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An Interview with Certiport's Ray Kelly

By Emmett Dulaney
December 07, 2011


Many in the certification industry know of Certiport as the company behind the Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) certification. Far from stopping there, the company also owns MeasureUp, and is involved with such other certification programs as Microsoft's Technology Associate, Adobe's Certified Associate, CompTIA's Strata IT Fundamentals and the Internet and Computing Core Certification (IC³). All together, Certiport delivers over 2 million tests each year in more than 152 countries and 27 languages.

CEO Ray Kelly agreed to an end-of-the-year interview for CertCities, and graciously answered every question asked. Excerpts from the interview appear below. More information on Certiport can be found here or on Twitter here.

CertCities.com: Certiport has worked with Microsoft since 1997 as the only official provider of the MOS certification program. To what do you contribute its success?
Kelly: The Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) program has been delivered by Certiport and its partners in over 140 countries and in 24 languages. This year over 1.2 million people will achieve their MOS certification, making it the largest IT certification in the world. I attribute our success with the MOS program to two key factors: the popularity of the Microsoft Office suite, and the need for academic and workforce markets to validate desktop skills today.

Microsoft Office has well over 500 million users worldwide, and millions more are added yearly, which plays an essential role in the popularity of the certification program. The Microsoft Office applications feature rich feature-sets that help users accomplish tasks more efficiently. However, without some education and certification to open those features to those 500 million users, many are underused or unexplored. We know that on average most users use less than 20 percent of the features of Office, and they are missing features that can save them so much time. The MOS certification adds critical value to the applications themselves since it is the primary means of discovering and unlocking the power of these applications. Certified users are better prepared to use all the powerful features. Certification is attainable for anyone in school or the workforce, and there are many benefits to earning certification in today's economy.

In academia, MOS promotes success in the classroom for students and instructors, builds individual distinction, and prepares students for an increasingly competitive workforce. For business, MOS maximizes office productivity and efficiency for the organization, increases job satisfaction and heightens career achievement among employees. In workforce development, MOS prepares and places job candidates, ensuring they possess the skills employers require.

The MOS program will continue to grow at a rapid pace as we expand our testing network and motivate students with popular programs like the Worldwide Competition on Microsoft Office.

Most certification candidates are familiar with VUE and Prometric. What makes Certiport different?
Certiport pioneered the area of computer-based live in the application certification testing, and in addition to continuing to lead in this area, Certiport now maintains the largest certification network in the world comprised of over 12,100 active Authorized Testing Centers in 152 countries. Our cloud-based technologies and global distribution network enables the rapid "on-boarding" of new test centers with virtually no geographic limitations.

Certiport has unequaled expertise in developing, marketing, delivering and managing proprietary certification programs, and is the development and delivery partner for the globally accredited foundational certifications for marquee companies including Microsoft, HP, Adobe, Intuit and Autodesk. We are regularly approached by test sponsor organizations that are looking to expand their programs, particularly into the academic market as our reach into this market is second to none.

In addition to delivering our certifications through this worldwide network, Certiport is also a test sponsor of a valuable, professional credential (IC³) which is the globally recognized standard for digital literacy and desktop computing proficiency. This certification has a broad reach outside of the traditional IT certifications which many professionals are familiar with.

You offer a number of different partnership levels -- bronze, gold, platinum, silver. What is the primary difference between them?
Certiport utilizes a partner-focused business model to extend its reach and drive performance of its certification programs globally. Certiport has established a network of channel partners, both domestically and internationally, who deliver Certiport products, services and support to customers in the K-12, higher education, commercial training, corporate, and global government markets. These channel partners, including Certiport Solution Providers and Resellers, are responsible for recruiting Certiport Authorized Testing Centers within given geographical or industry vertical markets. Certiport provides all its channel partners with marketing materials and the technology required for delivering, scoring and reporting the results.

The primary differences between bronze, silver, gold and platinum partners revolve around the volume of certifications delivered and the amount of revenues the partner earns and as a result earns further discounts, marketing and sales support. The exact differences can be found at: http://www.certiport.com/Portal/desktopdefault.aspx?page=common/pagelibrary/Partner_Benefits.html.

Certiport's three key markets are Academic, Corporate, and Workforce Development. Of those three, where do you see the most potential for future growth?
All three are growing markets for Certiport. To be frank, foundational certifications are needed in all three of those markets today. There is a talent shortage -- a skills gap in information technology.

I have personally spent time in over 50 countries that Certiport works with over the last three years. During my travels I have found one constant across the world: the high unemployment rate that exists in most of these markets has not created the talent surplus that many expected. It is tempting to think that every job opening would be filled quickly by someone who is qualified -- if not overqualified. While that is the case with some jobs, the critical reality is that employers still face a lack of appropriately skilled workers needed to effectively fill positions. Governments and academia needs to tackle this issue and many forward thinking institutions are doing so with the adoption of industry certification such as ours to equip individuals with in-demand job skills.

Security is a popular topic and Certiport is partnered with the Internet and Computing Core Certification (IC³) program. What is the relationship between Certiport and IC³?
Certiport is the creator and sole administrator of the Internet and Computing Core Certification (IC³) -- the leading accredited global certification for digital literacy.

Individuals that are IC³ certified are instantly recognized as someone with the critical entry-level skills needed to effectively use the latest computer and Internet technology to achieve business objectives, expand productivity, improve profitability, and provide a competitive edge.

IC³ certification is popular worldwide since the need for basic digital skills is at an all-time high in both developed and developing countries. The Global Digital Literacy Council has committed years of hard work and dedication to create and define the IC³ standards which reflect the most relevant skills needed in today's academic and business environments.

What is the relationship between Certiport and MeasureUp? Is MeasureUp wholly owned by Certiport?
Certiport acquired MeasureUp LLC in 2010. Adding MeasureUp -- the global leader in IT practice tests and assessment services -- to Certiport's products and services allows us to offer a full range of solutions that support the entire certification lifecycle including study materials, practice exams, and certifications.

In November, MeasureUp won Redmond Magazine's 2011 Readers' Choice Award as a Preferred Product for "Best Exam Preparation Vendor" -- the third Redmond award for the company. The MeasureUp solution provides the necessary tools to reinforce learning and validate knowledge for students, instructors and clients of hundreds of corporations, career colleges and technical training facilities worldwide. MeasureUp has been a long-term, preferred practice test provider for Microsoft certifications since 1999.

In addition to being the only Microsoft Certified Practice Test Partner through Certiport's expansive network, MeasureUp provides certification solutions not only for the official Microsoft Office certification programs, but for a broad range of technical certification preparation products for IT Pros and Developers including MCITP, MCPD, MCTS and more.

Is there a conflict between Certiport's relationship with MeasureUp in the eyes of other training product vendors? How do you assure (or address) them?
Honestly, we haven't received any concerns about our acquisition of MeasureUp. Training product vendors are pleased to see an organization like Certiport committing to this market. Many of the certification companies in the industry offer tools to help students study, practice and take certification exams. Acquiring MeasureUp was a logical step in our business plan. Our customers and training partners like the fact that Certiport offer a full range of solutions to support the entire certification lifecycle including study materials, practice exams, and certifications.

Is there anything specifically you would like readers to know?
Certiport is designing and working with top IT brands to build entry level certification programs. On December 1, we will announce an exciting new partnership with another industry leader, HP. The HP Accredited Technical Associate (ATA) program is now available in a pilot preview until its official launch in February, 2012. Interested schools and teachers may register to preview the certification program.

Part of the larger HP ExpertONE certification program, the HP ATA program provides an associate-level certification designed for the academic market. Four HP ATA exams will be made available to focus on the application of knowledge required in real-world environments. HP ATA certifications teach and assess the ability to design, implement and support IT solutions for small and medium businesses.