Building a Solution-Oriented Curriculum
It is drummed into our heads from an early age—“experience is often the most valuable teacher.” Multiply that value by the total experience of hundreds of thousands of customers, and you start to understand the rapid maturation of the Dell certification program.
It is natural perhaps for a company with well-established roots in IT hardware to initially segment its certification program along both product family and model lines. Dell has learned that data centers, administrative staff and entire IT departments are solution-oriented, rarely using one type of system in isolation. Therefore, the most valuable certification program is one that simulates and guarantees a minimum level of knowledge for utilizing broad solution categories.
In September 2003, the Dell Certified Server Professional, Storage Networking Professional and Networking Professional programs were launched to address the need for broad solution certification. These programs help customers learn about managing, operating and maintaining Dell enterprise systems. Let’s explore some of the business drivers that help customers see value in Dell certification and the key elements that have contributed to the growth of the Dell certification program.
What is the value of Dell certification to the individual and to employers? When surveyed, Dell customers are unanimous:
- It reduces the life-cycle costs of hardware and software solutions.
- It ensures the knowledge necessary to implement systems quickly.
- It prevents some issues from occurring.
- It enables quick resolution when issues do occur.
- It helps achieve optimum system utilization.
Dell certification enables IT professionals to bring Dell systems into production faster and with greater efficiency. IT professionals can learn the intricacies of their Dell systems prior to implementation on-site, thus allowing for faster deployment. Once installed, IT staff can more effectively configure, operate and maintain systems with a better understanding of the critical hardware components and software tools. Dell certificants also have the opportunity to take advantage of a dedicated advanced technical support queue.
According to a recent internal Dell research study, Dell experienced more than 40 percent fewer warranty and support calls from customers who attended Dell storage training courses. This means a significant number of Dell customers who attend Dell storage training are able to manage their own troubleshooting and system issues as they occur, rather than calling tech support to address them—driving lower support costs and quicker issue resolution.
Solution Versus Product
For Dell to meet and exceed these business needs, a customer point of view, focused on solutions, was vital. Certification courses were redesigned along server, storage and networking tracks to help customers learn how and why to use groups of Dell systems in the day-to-day reality of their world. The courses were also designed to highlight the entire Dell enterprise solution, rather than just the product speeds and feeds.
This solution-oriented learning environment enables learners to participate in hands-on labs designed to increase proficiency with hardware and systems management tools in the same class. For example, in the Dell Certified Server Professional (DCSP) track, Dell moved from separate server and systems management classes to one solution-oriented course titled Dell Server Configuration and Management. This course demonstrates the relationship between the hardware and the software tools, rather than having the content in two discrete courses.
In the Dell Certified Storage Networking (DCSNP) track, Dell integrates detailed technical overviews of the Dell/EMC storage arrays with Navisphere storage management software into one course and provides another course that showcases the Dell/EMC Navisphere Management Suite products, including SnapView, MirrorView and SANCopy to teach critical storage management techniques.
This alignment brings the focus of the learning back to the customer and away from simple hardware training. In the Dell Certified Networking (DCNP) track, Dell integrates Layer 2 and Layer 3 managed switches into courseware to offer customers the chance to see how various PowerConnect solutions fit into their environment.
Dell Training & Certification Growth
Dell has seen steep revenue growth in its customer training and certification services, which, like Dell’s hardware businesses, are outpacing overall market growth. What factors fueled this growth?
According to Lois Rouder, national manager for Dell’s Training & Certification group, “We are growing because we’re listening directly to our customers and to their Dell account executives in order to build programs that were tied to helping them resolve critical IT challenges like maintaining system uptime, controlling support costs and managing the complexity of integrating system management tools.”
Dell’s executive team is listening, too. In response to growing customer needs, Dell upgraded its customer education center in November 2002 when it opened its 10,000-square-foot Enterprise Technology and Education Center in Round Rock, Texas. This state-of-the-art facility features 36 separate storage networks with more than 18 terabytes of storage capacity used exclusively for hands-on training and two enterprise technology showcases, and it gives Dell the ability to increase its training capacity threefold.
According to Jeff Lynn, vice president of Dell Professional Services, “Our education programs help Dell customers unlock the full value of our product solutions.”
Where Does Dell Go From Here?
Dell is well positioned to help make customers more competitive in their markets by teaching them how to anticipate potential problems and how to resolve them quickly when they arise. Customers who have attended the certification training are increasingly satisfied, rating the courses at 94 percent in overall effectiveness. Dell is also beginning to see that training is an important driver for creating deeper levels of trust with its customers, as suggested through recent enterprise hardware purchasing patterns. As we look forward, we plan to strengthen our education services by:
- Listening to customers and building programs based on customer input to help them solve their business problems.
- Developing solution-oriented certifications that align with market and Dell product trends.
- Investing in standards-based technologies that provide broader access to Dell’s high-value IT education programs at competitive prices.
In today’s market, IT professionals are seen as the “designers, builders, pilots and doctors” of the business technology infrastructure. They are relied on to keep businesses running smoothly today and to make them run more productively tomorrow.
Dell provides customers with an opportunity to learn how to do that and helps IT managers realize the value of training and certifying their staff. Dell has seen significant reductions in customer support and warranty costs, faster customer resolutions, increases in system uptime and increases in value from a solution-oriented approach to certification training and development.
Michael Glazer is the senior manager, Business Development for Dell Training & Certification. He can be contacted at email@example.com. For more information on the Dell Certification program, please visit www.dell.com/training/lookingtoyou.
The Dell Certification Program Overview
The Dell certification program has been available since September 2003.