AWS Training and Certification Blog

New Research: Enterprise Strategy Group report quantifies advantages for organizations with AWS Certified Staff

As more organizations are moving the cloud, they are finding their biggest challenge isn’t technical. It’s people and culture. They simply do not have enough people with the right cloud skills to achieve their goals. We developed AWS Certification seven years ago, starting with the AWS Solutions Architect – Associate certification, in order to help organizations and individuals validate cloud skills and expertise. Now we have 12 different AWS Certifications across varied job roles and technical expertise. I’ve seen firsthand that customers who support their employees as they pursue AWS Certification are more successful in meeting their cloud goals. We know our customers and partners see the value of AWS Certified staff on their teams, and individuals who are AWS Certified feel more confident in their roles and value career development. Organizations, like Accenture, National Australia Bank, and Capital One, that have implemented training and certification programs at scale have seen tremendous success in their cloud adoption and innovation goals.

The impact of AWS Certification for organizations, teams, and individuals is apparent. But we didn’t have a quantitative understanding of the impact until now. To quantify this, we enlisted Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), an independent analyst firm, to conduct research on the value of AWS Certification for organizations.

The results of this report were striking.

  1. Employing AWS Certified staff yields numerous business benefits, including competitive differentiation, productivity, security, and innovation.
  2. AWS Certification can help organizations attract and retain valuable cloud talent.
  3. The benefits are more dramatic among organizations with higher adoption of AWS Certification.

This blog will examine each of these findings in more detail, and you can also learn more by reading the full research report: ESG Research Insights Paper Commissioned by AWS, Understanding the Value of AWS Certifications to Organizations, October 2020.

About the research

The ESG research included a survey of 500 executives and managers responsible for strategy and technology decisions, with representation across North America, Western Europe, Asia, and Australia. They were asked a series of questions related to the outcomes they’ve seen at their organization as it adopted AWS. Those respondents at organizations employing AWS Certified staff (n=286) were asked additional questions to understand whether staff achievement of AWS Certifications provides value. Those organizations were then grouped into two adoption levels: “higher adoption” (organizations where >50% of IT staff are AWS Certified, n=115) and “lower adoption” (organizations where 50% or less of IT staff are AWS Certified, n=171). The survey was complemented by five, in-depth interviews with cloud team leaders to provide additional commentary and real-life anecdotes.

Business benefits of AWS Certified staff

The research found that IT leaders believe that validating skills with AWS Certification provides an advantage for their organization. An impressive 97% of respondents who employ AWS Certified staff said having these individuals on their team gives them a better competitive position to succeed over the next three to five years. There are a few reasons for this.

First, employing AWS Certified staff has a positive effect on productivity, project completion, and project management. ESG’s research showed that staff who are AWS Certified drive productivity up and project timelines down. 90% of organizations with AWS Certified staff agreed that having AWS Certified staff has made their cloud staff more productive. Moreover, 89% agreed that having AWS Certified staff has shortened the time it takes to complete cloud projects. Consequently, 90% of respondents said that they trust AWS Certified staff to lead cloud projects more than staff who are not AWS Certified.

In an interview with ESG, the head of security and privacy at a $3.2B annual revenue transportation company said, “There is absolutely a difference in productivity and efficiency between [AWS] Certified and non-certified employees. The reasons is that the people who have earned a certification have dealt with different scenarios in the abstract; there is a ‘conceptual investment’ they’ve made that they can lean on.”

Second, organizations with AWS Certified staff benefit from improved security and troubleshooting. ESG noted that employing AWS Certified staff helps organizations eliminate the trade-off between speed and risk, giving companies the best of both worlds. The data showed that organizations see a payoff from employing AWS Certified individuals: 86% agreed that AWS Certified staff members improve the security of cloud workloads, and 89% agreed that employing AWS Certified staff helps them troubleshoot issues faster.

Attract and retain cloud talent

Often companies will express concern that supporting their staff in getting AWS Certified might encourage them to look elsewhere for new career opportunities. In our experience, we’ve seen the opposite. IT staff want to work at organizations that support their professional development goals, and give them opportunities to grow their skills and career. This has been clearly validated by the ESG research. According to the study, 93% of organizations said supporting their staff in pursuing AWS Certification improves team recruitment, and 96% agreed their decision to support AWS Certification has improved the employee retention among cloud-focused staff.

In fact, incorporating AWS Certification into career development can be a competitive differentiator for attracting in-demand talent. In an interview with ESG, a senior cloud system manager at a telecom company with $500M annual revenue who was interviewed during the research said, “We fully fund training and certifications. We do an anonymous employee survey every year, and for the last two years, the biggest area of concern was [support for] training and certification. Our employees demanded it and we listened.” This organization isn’t alone: 92% of respondents said that their organization always or usually pays for their team’s AWS Certification exam fees.

Capital One is one example of an organization that has seen tremendous culture benefits from investing in training and certifying their people. Lavonda Perkins, Learning Program Manager, Capital One shared the organization’s commitment to certifying its entire engineering workforce: “Several years ago, we set out to go all in on the AWS Cloud. One of the things we focused on was getting our IT staff trained and AWS Certified, so they could adapt a new cloud mindset. We created a robust peer-to-peer learning community and focused on getting engineers certified. We were able to support hundreds of our engineers in their journey to get AWS Certified in just one calendar year. We have found that an increase in AWS Certifications has led to an improvement of our tech landscape, and AWS Certified associates are empowered to take on new roles and become technology leaders. With this great success, we’re continuing to work towards getting 100% of our engineers certified.”

Increased benefits with high adoption

A common question our customers ask us is how much of their staff should get trained and AWS Certified. The ESG research revealed that organizations with higher adoption of AWS Certifications (greater than 50% of cloud-focused staff are AWS Certified) reap the greatest benefits, when compared to organizations with lower adoption (50% or less of cloud-focused staff are AWS Certified).

Closing the cloud skills gap is a high priority for AWS, and for our customers and partners. The research showed that 64% of organizations surveyed have a moderate or severe cloud skills gap that needs to be addressed. However, the cloud skills gap is less severe among organizations with higher adoption of AWS Certification. Only 44% of organizations with a higher adoption of AWS Certifications reported a moderate or severe gap. By comparison, 70% of organizations with lower adoption of AWS Certifications reported a moderate or severe gap. Among organizations with no AWS Certifications, 72% reported a moderate or severe gap.

In another example, ESG compared reported application deployment times among organizations with lower and higher adoption of AWS Certification. Results found that AWS Certified staff have a positive effect on application deployment time. 85% of respondents with any number of AWS Certified staff reported that application deployment times were either “much better” or “somewhat better” on AWS when compared to on-premises workloads. Diving deeper, among organizations with a higher adoption of AWS Certification, this number rose to 90% (compared to 81% for organizations with lower adoption of AWS Certification).

The bottom line

Our customers tell us that preparing for an AWS Certification exam requires them to think outside their day-to-day use cases. Of all the findings from this survey, I was most pleased to learn that 91% said having AWS Certified staff increased innovation with AWS services. Our ultimate goal is to help the builders of today and tomorrow leverage the power of the AWS Cloud.

About AWS Certification

As cloud technologies continue to help organizations transform their businesses at a rapid pace, employees with the necessary cloud skills are in high demand. If you are looking to build a team with cloud expertise, AWS Certification can help you identify skilled professionals to implement cloud initiatives using AWS. Explore our role-based certifications for Cloud Practitioner, Architect, Developer, and Operations, as well as our Specialty certifications in specific technical areas. Achieving an AWS Certification helps individuals build their credibility and confidence. Whether you are building talent from within or bringing new employees onboard, AWS Certification can help your organization identify the cloud talent you need.

Next steps

A comprehensive education strategy that includes both cloud fundamentals training for a wide range of stakeholders, as well as deep cloud training for key technical teams, can help organizations realize their cloud objectives faster. We can work with you to assess your learning needs, develop a training plan to help deepen your team’s cloud expertise, and ultimately, support your AWS Certified goals. Learn more.


Maureen Lonergan is Director of Training and Certification for Amazon Web Services (AWS), where she leads a team of builders committed to training the next generation of diverse cloud talent. Maureen helps AWS customers, partners, and employees to gain the skills and knowledge to unlock the power of the AWS Cloud in the age of digital transformation.