In running a certification program, just like conducting any type of business platform, an organization will feel the need to assess its program on a periodic basis.
This is undertaken for a number of reasons: to be sure the certification is keeping pace with market needs, to make sure it’s up to date in terms of the technology involved and to make certain improvements such as expanding a certification program’s appeal or usefulness.
Susan Martin is certification portfolio manager for SAP, a collaborative business software company, which recently decided to assess its certification program by conducting a survey of the certified community.
“We have been running a successful certification program since the mid-’90s, and we basically decided that it was time to take a good step back and see that it still meets the needs of the market,” Martin said. “We conducted various surveys to find out what the perception of our certification is — whether it still has a use as a valid benchmark for recruiting and customer decision making, whether it’s well-aligned with our strategic direction as a company and whether it really addresses the market needs as we see them, as they’ve changed in the last 12 years.”
These surveys yielded a wide variety of feedback for SAP, which it then used to revise its global strategy with respect to certification.
“On the basis of these surveys, we came to the conclusion that we needed to have a good look at how we could update our program to make it more relevant for the market and to become more leading-edge and address the leading roles in the industry,” Martin said. “We found that the new certifications were very much product knowledge-related, but we wanted to increase the job-task relation and alignment much more, so we’ve renewed our processes in terms of how we actually design the certifications so that they have a lot more relevance to practical experience within the market.”
SAP certification now targets application, technology and development consultants and solution architects. In addition, SAP has revised its certification tests, moving from a focus on software functionality to a more job task-related focus.
Previously, SAP’s certification program had been mostly geared toward individuals trying to get their foot in the door within IT. Based on the feedback it received from its surveys, SAP redesigned its program so as to assist more-experienced IT pros in enhancing careers already in progress.
“We got feedback that people found they were using certifications for their new hires, but they were basically then going off and having a successful career, and certification didn’t play a role after that new-hire stage,” Martin said. “The majority of people indicated they would really welcome the opportunity to continue their certifications to enhance their careers as they went forward and not just at the beginning of their careers.”
So, a process of assessment led SAP to significantly widen the appeal of its certification program.
Such self-examination and subsequent innovation plays a crucial role in making sure the certification industry is well-positioned to best serve the development of IT professionals.