A discussion about Magento certification popped up on Linkedin this week. My intended comment quickly evolved into a blog post:
The issue at hand is rooted in supply/demand. There is latent, unmet demand for Magento services. Our firm is not certified (yet). However, last night I went to bed with 0 emails in my inbox. This morning I woke up with 4 new requests for help with Magento projects. I have to admit, that even to get these 4 requests, I had to learn how to make small talk and improve my confidence.
Uncovering the Root Issue
For many Magento development firms, services rendered end up as a net loss. Magento is complex and demands a highly specialized skill set. Clients want someone to fix their problems within a predictable timeframe and budget. But the reality is that projects are more involved once you dig in and uncover what is going on in the code or what is really expected from the customer. So the developer either burns hours estimating upfront or tacks on extra hours without compensation to fulfill a fixed commitment that was misestimated. In the end, he could have made more money from estimating software or building WordPress sites for local restaurants and dry-cleaners.
At the positional intersection of both store owner and developer is one thing: risk mitigation. Store owners want to know that their store will get done properly and within budget while developers want to know that they’ll be profitable and appreciated in their work. Both sides are deathly afraid of the opposite experience.
Magento certification should be aimed squarely at risk mitigation. Most current programs get off balance by offering some sort of training + certification exam combo to provide enablement. Services are more profitable when associated with a product; and training services wrapped around certification are probably no exception. However, this approach ignores the chief value proposition for the developer, who is ultimately the paying customer. Remember, he simply wants to lower risk by attracting higher quality clients and charging more money for essentially the same services already being offered. He usually doesn’t want more training.
What we need is a streamlined certification exam like Google offers. You charge me $50-$100 and I’ll happily pay to get 3 developers through a certification exam. I’d then also apprise you on why you should become an Enrolled Agent through our certification. But anything over $500/certification that also requires me to lose bandwidth while developers sit in training does not currently make business sense. That is, unless so many other developers get certified that I lose out on business or enough upside exists to justify the cost of certification (which I believe might end up becoming the case based on my conversations with Varien/Magento, inc.). But for now supply/demand seems to be in favor of the developer. If only we could all just figure out how to operate profitably.