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For individuals, it is easy to understand the value of getting a professional qualification. But for IT firms wanting an industry-certification, things are less clear-cut. Many are even disputing its relevance in the digital age.
Yet, the reality is that certification forms a vital part of the industry. It is because of the digital transformation agenda driving many businesses that organisations can ill afford to ignore the value it provides.

Technology is no longer seen to be removed from the business strategy. Today, IT departments provide more value than ‘only’ making sure hardware and software run properly. These teams are now integral to the success of the organisation as it seeks to differentiate itself from competitors using a variety of technological solutions providing solid business returns.

The digital landscape has resulted in an increasingly global environment in which to do business. Such is the competitive nature (ever-tightening budgets notwithstanding) of business, decision-makers are exploring new markets to find service providers. This often results in developing countries like South Africa being in the spotlight as the exchange rate, favourable time zone, and level of expertise contribute to a potentially good skill base at affordable rates.

Becoming compliant with for example the PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) or any of the ISO (International Standards Organisation) certifications provide an ideal platform for local businesses to engage with international partners.

When an organisation has this compliancy behind its name, it enables the company to more effectively talk to potential international clients and show that it is in touch with global best practice and adheres to the highest standards.

These certifications provide more value than just ‘eye-candy’ for the company web site. Unfortunately, many companies are foregoing getting these because of the price, time, and processes it takes. The reality is that while all these concerns hold true, a company must bite the bullet and embark on the process to get certified.

It also positions the company strongly on the international front. It signifies that the organisation takes the necessary time and effort to ensure its business continuity and provide a commitment to any of its partners that it can compete with the best in the world.

Certification brings with it a level of trust that is essential at a time when South Africa’s international reputation has taken a knock. The recent ratings downgrade and political uncertainty contribute to the perception that the country is sub-par. Becoming compliant with an internationally-recognised certification means the company is looking beyond local economic conditions and positioning it for global growth.

It is also something that entails more than just ticking off a list of requirements. Being compliant with international certifications mean a company must immerse itself completely in it. Once certified, an organisation will need to ensure its strategy builds on it and assists in driving the business forward.

Any form of compliance requires a solid BAU (Business As Usual) approach, a new concept introduced by PCI DSS by way of example. This ensures the organisation maintains and monitors controls on a continues basis. Compliance activities are then always included in the business security, strategy, and operations. Ultimately, living compliance standards versus being complaint is what sets companies apart.

In an age where business success can be determined by the tiniest of margins, this brings the competitive advantage many might need.

Llewellyn Helberg is the Quality Assurance Specialist at MobileData.

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