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So you’re creating or expanding your company’s business process management (BPM) team. How do you know whether the BPM specialists you’re entrusting with your process-improvement projects have the right skills and know-how for the job?

After all, there’s no single, industry-wide standard for determining what constitutes a BPM professional—especially because those working in the field come from a variety of IT and business backgrounds.

One possible solution: BPM certification. Today, companies and individual BPM practitioners can choose from among a growing number of BPM certification programs that—while markedly different from each other—all offer a combination of training and testing in critical skills.

CERTIFICATION: ADDRESSING A CRITICAL NEED
Too many BPM initiatives flounder or flop because those involved with them simply aren’t properly prepared to tackle the work, experts say. “A lack of trained and experienced BPM professionals is negatively impacting the ability of organizations to deliver against their enterprise objectives,” Gartner Inc. analysts John Dixon and Samantha Searle wrote in a June 2012 report. In fact, in recent Gartner surveys, respondents cite “lack of resources” and “lack of skills” as two of the top reasons their BPM projects have failed.

Their counterparts at Forrester Research agree: “Most BPM programs still struggle to deliver on the full potential of business process management,” Clay Richardson and Claire Schooley wrote in a May 2012 “Forrester Wave” report on BPM training and certification programs. “To move to the next stage in its evolution, the BPM industry must provide BP professionals with a consistent understanding of which BPM skills and knowledge are critical for success.

BPM CERTIFICATION: AN EMERGING INDUSTRY
Certification offers the potential to provide such expertise. But there’s a catch, best summed up by the full title of the Gartner report: “BPM Certification is Currently a Work in Progress.”

Among the biggest challenges: “BPM certification today is embryonic and fragmented in approach; being ‘certified’ may not, on its own, provide the skills necessary to achieve the organization’s current goals,” Dixon and Searle wrote. The Forrester analysts agree, comparing the task of trying to evaluate certification offerings to “throwing darts in the dark.”

But despite those caveats, experts say certification has the potential to add some value to your BPM efforts--if you choose the right program.

EVALUATING BPM CERTIFICATION PROGRAMS
Of course, that’s much easier said than done. BPM-specific certification has been around for less than a decade and, at least for now, there’s no single “go-to” provider.

So how do you pick the right certification program for your organization--or for yourself? Gartner suggests starting by evaluating the skills you need to achieve your BPM goals for about the next 18 months, then looking at the skills you’ve already got in place. Then choose the certification program that seems best prepared to fill that gap.

Forrester recommends focusing on BPM certification programs that:

--Provide a broad introduction to key BPM concepts and methods.

--Offer a deep dive into the specific BPM skills that you’ve identified as critical for your needs.

--Test and validate participants’ mastery of those skills.

Forrester’s Wave evaluated seven leading BPM training and certification programs. All are “industry-recognized thought leaders” that have developed original content (as opposed to licensing materials from other parties). And all have track records: They’ve been available for at least five years and have trained or certified hundreds of BPM pros during that time.



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