Nortel: Contributing to a Successful Partnership
As communications networks converge to allow the generation of additional services, the ability to engineer, support and maintain the integrated voice, data and multimedia infrastructure takes on ever-increasing importance.
Nortel Networks product and solution portfolios are uniquely positioned to allow its customers and partners to capitalize on this business imperative. A critical component of these additional services is demonstrating the ability to successfully perform the services and support functions needed in a converged network. Nortel Networks Professional Certifications validate those skills and competencies.
Competency is defined as the state or quality of being adequately or well qualified. Competency can be gained through training as well as on-the-job experience and can be measured in several ways:
- End-of-course assessments that test the knowledge acquired from an individual course.
- Scenario-based certification testing that assesses and validates an individual’s ability to apply a set of required skills and knowledge.
- Performance measurement, which measures through actual observation the physical performance of tasks and the results obtained.
The Strategic Importance of Certification in Partner Programs
So what role does competency and certification play in the Nortel Networks Enterprise business model and its Partner Advantage program?
Historically, Nortel Networks has based its expectations of partner competency on the successful completion of training courses and, in some cases, on the passage of an end-of-course assessment. Competency requirements in the past have differed across varying channel programs, resulting in an expectation model that is unpredictable and confusing to many channel partners.
Going forward, Nortel Networks is changing the way competency is used and rewarded within its go-to-market business model.
Excellence in sales execution, solution design and post-sales installation and support is achieved through a combination of professional experience and formal training. As Nortel Networks evolves its various partner-facing programs, both pre- and post-sales service capability and competency will be a cornerstone expectation. As its channel partners grow their business with Nortel Networks and end-users demand channels that have specific designations, Nortel Networks wants to ensure that those partners are adequately qualified and successful in servicing their end-users, the ultimate customers of Nortel’s products and solutions.
Nortel Networks is committed to using proctored professional certifications as the sole criteria for competency, both for internal Nortel Networks and Partner Advantage resources. It also wants to ensure that its competency program has the following characteristics:
- The role that competency plays should be predictable. Certifications should be “transferable” to other competency-requiring programs.
- Competency attainment should be recognized and rewarded as an integral part of channel programs.
- Certifications will play in several key areas within the Nortel Networks Enterprise business strategy—access to restricted products (partner accreditation) and the Partner Advantage program.
This last bullet gets to the heart of the strategic fit of certification in Nortel’s partner programs. Partner accreditation provides access to complex products deemed as “restricted.” Partners wishing to gain access to sell and service these restricted products have to meet certain volume, competency and equipment requirements. The competency requirements are achieved through certification. In addition, partners that have internal employee reward programs for attaining Nortel Networks certification designations will be well positioned for success.
In the Partner Advantage program, service capability (of which competency is a key component) will be foundational to the achievement of Advantage designations. As partners continue their investment in Nortel Networks and progress from an Advantage partner through a Premium Advantage partner to an Elite Advantage partner, there will be increasing levels of competency achievement expected. With this increased partner commitment come increased rewards. In addition, the “Expert Advantage” program, another facet of Nortel’s evolving Advantage architecture, will use expert certifications as one of the required and rewarded elements.
The Certification Construct
So now you know how Nortel Networks certifications fit into its partner programs, but how does the Nortel Networks Certification program work?
The program takes a pyramid approach, which has both horizontal and vertical components. Horizontally, the skills tested range from pre-sales (sales engineering) through to post-sales (configuration, installation and maintenance). Vertically, an individual can progress from Specialist to Expert to Architect.
The Specialist level tests for basic competency within a given functional domain. Any individual with three to six months of relevant experience, along with recommended training, should be able to challenge the exams at this certification level. Specialist exams are typically focused on a single product.
The Expert level is targeted at intermediate to senior-level individuals. Expert certifications require Specialist certification as a prerequisite, and the exams are more solutions-focused. Expert certification assesses the candidate’s ability to optimize and maintain complex customer networks using Nortel Networks solutions.
For the Specialist and Expert levels, Nortel Networks exams are developed following industry-recognized processes to ensure program consistency and legal defensibility. Exam content is written and validated by subject-matter experts (SMEs) within Nortel Networks and its channel partner community. Exam questions are scenario-based and represent the skills and competencies necessary to successfully deploy Nortel’s products and solutions.
At the Architect level, the key differentiator is an individual’s ability to solve complex network design issues that may include a multi-vendor networking environment. The reality and ubiquity of multi-vendor networks dictate the recognition of multi-vendor expertise and demonstrated proficiency in other companies’ networking products. The Architect credential requires a two-part portfolio assessment evaluation, which includes responding to a real-world complex networking case study.
Preparing for Nortel Networks Exams
There are several ways to prepare for the exams, including on-the-job training, formal training, reading and mentoring. The most successful method has been a combination of on-the-job training and formal training for specific areas.
Recommended preparation activities for each exam are documented online at www.nortelnetworks.com/certification. Each detailed exam page lists the exam objectives, broken down by topical areas, the percentage each area represents on the exam, the recommended training, defined by region, recommended readings, if applicable, and practice exam questions. Candidates can use this information to familiarize themselves with exam content and to perform a self-inventory to determine those areas where additional training may be needed prior to sitting for the exam.
To ensure that the recommended training aligns to the specific exam objectives, training courses and the certification exams they support are developed together. When applicable, Nortel also defines multiple training tracks for different levels of experience, so the candidates can select exactly what they need to fully prepare for an exam.
What’s on the Horizon?
As the boundaries between public and private, wireline and wireless, and voice and data networks are