Get certified!

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This article appeared in the Issue 168, 21 March 2005 issue of CRN magazine.

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Get certified!
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How can channel partners ensure they are trained in the right technologies so they can win business? CRN takes you through the training and certification maze.

If you are spending more than half your training budget on maintaining vendor certifications, you are not alone.

In an industry where an 18-month product life cycle is average, constant training is a fact of life for resellers who need to keep up with the latest technologies.

With emerging market sectors such as security, VoIP, mobile and wireless all requiring levels of expertise and customer confidence, resellers are being increasingly pressured to keep their training and certifications up to date.

In a competitive landscape where customers demand credentials, and vendors offer valuable margin bonuses to certified partners, even Australia’s largest resellers admit that their training regimes are largely tied to their key vendor partners.

However, CRN spoke to resellers, distributors and vendors who believe that several technology and business trends will change the vendor-channel training dynamic.

One is a move towards cross-vendor solutions selling (increasingly supported by vendors working together to make their products more compatible), and the other is the adoption of open standards and open source software.

While CRN in the US reports that its reseller market is trending towards vendor-neutral certifications, some in the local industry say that such qualifications are less widespread and considered less important.

But as the Australian IT industry moves towards a more open systems environment, some believe that resellers should look to more vendor-agnostic certifications, such as the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) offered by the International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium.

So what influences a reseller’s choice of training? The vast majority of resellers, distributors and technology vendors agree that vendors are the greatest influence on the type of training resellers will choose. But this stems from the most important part of the business equation -- the customer -- says Michael Costigan, marketing director for distributor Avnet Partner Solutions.

"First and foremost it’s the market they’re in and what’s driving the end users," he says. "Compliance is a big thing, and security issues." Keeping up with new products and maintaining vendor sales certification is another motivator, Costigan says.

"Vendors do run their own direct training -- technical training and sales refresher courses.
We piggyback on what the vendors offer." Consequently, the training tended to be vendor-specific, with additional generic technology and sales training.

While most vendors offer sales and marketing training on top of their specific product training, often technology distributors see additional, often more customised, training as their value add -- or point of differentiation -- for their reseller customers.

For example, security distributor Firewall Systems offers weekly sales training at its Melbourne and Sydney offices, as well as a regular security update service that details new security threats and technologies.

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