I just sat through an introductory Webcast to the COP — Certified Outsourcing Professional — program, which has been put together by the International Association of Outsourcing Professionals.
I have to say, I’m impressed with the level of structure and thought that has gone into the formation of the whole program. I’m plenty familiar with certification programs — at least in the technical world — from a previous life, where I dissected and reported the details of the Microsoft MCP and Cisco CCIE credentials, among many others.
The key to the best certifications are melding knowledge (typically as proven through exams) with experience (as proven through on-the-job training). That’s the only way to ensure to hiring managers that the candidates they’re considering have the qualifications of a "professional" in the given field.
In the case of the COP program, experience is given a healthier nod than knowledge. To become a COP, you need to earn 150 points. You can earn all of that through having worked on multiple projects at multiple organizations and mapping your experiences to a set of standards set out by the program. Or you can mix the points you earn through experience with points earned through knowledge-based activities, such as going to an IAOP "master class" (75 points), writing and defending a case study (25 points), answering open-ended questions (5 points each), or simply having a post-graduate business degree (25 points).
This is a pricey program. The non-refundable application is $500. The master class is $4,500 if you’re not an IAOP member and $3,500 if you are. Membership in the IAOP is $345. Those aren’t one-time fees. You can expect to pay annual dues and recertification expenses on top of that.
What that means is that it’s also an exclusive program — one catering to people who work in the largest organizations willing to foot the bill for this sort of professional status. That leaves behind outsourcing professional-wannabe’s who are mostly self-funding their education and looking for a step up in their careers.
That leaves room at the bottom of the pyramid to create a parallel certification program that combines self-study with more general business/procurement/communications classes — and perhaps even a written/online exam component.
As somebody who failed her last written driver’s test, I have to say, I’m not sure exams are always a good thing. People can memorize answers without knowing the subject. Plus, the tests are difficult and expensive to develop correctly.
But the wildly exploding field of outsourcing and global services demands a sizable number of experts — at all levels. Companies need massive help in getting their sourcing strategies figured out and implemented.
Perhaps the Certified Outsourcing Professional of the IAOP will be the leaders in those initiatives — but they’ll still need smart, qualified people to deploy in getting the job done.
Learn more about the COP program here: