BPM certification options

When it comes to the question of whether it makes sense to pay attention to certifications with respect to professional qualifications of employees and consultants, opinions sometimes differ widely. This applies in process management just as in all other disciplines. For a substantive discussion of the topic, it is important first and foremost to clearly formulate the expectations of a certificate and to check whether these expectations are also realistic.

In principle, certifications can examine three areas:

  • expertise
  • practical experience
  • personality

Concerning expertise, a job or employer can assume that the candidate has the tested knowledge, similar to having a degree. Examining practical experience seems sensible, as a candidate with knowledge alone will not be successful; He must also be able to apply what he has learned in practice. For certification, it is usually only checked whether a candidate has held a relevant position. It does not tell you anything about him having been successful. You should not assume that reading CVs and references becomes irrelevant when having a certificate. A personality assessment, such as it is begin done for certain IPMA project management certifications is not very common as it is very time-consuming and thereby expensive. However, as with practical experience, it is more than questionable whether a personality assessment can replace a personal conversation and a critical review of the application documents.

Business process related certifications

There are several certifications on the market that only concern certain aspects of business process management. These are in particular certifications for various process improvement methods such as Six Sigma or Lean. But there are also certification offers for process flow notations such as BPMN or EPC. These certifications are, in most cases, "proprietary", meaning that they are offered by a single commercial training company as a degree and are not universally recognized.

In this paper, we limit ourselves to certifications that, on the one hand, take into account a holistic view of business process management and, on the other hand, are offered by a recognized association. These are the certifications of

  • ABPMP (CBPA, CBPP, CBPL)
  • OMG (OCEB Fundamental / Business Intermediate / Technical Intermediate / Business Advanced, Technical Advanced)

The Association for Business Process Management Professionals (ABPMP) was founded in 2003 in the US as a vendor-independent professional association. In 2010, international expansion followed, on the one hand, the connection with foreign language sister organizations and, on the other hand, the establishment of foreign local groups (chapters).

The purpose of ABPMP is to maintain a common knowledge base in business process management (Common Body of Knowledge – CBOK) as well as the certification of persons involved in process management.

The CBOK forms the basis for the certifications and is currently available in a version 3.0. It differentiates 9 knowledge areas, which are shown in the following picture (Source: ABPMP):

The certification of persons is divided into three levels:

  • Certified Business Process Associate (CBPA)
  • Certified Business Process Professional (CBPP)
  • Certified Business Process Leader (CBPL) – zurzeit angekündigt für 2018

According to the competence model of ABPMP, these certifications are geared to the following job profiles (Source: ABPMP):

This list shows that proof of work experience in business process management is required for certification. The requirements are quite high: the CBPP requires four years or 5000 hours of practical experience, and for the CBPL it is even 10 years. Around half of this experience can be compensated with various degrees that are related to process management.

The certifications are valid for three years. Certification (30 hours for CBPA, 60 hours for CBPP / CBPL) or resignation may be followed by a three-year extension of the certification.

The English-language CBOK and the associated exam questions are translated by the sister organizations and partially adapted to local circumstances. An independent certification body is defined for the acceptance of the examination. Currently these are:

Language Sister organization Certification body
German European Association for BPM (EABPM) Verein zur Zertifizierung von Personen im Management (VZPM)
French Club des Pilotes de Processus (C2P) Association Française de Normalisation (AFNOR)

In German-speaking countries, the EABPM is relevant, founded in 2006 by the "Swiss Society for Organization and Management" (SGO), the German "Society for Organization" (GfO) and the "Austrian Association for Organization and Management" (ÖVO).

The Object Management Group (OMG) was founded in 1989 by several IT companies as a consortium for the development of standards for vendor-independent, cross-system object-oriented programming. Initially, OMG focused exclusively on technology standards, such as Common Object Request Broker Architecture (CORBA) for delivering messages between objects in distributed systems or UML (Unified Modeling Language) for modeling software systems.

In 2005 OMG took over the Business Process Management Initiative (BPMI), the BPMN (Business Process Model and Notation) notation for business process models developed since 2001 for the purposes of maintenance and further development. BPMN became a worldwide success that almost completely supplanted all other previously used notations such as EPC, Sequence Plan or IDEF0. Further OMG standards with a relation to process management, now widely used, followed:

  • Business Motivation Model (BMM)
    for the consistent description of hierarchies of goals and means across normative, strategic and operational management levels
  • Business Process Maturity Model (BPMM)
    for the evaluation of process management maturity in companies
  • Semantics of Business Vocabulary and Business Rules (SBVR)
    for the definition of the semantics of technical terms, business transactions and business rules
  • Decision Model and Notation (DMN)
    for the descriptive and prescriptive modeling of operational decisions
  • Case Management Model and Notation (CMMN)
    for the modeling of flexible business cases (adaptive cases)

Through its successful standards over the years, OMG has played an extremely important role in business process management. It was therefore obvious for OMG to also offer certifications in this field. Interestingly enough, however, OMG did not set up certifications for a single standard, as in the IT-related topics, but rather an overarching certification for all BPM-relevant topics and standards (BPMN, BMM, BPMM, DMN, …).

The business process management certification program of OMG is called OMG Certified Expert in BPM (OCEB) and was launched in 2008. The program is divided into three levels (Fundamental, Intermediate, Advanced) and two specializations (Business, Technical) and defines five certifications. The certification paths are shown in the following picture (Source: OMG).

The basic certification "OCEB 2 Fundamental" is followed by a specialization in business or technical process management at the levels "Intermediate" and "Advanced". The job profiles for the various certifications are described in the following table (Source: OMG).

OMG did not create a "body of knowledge" for business process management in the form of a single work, but defined the thematic content of the various certifications and provided a bibliography of recommended works. The scope of certification explicitly includes the OMG standards. At the fundamental level, this is especially true of BPMN, which is rated quite high at 40%. The knowledge areas of the OCEB are very diverse, because both technical and technical roles are mapped and they are weighted differently at the different certification levels (aggregation of the information provided by OMG by the author).

No proof of professional BPM practice is required for certification and the certification does not expire. However, the certification is regularly revised. At present, there is a change from "OCEB" to "OCEB 2"; "Fundamental" and "Business Intermediate" have already been renewed, and "Technical Intermediate" is expected by mid-2019. Even if there is no recertification obligation, it is important to take an updated exam in each case in order to stay up to date with your certification.

The exams can be taken anywhere in any of the PEARSON VUE test centers. As language only English and soon Japanese are available. Candidates whose native language is not English get 30 minutes extra time for the exam.

Comparison of ABPMP and OMG

The certification programs of ABPMP and OMG have both differences and many similarities. But there is no real "better" or "worse"; Depending on your specific needs, one or the other of the programs is more suitable. Below an attempt of a differentiated consideration.

Knowledge coverage

ABPMP's Body of Knowledge is limited to the CBOK, which covers the fundamentals of business process management very well, but is much less broad and deep than the many books and articles on which OMG's OCEB is based. All three ABPMP certification levels take the CBOK as a baseline; Above all, they differ in the amount of proven practical experience, but also in the complexity or degree of difficulty of the exam questions.

The CBOK covers approximately 50% of the weighted content of the fundamental level of the OCEB (plus an estimated 5% of the OCEB Technical Intermediate) and thus only a fraction of the total OCEB curriculum. My personal experience is that I get a better score on the CBPP than the OCEB 2 Fundamental, which I find harder to score. Clearly the OCEB is a roadmap for multi-year continuing education in process management, while ABPMP's expertise does not go beyond what anyone with a role in process management should know.

Experience requirement

In contrast to OMG, ABPMP focuses on the proof of experience, which does not play a role in certification for OMG. OMG, on the other hand, clearly emphasizes process management knowledge. The focus of both organizations differs fundamentally.

But there are also differences within the organizations involved in ABPMP certification. For example, the EABPM process for proof of experience (ie certification) is considerably more costly than ABPMP. The practical experience and any further training must be scrupulously documented in an Excel spreadsheet and documented with the help of certificate and diploma copies. According to feedback from candidates, the examination of these documents can take several weeks and sometimes, the adequacy of information is questioned. In my experience, ABPMP's experience and education capture is a lean online process that does not require uploading any documents. In my particular case, my application got stuck in the spam filter of the clerk, so I had to ask after a month for the whereabout of my application. When my application was found, its examination took about 30 minutes. I am impressed by how quickly a thorough examination is possible ...

Practical applicability

ABPMP insists on its neutrality and strikes in the CBOK different common approaches, standards and notations, without preferring or deepening one. However, this restricts the practical relevance, since the practical application of even the most widespread procedures must be left out. Overall, the CBOK and its certifications have a somewhat theoretical impact.

Quite different with the OCEB. The application of the OMG standards BPMN, DMN, BMM, BPMM, SBVG etc. is clearly the subject of all certification levels. There is no doubt that this is a bias, on the other hand, these are the standards that have been established for years, so that the knowledge acquired in certification preparation is directly applicable in practice.

Relevance in the job market

In the Swiss labor market one should not underestimate the role of SGO. If SGO (or an affiliated organization) offers a certification in a topic, many employers will not consider others. As a sponsoring association of the EABPM, the SGO thus confers the ABPMP certifications for the professional business process management a great value in Switzerland. Only employers who delve deeper into the content of a certification and attach great importance to the tested knowledge will prefer the OCEB.

In IT circles, of course, OMG enjoys great credibility. Where there is already experience with UML certifications, the OCEB is a natural choice.

Languages

As mentioned earlier, CBOK and ABPMP exams are available in English, German and French, which of course is a strong argument in the Swiss market. Since I have passed the exam in English, I can not judge it; Colleagues have reported to me, however, that of are badly, machine translated exam questions. The original is just in English.

The OCEB literature is in English, as well as the exams for which only a Japanese translation is announced. If you already have experience with American multiple-choice questions, you know that you really need to be able to speak English in order to distinguish the nuances between the possible answers. Even if the exam questions were translated, the difficulty would remain that the given literature is only available in English. For fundamental certification, however, there are now also different-language books for exam preparation. The book by Tim Weilkiens is available in German and English, that of Serge Schiltz in German, French and English. A corresponding book on "OCEB 2 Business Intermediate" by Serge Schiltz will be published shortly.

 

Exam

The exam for the ABPMP certifications is organized differently depending on the language (or sister organization). The VZPM organizes the German-language exams as "paper-and-pencil" events, ie classic questionnaires on which the correct answers must be ticked. As a result, there are only a few months of examinations and the candidates have to wait several weeks for some of their results.

ABPMP works together with KRYTERION for the examinations in English. Candidates can book a single exam at the Internet terminal at very short notice and at virtually any time (if available) at one of the many KRYTERION test centers worldwide. Less than a second after the exam session is over, you will know your result.

OMG exams can be performed in PEARSON VUE test centers worldwide. The procedure is analogous to the ABPMP test in English.

Cost

Interestingly enough, the costs of ABPMP certifications vary significantly by country and language. Here is a compilation (excl. VAT). Members of the sponsoring associations receive a discount on these prices.

CBPA (Initial) CBPA (Recert.) CBPP (Initial) CBPP (Recert.)
English (ABPMP) USD 400 USD 75 USD 650 USD 75
German (EABPM) CHF 800 (CH)
EUR 500 (D)
EUR 375 (A)
CHF 250 (CH)
EUR 95 (D)
EUR 140 (A)
CHF 1’200 (CH)
EUR 600 (D)
EUR 595 (A)
CHF 250 (CH)
EUR 95 (D)
EUR 210 (A)
French (C2P) EUR 350 EUR 300 EUR 450 EUR 450

Particularly striking are the high costs for certification in German in Switzerland compared to the world-wide valid prices for the exam in English.

The five OCEB certifications cost $ 200 each, which is significantly cheaper than the ABPMP product. The difference can be explained at least in part by the omission of the proof of experience, which is certainly a time-consuming element of the ABPMP certification.

Conclusion

Due to the good reputation of SGO, a CBPP has a higher significance for many Swiss employers than OCEB certification. At best, this will be different if the employer really knows the content of the certifications and is looking for a candidate with in-depth knowledge and a good knowledge of current standards in business process management.

As a guideline for further education in business process management, the OCEB curriculum is certainly better suited than the CBOK, whereas with the third edition of the CBOK, a well-rounded groundwork is now available.

As mentioned above, the content of the OCEB 2 Fundamental is much higher than that of the CBOK (with very few gaps) and the audit tends to be more difficult than the CBPP. It is therefore relatively easy to get "the best of both worlds": Prepare for the "OCEB 2 Fundamental", and then (cheaply) take the CBPP in English. In this way, one has a strong argument in the job market and at the same time, is on an excellent educational path.