Have you heard about John Goodfriend’s answer to the retirement of the Windows NT 4.0 MCSE track? Goodfriend, founder of Lanop Corp. training centers, is trying to create his own Windows NT certification. It’s called NT-CIP and stands for NT Certified Independent Professional.

Here’s how it works
When Microsoft’s Windows NT 4.0 MCSE certification exams expire on December 31, 2000, Lanop’s NT cert kicks into gear. Goodfriend has said in interviews published in Microsoft Certified Professional magazine and Swynk.com that he’s partnering with other testing providers and IT companies to launch his own exams. Pass his battery of tests (which he says would approximate Microsoft’s), and you earn his NT-CIP designation. If you’ve already earned an MCSE from Microsoft, just send Lanop $30 and you’ll receive your official photo ID and certificate.
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The thought process appears to be that Redmond retired the NT 4.0 MCSE track too early. So, Lanop is looking to extend the lifespan of the NT 4.0 cert. What’s the strategy for approximating Microsoft’s exams? In the MCP magazine article, Goodfriend claimed to be working with vendors that supplied Microsoft’s materials, saying, “A couple of the companies we are working with have extensive experience in preparing tests for Microsoft products.”

Does something smell fishy here?
The NT-CIP Web site, which is riddled with typos and appears less professional compared to other official certification sites, promises VUE and Prometric testing centers will be offering the four NT-CIP exams. However, neither recognized testing facility could verify that statement in phone calls I placed or e-mails I sent on September 22. Further, telephone calls to John Goodfriend were not returned.

Why isn’t it for you?
With the exception of very few programs (most notably those from CompTIA), vendor-neutral certifications haven’t experienced much success. Instead, the certifications offered by Microsoft, Cisco, and Novell have really taken off. Why? Because the IT community is placing value on their programs.

Be honest, which would you prefer on your résumé?

The NT-CIP program, while an intriguing concept, won’t work. I don’t believe it’ll be taken seriously by IT professionals for several reasons.

First is the matter of the NT-CIP Web site. It’s less than professional. How can a sloppy Web site promote a professional accreditation?

Second, relationships with the vendor are important for ensuring the credibility and reputation of a certification. I doubt any of the recognized certification programs will work with the NT-CIP. I know Microsoft won’t. Instead, Redmond is focused on moving IT pros to Win2K and doesn’t appear too excited to focus energy on older certifications and technology. Just check out what its representative (Donna Senko, Director of Certification Skills and Assessment) had to say in a prepared message.

“The newly announced NT Certified Independent Professional (NT-CIP) credential may meet the needs of some organizations. Ultimately, the success of any credential is based on the demand for the skills set tested and the program’s reputation and credibility.” The message continued, saying “to ensure the MCSE certification is recognized as a leading IT professional credential with value and credibility, it is critical MCSEs be up-to-date on the most advanced technology available. Just as tax accountants must stay on top of emerging laws and tax codes to effectively serve their clients, Microsoft Certified Professionals are required to continuously gain hands-on experience and skills that will enable them to deploy the latest Microsoft technologies.”

Third, why can’t VUE and Prometric confirm their participation? Microsoft Certified Professional magazine tried to confirm their participation, as did I. I would think that both VUE and Prometric would promote the new cert heavily to help boost awareness. Despite opportunities, neither is doing so.

Fourth, an offshoot of a recognized IT cert does nothing to promote the top-level certification. The Windows NT 4.0 track is being phased out for a reason, however unpopular it is. I’d have liked to see it stick around longer, but it’s not. And, Microsoft may be right in pushing IT pros to Win2K. According to a Microsoft news release, “sales of Windows 2000 Advanced Server in the quarter doubled over Windows NT Server 4.0 Enterprise Edition in the prior year.” Further, another news release stated that Microsoft “exceeded its goal of obtaining at least 100 ’Certified for Windows‘ applications while training more than 266,000 IT professionals on the platform,” by the end of June. Those facts prove adoption of the Microsoft 2000 platform is occurring quickly, thereby increasing the demand for certified Win2K administrators.

Stick with the recognized cert
If you want your NT 4.0 cert to live longer, send Lanop $30. Just don’t expect hiring managers to be impressed. If you want a reputable NT cert that’s recognized across the industry, stick with Redmond. A few hundred thousand certified IT pros can’t be wrong.
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