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Selling Certifications

One of the dominant themes for several years running in our annual special report on certification has been the rise of the vendor-neutral mind-set. The exclusive research upon which this week's related cover package is centered further underscores this trend.

The 2004 Certification Study found that half of the certifications solution providers designated as growing fastest in importance to their business were vendor-neutral in nature. Given the push into solutions by the most innovative of you out there, I wasn't all that surprised by this finding.

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HEATHER CLANCY
Can be reached via e-mail at hclancy@cmp.com.

But that's not to say that vendor-specific titles don't hold tremendous weight--and value. Just last week, Logicalis in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., one of Hewlett-Packard's largest partners on the enterprise side, disclosed its intention to buy STI, a $90 million IBM Business Partner. One of the primary rationales for the purchase? Technical certifications. And guess what? Logicalis is looking to buy some Cisco-related technical savvy in the future.

Likewise, CRN editorial cabinet member Tectura, a solid Microsoft Business Solutions partner that is in the process of moving its headquarters to San Mateo, Calif., from Tempe, Ariz., has said the need for it to add certifications in strategic regions has been behind its 2004 buying spree. Tectura's latest purchase in early August was Aston Business Solutions, which gives it a larger footprint in providing solutions based on Navision and Axapta technology. Tectura has bought at least eight companies this year alone.

All this activity, coupled with the results of our certification survey, suggests that solution providers are changing their skills investment strategies.

You'll see more and more VARs opting to focus on further developing the existing technical and sales expertise of their internal personnel while looking elsewhere to acquire skills they feel they may need to extend their solutions reach. In other words, vendors requiring solution providers to pay dearly for the privilege of holding one of their certifications will find it more and more difficult to convince newer partners to pony up. Instead, they will see some of their most talented existing partners become the subject of takeovers--ones that may not necessarily be in the best interest of the vendor's brand.

How are you building your certification stable? HEATHER CLANCY, Editor at CRN, values your opinion. E-mail her at hclancy@cmp.com.

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