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It was either 19th-century American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, or possibly someone else, who penned the immortal words, “If a man can write a better book, preach a better sermon, or make a better mousetrap than his neighbors, though he builds his house in the woods, the world will make a beaten path to his door.”
No matter how ancient (or recent) the mousetrap configuration of that sentiment, however, the drive to improve, to make things better, more functional, more useful, more efficient, more effective — that impulse is as old as humankind. In 2018, just about every field of inquiry is fertile ground for creative thinking, but IT is especially receptive to bold new ideas.
The IT Certification Council (ITCC) champions such ingenuity each year with its Innovation Award, given out for the fourth time during ITCC’s recent spring member meeting at the ATP Innovations in Testing Conference in San Antonio, Texas. Fittingly enough, this year’s winners were recognized for an innovation that improves IT certification testing.
Business management software developer SAP received the 2018 Innovation Award for speeding up production and release of SAP Global Certification exams by switching to a cloud-based platform for exam development and delivery.
SAP’s innovation was a response to changing circumstances. Given the increasingly rapid deployment of new SAP software solutions (also via cloud technology), the certification program was falling behind, with exams becoming outdated almost as quickly as they could be produced and released.
“As the speed of new releases is increasing with SAP Cloud products, the value of certifications is obsoleting faster. This required a new certification model for SAP certifications to remain an indicator of quality and to drive SAP product adoption,” said Ralf Kirchgaessner, head of SAP Global Certification.
The new system launched in 2015. “We call the program ‘Certification in the Cloud,’ which enables participants to do their certification exams 24-7, on demand,” Kirchgaessner said.
SAP has continued to improve and refine its approach to certification. “We are constantly further improving and transforming our program,” Kirchgaessner said. “The latest innovation we introduced to our program has been the rollout of SAP Digital Badges to our certified community.”
According to SAP, the new digital badges are a benefit to both certification holders and potential employers. The certified individual’s accomplishments become more visible, while employers can more easily verify the bona fides of SAP-certified job candidates.
ITCC Chair Kristin Wall Gibson of IBM said that innovation is vital to IT certification and that the Innovation Award helps promote noteworthy advances in certification. “We want to highlight when an organization is doing something innovative around certification that will help to propel the industry forward,” Gibson said.
Gibson said that SAP was recognized for addressing a problem faced by many IT certification programs. “The rapid development and change of products is a major disrupter in the IT industry,” she said. “How can you keep a certification valid if the product is being updated every three months and it takes three-to-six months to create a certification exam?
“The SAP innovation offers a solution to this challenge that at the same time encourages individuals to keep their skills current!”
ITCC operations manager Andrea Roth said that the number of companies competing for the Innovation Award varies from year to year, but that the submissions are always top-notch. “Each year, the submissions received continuously exceed the expectations of the judges, who are a group of professionals working in the IT certification industry,” she said.
Roth said that the need for innovation in IT certification is ongoing. “IT certification professionals are constantly faced with many different challenges, from increasing security threats to improving the overall value and user experience for their test takers and certification programs,” she said.
That means that the need for creative solutions and outside-the-box thinking isn’t going away any time soon. “It is crucial that innovation is a part of the framework for any certification program,” Roth said.
For those certification experts continuing to tinker with advancements and refinements, keep track of your success and be ready to promote the usefulness of your new certification mousetrap. The nominating period for the 2019 Innovation Award will be here before you know it.