Identifying Obsolescence in Certifications

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As technology evolves, the desire — and often the need — to become certified in a new program follows accordingly. Introductions, though, lead to goodbyes, and that’s what can happen with IT certifications. As new technology comes onto the scene, formerly red-hot certifications cool down, sometimes to the extent that they’re no longer applicable.

It can be up to program managers to identify whether a certification is out of date, and after that, it’s a matter of determining whether individuals should be recertified. If the technology has become obsolete, though, it is likely time to throw out the certification.  Throwing an extra monkey wrench into the situation, if new certification exams arise because of new or updated technology, they are not guaranteed to fit into the existing certification structure.

This was the case in 2005, when Microsoft was set to roll out SQL Server 2005 and Visual Studio 2005. It was with the certification exams for these programs that the company unveiled a three-tiered framework for Microsoft certifications. This required individuals who had certifications on the developer track to take a transition path if they sought recertification.

Microsoft lists five certifications as retired in 2000 on its Web site, and they run the gamut from “Implementing and Supporting Microsoft Internet Information Server 3.0 and Microsoft Index Server 1.1” to “Designing and Implementing Web Sites with Microsoft FrontPage 98.” With the former, candidates needed to upgrade to the next track to retain their certification, but with the latter, there were no requirements to retain certification.

And even in 2000, organizations realized the importance of keeping up with new and emerging technologies. According to a report from the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) that year, “The need to update employee skills in the implementation of complex technologies is one of the most important drivers of IT training. …  It has become crucial for companies to train IT professionals before information is obsolete. Other factors fueling industry growth are the continuous introduction of new technologies and the release of new software products.”


When it comes to pursuing a certification in project management, though, there is little to no risk that it will become obsolete. It’s when you decide to take it a step further and go into vertical industries that certifications can get outdated.

“The kind of skills you’re going to need are not going to change that much,” said Neill Hopkins, vice president of skills development at the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA). “Once you’ve got the foundational skills, they’re not going to change.”

Rather, the way in which people used the program management certification has changed, and it will likely continue to do so.

“It’s more about application,” Hopkins said. “We very much advocate the fundamentals. The application is the key to success. How you apply those fundamentals has changed. And now, we have technology to help us.”

Some foundational skills that have and will stand the test of time are conflict resolution, negotiation, communication, team building, leadership, and setting and managing expectations. Kyle Gingrich, product manager for CompTIA Project+, said there can be discrepancy, though, in regard to being a project manager versus doing the work of one.

“A lot of people are given the title of project manager who have no formal training, and there are ad hoc project managers,” Gingrich said. 


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