Practically Speaking, Does Professional Certification in Knowledge Management Exist…Yet?

To answer this question, it is important to have some context around what constitutes Professional Certification for a subject matter area or professional area of practice.  The International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) provides a solid definition and explanation of “professional certification.” Integrating this understanding with other organizations who define professional certification provides some really good insight.

What is Professional Certification?

  • Professional certification is a designation earned by an individual identifying that they have demonstrated a standard level of skills, experience, and expertise within their field.  
  • Certifications are generally earned from a professional society with a certifying body, and are granted based on a combination of education, experience, and knowledge, rather than solely by passing an exam or just completing training.
  • The ongoing process of developing, administering, and maintaining the certification is done to international standards and requires ongoing continuing education.
  • There is an established Body of Knowledge for the subject matter area that is nationally and/or internationally recognized.
  • Sitting for the certification examination does not require that you take training from the certifying organization.

Is There Accredited KM Certification?

The Knowledge Management profession does not yet have a standardized, accredited, and recognized certification designation or certification provider that meets the above requirements. However, there is ongoing work internationally to make this a reality but it doesn’t exist yet. Compare this to the Program Management profession (PMP), the Accounting profession (CPA), or the Contract Management Profession (CPCM) and I believe you will understand the distinction.

In any of the above professions, you can sit for the certification exam without taking their training. While there are several KM training organizations that will “certify” an individual, none providing KM “certification” will allow you to only take their “certification” test.  Is the focus upon certification, or selling training?  It is necessary one understand this in order to consider the financial and time investment one wishes to make in KM “certification” and then to assess the value that this training and “certification” can provide. Having said that, if you are a new to the profession, this KM training may certainly be of value to you.

No Quick Path to Competence in KM

If you have been involved in KM for any length of time, you quickly realize there is no quick path to competence in Knowledge Management, certainly not only from taking a training course and being given a “certification” where there are neither education nor experience requirements.  Also, recognize that there are many different variations in KM curriculum and content all developed to deliver skills training, but they cannot deliver competence borne from training and experience.  The risk in taking generic training provided to “certify” one as a Knowledge Manager or Knowledge Practitioner is that the provider’s perspective on KM may or may not be relevant to your organization’s business and operational environment, KM context, or need. To truly gain value from the training, you need to know if the provider’s have real, current, practical experience in delivering KM solutions to solve business or operational challenges.  An academic introduction to KM concepts is very useful but it helps to have the ability to ask about the “how” and not just be presented with the “what.”

Here’s a question I always answer when looking for KM team members to support a project.  Give this some thought.  If you were the program manager or lead consultant in an organization, would you hire someone with a “certification” in KM if they didn’t have any practical and demonstrated experience delivering KM solutions in a business or operational environment and make them accountable for your KM program? If you were a consultant or consulting company, would you leave them in place with one of your clients to help deliver their KM solution?

Bottom line #1: If you are new to the field, training can be helpful and you should take it if it is a fit for you.  You will likely gain some insight and some value.  But view the “certification” as recognition that you completed KM training as prescribed by the training provider and their view of Knowledge Management.

Bottom Line #2: The real path to competence if you really want to understand KM concepts, strategies, and implementing practices, is to work with experienced professionals in the KM field to gain competence and experience through the practical application of KM in solving real business or operational problems.


About Working KnowledgeCSP

Working KnowledgeCSP is a knowledge management consulting company.  We operate internationally, within the public and private sectors, to help organizations “Create Value from their Knowledge.”  Through our client co-delivery model, we provide practical, experience based knowledge management solutions and training from the simple to the complex.