The BPM certification maze: Picking the right program

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.

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.

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.

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.

The Wave examined the following certification programs:

* Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM)

* Association of Business Process Management Professionals (ABPMP)

* BPMessentials

* BPMInstitute

* BPTrends Associates

* Queensland (Australia) University of Technology

* Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, N.J.

Forrester analysts, who assessed the programs across 15 BPM skills-development criteria, had high praise for Stevens, BPMInstitute and BPTrends, saying that the three “lead with solid breadth and depth of content and excellent training programs.”

Although new to the field, ABPMP “is quickly becoming a leader,” leading in BPM skills validation and testing, according to the report. (ABPMP was also among the first in the industry to produce a BPM “common body of knowledge,” a step toward setting standards for process skills.) And the remaining three programs--offered by AIIM, BPMessentials and Queensland University--are all “strong performers,” focused on niche markets or geographical areas.

READER FEEDBACK: Are you considering a BPM certification program, or have you already enrolled in one? If so, ebizQ editors would like to hear about your experience. Contact Site Editor Anne Stuart at

About the Author

Anne Stuart, ebizQ's editor from mid-2010 to mid-2013, is now senior editor for at ebizQ's parent company, TechTarget. She is a veteran journalist who has written for national magazines, daily newspapers, an international news service and many Web sites. She’s specialized in covering business and technology issues for 20 years. Based in Newton, Mass., she can be reached at Follow Anne on Google+ and at annestuart_TT on Twitter. For general questions about ebizQ, please e-mail

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