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Experience Counts

Manuel Villa doesn't put all that much weight on certifications. For Villa, president of Via Technology, a nine-year-old solution provider in San Antonio, the real test is a service professional's ability to perform in the field and to deliver powerful solutions to satisfied clients.

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STEVEN BURKE
Can be reached at (781) 839-1121 or via e-mail at sburke@cmp.com.

Via has no formal reseller agreement with SAP but derives about 70 percent of its sales from SAP enterprise services delivered by top-flight SAP service professionals. The solution provider picked up these experts when a merger in the Texas area put them out of a job. They have all the savvy of their counterparts at larger integrators, but Villa can bill them out for less because he doesn't have as much overhead. Via's SAP pros are now handling tough subcontracting jobs with consulting giants such as Deloitte and NEC Americas. "It's a matter of finding the right people with the right opportunities and matching them up," Villa said.

Villa says expertise is all about what you know, rather than how you take tests. "All a certification says is that you can read, learn and take a test. The bottom line is what you do in the field. Are you going to perform or fall back on the certification?" Villa recalls early on hiring a Microsoft certified technician who was "sharp as a tack but didn't have the people skills" or experience to deliver in the field.

Villa is in the process of hammering out an agreement to represent SAP Business One. In order to be a larger SAP partner, Villa would need to have 75 SAP consultants on his payroll. That's just ridiculous given the state of the market and the move toward highly specialized, vertical industry solutions experts.

"I think vendors need to be a lot more flexible on contracts and certifications," Villa said. "If they don't, they end up creating a gray market. The vendors want numbers; that is the bottom line. The reseller wants to make profitable numbers. There is no certification in the world that is going to give you instant profitability as a reseller."

Villa said the customer hires the solutions expert, not the certification. For his part, Villa said he hires the person, not the position. That's something vendors should consider when looking at what are often ridiculous, inflexible and costly certifications that are imposed on their partners"particularly in the current economic environment.

What do you think of vendor certifications? Let me know at (781) 839-1221 or via e-mail at sburke@cmp.com.

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