create employment opportunities, increase earnings potential, improve skills and boost knowledge, facilitate career progression, and command respect from peers and management. Usually, the focus of certification programs center on the credential seekers and the many benefits they might gain from such certification. But it’s also worth considering that cert programs provide many benefits to vendor companies or sponsor organizations as well.

Organizations that offer certifications, whether vendor-neutral or vendor-specific, provide a unique service to the IT community. The relationship between the IT professional and vendor certification programs is symbiotic—that is, one cannot exist without the other. On one hand, certification programs provide a one-stop-shopping experience where IT professionals can gain practical experience, knowledge, understanding, and mastery of key concepts, skills, and technologies in a specific IT area. All this comes wrapped up in a certificate that translates into a tidy long-term return on investment. On the other hand, certification programs provide vendors and sponsors with a lucrative revenue base and a pool of certified individuals who can be cultivated for repeat business.

Free-market economies are based on the concepts of supply and demand. IT is a knowledge-driven industry that demands up-to-date skills and training on existing and emerging technologies for its professionals. Certification companies are brilliant marketers: they’ve correctly identified crying needs in the IT industry—namely, skills and knowledge—and have developed a solution to fulfill those needs—namely, certification programs. Such programs are a win-win for vendor and sponsor organizations on the one side, and credential seekers on the other. Cert program providers also make money when supplying training to fill knowledge gaps for IT professionals.

Generally, certification programs benefit three major types of players, be they technology vendors, professional associations or societies, or academic or educational institutions:

  • Those who currently lead the market and want to continue in that position
  • Those seeking to capture a share of the market and establish dominance
  • Those seeking to compete with market leaders on equal terms, who are willing to bear the costs involved

When a vendor or sponsor organization creates a certification program, the goal is not only to provide the certification seeker with quality training and credentials, but also to build a reputation that will last well past the end of the examination and awarding a certification. Vendors strive to create programs that

  • establish a standard of quality and excellence for the skills of its credential holders;
  • are recognized globally by recruiters and employers a the “preferred” or “premier” certification to possess in some domain of IT knowledge.

Certification programs generate revenue streams for their operators, which can be highly profitable. Some of the revenue-generating opportunities related to certification programs include the following:

  • In-house training or preparation programs for credential seekers
  • Multi-tiered approaches to certification ensuring repeat business as credential holders return to seek more advanced certifications
  • Licenses to third-party players that provide training courses to credential seekers
  • Developing an aftermarket by opening up an avenue to sell books, study guides, training materials, instructor guides, practice exams, labs, simulators, and so forth
  • Refresher and continuing education courses
  • Instructor support, including development and sale of course materials, instructor manuals, guides, test and quizzes, lab manuals, and other materials
  • Fees from testing centers that administer examinations
  • Examination fees
  • Ongoing licensing fees

By providing IT professionals with a high-quality, globally recognized, industry-sought-after certification, cert providers also obtain a reasonable assurance of repeat business. If a certification program provides IT professionals with a profitable return on their investment, they’ll return for additional courses, refresher or continuing education courses, and more advanced credentials. In addition, satisfied IT professionals will refer peers, coworkers, and employers to provider programs, which in turn generates additional revenue.

In addition to direct revenue-generating activities, providers derive marketing and other benefits from their certification programs. For example, certification programs ensure that vendors can draw on a pool of highly qualified and skilled professionals who understand the concepts, skills, and technologies required to support related products, platforms, technologies, and services. Because certification vendors maintain a database of those who have earned their credentials, such records include invaluable information concerning the total population of credential holders. Such information can be useful in formulating future goods, services, and market strategies, and in setting direction for future certification programs. Database records also present providers with a marketable group of customers for new programs, courses, books, guides, and other materials. Vendors don’t have to work as hard to sell new goods or services to a customer base that already knows the value of those items.

Have you ever heard the phrase “follow the money”? In the case of IT certification programs and certification vendors, following the money is a good thing. IT professionals obtain certifications that translate into better jobs, more respect, and higher salaries and bonuses. Because certifications provide a great return on their investment, IT professionals return to certification providers for additional and advanced certifications. Such repeat business allows those providers to continue to develop and offer high-quality education and certification training programs on existing and emerging technologies. Credential seekers have a reasonable assurance that certification programs will provide them with the skills and knowledge that they need because the vendor industry depends on satisfied IT professionals. And in return, successful certification programs become veritable cash cows for the organizations that make them go, and keep them going.

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