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Talent Assessment | 2 Min Read

Common Pitfalls in the Business of Certification

Running a certification program is no small task; the expenses incurred in content creation, marketing, manpower, etc., can easily overshoot the estimates, causing the management to reassess the effectiveness of the program.

In fact, when cash flows are tight, certification programs are usually the first ones to take a hit. Seen in this light, it perhaps makes sense for Certification Managers to look at the larger picture and ensure that the certification program makes sound business sense.

But what can Certification Managers do to ensure a successful program? The Internet is full of “sound” advice, but we think it’s equally important to know what not to do! So, without further ado, here are the common pitfalls that can upset a certification program:

Not getting cloud-ready:

Perhaps the deepest-rooted mindset that needs to change in the certification industry is that of traditional test delivery methods. Certification Managers are so used to finding certification partners—who then go around hunting for test centers—that it doesn’t cross their minds to conduct the certification themselves. Traditionally it’d be too expensive, but the use of cloud-powered online certification platforms can bring down costs and improve quality drastically. If you’re want to scale up your certification program but are held back by logistics, it’s time to give the cloud a try.


Not reviewing program performance:

A certification program is launched with much enthusiasm; managers and leaders alike are excited about its possible impact. And indeed, the start is spectacular. But then the novelty starts to fade off little by little, until one day, the program becomes stagnant. Sounds familiar? Well, the culprit here is not the management, or the certification manager, or even the program itself. The problem is that most organizations assume that once designed, a certification program will continue to function brilliantly forever. But as the principles of software engineering teach us, that is not the case. In order to be successful, a certification program must be reviewed regularly on how well it’s meeting its stated goals. Any course correction that comes to light, must be immediately implemented.


Not being realistic about return on investment:

It’s understandable that a Certification Manager has to champion the cause of their program, but this passion is frequently the cause of business myopia. For instance, the manager might be tempted to tweak the ROI projections a little to show that the certification program will break even in, say, three years, instead of a realistic eight. The management will definitely warm up, but in the long run everyone will end up losing. If you’re evaluating a certification program, make sure your projections are curated from real-world scenarios and backed by some kind of hard data. This will help you develop a clearer picture and present the situation honestly.


Assuming that a good product will sell itself:

When you have put months of hard work into evolving an excellent certification program, it’s natural to get attached to it. In this situation, the greatest danger is the mindset of “build, and they will come”, which many a Certification Manager has fallen prey to. While it’s true that having a good product solves many problems, the role of marketing is today more important than ever. Consider that yours is not the only certification available in the market; why then, should a candidate choose you? In fact, the entire education industry is coming to terms with this reality, and is opening up to the idea of marketing one’s advantages better. The different forms of marketing you can try are content marketing, social media marketing, viral marketing, traditional marketing, etc. If you don’t have much confidence in your ability to market, go ahead and hire a marketing partner. It’ll be well worth the investment.


Not taking pricing seriously:

How much can you charge for your certification program? The traditional approach is to factor in all the expenses incurred, estimate the market size you’re sure to capture, and then work out a pricing. But here’s the surprise: such simplistic methods don’t work in today’s dynamic and disruptive markets. Your pricing has to be a function of the market as well as your positioning. Without a proper pricing strategy in place, it’s easy to find oneself cordoned off the market even before the product is launched. A better approach is to conduct a study that can give you a true idea of the paying capacity of the market.

Developing a good certification program is good, but success depends on how carefully thought out each phase is.

What has been your learning as a Certification Manager?

Let us know in the comments!

Originally published April 2 2018, Updated June 15 2020


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