The New Journey in Partner Certification

Posted By: Jon Lavietes Global Alliance Summit, Member Resources,

When Nancy Ridge, CA-AM, president and founder of Ridge Innovative, and Norma Watenpaugh, CSAP, principal of Phoenix Consulting Group, coauthored the e-book Partners Are the Customer Experience, they unearthed a very convincing business case for pouring massive resources into certification, training, and enablement. 

“Enablement and certification were at the top of the list in terms of what partners were seeking in order to be successful. Conversely, the providers also found that the greater the certification, the greater the specialization of their partners, the better their product or service was performing with customers,” said Ridge.   

Now, onboarding and upskilling partner sales reps and product developers has never been more important—or arguably more daunting. Certification and training have long been perpetual endeavors. New features in familiar products and new game-changing technologies continue to hit the market fast and furiously, and if anyone in the tech ecosystem—vendors, integrators, managed service providers, channel companies, distributors, etc.—fails to keep up with them, it can hurt everyone’s bottom line. 

“We know that certification and enablement are critical. We know that they deliver a better customer and partner experience, and what that delivers is revenue. Organizations that want to continue to increase revenue must be able to skill at scale,” said Ridge.

How do companies continually provide the appropriate training to hundreds, or even thousands, of people on many emerging products and services? It’s a question the tech industry is still answering, and Ridge and three panelists will provide some powerful answers in the 2024 ASAP Global Alliance Summit session “Overcoming Certification Challenges to Support Sustainable Revenue Streams.” 

“We’re now faced with a challenge, which is the complexity that comes with certifying large groups of individuals, and getting the analytics we need to ensure all parties in the equation benefit,” said Ridge.

Nothing Artificial About the Impact of Cutting-Edge Technology 

It’s one that involves a complex web of people, processes, and technology, and the diverse range of experience collectively brought by the panelists that will join Ridge—Claudia Kuzma, CA-AM, managing director and global ecosystem leader at Protiviti; Rob Spee, senior vice president of partner ecosystems at BeyondTrust; and Will Yafi, founder and CEO of enablement software provider TIDWIT—will educate attendees on every element of today’s multifaceted certification program.  

AI has opened new doors on the technology front. Just a couple of years ago, vendors were lauded for saving their partners time and headaches by assembling onboarding “journeys”—self-guided, prescriptive, and sequenced packages of classes, videos, how-to documents, and trainings tailored for each partner. (See “Self-Guided Tours in Partnerland,” Strategic Alliance Quarterly, Q3 2021.) 

“Now, ecosystems, combined with AI, will really make a big difference in helping to drive efficiency. AI has a large part because so much data exists. We can use the large-language models to help us, if applied correctly,” said Ridge. 

Nevertheless, technology will take you only as far as your employees use it. 

A Job for the Alliance Manager: Getting Everyone, and Everything, Working Together 

“Those technology solutions don’t work unless you have the human element behind it collaborating together, all rowing in the same direction and really seeking to use that technology in a way that serves everyone,” said Ridge.  

Of course, putting together a modern certification operation of this magnitude requires collaboration between IT, security, compliance (in the case of pharma and medtech ecosystems that have to adhere to stricter regulatory standards), product development, and possibly other functions. Sounds like a job for partnering professionals.  

“That’s where I think our expertise as alliance and partner managers who understand across the board how all of these components need to work together to deliver a solution for the customer at the center. That can be an advantage,” said Ridge.  

A Hard Change—for the Better!

Alliance managers are also used to large-scale change management. 

“Oftentimes innovation isn’t something everyone is interested in because it means change, and change is hard,” said Ridge. “There’s a lot of embedded processes along the way and teams and people that are used to doing it one way.”  

Nevertheless, when done right, successful programs can dramatically increase the number of employees current on certifications—Ridge knows of one company that brought its total of certified professionals from single to triple digits.   

They can also serve as a powerful recruiting tool. 

“If you don’t train and upskill—especially your Gen Z, millennial workforce—they are going to quit,” said Ridge. “You have to have that upskilling journey for your people.”  

Of course, the real carrot is that pot of gold—or cash—at the end of the certification rainbow. 

“We’re looking to create that revenue, but we have to be much more fluid in terms of understanding how certification and enablement impacts that—and what we can do to make it happen faster and better,” said Ridge.

“Overcoming Certification Challenges to Support Sustainable Revenue Streams” will take place on Wednesday, May 1, the last day of the event. Register for the 2024 ASAP Global Alliance Summit today and catch it in Cape Coral, Fla.