How to Accelerate Your AWS Competency Certification

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • What Is The AWS Competency Program?
  • Types of Competencies
  • Why Obtain An AWS Competency Certification?
    • Case Studies
    • Customer References
    • Validation Checklist
    • Certify Your Staff
  • Steps to Become AWS Competency Validated Partner
  • AWS Evaluation Process
  • Challenges in Achieving AWS Competency
  • How CUSP Can Help
  • Why Choose CUSP?


After dominating the e-commerce landscape for years, Amazon set out to impact the global cloud computing industry in 2006. Today it holds the lion’s share, thanks to its robust and scalable Amazon Web Services- AWS. 

A majority of Fortune 500 companies and over 90% of Fortune 100 companies leverage AWS solutions. Flexera’s State of the Cloud report shows that over 47% of organizations worldwide leverage AWS to run significant workloads. 

AWS values competent Partners who provide top-notch solutions to their customers across different industries. Identifying, validating, and increasing the visibility of such Partners is the goal of the AWS Competency Program. 

In this Quick Reference Guide, we will discuss everything about this program and its benefits, how you can achieve a Competency designation, and how CUSP can help you accelerate this process.

What Is The AWS Competency Program?

The AWS Competency Program is AWS’ global Partner program designed to highlight and promote the top AWS Partners based on their specialization in critical AWS solutions, workloads, and vertical areas. This helps Partners differentiate their solutions and demonstrate their expertise in the most in-demand skills that are validated by Amazon. 

The goal of this program is to enable customers to take full advantage of AWS technologies by providing them with top-vetted and validated APN Partners who can effectively design, deliver, and manage solutions on the AWS platform. 

Through the AWS Competency Program, AWS endorses its Partners to their customers and sales teams. The APN Partners are validated based on AWS standards and best practices and are then highlighted to the customers so they can demonstrate their expertise in the top AWS products and practices to them. 

This program enables customers to easily find and connect with validated Partners having the necessary expertise to help them fully leverage just the AWS solutions they need. 

They don’t have to filter through tens of thousands of Partner listings in the AWS ecosystem. The AWS Competency Program provides them with a short list of APN Partners who have proven their technical and customer success working on essential AWS technologies and verticals.

Types of Competencies

AWS Competencies can be broadly divided into the following three categories-

  • For Partners offering industry vertical-specific solutions, there are industry competencies like Digital Marketing and E-Commerce, Financial Services, Digital Media, Life Sciences, Healthcare, Government, Travel and Hospitality, Retail, etc. 
  • For Partners that offer horizontal solutions and practices, there are solution competencies, including Migration, IoT, Migration and Modernization, Machine Learning, Digital Customer Experience, Security, Storage, DevOps, Data and Analytics, etc. These solutions also support many industry verticals. 
  • Besides industry and solution-aligned competencies, there are workload competencies like SAP or Oracle or Microsoft Workloads. 

Tip: AWS offers many such Competencies. You can review and choose one or several among them that most fit your team’s area of expertise and experience in implementing various AWS technologies. But having so many options can make it difficult to choose the right Competency designation to pursue. To solve this, you can consider aligning your AWS Competency strategy to your long-term business goals. 

Why Obtain An AWS Competency Certification?

In today’s cloud-driven world, AWS Competency Certification can open the door to a wealth of opportunities. It acts as a globally-recognized testament to your expertise and implies that you possess some of the most sought-after skills in cloud computing. This can help you obtain more clients in the future by assuring them of your proficiency in AWS cloud infrastructure.

Furthermore, it can help you brand your expertise and use it as a marketing element on social media and digital signatures. Other benefits of this certification include:

  • Highlighting your solution on the AWS website for marketing
  • Public designation on the AWS website, under AWS Solutions
  • Highest search weight in the AWS Partner Solutions Finder and AWS Sales tools
  • Use of Competency Badge/Partner badge in the marketing tools to highlight your specialization
  • Co-marketing opportunities
  • Gaining competitive advantage with critical marketing and industry insights, launches, and events
  • Preferred access to go-to-market and market development funding 
  • Inclusion in all AWS announcements regarding Competencies
  • Selective eligibility for AWS Competency subject matter webinars 
  • Eligibility for first-priority inclusion in Partner Success Stories, Partner Videos, APN/AWS Blog Posts, and more
  • Priority for AWS Sponsorships, Quick Starts, and Roadmap Briefings with service teams
  • Priority access to private betas
  • Priority invitations and open access to AWS-led Competency-specific Meet-Ups, workshops, sales-account mapping sessions, worldwide AWS events, and co-selling courses tailored to your specializations
  • Highlighting as Competency Partner at AWS Events
  • Highlighting through field enablement to AWS sales teams
  • Templates, marketing playbooks, toolkits, etc. for faster go-to-market and at scale
  • AWS Expert engagement to strengthen your technical capabilities

Requirements to Achieve AWS Competency

You must be an Advanced or Premier tier Partner to qualify for the program. Upgrading your APN membership to Advanced+ tier will enable you to progress as an APN Partner. Partners who are looking to scale their businesses can draw a lot of benefits from the program. 

Case Studies

The AWS Competency certification is awarded to Partners who have a proven track record in handling contemporary cloud challenges and delivering on different workloads. Hence, to validate your expertise, you must submit various case studies to showcase your experience and demonstrate your customer engagement. 

Submitting them requires fulfilling the following main requirements:

  • Case studies must showcase engagements that you have completed successfully. 
  • At least two of them must be publicly referenceable.
  • Include all the important documentation (along with the best AWS practices) about the solution implemented by you for your customers.
  • Optionally, you can also present your sales and delivery engagements in a packaged offer.
  • Your organization must have a ‘practice’ or an offering for the particular industry vertical or a service offering for the particular use case. If you don’t have any packaged offerings or practices, it is best first to gain the necessary AWS expertise and build referenceable case studies before applying for a Competency, to help you drive consistent and repeatable outcomes. You can leverage relevant APN Navigate Tracks to learn the fundamentals of specific AWS workloads, solutions, or services and achieve AWS Competency Certifications.

Customer References

Customer references are essential for validation, building trust and differentiation. There are at least two public and two non-public customer references needed for every AWS Competency to validate your expertise. Having these references shows that you have successfully implemented the technologies or solutions for your customers. These are used to demonstrate your success with the customers and stand out in a crowded market, which is posted on the Partner solutions finder for the customers to read and review. You must include the following information in the references:

  • Customer name
  • Problem statement
  • Your proposed solution
  • How you used AWS services in your solution
  • Third-party applications used in the solution (if any)
  • Project start and end dates
  • Results
  • Total Cost Ownership (TCO) analysis

You may have already captured this information for your customer testimonials or case studies. For the Competency application, two of the four customer references must be public. For instance, they could be published online as blog posts/articles. 

Tip: Gathering these references can be the most time-consuming. It is thus best for you to start working on them beforehand, probably while you prepare your Advanced Partner Application. This way, you can apply for the Competency just after your Partner status gets updated and save time.

Validation Checklist

A validation checklist contains the unique requirements/technical criteria to achieve the Competency designation you applied for. All checklists can be found on the AWS Competency website. You must carefully review them before applying for the required Competency.

Keep in mind that various items in the validation checklists require established processes and detailed documentation, along with supporting evidence like

  • playbooks,
  • process documents
  • run-books,
  • statements of work,
  • live demonstrations,
  • verbal descriptions,
  • evidence of best practice implementations
  • disaster recovery plans.

It is essential to submit the complete application, including the contact information for the primary contact of the Competency review process. In addition, you must prepare and submit the architectural diagrams and documents to satisfy the validation checklist for the four customer solution references. 

This is required before the review call and, ideally, must be attached to the initial application. 

Certify Your Staff

Well-trained and certified staff is essential for competencies. To achieve this, you can leverage continuous training and certification through online courses available to all the Partners. They include introductory labs and videos on AWS and online self-paced labs to get hands-on practice with the AWS services. 

This is essential to keep your team updated with the business professional and technical professional courses. There are instructor-led courses available as well for skill building and learning the best practices from accredited instructors. 

Steps to Become AWS Competency Validated Partner

Here’s how you can embark on the journey to achieving an AWS Competency:

  1. Join the AWS Partner Network by creating your AWS Partner Central account.
  2. Upon joining the Partner Network, you must enroll in a Partner path based on your customer offerings. If your organization develops software that is integrated with or runs on AWS, then you must enroll in the Software Path, whereas if you leverage AWS to offer consulting, professional, and resale services, opt for the Services Path.
  3. Meet the minimum validation criteria of the Partner Path. For instance, you must complete the AWS Founder Technical Review (FTR) to enroll in the Software Path or gain an AWS Advanced Tier Services Partner to go into the Services Path. 
  4. Choose the AWS Competency that best suits your business offerings.
  5. Review the program requirements mentioned in the Validation Checklist for your chosen Competency and see the ones that have been met (assets, console access, microsites, presentation, supporting evidence, etc.).
  6. Set up an action plan to meet the requirements that weren’t covered (if any) and fill the gaps.
  7. If possible, assign an owner or project manager to oversee the different stages of the action plan.
  8. Assign the preparation of technical documentation to multiple people/teams.
  9. Identify potential case studies and decide on each case study’s owners/work groups.
  10. Define a strategy to present your case studies in the audit.
  11. Ensure all the checklist items are covered, and rehearse your audit as often as needed.
  12. Once you meet the program requirements, you can go to Programs>Program Applications and apply to the Competency Program.
  13. After achieving an AWS Competency Certification, you will receive an AWS Partner Badge and a guide to help you fully leverage the program’s benefits.

AWS Evaluation Process

Achieving an AWS Competency certification requires going through meticulous technical validation. This comprises a stringent evaluation of  the technical documentation detailing your organization and a solution document containing both the public (how-to guides) and non-public information (design documents, architecture diagrams, security assessments, etc.)

An AWS Solutions Architect and other relevant AWS teams will review your application in detail and assess the performance, security, and reliability of the products and/or solutions you built on the AWS platform. This process can take anywhere between three weeks to three months. Your solutions could also be reviewed and vetted by a third party for validation.

The aim of this evaluation is to verify your capabilities in using AWS services to develop and deliver specific customer solutions in accordance with the AWS best practices mentioned in the AWS Well-Architected Framework.

Challenges in Achieving AWS Competency

Attaining an AWS Competency is a challenging venture and one of the toughest designations that an APN Partner can achieve and maintain. This is not only because of its rigorous evaluation process but also because of some common challenges faced by the Partners. They include:

  • Difficulty in understanding/interpreting validation checklists, supporting evidence, and/or other documentation requirements
  • Collecting evidence from multiple teams and projects to create the required documents and case studies
  • Do not have any means to assess and measure their strategy’s progress
  • Do not have anyone skilled or knowledgeable to analyze their preparedness independently
  • Do not have experience in facing audits
  • Challenges in understanding and navigating the Competency application process, from viewing the checklists to submitting the application on the APN

How CUSP Can Help

To overcome these challenges and streamline your Competency efforts, you need expert help. We at CUSP offer an AWS Competency Acceleration Program to help you achieve the Competency designation you seek for your organization. 

Through this program, we provide you with proper guidance and coaching for the end-to-end Competency application process, from understanding the checklists all the way to submitting the application on the APN.

Our process starts with Discovery and Gap Analysis. We assess your current state of preparedness in detail, including the process documentation and availability of evidence. This helps us effectively analyze the critical gaps and submit an in-depth report highlighting those identified gaps. 

This is followed by:

  • coaching and guidance for the creation of new processes, evidence, and documentation where required
  • suggestions/advice for making changes in those documents to meet the audit requirements
  • selecting the right case studies for the application
  • recommendations for creating and managing the required evidence for the audit
  • assistance in process design for the audit and creation of the necessary process documents

We then conduct a workshop with your team to-

  • explain the AWS requirements and expectations to them in detail
  • provide them with proper training to face the audit process
  • guide them on how they can respond to the queries put forward by the AWS team
  • help them with the application submission on the APN Portal

In addition, we conduct a mock audit with your team in accordance with the audit guidelines, which significantly boosts your chances of passing the final audit. This also helps us develop an in-depth report focusing on the gaps to assess their final readiness and provide detailed gap closure recommendations.

Why Choose CUSP?

Being the best sales consulting for SMBs in India, we at CUSP are known for our comprehensive coaching methodology, which includes-

  • Strategy formulation,
  • Sales force transformation,
  • Sales enablement and operations,
  • Large account planning and growth,
  • Customer success excellence,
  • Solution design competency development.

Our services have enabled numerous businesses to increase their market penetration, boost revenue, and enhance their overall organizational growth.

Through our AWS Competency Acceleration Program, we have helped multiple APN partners boost their journey in multiple Competencies. We helped a GSI attain two Competencies- Energy and IoT- within six months and accelerated the journey for another partner by helping them achieve Storage Competency in just two months.

Our team exhibits a comprehensive understanding of all the critical requirements for every Competency, which allows us to provide effective guidance and coaching to your team members. By enabling your team to create the necessary documentation as per the AWS requirements, we help them reduce the time required to respond to the queries from the AWS audit team. 

Our thorough reviews of your documents and evidence, followed by extensive and independent assessment, allow you to gauge your readiness before the final audit better. 

To learn more about how you can boost your journey towards achieving an AWS Competency and fully leverage its potential, contact us today!

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