With the introduction of the Certified Information Professional (CIP) designation and exam by the professional association AIIM this past spring, enterprise content management (ECM) and information management professionals now have another independent certification to attach to their job titles.
In addition to the CIP, other certifications available to ECM professionals include the Certified Records Manager (CRM) and Certified Document Imaging Architect (CDIA+) designations. Navigating the various ECM professional certification choices can be confusing, but several content management practitioners and IT managers agree that obtaining certifications leads to more professional opportunities and can be helpful on the job.
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Watch an interview with AIIM President John Mancini about CIP and the evolution of information managers
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The CRM exam is administered by the Institute of Certified Records Managers, which certifies professionals for both the ARMA International professional association and the Nuclear Information and Records Management Association. The Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) Inc. offers the CDIA+ text.
"The CRM has proved to be a valuable qualification, but it really is focused on records managers and historically on file plans and putting papers away, which didn't translate very well into the electronic world," said Debra Logan, an analyst at Gartner Inc. in Stamford, Conn. The CIP, on the other hand, focuses more on the lifecycle of information management, she said.
Michael Smith, founder of the Information Management Leadership Council in Wentzville, Mo., spent 15 years at Iron Mountain Inc., a storage and information management services vendor in Boston. As the company's vice president of operations, Smith made a point of having his 40-plus document management consultants earn CDIA+ certifications.
"The value of the certification is that you get a common vocabulary among professionals and a common body of knowledge," Smith said. Another benefit is that certifications often require continuing education, which keeps workers at the forefront of the latest developments in ECM, he added.
Smith holds the CDIA+ certification and has also completed courses in AIIM's ECM, electronic records management, business process management and SharePoint training programs. He's currently in the final phase of taking the CRM exam and plans to become CIP-certified as well.
"As an executive, getting certified showed that I had the common knowledge that [my certified practitioners] had," he said. "It also means a lot to the customers because when you're dealing with customer information, it's critical that you understand security and privacy." Now, as an industry researcher and speaker, Smith said it's important for him to also become certified under the CIP program.
Certs act as differentiator in the job market
Having certifications can give content management professionals a leg up with prospective employers, according to Tom Motzel, founder of Tesserae Talent Strategies, an ECM headhunter company in Eagan, Minn. "This person spent the time and money to get a certification in this area. That certainly tells me that they're committed," Motzel said. And certifications indicate a certain level of expertise, he said, noting that people who simply call themselves experts might actually have very little experience.
"When I see 'SharePoint administrator,' that doesn't tell me much by itself," Motzel said. "It could be a really smart person 10 days away from [getting] his CRM or a guy who couldn't handle the job at the mail counter, so they made him a SharePoint administrator." Motzel, who is president of AIIM's Minnesota chapter, has already attained the CIP certification himself.
Anne Comeaux agreed that an ECM professional certification can open doors for content management practitioners like herself. "There are a lot of jobs for records managers that say 'CRM preferred' or 'required,'" said Comeaux, records management officer and assistant director for special collections at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Texas. Comeaux recently became CRM-certified after 10 years in records management. "If I had [gotten certified] earlier in my career, it would have been very beneficial," she said.
Comeaux received the Records Manager of the Year award from the San Antonio chapter of ARMA, "not only because I'd done a lot of work, but because I received the CRM designation," she said. In addition, her employer issued a press release and gave her a merit raise when she completed the CRM certification process.
Gartner has seen an uptick in demand for certified content and information management professionals, according to Logan. She said certifications also help engender trust between organizations and the consultants they bring in to work on projects, whether those people are independents or employees of software vendors. If organizations begin to see that certified professionals are more effective than others, more vendors will begin implementing programs to increase the number of their in-house staffers with certifications, Logan said.
"Beyond my IT group, I see certification as something that makes sense for our project managers and marketing [workers]," said Timothy Elmore, chief information officer at the Bank-Fund Staff Federal Credit Union in Washington, D.C. "We see it as the opportunity to create a baseline of IT proficiency with a common vocabulary."
Elmore has budgeted for everyone in his group, about 30 people, to take the CIP exam. "CIP is something we'd expose them to and have them sit for it," he said, adding that the exam will enable his staff to demonstrate a broad variety of knowledge and proficiency related to information and content management. He acknowledged he would likely look for the CIP designation among prospective employees, though the exam is still relatively new.
Elmore expects to complete his own CIP certification by mid-August. "For me, it's to understand personally what it's about," he said. "That way, if somebody asks me, 'Why are you suggesting I take this?' I can tell them."
The costs of certification
AIIM's CIP certification exam costs $265 and can be completed at Prometric testing centers located in 160 countries. You don't have to take AIIM courses before taking the test, and there are no mandatory requirements. But AIIM recommends that CIP candidates have a minimum of three years of professional experience with increasing responsibilities in one or more topical areas such as document or records management, or a bachelor's degree in a discipline related to information management (e.g., library science, IT or information security) plus one year of work experience.
The Institute of Certified Records Managers charges $100 ($125 outside the U.S. and Canada) for each of the first five tests and $150 for the sixth and final test to earn its CRM designation. The institute does not require that its classes be completed to sit for the exam, but you must have at least a high school education and a bachelor's degree is preferred. If you have a bachelor's degree, you need one year of professional experience as a records or information manager before taking the exam. If you do not have a degree, you must add a year of professional experience for each year of college that you didn't complete, for a total of up to five years of on-the-job experience.
The CDIA+ certification exam costs $276. CompTIA Inc., which awards the certificates, recommends that document management professionals and other candidates enroll in its training courses but does not require it. You can purchase a voucher online to take the test at various locations around the globe.
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Christine Parizo is a freelance writer specializing in business and technology. She's based in West Springfield, Mass. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.