As IP telephony and unified communications proliferate through enterprises, the opportunities for specialized certifications and training will grow. As IT workers explore these opportunities, they should determine which ones will serve their companies best and which ones can boost their own careers.
Cushing Anderson, IDC's program vice president for human resources and learning, said the market for voice certifications is not very large at the moment, but it has the potential to grow. Aside from Cisco and Avaya offerings, there aren't that many voice certifications available. The most prominent certifications are Cisco's CCNA Voice and CCIE Voice.
But it's in the interest of vendors to develop these certifications so that their products are managed and deployed properly by customers and channel partners. More voice certifications will come onto the market, and the demand will be there. Beyond voice, Anderson said, companies could eventually start launching certifications specifically for unified communications as well.
Enterprises will derive value from certified employees, particularly if they are deploying the technology themselves, he said. But many will rely on the expertise of value-added resellers (VARs) and system integrators (SIs) for this. Enterprises will also find certified employees valuable for maintaining voice and UC systems.
"Certified, well-trained folks use the technology better," Anderson said. "It is more likely that a certified, well-trained unified communications organization will get more out of the technology. In organizations that are not well trained, things will break. They just won't work."
Anderson said he envisions a future when one out of every three members of an enterprise unified communications organization is certified in the technology.
As IP telephony replaces legacy phone systems, certification will also be valuable for retraining employees for new roles. Many IT organizations absorb legacy telephony employees during this changeover, and certifications are a good way to familiarize employees with the new technology.
Getting certified isn't for everyone, however. Some organizations will find that sending employees out for training serves them well, and certifications are simply overkill, according to Dave Bateman, director of curriculum development for Skyline Advanced Technology Services, a reseller that provides training and consulting services. Bateman is also the author of Exam Cram's CCNA Voice study guide.
Bateman said he has been training people in Cisco voice technology for about 10 years. These days, half of the people who take his classes are pursuing a certification. The others are simply trying to learn the technology.
"It really depends on the size of the enterprise," he said. "Larger companies that are taking on the full responsibility of the installation and integration [of IP telephony will require certifications]. The folks responsible for the whole picture are going to be more interested in having certified people."
Many of the people Bateman trains come from companies that rely on channel partners for installation, he said. These people simply need to manage the system for their employers. Rather than pursue a certification, they are just looking for enough training to learn how the system works.
But if career advancement is on the IT professional's mind, simple training in voice won't be enough. Certifications become essential. A voice certification can be a strong addition to a resume.
"We're hiring right now, and at my company, if they don't have voice certifications, we don't even look at the resume," Bateman said. "The first thing I do with a resume is go to the bottom of it and look for certifications. That's how I know whether to read the rest."
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