Certifications are generally both a blessing and a curse for channel partners. On the one hand, they help separate the wheat from the chaff because vendors tend to reward partners that invest in attaining certifications with additional discounts, rebates and first crack access to the leads they generate. The downside is that getting sales and technical staff certified is often expensive.
This longstanding channel conundrum is about to become a much larger issue because almost every IT vendor is in the middle of re-engineering their certification processes. As IT infrastructure technologies become “software-defined” the vendor community is discovering that there’s a woeful shortage of channel partners that have programming skills. Via a carrot and stick approach, vendors are recrafting their certification programs in a way that requires partners to develop programming skills that enable them to automate deployments of technologies using application programming interfaces (APIs) rather than a traditional graphical user interface (GUI).
Case in point is Cisco, which has revealed that in March of 2018 there will be a new Cisco Master Networking Specialization squarely focused on helping partners develop new software and services skills. Wendy Bahr, senior vice president for the global partner organization, says the company is also making a concerted effort to reduce the total number of certifications that partners need to navigate. But make no mistake about it, attaining those certifications is going to require deeper IT skills.
Cisco is hardly the only vendor confronting this issue. Brian Allison, vice president of alliances for Commvault, says that as storage solutions become more software-defined the provider of storage systems is also looking at revamping its certification as well.
It won’t be too long before every IT vendor is revamping their certification program. IT organizations are being required to be more “cloud-like” in their ability to quickly deploy IT solutions. They are demanding that partners be able to programmatically deploy solutions in a matter of minutes than weeks. Naturally, that has significant implications for how partners charge for IT services; especially as the amount of time required to implement a specific product starts to approach zero. Clearly, the price of the solution is going to be more tied to an outcome; as opposed to the amount of time it took to install.
The whole notion of software-defined infrastructure (SDI) has been steadily maturing for several years. The difference now is that IT vendors are now gearing up to make mastering SDI products and services a pre-requisite for participating in the most rewarding tiers of their channel programs.