CompTIA adds free open-access option to membership structure

CompTIA is adding registered-user-level access to its site, making select content such as channel education, research and tools available for free.

Today at CompTIA's annual members meeting being held in San Diego, the nonprofit association for the IT industry opened up access to the site on a cost-free basis, for the first time in its 32-year history.

The new open-access model, a worldwide initiative, features three key changes: a no-cost registered user level; a premier membership level that all current CompTIA members automatically transition to; and a new, mobile-friendly and interactive website scheduled to go live in the second quarter.

"Our mission is to drive the industry forward by sharing all of this content, have greater reach and hopefully reach smaller solution providers," said Nancy Hammervick, senior vice president of industry relations at CompTIA.

For the past five years, CompTIA has been building content for a robust catalog of trainings, industry insights and research. The organization's 2,040 members -- which include 250 vendors and distributors and almost 1800 solution provider organizations -- reported that the content is their No. 1 membership benefit, according to Hammervick.

"The goal of the new open-access membership model is less about driving revenue or numbers in membership but to drive engagement with CompTIA and consumption of our research," she said.

The industry association is also hoping to capture individuals interested in careers in IT to help develop the IT workforce.

The new registered user level allows anyone -- the curious, IT enthusiasts, students, IT professionals, etc. -- to sign up for free to gain access to select CompTIA content such as channel education, industry research, news and tools designed to help channel partners in their business.

Registered users can also opt to participate in CompTIA communities and low-cost events. These new participants can also access the organization's Trustmark certifications to help improve their business practices.

CompTIA has communities built around women in IT, cloud computing, IT security, IT services and support, managed print services, mobility, managed services, the U.K. channel and technology convergence. Trustmark certifications focus on industry best practices. CompTIA also has a number of councils such as its partner advisory council, vendor advisory council, IT law council and telecom advisory council.

Registered users are not considered CompTIA members and are granted limited CompTIA benefits.

Beginning today, all current CompTIA members become premier members and receive full benefits; dues for solution providers stay the same, at $250 annually. Vendor and distributor members will also automatically become premier members, with dues ranging from $650 to $5,000 depending on the company size. Member cost for companies that offer professional services to IT channel firms is $1,000.

Benefits that are exclusive to premier members include priority access to all CompTIA training and educational materials; access to business tools and services; priority access to CompTIA research; unlimited, complimentary CompTIA event registrations; eligibility for community and council leadership roles; association voting rights; permission to promote CompTIA business membership; inclusion in and access to the organization's member directory; 50% off Trustmark vouchers; and discounts on additional ComptTIA certifications. There are also associate premier members, who have a proven reputation and the desire to contribute to CompTIA content and serve as instructors for the content.

According to Hammervick, CompTIA will continue to invest in member benefits. This spring, for example, premier members will see a new legal services benefit that will include a free risk assessment tool to determine exposure risk in the context of partners and customers, help filing annual reports, and access to IT-specialist attorneys at discounted rates.

A beta program will roll out today to premium members, with general rollout in May.

Another investment that CompTIA is making focuses on financial business modeling and will address issues around standards, margins, expenses versus revenue, leaving money on the table and how to target best practices from a financial perspective, for example. Council committees are currently working on this initiative, according to Hammervick.

CompTIA is also growing its Trustmark program, with plans to roll out a cloud program by the end of the year. And next year, the organization will deliver an IT Business Trustmark in the U.S., one that is similar to the general IT Trustmark available in the U.K.

Unlike the U.K., U.S.-based solution providers showed more interest in vertical Trustmark certifications. However, many U.S. organizations see value in a general IT Trustmark, Hammervick said. "We plan on making big investments in the Trustmark program in 2014," she said.

Finally, CompTIA will roll out a new redesigned website, one that's interactive and designed for mobile users and that simplifies access to content and engagement with other members. The new website is scheduled to go live in June.

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