One of the traditional ways for IT professionals to highlight their knowledge of specific technologies and technical concepts is through the acquisition of certifications. There are a number of vendor-crafted certifications available as well as vendor-neutral certifications that illustrate competence in various technical disciplines like troubleshooting and repair, security, healthcare, and overall network management. Certifications have never guaranteed a job in and of themselves, but they do help candidates sell themselves to recruiters and IT managers.
One of the many challenges with the consumerization of IT, mobility, and cloud services trends is that they are dramatically shifting the skill sets required to succeed in the IT field. As a result, the perceived value of certifications has fluctuated as softer skills like business integration and project management have become more desirable. The need for professionals that have extremely specialized skills is being surpassed by the need for IT generalists.
Of all the new technologies in the workplace, mobile tech articulates these challenges the best. Mobile devices including the iPhone and iPad (as well as Android devices) are part of a market that is evolving at an unprecedented pace. There is no certification for mobile management, for example, because a couple of years ago, there was no mobile device management as we understand it today and there weren’t broad initiatives for mobile app deployment in the workplace.
The fact is that mobile is evolving faster than any other workplace technology ever has – in terms of the actual devices and mobile OSes as well as how they’re used on a daily basis. Apple and Google release major iOS and Android updates on a yearly basis – that’s something that core tech vendors like Microsoft have never done. That isn’t even taking into account related factors like the device fragmentation of the Android market, the continued growth of iOS apps for both the iPhone and iPad, and the ongoing emergence of cloud computing.
At the same time, the overwhelming majority of companies understand that mobile is key to business survival in the 21st century. Mobile development skills are at the top of every company’s hiring list.
Does this mean that tech certifications are going to fall by the wayside? Probably not. Certain skills and certifications, like network management (particularly IPv6) and Active Directory administration are going to be needed for any company that isn’t completely outsourcing IT. It may also mean that new certifications will eventually catch up, to some extent, with emerging technologies – CompTIA has announced mobility training initiatives, for example.
But it also means that skills that weren’t major needs a few years ago are going to become tacit or even explicit requirements. Areas like business integration and intelligence, understanding social media, the ability to speak about technology to individuals regardless of their technical knowledge, and the willingness to work with users and other departments as equal partners in a common organization are all critical at this point – and these aren’t skills that can easily be quantified and tested on a certification exam.