It’s difficult to open an article evaluating a certification I’ve just obtained. How do I introduce the topic without sounding like an amateur comedian fishing for her audience’s applause (“so, I just got my CIP -- thank you, thank you! Anyone celebrating any birthdays tonight …”). It’s problematic to describe how many certifications I have as well. How do I list them without sounding immodest? Yikes. Forgive me for what I’m about to do, but the intent is to provide you with context.

I'm qualified to review AIIM’s CIP because I hold many records and information management industry certifications. In addition to a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science from the University of Texas at Austin, I am a:

  • Certified Archivist
  • Certified Document Imaging Architect
  • Certified Records Manager
  • Project Management Professional

Now I’m also a Certified Information Professional.

Some of these designations mandated more rigorous study on my part than others and therefore, I feel more invested in them. The CRM, CA and PMP preparations were incredibly arduous for me, the PMP was an especially difficult uphill battle. In high contrast, the CDIA+ and the CIP required minimal effort. This bothers me.

Interestingly, my level of unease contrasts directly with my level of investment in the CIP.  I’ll describe that first, I’ll transition to random observations, and I’ll close with notes on the awkwardness of it all.

Level of Effort

It took minimal effort to pass the CIP (as everyone I knew who sat for it testified it would). I watched the first half of the free videos posted here. I memorized lightly the first 4 of the 6 chapters in the study guide over the course of three weeks. AIIM was very kind and awarded me a 50 percent off voucher for the US$ 265 registration. I sat for the test. I passed.

Random Observations

For the record (excuse the pun), I am not proud of or happy about how easy it was to pass this test. I admit I rushed through it: a last-minute schedule change that day meant I had 1 hour and 15 minutes to answer all the questions or wait two weeks to try again (candidates have two hours to complete it). I met the 75 minutes with a score of 638 out of a possible 800 points.

I’ve always been a solid B student, but upon seeing my score I was well and truly irritated. In a hair’s breadth of a second, I realized:

  • I hadn’t earned my pleased reaction when, “You Passed!” flash onscreen because I didn’t invest much in the experience, and
  • When I considered it later, the depressing crash which followed the rush didn’t last long enough.

While this lack of preparation wasn’t reflected in the analysis of incorrect answers, how had I passed this industry-specific exam without much effort? As quickly as the thought came, it went. The day continued as I had other things to do. Commence Gallic shrug and emit an, “Eh bien” here.

AIIM did something very smart with the architecture of the 100 multiple choice questions. They frequently required two correct answers out of four proffered (admittedly, I didn’t get an exact number, but I recall the majority of questions were posed in this format). I almost feel for the information technology professional sitting for the exam: do they have enough policy experience to answer two out of four answers correctly?

There’s no minimum amount of years or domain experience required in the application process: watch videos, read the study guide, pay your exam fee and you’re eligible to sit. I’d love to know the IT professional pass rate, as opposed to the records and information management professional pass rate. As many have said before me, this is a broad test that is an inch deep.

As for the rest of the exam, I had the customary user experience: some test questions were well written; some test questions were poorly written and could be interpreted a number of ways; often the answers to one question were found in the test bank elsewhere; some answers were obvious; others made no sense.

The CIP study guide requires a good scrubbing. While a narrative study guide is refreshing, the voice is chaotic at best. I wonder if it was written by committee. If you invest US$ 30 be prepared for several, “What the …?!” moments that the principal editor missed. For example:

Any discussion of data quality could begin with this quote from Joseph Juran, a management consultant best known for his work in quality and quality management, who defined it in such practical terms that it still resonates despite having been first espoused way back in 1951. High-quality data is "fit for their intended uses in operations, decision making, and planning," he wrote, and it is still true today because what’s important is how well that data supports what you’re trying to do with it, not some esoteric algorithm used to calculate error rates, or some fancy new piece of technology that will improve your information and walk your dog."

The above is a serious passage which provides valuable information (although I itch to reconfigure it). Then the next line appears:

Juran, by the way, was the brother of Academy Award winner Nathan Juran, who won Best Art Direction for How Green Was My Valley and directed such science fiction and fantasy films as Attack of the 50 Foot Woman."

Huh? My eyes crossed, I looked around for cameras and thought, “Am I being punked?”

Irrelevant details like this are scattered throughout the text. The misdirection feels like the equivalent to the English 101 prank of inserting, “There I was, standing naked in the Congo” somewhere in the body of your essay to determine if your TA is really paying attention as they grade your paper, as opposed to a detail relevant to the history of computing -- a section which this exam sorely requires.

The bibliography needs work. AIIM took a few days to find it after I submitted my request for a copy. It’s a fine reference list, but I reconciled the study guide to the bibliography and a number of sources are missing. AIIM’s certificate programs are mentioned, which makes sense. AIIM, a recommendation: align the bibliography with your study guide and post it to your CIP website, please. I’ll be happy to save you some work and send you my annotated list.

Although I requested it as well, AIIM did not share its market data which justified the creation of the CIP exam. It also wouldn't share with me the follow up data set which testifies to the number of employers excited about the CIP. I was denied access to the data sets on the grounds of competitive intelligence.

The Awkwardness of It All

AIIM tells us that the CIP is intended to be a complimentary certification to the Certified Records Manager (CRM) designation (which is sponsored by the Institute of Certified Records Managers which in turn is associated with ARMA). As the CIP V1 debuted, the ICRM adopted a new marketing campaign, “CRM: the only three letters that matter.”

This slogan has a limited shelf life, because ARMA announced recently it is creating a new information governance certification. Billed as the next step in information management certifications, ARMA is inviting records professionals to build content and rumor is you have to be a member of ARMA to sit for the exam. Who could blame AIIM for metaphorically circling the wagons?

I’m conducting a modest test this week. To determine the CIP’s marketability, I cleared my name of credentials on LinkedIn except the CIP. When I did, Mr. Mancini accepted my LinkedIn request. However, besides Himself, there’s been only one additional view. What do you think it means?

Please note: I am not a dues-paying member of ARMA or AIIM at this time. The cost of my certifications, continuing education and fees (membership and renewal) is extreme. I made difficult decisions to retire, at least for now, from some organizations as I earned more designations. If / when ARMA requires membership for its new IG certification ... I’ll think about it.

Editor's Note: You may also be interested in reading this article by Mimi Dionne:

E-Discovery and Records Professionals: Overcoming the Digital Tsunami #saa10