The HP Technology Forum trains IT professionals on HP systems. The meeting also tests those pros who are certified to pre-sell or train on or teach skills about Hewlett-Packard offerings. But HP has decided to test the mettle of HP 3000 experts no more, a decision that the Connect user group president Nina Buik can do nothing to reverse.
At the conference she said she "personally went to bat" to get HP to reinstate the certifications, which admittedly are held by fewer than 100 IT pros in your community. Being a HP Certified Professional is an accomplishment to market, both for HP and for anybody who passes the challenging tests. HP thinks so much of HPCP status that it sold an exclusive line of shirts, caps, jackets and even golf accessory sets in the HP Store at the Forum. You needed a CP badge to buy these materials. The shop was busy.
A seasoned IT manager knows that seeing a shirt or a pen set with an HP training logo assures the company of nothing more than an ability to pass a test once. But the distinction is something more than a resume or the limited references. In a community where the 3000 skills are growing rare, certification could make hiring MPE/iX expertise easier.
Alas, even growing to 50,000 members didn't give the Connect group the clout to turn back HP's choice to end many certifications. HP reported to Buik that only 20 people hold the 3000 certification. As with so many other aspects of Hewlett-Packard decisions that affect the 3000, this was a numbers game the community lost.
"From a business perspective, it's really difficult for HP to justify putting together a program for 20 people," Buik said. "I don't know that any company would do that."
While she's probably right, putting something together was not the community's request. All the 3000 pros who'd earned their certs wanted was the right to let HP recognize them, not produce more testing and advance the certification curriculum. After all, since nothing has changed in HP's technical offerings for the 3000 since 2005 (even counting major patches and enhancements), why re-test?
"That doesn't mean that the 3000 group doesn't deserve a voice to HP, or deserve to get answers from HP," Buik added. This is a "really big company," she explained, and joining a user group is an easier way to be part of a very large organization, much like being in a sorority helped Buik in her college days.
The concept of lobbying a computer vendor for products, strategy or processes used to be called advocacy. HP 3000 customers would advocate things like Itanium support for MPE/iX (promised, then withdrawn) or the continued bundling of IMAGE as the default 3000 database. Advocacy is yesterday's term for this give and take between customer and supplier.
Connect calls the effort "customer voice," according to Buik. These certifications are not so essential to warrant public demonstrations like the ones I've seen at national user group meetings before the Tech Forum took over the business. However, the 3000 community needs a voice to get the answers that Buik says they deserve, answers to more vital questions about MPE/iX licensing and the ownership of technical support information and diagnostics.
"In everything that Connect does, you're going to see that our customer voice is going to be part of it," the user group president said. Since the talks with HP are under wraps now, it seems that having a "customer voice" to break through the cone of silence will be easier to justify — since the vendor has been telling the community answers will be forthcoming. Perhaps Connect can raise its voice on the unresolved afterlife of the heart of the 3000 — and get answers before the remaining 24 weeks of lab support slip away.