In theory, IT services firms that have more certified engineers on staff are supposed to be able to promote that fact to gain additional business. In reality, most end customers are more interested in successful track records than they are in the number of certifications held by the engineers working on behalf of the IT service provider. The challenge, of course, is that for better or worse the compensation model for IT engineers is frequently wrapped around the number and type of certifications an engineer can acquire.
For example, a new report from Global Knowledge, a provider of IT training services, finds that the certification that commands the highest salary these days is an AWS Certified Solutions Architect, which the study says on average can command a salary of $125,871. Add in benefits, and the annual cost to the IT services provider is closer to $150,000. The next top ranked certifications capable of on average commanding six figure salaries are as follows:
- Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC): $122,954
- Certified Information Security Manager (CISM): $122,291
- Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP): $121, 923
- Project Management Professional (PMP): $116,094
- Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA): $113,320
- Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) Routing and Switching: $112,858
- Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) Data Center: $107,045
- Cisco Certified Design Professional (CCDP): $105,008
- Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH): $103,297
- Six Sigma Green Belt: $102,594
- Citrix Certified Professional – Virtualization (CCP-V): $102,138
- Cisco Certified Networking Professional (CCNP) Security: $101,414
Factors influencing higher certification costs
Vendors, of course, wind up helping to drive up these costs. Most IT service providers need to attain a number of certifications to participate in a vendor channel program. The more certifications they have, the more sales leads the vendor typically sends their way. The assumption being made on the part of the vendor is that the more engineers there are that are certified, the greater the chance the end customer will be more satisfied. And as everyone knows, happy customers tend to come back to buy more products and services. Of course, some vendors abuse this requirement by turning certifications into a profit stream instead of a cost they incur to lower their customer support costs.
Not only do IT staff members want to attain certifications to drive up the amount of salary they can command, but IT service providers often find themselves competing against internal IT organizations looking to hire the same talent. Worse yet, after an IT service providers invests in helping an IT professional acquire those certifications, it naturally becomes that much harder to hold onto them. The end result is an inflation in IT salaries that drives up the total cost of IT for both the IT service provider and the end customer alike. More often than not, as much as two-thirds of the IT budget of an organization is now tied up in labor costs.
Cost control through automation
Given the cost of hiring certified IT professionals, interest in reducing those costs is running high. In fact, investments in all forms of IT automation is on the rise to free up the dollars needed to invest in additional IT projects. From simply enabling developers to provision their own resources to teaching virtual digital assistants to make use of cognitive computing and autonomic IT management technologies to replace IT operations staff altogether, machine learning algorithms are increasingly being adapted to drive down the cost of IT. Because the single largest element of those costs involves IT labor, most of that focus in on how to automate processes that previously required IT staff.
It’s too early to say how all this play out, but there is a direct correlation between certifications and the cost of IT labor. There’s also a direct correlation between the cost of labor and IT automation. The most important thing for IT service providers to figure out is what portion of the IT services they provide can be automated. That in turn should drive the strategic investments they make in IT training going forward.
No one begrudges someone a high salary well earned. But given the razor thin margins that most IT service providers operate under today, it’s also clear that from a staffing perspective something needs to give much sooner than later.