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CIP – The amazing power of Social Media

December 20, 2015 3 comments

Just in case you have not followed the recent saga of the demise and reinstatement of AIIM’s CIP certification, read Mark Owen’s blog here, which has a good summary of events.

I am not going to dwell on the ins and outs of AIIM’s decision, which has been analysed enough. However, there is an underlying story to the events which is significant: In case anyone had any doubts, this is one of the best showcases of the power of Social Media that I’ve seen so far: From the original decision announcement, through the members’ rebellion, to the final reversal decision, took just 7 days, and that included a weekend.

Think about this process: Within hours of the original decision announcement, the twitter feeds were buzzing! (well, the ECM twitter feeds at least, let’s not get over excited…). Amazement, scold, sarcasm, and a genuine discussion on the relative merits of CIP vs. IGP and vs. other AIIM certifications such as ECMm. A great amount of very good content. Over the next couple of days, the blogs started appearing. Most of the vocal people in our community were up in arms and made their voice heard. Even more twitter traffic, while these blogs were disseminated. People at AIIM saw and heard the response, loud and clear. A few more discussions later, a new announcement of the reinstatement of CIP (through a blog and twitter) and a lot more twitter traffic and a lot more blogs. For the most part, congratulating AIIM for being active, listening, responsive and doing the right thing.

AIIM is a community of several thousand people. There is a core of a few dozen people that have been actively involved with AIIM for a long time and, by default, they are the biggest advocates the most ferocious critics. They also happen to be prolific Social Media users, particularly on Twitter and blogs. You could argue that the statistical sample of the people that complained about CIP is not significant, compared to the overall number of AIIM members, but that would be a very short-sighted view. When you consider who these people were, the communities that they themselves represent, and the influence they exhort into the ECM community (again through the power of Social Media…), it would have been very difficult for AIIM to ignore.

On top of that, when your best advocates become critics, you tend to pay attention…

Kudos to AIIM for recognising the issue and doing something about it. Even bigger kudos to Social Media, as a platform for change. I don’t think that this kind of dramatic unfolding of events, immediate and overwhelming public response to an unpopular decision,  and finally the winning over of the disgruntled masses to a successful outcome, all in the space of one week, would have been possible in any other era or medium.

Finally, a quote from a tweet by Lisa Hoover McGreevy (@Lisah), who summed it up beautifully: “Well done, #AIIM members. And, uh, remind me to never piss you off. ;)”

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Categories: ECM Tags: , , , ,

The rise and fall of CIP – by AIIM

December 14, 2015 8 comments

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.

R.I.P C.I.P

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

 

 

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