COMMON Certification Program Builds Momentum

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After three years of work, the COMMON Certification Steering Committee introduces a second certification exam while work continues on the curriculum.


When you think of what an education today can cost, those of us who emerged from college with degree in hand two or three decades ago and didn't have to spend the ensuing years paying down student debt were truly fortunate. In fact, the best gift my father ever gave me was my college education, which, despite a little grumbling at the time, was completely covered—as far as I know—out of the regular household budget. Thanks to a lot of hard work over the past three years by a team of dedicated COMMON volunteers, today's savvy IT professionals now have a cost-effective means of differentiating themselves from the rising sea of worldwide job seekers by earning a certification that stands to truly set them apart from the crowd.


COMMON president Pete Massiello announced at COMMON in Minneapolis earlier this month that the COMMON Certification Program had finished work on its second certification exam, that for COMMON Certified Business Computing Professional. The announcement was the result of innumerable hours invested by the dedicated COMMON Certification Subject Matter Experts, a group comprised of some high-profile as well as lesser-known individuals from both industry and academia, not the least of whom was Frank Soltis. Former chief scientist at IBM for System i computers, and today referred to as the founder of the AS/400, Soltis served as content consultant to the group. Having earned his PhD in electrical engineering from Iowa State University back in 1968, during a time when college degrees didn't set people back nearly as much as they do today, Soltis and the other committee members wanted to give something back to tomorrow's generation of emerging IT professionals.


The program is spearheaded by the COMMON Certification Steering Committee, chaired by Randy Dufault, immediate past president of COMMON and principal at Genus Technologies in Minneapolis, who has been ushering work along, month after month, as chairman of the 10-member committee.


"We started down this road three years ago, and last year in Orlando were finally able to announce completion of the first certification exam for the COMMON Business Computing Associate," says Dufault. "This year we were able to announce the COMMON Certified Business Computing Professional exam, and it was a gratifying moment in our journey toward creating a complete COMMON Certification Program."


Despite success of the first certification exam having been taken by users at the COMMON conference this month and the upcoming COMMON Europe Congress in Milan, Italy, opening next week, as well as by user-group members across the country—and even a college that used it as a final exam—work continues on the syllabus and course curricula that's needed to flesh out the program. The Fall COMMON gathering in St. Petersburg, Florida, will see conference sessions designated as supporting the various areas tested by the certification exams.


No matter how you view it, the Certification Program is a win-win for everyone. Users get to earn the distinguishing avouchments of COMMON Business Computing Associate (CBCA) and COMMON Certified Business Computing Professional (CCBCP), employers get to more easily differentiate top candidates with have both business and technical expertise who can further their business objectives, and both groups now have a tool to help develop a meaningful career path encouraging IT excellence in the workplace.


What is different about the COMMON designations from other certifications in the industry, explains Dufault, is that the CBCA and CCBCP emphasize business acumen and personal character as much as they stress technical expertise—the former qualities being ones employers want but don't always get in the run-of-the-mill IT technical "expert."

"The emphasis is on business computing, which requires a deep understanding of technology in a business environment," says Dufault. "To earn the CCBCP, we recommend users have five years of work experience in the field along with the CBCA credential and an approved technical certification from a third party." Needless to say, certified sales specialist designations or the CompTIA A+ foundation certification don't qualify (though the CompTIA Security+ and Server+ do).


Those who pass the exam—and apparently not everyone does—within five years need to move on to the next. Once the full credential is in hand, recertification is required every four years. Recertification involves earning COMMON education credits from classes, publishing articles, giving presentations, continuing self study, and other activities the candidate must document.


There are costs involved in both taking the initial examination and getting recertified; the Business Computing Associate exam costs $250 for COMMON members, $300 for non-members, but only $125 for students. Fees for sitting for the CCBCP exam are slightly higher.


"There is more IT talent than ever before," says Dufault. "We feel like COMMON's certifications provide a way for forward-thinking professionals to separate themselves from the rest of the field."


Apparently so do COMMON members, who already have started to take and pass the exams in hopes of adding a few more distinguishing and deserved letters following their names. For more information, visit or download a complete program brochure as a PDF.

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