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Certification has been traditionally associated to proprietary software vendors, although the system has been in place at FOSS vendors such as MySQL, RedHat and SUSE for a number of years. Certification strengthens the relationship with partners, while ensuring a quality of service good enough to avoid problems to final users.
There are two distinct aspects to certification. One is to certify organizations that are recognized partners or franchisees, and the second is to certify the competence in specific areas. LibreOffice Certification has the objective of assessing the competence in areas such as LibreOffice development and L3 support, migrations to LibreOffice, LibreOffice trainings and L1/L2 support of LibreOffice.
According to TDF vision, certified professionals have the objective of extending the reach of the community to the corporate world, by offering CIOs and IT managers a recognition in line with proprietary offerings (in order to give them a comparable choice, not limited to software but including value added services).
Certified professionals are supposed to become a valuable channel for a deeper engagement with the corporate world, that will ultimately lead to an improved customer satisfaction. In fact, by communicating with the LibreOffice community through certified professionals, organizations should be able to improve the way they leverage the advantages of free software and the features of LibreOffice, and get a better value added support.
In addition, through certified professionals, organizations should also be able to better communicate their ideas and needs to TDF, and ultimately co-operate with the LibreOffice community in order to start contributing to the development of the free office suite by engaging certified developers to fix specific bugs and regressions, or to add new features.
TDF challenge is to grow the project, the product and the ecosystem (the components of the "whole" product), in order to cross the chasm between the adoption of LibreOffice by innovators and early adopters and the adoption of LibreOffice by the early and late majority (a group of pragmatists who are not going to buy into a discontinuous technology unless they can reference other pragmatists, which are highly support oriented).
LibreOffice Certification is completely different from commercial certification. TDF is looking for something more than simple development, integration, project management, migration, training or technical skills. TDF is looking for LibreOffice Ambassadors, able to provide value added professional services to grow the LibreOffice ecosystem.
In fact, certification is a key milestone for building the LibreOffice ecosystem, and increase the number of organizations capable of adding value on top of LibreOffice (and help to grow the adoption rate over proprietary office suites). Certification is also going to represent an additional opportunity for TDF, in the medium to long term, to sustain the growth of the ecosystem.
TDF ecosystem already includes all the elements of this new model of certification, in order to make it interesting for the market (i.e. individuals and companies which are not yet thinking about becoming TDF partners, but have the potential to do so). Because of this, LibreOffice Certification is going to be open only to TDF Members and active project contributors until April 2015, to improve the process within the boundaries of the project before opening it to the entire market.
Before starting to outline LibreOffice Certification Program, it should be absolutely clear that it is not supposed to become a source of competition for TDF corporate supporters, TDF partners and TDF Members who provide Value Added Services to the market. On the contrary, it represents a benchmark for the quality of the services provided by these companies, and provides a transparent criteria for evaluating the quality of the services provided by third parties. This will help build and sustain the ecosystem.
The main focus of LibreOffice Certification Program is the corporate environment, although TDF - in the future - might also create a training program targeted to end users. Although there might be a large request for end user certification, it is not as strategic as professional certification as it is not going to help building and growing the ecosystem.
LibreOffice Certification Program will be overseen and coordinated by the Board of Directors of The Document Foundation, through a Certification Committee which will be reporting to the BoD on a quarterly basis. The members of the Certification Committee will be approved by TDF BoD.
Libreoffice Certification recognizes the individual skills, but is neither binding The Document Foundation to their actions, nor holding it liable for their actions. There is a document in the Reference section - namely the Certification Code of Conduct - that should inspire the behaviour of Certified Professionals.
The Certification Committee has defined the Certification Pre-Requisites, which are common to all certification categories, and the Certification Criteria, which are specific to each certification category and are provided as reference protocols. For a definition of the different certification categories and the relevant criteria, see the "Individual Certifications" section below.
TDF Members and active LibreOffice project members can access the LibreOffice Certification Program for free, provided they comply with the Certification Pre-Requisites. In order to apply, they have to fill in the Application Form and provide the necessary information. Developers are not supposed to apply for certification, as they will be invited by the Engineering Steering Committee based on their code contributions to LibreOffice.
LibreOffice Certification can be attributed to individuals who have developed their skills by managing, coordinating, developing or contributing to LibreOffice Migration (or Large Deployment) or Training Projects, or both. To demonstrate the involvement in such projects, candidates must provide the necessary evidence with project reports or other documents such as interoperability tests or presentations and examples for trainings, or a declaration from a Certified TDF Member whose status has been active for at least one full calendar year. LibreOffice Certification will be attributed after a peer-to-peer review by the Certification Committee (in general, by a sub-committee of three members: Italo Vignoli and Sophie Gautier as coordinators, plus another member selected according to criteria such as language and geography).
Individuals who are neither contributing to the LibreOffice project nor participating to any activity of the LibreOffice community, but have been active in LibreOffice Migration (or Large Deployment) or Training Projects, or both, and will be able to demonstrate their involvement with the necessary evidence (the same as TDF Members), will be allowed to access the LibreOffice Certification after a two day training course covering free software, copyleft licenses, open document standards, Open Document Format, The Document Foundation and LibreOffice. The training will also be an opportunity to meet core members of the project to discuss the candidate's experience and relationship with free software, to better evaluate his/her elegibility for certification. Candidates will also have to study a number of reference documents.
Individuals who have never been involved in any LibreOffice related project, but are willing to access the LibreOffice Certification Program as they see it as an opportunity for professional development, will have to follow a specific training course covering the basics of LibreOffice Migration and Training Protocols.
The Document Foundation will provide training sessions in English for the first program (candidates with experience in Migrations and Trainings), starting from the second quarter of 2015. Dates for introductory trainings to LibreOffice Certification, for candidates without any experience, will be announced at a later stage.
Certification renewal will be free for TDF Members and active project contributors. Details of the renewal process for other individuals will be provided at a later stage.
Peer-to-peer reviews and training sessions will also be provided online using Google Hangouts, to allow participants to attend using a standard PC (Windows, MacOS X or Linux), and to share presentations and other documents.
The Certification Committee will appoint trainers, picking the individuals more suited for each certification. The first tasks of these trainers will be to adapt the contents of the certification program to local needs (training and test materials).
The Certification Committee oversees the certification process, approves individual certifications (which must be confirmed by the Board of Directors, and by the signed Certification Agreement). The Certification Committee operates mainly via email and IRC.
The Certification Committee is staffed as follows: Italo Vignoli (coordination), Lothar Becker, Stephan Bergmann, Sophie Gautier, Olivier Hallot, Jan Holesovsky, Björn Michaelsen, Cor Nouws, and Jacqueline Rahemipour.
The Peer-to-Peer Review Committee is staffed as follows: Italo Vignoli (coordination), Lothar Becker, Eliane Domingos de Sousa, Sophie Gautier, Olivier Hallot, Thomas Krumbein, Marina Latini, Leif Lodahl, Cor Nouws, Gustavo Pacheco, Stefano Paggetti, Jacqueline Rahemipour and Charles H. Schulz. At the moment, it is able to handle the review process in English, Danish, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish. More languages will be added in the future.
The Board of Directors will be able to change the composition of the Certification Committee at any time.
Is able to hack LibreOffice code to develop new features or provide L3 Support to enterprise users, researching and developing solutions to new or unknown issues, designing and developing one or more courses of action, evaluating each of these courses in a test case environment, and implementing the best solution to the problem. Once the solution is verified, it is added to LibreOffice source code.
Certified Developers must be TDF members, and part of their certification is peer reviewed by the Certification Committee and the Engineering Steering Committee, based on criteria defined by the Engineering Steering Committee.
Certified Migration Professional
Is able to coordinate the migration process from a proprietary office suite to LibreOffice, or a large deployment of LibreOffice, working with the customer to manage the change in all aspects (analisys, communication, integration, development of macros and templates, training, deployment and support) in order to have a smooth transition.
Certification criteria are based on the Migration Protocol, which is considered a reference document for migrations and large deployments.
Certified Professional Trainer
Is able to teach the use of LibreOffice at basic, intermediate or advanced level, by defining the syllabus, creating the training materials and providing the hands-on training.
Certification criteria are based on the Training Protocol, which is considered a reference document for all trainings.
Certified L1 Support Professional
Is able to handle basic customer issues, gathering the information and determining the issue by analyzing the symptoms and figuring out the underlying problem. Technical support specialists in this group typically handle straightforward and simple problems like verifying the proper hardware and software set up, and assisting with application menus.
In a corporate environment, the goal of this group is to handle 70%-80% of the user problems before finding it necessary to escalate the issue to L2 support.
Certification for Support Professionals will be launched not earlier than late 2015.
Certified L2 Support Professional
Is able to assist L1 support personnel in solving basic technical problems and investigating more complex issues by looking for known solutions to them, or by indentifying a new solution. If a problem is new or a solution cannot be determined, is responsible for raising this issue to L3 support. Within a migration project, is able to develop macros and/or templates reproducing those developed for Microsoft Office, in order to provide LibreOffice users the same functionalities they were used to.
Technical support specialists in this group handle complex functional problems.
Certification for Support Professionals will be launched not earlier than late 2015.
Organizations will be allowed to display a "LibreOffice Competence Centre" badge on their marketing materials (website, datasheets, etc.) if they employ or contract one or more certified professionals based on the following ratios: up to 10 employees / at least 2 certified individual, up to 20 / at least 4, up to 30 / at least 6, up to 50 / at least 8, up to 100 / at least 14, up to 200 / at least 25.
In order to earn the status of LibreOffice Competence Centre - which will be based on several parameters: competence, of course, but also relationship with The Document Foundation and global attitude versus free software - the organization will have to present a formal request to the Certification Committee. This special status will be approved by TDF Board of Directors upon request of the Certification Committee, and can be revoked at any time at the sole discretion of TDF Board of Directors.
TDF will promote LibreOffice Certification with a sustained marketing campaign targeted to corporate users, in order to increase the number of LibreOffice migrations and large deployments based on value added services provided by certified professionals for development, integration, migration, training and support.