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…
I was working from home yesterday. My daughter stormed into my office:
- “Dad, I need to use your computer”
- “I need to print some pictures”
- “Why don’t you use your laptop?”
- “It’s not working…”
- “What do you mean ‘it’s not working’? What is not working?”
- “I don’t know, it’s having a spaz attack”
I have long given up any pretence of understanding the etymology of the teenage language. In a language where “fit” means handsome and “sick” means nice, I have no hope in tracing the origins of “spaz”. I can only guess that it stems from “spastic” or “spasmodic”. I have learned that “spaz” is an abbreviation of “spasticated” (as in “it’s gone all spasticated…”), which leaves me none the wiser. I digress… Whatever the origin of the term, in my thirty years of troubleshooting computers I’m pretty sure that epileptic seizures where never on the symptom list…
- “Why didn’t you bring it down so that I can sort it out?”
- “I don’t have time for that. All I need is to print three pictures for my artwork.”
I yielded, even though every fibre in my body was screaming for answers and detail. There is no such thing as “Not working”.
I saw a huge IT generation gap issue here: When I started working with computers, somewhere in the prehistoric early ‘80s, you needed to understand computers to use them. I won’t bore you with stories of bootstrapping from paper tapes and disk drives that needed to be shutdown in a certain way because the heads would physically crash on the disk, but to a whole generation of us, “not working” immediately triggers a root cause analysis mechanism in our brain: Power, motherboard, fans, memory, disks, peripherals, operating system, drivers, software, network connection, telephone line, etc. By process of elimination, ONE of them is not working, but not usually the whole. And part of “using” the computer was to understand which part is not working and how to get it to work. Because, frankly, if we didn’t figure it out there wasn’t anyone else around that could.
My daughter is a typical business user: To her, the computer is a means to an end. Her laptop is a tool. She has no interest to find out which part isn’t working or to make any attempt to fix it. If she can’t go to Google and print the three pictures she needs, when she needs them, it renders the tool useless. “The computer is not working”, does not mean the physical machine is broken, it means “my tool doesn’t do what I need it to do”. Why and how is irrelevant.
A couple of weeks ago, when her laptop refused to start altogether (hard disk index corruption problem, a simple CHKDSK fix), her only concern was if she would lose the book she has been writing for the last six months – cue the usual backup lecture from dad… She doesn’t want to learn how to do backups, she wants her book to be there.
Interestingly, the same gap exists between most business user communities and IT. IT will worry about which part of the infrastructure is failing, which vendor to contact, which component needs tweaking, which performance bottleneck requires more resources at peak time. For the users it’s black & white: “The system” is working, or it’s not.
Coincidentally, I saw another example of the same gap earlier in the day, yesterday, when I went to my dentist. After paying for my check-up, and after several failed attempts, the receptionist informed me that they could not give me a receipt because the printer is broken and they were waiting for the engineer to arrive. I could see the aforementioned printer from where I was standing: It was flashing a red light with a message that it had a paper-jam. There were four people at reception, and various dentist assistants that paraded through. Not one of them had either the skills or the inclination to clear the jam.
I felt envy towards the engineer – Money for nothing!
I also resisted the temptation to say “Can I try and sort it for you?”, but it was hard! I agreed to have my receipts posted in the mail, instead.