Certification: Creating the World as It Should Be

Certification programs try to identify individuals with a set of knowledge, skills and abilities that allow them to perform a particular role. Most try to align closely to prevailing practices in the field. But certification programs should aim higher and elevate practice in the field.

Most certification exams begin with a job-task analysis (JTA). In a JTA, people in the role being tested participate in a structured exercise similar to what someone in a role should know and be able to do. The aim of a JTA is to describe the world as it is. This descriptive approach is most effective when applied to roles in which change is gradual. Double-entry bookkeeping has existed for centuries. While practices do evolve and change, accounting practices are relatively static for periods of years. Therefore, it is appropriate for an accounting certification to describe the world as it is.

Rapidly evolving new products and technologies make IT quite different. New technologies might represent a significant change in how certain IT objectives are achieved. New technologies might even change the objectives themselves. If a technology vendor intends to certify people in their use of new technologies, it must describe the world as it will become.

Furthermore, practices can become entrenched and remain commonplace even though best practices evolve that advise against the older ones. For example, many organizations use Telnet for the purpose of connecting to and administering remote UNIX and Linux hosts, even though this approach has long been recognized as a security…


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