Business Process Automation

When your partner is certifiable

Channel companies are winning recognition but the employees doing the tests are not the ones working with customers, says Billy MacInnes
Image: Stockfresh

17 February 2022

I came across an interview on the CRN website with Shaun Maine, CEO at Converge Technology Solutions where, on the subject of the cost to partners of training and certification, the questioner asked him: “Why is it so costly to be a channel partner in 2022?”.

Maine’s initial reply was it was so expensive to get the certifications because “vendors want to ensure that their customers are getting the right user experience” which, I think we can all agree, seems fair enough. Who wouldn’t want a customer to get the right experience? Given that nobody could realistically argue with that statement, the appropriate question might be to ask: “Why does it have to be so expensive?”, especially if this effectively means “a small player can’t do it”.

Maybe it doesn’t matter to small players. Perhaps they don’t need those certifications and training because their customers aren’t looking for them or because the services and solutions they provide to customers don’t require them. It could be that their customers don’t need “the right user experience” or that they have a different type of “right user experience”.




I must say though that I was intrigued by Maine’s suggestion that small partners tend to “have a couple of engineers that become, basically, professors. They take all the tests in the corner – that is not what the vendors intended, right? The vendors intended for you to have trained people engaging with your customers, not writing exams so you can get more rebates”.

I have a sneaking regard for smaller channel companies with a couple of proper eggheads in the corner dedicated purely to sitting vendor certification exams. I can visualise a scenario where you walk in to the office and someone points to two people in a corner office and says: “They’re busy sitting a Cisco certification test at the moment”. Or imagining them going home and their partner asking: “Shall we watch something on Netflix?” And they reply: “Not now, darling, I’ve got to study for my Red Hat exam.”

While I can understand that this approach might not be precisely what the vendors want, it does demonstrate a level of resourcefulness on behalf of smaller companies to try and match their larger rivals and to “get more rebates”. And you have to wonder whether, if certifications weren’t so expensive, smaller businesses might approach them in the spirit that the vendors intended.

Admittedly, there’s a danger for those companies in concentrating their knowledge among a small number of employees. If you lose one of them through sickness or for another unforeseen reason, you lose their expertise. Larger partners are not as susceptible as they can spread the load among more workers.

That said, if your customers don’t really need you to have those certifications but you have people sitting the exams to get them anyway, purely so the company has access to more rebates, that’s quite clever in its own way. Someone might ask “why bother?” but the truth is certifications can help a channel partner stand out to prospective customers, even if those customers don’t actually need a partner to have them.

What’s really intriguing about this approach is that it’s not about taking certifications to provide the “right user experience” because, in most instances, the customers are already getting that to the level they want from their partners without the certifications. Instead, what it’s really about is providing “the right vendor experience” so partners can qualify for certifications to unlock rebates and other rewards.

As for the vendors, they’re probably so happy partners are getting their certifications that they don’t look too closely at how and why some of them are doing it. It’s a slightly off-kilter virtuous circle: yes, everybody is getting what they’re entitled to but it’s not quite for the reasons they should be getting it. You could say they’re getting the “right experience” for them even if it’s not for the right reasons.

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