Home > Business, ECM, marketing > The rise and fall of CIP – by AIIM

The rise and fall of CIP – by AIIM

I like AIIM. I’ve been a member since 1995, and I have enjoyed watching it grow from a semi-obscure huddle of microfilm archivists, to a substantial, international, Information Management industry body. I’ve also witnessed its transformation from an introvert “from the vendors, for the vendors” organisation to one that offers significant value to IM practitioners and end-users through education, webinars, market studies, etc. But AIIM has just irritated a lot of its advocates.

When AIIM introduced the Certified Information Practitioner (CIP) certification back in 2012, I found it a very astute strategic move. Unlike the ECMp, ECMs, ECMm style certifications that preceded it, which were little more than a verification that that you have attended the relevant AIIM course, the CIP certification carried a much more significant value: It demonstrated that its bearers had a good grasp of most technologies in the larger IM scope, and had a sufficient understanding of the value and the issues of ECM-related projects not to embarrass themselves. It wasn’t a trivial exam – even for some of us veterans of ECM – and it was sought after: A badge of honour.

Unfortunately it wasn’t sought after enough, so AIIM has just decided to terminate the CIP program. Apparently, some 1,000 people have achieved CIP certification in the last 4 years, which by any accreditation measure is a significant success. Any measure apart from AIIM’s, that is.

Laurence Hart (aka Word-of-Pie) wrote an excellent article today on the unfulfilled potential of the CIP program (“The CIP, A lost opportunity“), which I totally agree with and I will not repeat here. He hints however to a key problem that plagued CIP from the beginning, the same way it plagued MoReq 2010 and numerous other standards and certifications. Laurence writes: “the CIP needed to be marketed inside and outside the profession“.

To the best of my knowledge, there are only two ways that a standard or an accreditation can succeed: (1) It is mandated by a government, law, or regulatory body, or (2) there is sufficient demand generated for it, to make it a de-facto standard. Otherwise it whithers and dies. There was no plan to ever mandate CIP, so the only way to it would ever be successful would be to generate sufficient demand for it. I am assuming that AIIM used the number of practitioners requesting to be certified as a measure of demand, against its success criteria, before pulling the plug on the project. We can argue whether issuing 1,000 CIP certifications in 4 years should be considered a success of a failure, but that would completely miss the point. That metric is entirely wrong.

Requests for receiving the CIP accreditation is not a measure of demand. It is a consequence of the value (actual or perceived) that CIP practitioners saw in achieving the certification. And that value in turn is a result of two other drivers: The real demand in the market for CIP certified practitioners, and peer recognition. The first one of these is tangible and measurable: How many projects, RFIs, job specifications or Statements of Work, explicitly request CIP certified candidates. I am not aware that there have been many. The latter is harder to measure and I suspect the one that drove most of the 1,000+ CIP certifications issued todate.

AIIM did little to promote either.

I fished out of my archives an email that I wrote to AIIM back in March 2012, soon after I successfully passed the CIP exam:

I believe that, until such time as CIP is a widely accepted (and requested) accreditation, I think we can create marketing drive based on its exclusivity… At the moment it’s a bit of an “elite” club, so let’s make membership to the club desirable! Some ideas:

1) Look at BCS Chartered statuses. I think this extends significantly beyond just the UK: http://www.bcs.org/content/conWebDoc/18215.
If we could somehow get the CIP Certification accredited through BCS (something like “Recognised/Accredited by BCS”) or as a certification that is somehow contributing to achieving higher membership, you will have CIP advertised to a much larger IT community than AIIM can reach.

2) Are there other similar organisations around the world that we could engage with?

3) Add it to LinkedIn as a formal “Skill” – See http://www.linkedin.com/skills/skill/Certified_Internal_Auditor?trk=tyah. Not sure what’s involved in this.

4) Create a LinkedIn “exclusive” group for people who have passed CIP. This could be “by invitation only”. Not only it gives kudos, exclusivity and a community to the members, but it’s a great hunting ground for headhunters and HR people.

5) Negotiate discounts for CIPs for conferences, events, publications, training, etc. Not only with AIIM but with external groups and other communities.

The idea behind all of these, is obviously to create incentives for people to want to become CIPs, because they are getting something back for it.

That was just a starting point and I’m sure there were many other ideas to generate demand. We know that the “build it and they’ll come” principle does not work. Like any other product, CIP needed consistent and persistent marketing to generate visibility and create demand. It needed Case Studies on the value it delivered to practitioners and their clients. It needed nurturing and it needed time to grow. It needed word-of-mouth endorsement and it needed public recognition. It needed an opportunity to mature.

Alas, it received none of that and, by all accounts, it shall remain another great idea, poorly executed.


P.S. The ambiguity in the title is not coincidental…



  1. December 14, 2015 at 7:53 pm

    ‘Unlike the ECMp, ECMs, ECMm style certifications that preceded it, ” except they weren’t certifications althought AIIM led people to believe they were. In fact they were certificate courses which is vastly differently from a certification

    • December 14, 2015 at 7:55 pm

      Absolutely! Which is another reason why the grandfathering of CIP to ECMm, makes no sense whatsoever…

  2. Robin Thompson CEDS, IGP, CIP, IGp
    December 15, 2015 at 1:32 pm

    This was a very informative blog. I just invested in the CIP and would have spent the money toward another certification had I known this was in the planning stages. You are right and John Mancini’s late to the day post also admits to some extent there was no marketing by AIIM for the CIP which puzzles me because AIIM has a paid management team that includes a paid full-time marketing person. Others have done more with less than 25 people on staff (ACEDS was run with 4 people during its first 2 years) and it seems that it just not a concerted planned roll-out and growth for the program. What happened here is the best example for the reason, sadly, that the Phoenix Board of Directors voted to dissolve its AIIM chapter. There was a general vote of no confidence in international to market education and programs, and to support its chapters that they asked to help sell education and registration to the conference. Not sure whether I’ll pull CIP off my vitae at this point.

    • December 15, 2015 at 1:40 pm

      Thanks for your comment Robin. I have decided to keep CIP on my CV and my signature, for the time being. Regardless of AIIM’s shortsightedness, it is still a certification that I obtained and I’m proud of, so I see no reason to remove it. There may not be new CIPs issued, but to anyone that recognises what CIP stood for, it is still an endorsement of my capabilities.

      • Robin Thompson CEDS, IGP, CIP, IGp
        December 15, 2015 at 6:25 pm

        Thank you for the insight and sharing of this. I certainly know what we had to now to pass this certification. Again, thank you for posting your analysis of this event for others to see.

  3. January 11, 2016 at 2:43 am

    In case anyone reading this hasn’t heard, this decision has been reversed, and the CIP lives again. Read my take here: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/certified-information-professional-cip-lives-again-kevin-parker-cip

  1. December 19, 2015 at 11:14 pm
  2. April 23, 2016 at 8:28 pm

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