I've been thinking a lot about certifications lately. On my goals for this year, I'll probably try to get a CISSP via the "boot camp" method, as that certification is more relevant to what I do now than the CRM or the CIP. I'm now 20 years a CRM and I plan to mothball that certification. Records Management isn't my primary job responsibility and the annual dues and hassle of doing certification maintenance paperwork isn't necessarily yielding a benefit to me at this stage of my career. I suppose some will rail against me for this stance, but with my job much more focused on information risk and information security, the CRM doesn't quite measure up. Be that as it may, I'd like to throw into the wind some thoughts that I have about certifications.
You've seen some of my concerns about the CIP. I also raised some issues earlier about the CRM. For the former, the bar is probably too low. For the latter, too high. And that got me to thinking... what about a gradated series of records management certifications. It would be an interesting change, but would provide some differentiation for candidates.
I think the CRM is the best candidate for some disassembly.
Level 1: We'll call this the "RRM" or "Registered Records Manager". Candidates who successfully complete the five multiple choice sections of the CRM exam would have this status conferred upon them. This would reduce cycle times and enable candidates to walk away with a designation more quickly. In some respects, this is like the "ABD" (All But Dissertation) that a PhD candidate can post to a CV. Ideally, the candidate would move on, but some might find it a comfortable stopping point wherever they are in their career. This is still differentiated from the CIP by the number of questions and the depth of the questions, but it enables the candidate who isn't ready for the essay exam to walk away with something after a fair amount of work to pass exams one through five.
Level 2: The existing CRM.
Level 3: I'd call this "FRM" or "Fellow in Records Management". That probably needs work, but it is a higher level distinction. It's also going to be very hard to judge. My thinking is that, in lieu of the essay portion of the CRM exam, the candidate would need to write a proper scholarly research paper on some aspect of records management. That means a minimum page length, proper citations, and so forth. It would have to be juried by records managers with advanced degrees and, like a dissertation, I think it would also need to be defended. Probably not as rigorous as a dissertation, but we'd want to see that the candidate did the work. Perhaps the defense could be a session at ARMA where the candidate defends his or her research for an hour with a distinguished panel, and then the audience gets an hour. I'm not sure there are many folks who would run that gauntlet, but I think it would be interesting to try out. I would also suggest that given the rigor of the process, this level of designation would be permanent. The benefit here would be advancing the profession with proper research that would be published.
In addition, the CRM process needs additional specialty designations. At present, there is only the "/NS" for candidates working with records relating to nuclear energy. I'd suggest that there needs to be a "/LS" for the legal profession, "/FS" for financial services (mainly to cover the specialized regulatory environment), and perhaps a "/DP" for a round of questions dealing with Data Privacy. While the last designation would not substitute for the CIPP, I think it could be a nice warm up or even something that the IAPP and the ICRM collaborate on.