Interview

Research questions value of IT certifications

Robert Westervelt, News Editor

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I wouldn't say equally all over the United States, but in a number of geographic pockets SAP people are hot.
David Foote,
presidentFoote Partners LLC

If IT non-certified skills have been growing in value faster than certified skills, are IT certifications worth it anymore?
It depends on who you ask. You have to realize that vendors created this whole certification industry basically to sell products. So it's important to vendors that certifications remain viable. To the degree to which technical skills are a big component to an IT person's job, yes, it's important to get the best skills available. But the jobs that IT professionals do has changed so substantially over the years that it's gone well beyond technical skills for a lot of employers. Now they're looking at other skills – industry skills and skills specific to their customers and solutions. Are their particular certifications that always stand out?
If you go back to the vendor certifications, clearly certifications in the area of networking and network management operations and systems management operations, where a lot of the vendor certifications are, have always been very important. Vendors have done a lot to market and push those. However, if you look at security certifications, which are generally vendor independent, those have always performed very well and above average in our studies of pay, [for example] the [Certified Information Systems Security Professional] and the auditing certifications. [Technologies related to] IBM WebSphere, which is specific to technologies or a group of technologies in the case of Web services [are doing well]. There are a number of skills in XML and object access protocol and a lot of interesting other technologies that go with that whole bundle. You see very good performance with those.

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Largely the certification game is about the vendors trying to get people to continue to use their product, to upgrade and purchase product extensions and stuff like that. But you really have to look at certifications from vendor independent certifications. They have done pretty well as a group. If we head into another recession or if there is a blip in the market, [are] the folks with the certifications fare a little bit better than the folks going on just their experience and skills?
When you're justifying costs, it's a lot easier to say this person has taken a test and they've passed a lab. There's some normative measure or some hurdle that they've conquered. Sometimes that's what a non technical person, for instance, the chief financial officer or whoever is controlling the budgets, maybe that's what they really want to hear. They're not able to process exactly what that certification would mean to that person's technical acumen. But as we all know, there are a lot of people out there that don't have certifications that are highly effective in IT. [You have said companies are outsourcing less.] Is that great news for in-house SAP ABAP developers?
ABAP developers generally are up between 3% and 4% in salary in the last six months. Given that all of IT is probably up 2% to 3% in the last year, [ABAB developers are] beating the average. If you look at SAP business analysts, they're up 7.3% in pay over the last six months. There is a real emphasis now on hiring SAP talent and I can tell you from the amount of demand that we have seen from our SAP compensation surveys that it's a very dynamic and very active market. I wouldn't say equally all over the United States, but in a number of geographic pockets SAP people are hot. And how about Oracle people is it the same there?
I would say Oracle has been a legacy skill for many years with a lot of companies. Oracle skills tend to pay very well, but they don't necessarily see the growth over time. It's pretty steady, they pay pretty well, but I wouldn't say that they're growing at any rate close to what some of these other applications skills are growing.


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