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In my last blog post, I talked about how education services organizations can use certification programs as part of their customer adoption strategy. Now that you know more about the role certification can play in keeping your customers engaged with your content, it's worth evaluating how your current certification program stacks up based on industry best practices, or if you do not yet have a certification program, looking into how you can get started.

Learning Best Practices From Other Education Services Organizations

To get a better picture of how education services (ES) organizations are successfully leveraging certification, I recently conducted a certification summit meeting with several of our ES members, which included several that were hand-selected based on having mature and robust certification programs. Prior to the meeting, all participants answered 10-12 questions about all aspects of certification, which served as a guidepost for discussion and allowed us to identify certification best practices. We also discussed challenges and exchanged ideas for how to improve participants' existing programs.

Thanks to these education services members taking the time to share their real-world certification success stories, I was able to gather a list of 7 best practices, which I put together into a report titled Certification Best Practices: Leveraging Certification to Drive Adoption. While the full report is only available to TSIA members, I'd like to share with you 2 of those practices so you can get inspired to create a certification program that produces the results you're looking for.

Role-Based Certification

Of the summit participants, 86% have role-based certification, 64% have product-based certification, and 29% have domain-based certification. While almost everyone is familiar with role and product-based certifications, some may not be familiar with domain-based certification, which isn't associated with a product, but is instead associated with a body of knowledge around a particular topic, such as security, the cloud, big data, etc. You may have noticed that these percentages don't add up to 100%, and that's because most of the summit participants offer more than one type of certification, with role-based and product-based certifications being the most popular combination. 

Having a role-based certification program is considered a best practice because each job role requires a different set of skills and knowledge. For example, a system administrator is going to need to know more than an end-user, so establishing competency by role is a great way to ensure that a person in that job title is capable of performing the tasks that are associated with that role. So, which are the most common roles for which there is a certification?

certification roles  

Talking with summit participants, these roles typically include administrator, architect, end-user, implementer, and internal consultant. In short, for each job role that requires a distinct set of skills and capabilities, you'll want to establish competency based specifically on the requirements within that role. 

Tiered Certification

In addition to breaking down your certification exams by role, you'll also want to test on different levels of competency, such as beginner/associate, intermediate/specialist, and advanced/expert. As with job roles, there are very specific knowledge components within each tier, and certification isn't as effective when you use a one-size-fits-all approach. For example, someone who is at an expert level is obviously going to be a much more sophisticated user of a product than someone who is a beginner. So, it makes more sense to test competency at each level so that a user who becomes certified at a beginner level can then progress incrementally to the intermediate level, and finally onto the expert level. 

Starting Your Certification Program

If you're starting from scratch with building a certification program, rest assured, you don't have to have every single tier and possible role ready from the get-go. You can start very simply with one role and one tier, and add second and third tiers and more roles as you build out your program. There's quite a number of ways you can approach it based on your audience and your products, but the main thing is understanding that building out your certification program is going to take some time. The good news is, based on the data I've seen, certifying by tier and role gives you the greatest potential to influence higher customer adoption, so that's a great place to start.

Learn The Rest of These Best Practices and More

I go into a bit more detail on these best practices and more in my webinar, “Leveraging Certification Best Practices to Drive Adoption,” which you can watch here On-Demand. If you'd like to learn about all 7 best practices identified during the certification summit, as well as take advantage of our full library of research around topics including content development and delivery, pricing strategies, accelerating customer ROI, leveraging a knowledge portal, and much more, please talk to us today about a TSIA membership. At TSIA, we do the research so you don't have to, and are dedicated to helping you find the best solutions to your top service business challenges.

Do you have experience with a certification program you'd like to share? Let us know in the comments below or drop me a line via email. Thanks for reading!

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Maria Manning-Chapman

About Author Maria Manning-Chapman

Maria Manning-Chapman, is the distinguished vice president of education services research for TSIA. She has more than 25 years of education experience in the high-technology industry. Maria is well versed in the dynamics of running an education services business and has held leadership positions in operations, virtual learning, business development, curriculum development, delivery, and partner management over the course of her career.

Maria's favorite topics to discuss