In September 2017, Dell and EMC joined forces in, at that point in time, the largest technology merger in history. As a result, the EMC and Dell certification programs came together, and the Dell Technologies Proven Professional Certification program was officially launched. The program is robust and complex, servicing tens of thousands of candidates globally. Over the program history, it has offered over 1,500 distinct exams related to many different technology tracks. It also includes non-certification, ancillary programs and a strong partner accreditation program.

The ability to efficiently run detailed and accurate reports that incorporate certification program data is absolutely critical to Dell Technologies and its authorized stakeholders.  Due to vast amounts of data being generated from the EMC program prior to the merger, this became an even larger challenge when the two certification programs were combined.

Prior to the merger in 2017,” explained Debi Graci, Senior Advisor, Proven Professional Program, “EMC and Dell both used CertMetrics™ for their candidate management solution.”

Independently, both the legacy Dell and EMC programs, after thorough research, found CertMetrics to be the “best in class” for candidate management. In 2013, EMC was specifically looking for a candidate management solution to help them efficiently manage data for the sizable growth of what was then the EMC Proven Professional Certification Program. “We were seeking a partner that was nimble, responsive and willing to understand our vision and who would also allow us to influence the design of a partner affiliation program we needed to implement,” said Graci.

“As it turned out, Alpine Testing Solutions (Alpine) was willing to take that big leap of faith with us to build a partner affiliation program, and to also give us the ability to use our data in ways that were meaningful and efficient,” added Edwina Rossi, Analyst, Business Operations. “As a result, we opted to implement CertMetrics, which we branded as CertTracker.”

The reporting challenges that increased after combining the certification programs stemmed from two factors: the CertMetrics catalog structure was built to accommodate two levels, and certification assets of both programs belonged to specific portfolio groupings that typically have 6 or more levels of characteristics.

“Due to the mismatch between available catalog levels and number of characteristics we needed to track, we maintained external tables to accommodate all of the characteristic levels and then linked them to respective reporting tables in our LMS prior to running reports. This tedious and manual process was not efficient. It was subject to human error, with possible typos and mismatches, which weakened confidence in the validity of our report output,” explained Graci.

This workaround took a toll on the team due to significant troubleshooting and problem-resolution processes required and the instances of human error sometimes resulted in complaints from candidates.

“A substantial amount of time was spent troubleshooting to address complaints from candidates due to missing report information, the root of which could be as simple as a spacing error,” stated Rossi. “It required us to investigate, analyze the issue, fix the problem and then re-run the report, requiring valuable time that could have been used on other projects. Ultimately, this saved 15 hours in manual work each week, freeing us up to work on more complex projects to enhance the program”

It became increasingly evident that a more robust reporting solution was needed.  

“Alpine knew of our plight and consulted with us on potential solutions. They proposed adding Tagging as a reporting feature. Based on collaborative discussions, we were intrigued,” said Graci. “Over a significant period of time, we continued discussions with Alpine and appreciated the opportunity to influence the design. We established that Tagging would allow for setting up domains and sub-groups, referred to as ‘tags’, giving us unlimited capability to add characteristics to our catalog items by way of drop-down lists. Inclusion of drop-down lists would reduce margin for error and eliminate the need to manually maintain and link data sources to respective reporting tables in our LMS.”

Rossi agreed and added, “I’ve always adhered to the concept that data is more reliable and accurate at the source and so having it pull from Alpine rather than a manually manipulated source on our LMS, made perfect sense to me.”

Graci and Rossi collaborated regularly with their program leadership, organization leadership, partner compliance team, marketing leads and certification strategy team on the proposed Tagging solution to glean their feedback, ideas and to ultimately seek approval.

“After evaluating the required infrastructure, benefits and potential positive impact to our program, management gave the green light to implement the Tagging feature. It has been a godsend, as it has provided greater overall efficiency and has strengthened our program in numerous ways,” Graci enthusiastically shared.

One of the many positive outcomes has been the successful pairing of Tagging with various tools. For example, Tagging in conjunction with Domo allows for creation of visualizations that provide valuable insights on trends and outcomes that can be used for marketing campaigns. The use of Qlik paired with Tagging also provides an infinite number of possibilities for reporting. Once Qlik is set up, visuals can be created with the touch of a button. (Qlik, which is powered by Qlik Sense®, is available via the CertMetricsTM Advanced Reporting and Visualization Module).  

“Tagging has also helped us align with many of our other educational services offerings – like training,” explained Graci. “The characteristics we are assigning to our catalog assets through tagging are aligned to the same sorts of characteristics that we are assigning to assets outside of CertTracker (CertMetrics). When we get into our data warehousing tool, we can look at ‘apples to apples’ and not have the need to do any tweaking for those sorts of comparisons,” stated Graci.

“Tagging has benefitted the Dell Technologies Proven Professional Certification program extensively. It is scalable and permits us to slice and dice our data in a very specific, preformatted and efficient way. It also provides better data validity and consistency, which allows for more meaningful metrics that drive better modeling of business outcomes. It helps us evaluate where we’ve been, where we are and where we need to be in the future,” concurred Graci and Rossi.

“One cannot overstate how valuable Tagging is and how it fits into what we do. It’s a lynchpin to it all. It is also STABLE, CONSISTENT, SCALABLE and — to borrow a term from our neck of the woods — it is wicked efficient!” exclaimed Rossi.