What's in a Certification?

Published on by Dan KlcoPicture of Me Dan Klco

Jörg Hoh recently wrote a post about the value of a good business consultant, which sparked a few of my own thoughts. In the post, Jörg argues that the role of a business consultant is in many ways more vital to a projects success than having technical expertise. This is because a good business consultant will not only assure that the solution is technically correct, but that is is the right for for the business.

Without a reliable representation of the business, technical architects can focus on the cleanest or most interesting solution, forgetting that their role is to support the messy job of running a business with technology. I've observed this problem often in IT-led projects where IT forces the businesses requirements to match their solution rather than the solution meeting the requirements.

So how do certifications fit into this? When I shared the article on LinkedIn, Esai Adidravid left an interesting reply:

I often felt the same too.
Do you think a certified Business Practitioner in AEM could do this job right?

Of course, I wanted to say yes, absolutely, but the truth is, having a certification at best means to know a particular technology and at worst means you know how to take a test. Some of the best Adobe experts I've worked with are not certified and I've seen some astonishingly bad solutions created by Certified Experts.

This is not to say certifications have no value. Being certified can help your career and just the act of studying for and taking the test, if done honestly, will help you expand your knowledge and skills. But the Certification in itself does not mean someone will be a good developer / BA / architect than getting good marks on a standardized test means someone will be successful in life.

In my mind, being an Adobe Certified Expert is just one part of succeeding as an Adobe digital expert. Here are a few of the other skills and experiences that I think it takes to become an effective digital expert:

  1. You have to be able to COMMUNICATE - no matter the technology, business or situation, I guarantee that the primary problem will be communication. Not everyone (myself abundantly included) needs to be able to sell I've to Eskimos, but you need to be able to express yourself clearly and persuasively in written and verbal communication.
  2. You have to know what you are good at. While you don't need to be the deepest expert out there, being a jack of all trades makes you the expert at none. And why would you spend 1/2 if your waking day doing something you don't at least like? You may not like your job, but if you at least find what about it you are good at, you will find you at least enjoy that part of it more.
  3. This also means you need to know what you are NOT good at. I would be a terrible Project Manager and I know it, by knowing what you are not good at you enable others to support your weaknesses and focus on what you do best. This also means that you need to know when to pull in help. I can talk digital marketing and integrations all day, but if you want to talk Digital Asset Management, I'll bring in Greg Dawson or if you want to talk about SPAs Ryan McCullough. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses makes your whole team stronger by allowing you to rely on and support others.
  4. You need to think beyond your role. This is especially true for Business Practitioners and Architects. Designing with blinders on creates poor solutions. You don't need to be a SEO, Content Strategy or Analytics expert, but knowing what questions to ask and who to bring in makes all the difference.

Becoming an Adobe Certified Expert (or any other certification) is a tremendous accomplishment, but it must be looked at as the first step in a longer journey to expertise, tests alone cannot help weed out the experts from the novices. Finding the right expert for your project as extremely hard, so consider both the technical and soft skills required. You can't even rely on experience, as I'm fond of saying, there's a big difference between 10 years of experience and 1 year of experience, 10 times.


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