As IT Certifications Devalue, Vendors Up the Ante

New guru-level, steeply priced certification programs attempt to fill the void left by de-emphasized IT certifications.

A recent research report by Foote Partners, a New Canaan, Conn.-based management consultancy firm, found that noncertified IT skills have been growing in value at a rate nearly two times that of certified skills.

A new follow-up report looks at what happens next to vendors who rely on their certifications programs to gain mind share for their technologies and support sales of their products.

"Vendors created the certifications industry principally to sell their products," said David Foote, Foote Partners co-founder, CEO and chief research officer, in a statement.

"What fascinates me is that when we asked several vendors recently if they use their own certifications internally to qualify their own employees technical skills, the answer was largely no.

"It appears that they do not consider their own external certifications tough enough for the own people, and that may just be the issue with employers who are starting to place less emphasis on technical certifications, in favor of paying more for other qualities of IT professionals that are more critical to their business."

Yet, while qualities such as industry knowledge and customer experience appear to be taking the lead, certifications havent been going down without a fight.

Instead, vendors have been banding together to create new, master-level certifications that are vendor-independent, technology-neutral in focus, and available to any person who can qualify.

An example of this is a Master Certified IT Architect developed by the Open Group, a consortium of top engineers at Hewlett-Packard and IBM.

Aimed at practicing Enterprise/IT Architects who have at least three years of recent experience, candidates must pass a peer board review and demonstrate having a number of core skills from soft skills to project management and architecture skills.

To date, only 14 individuals have registered for this certification.

A second example of this "guru-level" certification is from Microsoft, which expects its Microsoft Certified Architect Program to be available later in 2006.

Stressing non-Microsoft best practices, tools and technologies as well as knowledge of in-house platforms, it also requires a peer review, and 10 years minimum experience, more than three times that of the Master Certified IT Architect.

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With a price tag of $10,000 or more for candidates or their employers to absorb, both the Master Certified IT Architect and the Microsoft Certified Architect Program, these certifications are not intended for the masses.

"Thats certainly one way to prove how special your certification is," says Foote.

"But if thats what it will take to keep skill certifications up front in the minds of managers competing in the intense and very dynamic IT employment market in which theyre now finding themselves, so be it."

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