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Avnet/IBM and the importance of being certified

By Elaine Hom, Associate Features Editor

ibm certifiedSAN ANTONIO — At Avnet/IBM’s Ignition ’08 Conference in San Antonio, the word of the day seems to be “certification.” Every time I sit down at a table, I get asked, “so what are you certified in?” They seem pretty crushed (and/or scornful) when I sheepishly admit that I’m not certified in diddlysquat.

These guys are taking it quite seriously. So far, every VAR has stressed the importance of certifications for their sales team. IBM is constantly updating and retiring certifications. And it won’t let you sell IBM products if you haven’t received the “I’m certified. Are you?” stickers. They’re all over the place.

In the services forum Monday, IBM’s VP of channels Kristie Bell emphasized the importance of certification several times, listing it as one of the major responsibilities of a partner. She outlined IBM’s 2009 plan to require sales certification for industries such as Internet Security Systems (ISS) to make sure that sales teams know what the offerings are and how to recognize good business opportunities with end-users. The technical certification is required for those who want to do more than sell it as is and goes deeper into, well, the technical side.

Virendra Singh, president of ESS Group, a Sacramento, Calif.-based solution provider had emerged from the latest certification test wearing his orange sticker, adding a fourth cert to his company’s portfolio. He said he was happy to do the certifications, as his daily tasks make up most of the test content. He readily admits that the technology is constantly changing and needs to keep partners up-to-date by forcing certification on them.

It makes sense. IBM doesn’t want people to sell products if they sell them badly. Education is another, related notion of the day — Avnet fields its HealthPath, GovPath and VirtualPath universities, acknowledging that the more educated their partners are, the better they will sell. Everyone wins, except for me, who has no “I’m certified. Are you?” sticker to call her own.

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Nice Elaine! From one blogger to another, welcome to the fold. //jack