Certifications for the MSP Staff

Business Speak

 By Gary Audin

Certifications can boost your MSP sales. Certifications can be used to evaluate you as an MSP and your employees. They can help the MSP in an interview. Certifications are best for those who do not have considerable work experience in IT products, services, and technology.

 Defining Certification

Wikipedia has a definition of IT certification. “Professional certifications in computer technology are non-degree awards made to those who have achieved Certqualifications specified by a certifying authority. Depending on the particular certification, qualifications may include completing a course of study, proof of professional accomplishments, achieving a specified grade on an examination or some combination thereof. The intention is to establish that an individual holding a certification is technically qualified to hold certain types of position within the field.”

Certifications need to be renewed periodically, or may be limited for a specific period (e.g. the lifetime of the product upon which the individual is certified). As a part of a complete renewal of an individual's certification, it is common for the individual to show evidence of continual learning — often termed continuing education — or earning continuing education units (CEU).

Some certification programs are oriented toward specific technologies, and are managed by the vendors of these technologies. These certification programs are tailored to the institutions that would employ people who use these technologies.

Certification Values

Certification can be valuable to both the individual and the employer. Certification is one way to evaluate an MSP, consulting firm’s or contractor’s employees. The more certifications with the technology required by the enterprise, the more likely the MSP, consulting firm, or contractor will be awarded the work for the enterprise.

When an enterprise is hiring, certification in the area of interest can be used to eliminate applicants that do not have the required knowledge, experience, and/or skills. This does not mean the certified applicant will be successful. It does mean that the chance or hiring the wrong person is decreased.

There is one aspect of hiring by certification that can be problematic. If the hiring individual focuses too much on the certification, they may over look other factors such as personality, teamwork attitude, and experience. Sometimes when a certified employee does not succeed, the person hiring hides behind the certification, “Don’t blame me. The employee was certified. How was I to know they would not work out?” The employers want those who can do not those who only know. Certification is not a guarantee of career success nor is it a guarantee of hiring the right employee.


Levels of Certification

There are usually four levels of certification from basic to specialty to professional to mastery. The basic level is for those entering the market or who want to create better employment opportunities if they have limited experience with a product, service, or technology.

Mastery certifications cover the advanced practice of a specific discipline. Mastery certification candidates need to be able to integrate multiple enterprise disciplines through the application of advanced skills. Security certification is a candidate for the mastery level.


Personal Branding

Personal branding is the practice of people marketing themselves and their careers as brands. By extension, individuals can brand themselves through the acquisition of certifications. The personal-branding concept includes self-packaging for success. Personal Branding is the ongoing process of establishing a specific image or impression in the mind of others (potential employers) about an individual to be used by that individual to promote career success.  

Certify the Vendor or the Technology?

This can be a hard decision for the MSP employer. Employers would prefer not to pay for certification training and testing. So a prospective employee with the desired knowledge and skills is in a better position to be hired. When a prospective employer already has the IT technology from a vendor, then vendor specific certification is most desirable.

If the prospective employer does not have the vendor technology or a mix of vendors, or wants to changes vendors, then vendor neutral certification is the better choice. If you are new to the technology, then a vendor neutral certification may open up more opportunities than one that is vendor specific. If the employer is looking for generalist, then vendor neutral certification is a better choice.

If a vendor specific certification is acquired, the person with the vendor specific certification may limit the number of future employment opportunities vs. the vendor neutral certification. Vendor neutral certifications are better suited for opportunities where the prospective employee can work with other vendors of the same technologies.


Is Certification the End?

There are two avenues open for the certified person. In either case, the employee becomes more valuable. Many certifications may require continued certification (CEUs) and possibly re-testing to remain certified.

The second is to pursue more certifications. This can be accomplished by pursuing more advanced certifications in the same product or service. Another method is to expand knowledge by attaining a broader range of certifications. Either of these choices will expand the possibilities for employment. Consulting firms, MSPs, and resellers also look for certifications because they produce a better chance of acquiring work as a consultant, sales as a reseller, or contracts as an MSP.  


Certification and Education Sources

CompTIA is the voice of the world’s information technology (IT) industry. It is a non-profit trade association that advances the global interests of IT professionals and IT channel organizations.

Global Knowledge is an IT and business skills vendor specific training provider. Their business skills solutions teach essential communications skills, business analysis, project management, ITIL service management, process improvement, and leadership. Many courses cover foundational training to specialized certifications.

There are many other training and certification organizations like Global Knowledge. Look for one that is local and fits your budget.

There are hundreds of community colleges, technical institutes, and four year universities and colleges that have IT degree programs that provide the knowledge to pass certification exams. Certifications exams can be taken without attending any of these organization’s education programs. Live classes, online courses, textbooks, and experience can provide the knowledge to pass the certification exams.