Outsourcing certification gets industry thumbs-up

New certification program for IT outsourcing management meets with the approval of vendors and IT chiefs, who view it as an acceptable benchmark for raising competency levels.

It is about time the industry found a standardized way of benchmarking an IT professional's outsourcing management skills, industry practitioners say.

Following the launch of the Certification in Outsourcing Management for IT (COMIT) by the Singapore Computer Society earlier this month, several vendors and IT chiefs have voiced their support for the pioneering program.

Touted as the region's first such program, COMIT is tailored toward infocomm professionals seeking to pursue a career in either IT project or outsourcing management. The three-day certification course also targets experienced professionals who want to obtain a recognized professional qualification.

According to industry observers, COMIT injects much-needed credibility and skill focus to a profession that's currently experiencing resurgence in recent months. Separate studies conducted earlier this year by Hudson Singapore and DP Search, point to a high market demand for IT outsourcing professionals with the relevant skills to manage outsourced projects.

Simon Roller, business development manager at Hewlett Packard's Technology Solutions Group, believes that COMIT will prove beneficial to Singapore businesses, especially when it comes to quality of service.

"Certified competency helps companies manage the risk of outsourcing and ensures a standard level of service," Roller said, adding that certification also provides companies with the assurance of a successful outcome for an IT outsourcing project.

Likewise, Daniel Lai, the head of IT at MTR, recognizes COMIT's role in certifying "the level of competency in outsource services management."

"I am personally supportive of a professional certification program," Lai said in an e-mail interview with ZDNet Asia. "But provided that training, development and assessment are conducted properly and systematically."

Good timing
Responding to separate e-mail queries, Colin Quek, CIO of Raffles Medical Group, and Dilip Mohapatra, the global head for learning and development at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), also described COMIT’s arrival as "timely" for industry professionals.

"I believe the main outcome should be the establishment of a baseline level of competency so that when one assesses such a certified individual, there is the confidence that the person has met certain specified standards," Quek said.

Quek also noted that introducing certification could spark a shift from the early days of IT outsourcing where "much trial-and-error approaches created a mixed bag of outcomes--some successful, some not."

TCS' Mohaptra said the recent announcement for outsourcing certification came at an appropriate time, though it was hardly surprising given the number of certification courses on offer elsewhere.

Citing India as an example, Mohaptra noted: "There are multitudes of certification courses available today, mostly online and Web-enabled. Some companies have evolved their internal certification programs mainly restricted to their own employees. The suggested program (COMIT) would definitely add on to the existing inventory and open more opportunities."

Still, given the basic maturity of the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry, Mohaptra feels that it is the perfect time for certification processes to be recognized.

The industry veteran also hinted that COMIT could play a dual-role in areas of skills development and customer relationship.

"Certification, as a learning method, not only effects recognition of an acquired competency by the individual but also gives higher credibility to clients as well as improving process and productivity, while reinforcing customer confidence," Mohaptra concluded.

According to Michael Rehkopf, a partner at outsourcing advisory company TPI Asia-Pacific, COMIT's inception points to a clear recognition of the growing importance of sourcing management.

But while the program brings a positive focus for professionals, Rehkopf cautioned about the overlapping focus areas.

"COMIT seems to attempt to cover both the client and the service provider side of sourcing management. While understanding both is important, there are differences," said Rehkopf. "COMIT also talks about project management and sourcing management--these are quite different and the concepts need to be kept separate."

Farihan Bahrin is a freelance IT writer based in Singapore.