At a breakfast roundtable discussion at Forrester's Forum in Nashville in May, CIOs discussed problems they had run into in their vendor relationships. One of the biggest was what one called the "bait-and-switch," where a vendor promised them one quality of work while actually working at much lower standards.
In what is being seen by some as a different type of bait-and-switch, vice president of HP Global Certification and Partner Education Susan Underhill wrote Oct. 18 on her corporate blog about a company called Rent A Cert, which rents IT pros with high-value Cisco and Microsoft credentials and matches them with VARs that need to have a minimum number of these certifications on their staff to attain a specific level of Cisco or Microsoft partnership.
"Having certified IT staff impresses clients and qualifies you for exclusive parnterships [sic] with Microsoft and Cisco. Maintaining a certified staff can be the difference that gets you the sale," boasts the Rent A Cert site.
While some are very upset by Rent A Cert, which essentially allows VARs to convince their customers and partner programs that they have a number of certified pros on staff that they do not and, in return, brings them more business and, commonly, a better discount from the vendor, others fell that the company was doing something that had already been happening for years but less publicly.
Underhill, however, is unwavering in her view that the company practices deceit.
"Presenting rented credentials to attain the Gold or Silver status is the same as intentionally misrepresenting your qualifications to do a job," she wrote on her blog.
Underhill asks whether customers are concerned at all or whether it is only the past performance and satisfaction that best measure quality, which smacks to me of the more classic question of "Do IT certifications matter or just the skills and performance of employees?"
But the looming, bigger questions is whether customers are going to feel just as duped by vendors that staff up with rented certifications as those CIOs were hiring one team and receiving another.