Vendors may be going berserk announcing certification programs, but there is much more to it than just paying the fees, getting your staff accredited and then counting the money, according to service-providing resellers ARN surveyed last week.
It is an important issue for resellers to be able to both train and retain good staff. There is a fine line between turning your staff into money makers for yourself or money makers for other players in the game.
Meanwhile, there is a finite window of opportunity for resellers to get a return on investment from certified staff before the technology becomes obsolete.
Iain McGregor, Anite Networks' national services manager, said its policy is to always strive for the highest level of partnership with vendors and that usually requires the highest levels of certification for staff.
"We do that for one very real reason," he said. "It gives us credibility with our customers. They have the confidence that we have people who have been thoroughly trained to do the job they need."
Because there are now so many certification programs, it is a challenge to cover all the bases, he added. "Our view is that if we are going to sell and support products we need to have staff that are confident enough to do that and the certification programs are one way of making sure it happens."
Furthermore, there are some significant personnel issues involved with getting staff accredited, according to McGregor, who cites the cases of some organisations poaching certified staff rather than paying for the training themselves.
"Some definitely see it [poaching] as a way to acquire skilled staff without having to put that investment into them," he said. "Staff are very mobile these days, but by offering the oppor- tunity to go on certification programs, we also find we have a lure with which we can attract good people."
Phil Hempel, managing director at Melbourne-based assembler and distributor, Computer Manufacturing and Integration has been burnt to the tune of $7000 by a deserting, just-certified staff member.
All the same, he still feels there is value in taking on a junior technician and improving their skills through vendor certification programs, stating it to be cheaper than hiring a suitably qualified person.
As a result of such experiences, however, he now asks staff to pay for the courses themselves and then reimburses them over a period of 12 months - a system he claims his staff have no problems with.
"You do need trained staff to assure customers and you need that quality of staff to achieve your goals in business.
"However, the main problem for [smaller service] players like myself is to make sure you have that mechanism right, so they don't walk out on you after you spend the money," said Hempel. "That takes some time."
Jock O'Keefe, executive vice president of Brisbane-based software developer Mincom, feels that the return on investment from these programs is "marginal at best".
"It varies. In some cases the skills of our personnel are enhanced, but in others it is just a case of the vendor insisting that our people are certified. In the longer term we see the investment of time and money paying dividends as more customers demand certified engineers.
"We expect our return on investment will improve over time as certification becomes mandatory for interfacing into a large percentage of corporate customers. We hope our charge-out rates will increase as customers see the value," he added.