by Gary Beach

Certifying IT Workers

Nov 15, 20052 mins

Do you remember that childhood song “the knee bone’s connected to the shin bone, the shin bone’s connected to the foot bone”? I was thinking about that when I recently came across an April 1, 1999, column I penned in CIO that called for the mandatory certification of enterprise IT workers. I called the program the National Enterprise Software Certification program. Back then, I was worrying about Y2K.

Now I’m worried that we’re in the early stages of a massive hardware, software and network infrastructure buildout, and I don’t believe most tech workers have received adequate cross-technology training. Businesses and CIOs tend to segment their resources by technology, with some staff proficient in database software, others in e-business applications and so on. Current vendor-sponsored certification programs, though well-intentioned, support this silo structure.

But the future “dynamic enterprise” (as IDC research calls it) will be a real-time, burst-mode information engine built on the wheels of mobility, spanning new hardware architectures, both open and proprietary software systems and network technologies. Consequently, a small problem in the knee bone will cause a huge problem in the foot bone. Or the hip bone. Take your pick.

Hence my point: The time has come to augment vendor-sponsored certification with a mandatory, national program administered by state governments that would quantify the cross-platform knowledge of our nation’s information technology workers.

I am therefore resurrecting my call for a National Enterprise Software Certification program. I see CIOs and vendors working together to build the key components of the program. This wouldn’t be an academic exercise; it would be practical and practice-based.

Doctors, lawyers, dentists, truck drivers, pilots, teachers and cosmetologists must pass certification programs before they can serve the public. If we really believe IT is a foundation of our society, isn’t it time to add IT workers to that list?

Am I certifiably crazy to suggest such an idea? Should this idea be cut off at its knees? Or, might the industry consider it? Your certified publisher encourages you to share your thoughts with me at the e-mail address below.