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Certification Management Workflows: Design for Success

by | Certification

In certification management, one thing is almost always certain: There are multiple steps involved. Some of these steps are taken by applicants, some by staff or non-staff third parties, and some are taken by the system itself. “Certification management workflows” is a term that describes these steps to certification and recertification. It also describes how the data needed for each of those steps is collected, reviewed, and approved.

Each step in a workflow is made up of various tasks, like providing information or documenting an activity. In addition to entering their identifying and demographic data when they register, practitioners might also need to:

  • Enter job experience or employment history
  • Upload academic transcripts
  • Report volunteer work or other practice hours
  • Complete exercises within the system
  • Self-report CE

Some certification management workflows are relatively simple. They might consist of only a few steps, and there may be no review process required. If there is, it’s likely a straightforward verification rather than a qualitative evaluation.

Others can be more complex. Often, the complexity ramps up in recertification, as many different kinds of activities and tasks may required of your applicants, each with different review processes.

So, when designing your certification management workflows, consider when you want to review the information submitted by the practitioner. Do you want to review activities and information as submitted? Or, do you want to review complete applications?

No answer is one-size-fits-all. Luckily, with the right software tools, you can choose which certification management workflows align with your business processes to best help you achieve your objectives.

Certification Management Workflows: In Parallel or in Series?

Some program processes may call for workflows in series, so that applicants submit requirements in a specific order. In other cases, workflows designed in parallel or unison may be more appropriate, so that starting on certain requirements isn’t dependent on completing others.

Applicant experience is one key factor to consider in workflow design. If someone decides to pursue a certification while still in school, they may want to start an application process in order to understand what’s expected of them at the end. What if they’re required to have both work experience and a degree? Will they only be permitted to enter the former once they have achieved the latter? What if an applicant has recently changed jobs and need their former employer’s attestation for their application? Do you want them to be able to submit that information then and there, while the lines of communication are more open? That would be an example of workflows in parallel.

Staff resources and risk management are also important to consider. Sometimes, these considerations are a negotiation, like balancing the positive reinforcement of approval notifications and their impact on applicant outcomes with the risk of reviewing items in an incomplete application. Other times, the need for application steps to be in a specific sequence is clear. For example, does your program have certain eligibility rules that must be satisfied before an applicant can move forward? A workflow in series helps make sure that your application reflects that aspect of your business process.

About Time: The Effect of Time-Based Rules on Workflow Design

Does your program have time-based rules related to cycle lengths or application windows? Do certain tasks need to be completed within certain timeframes? If so, you’ll need to start thinking about what might happen to applications within the context of time.

Time-based rules often depend on the status of various workflow steps. Whether a step is complete or incomplete, actions must be taken at certain times in the context of that rule.

Automations and Workflow: When the System Takes Action

Within a certification or recertification workflow, there will be times when the applicant or others will take actions (like submitting information), and when the system itself may take actions, for example, in response to a rule not being met. We call the latter “automations.”

These automations might include updating the status of an application to expired, or the status of a certification to lapsed. In “ye olden times,” if 100 applications out of 500 missed the application deadline, that status change would have to be updated manually. With automations, however, it happens without the need for human intervention.

Automations can also include emails or SMS messages to applicants to prevent unwanted outcomes, like missing that all-important deadline. Updates and reminders can help keep applicants moving through their workflow and ensure they complete the process.

Often, your automations will be some combination of the system making an update and sending a message. If someone misses their recertification deadline, the system could update their certification status accordingly and send them a message with the next steps. For example, “The deadline to submit your recertification has passed. To reinstate your certification, please complete your application within the next 30 days and pay the applicable late fee.”

When you turn your business processes into workflows, you can determine the points at which various system automations can reduce manual work and streamline your operations.

What Happens When the Rules Change?

Policy rules are bound to evolve, and so are your business processes. Requirements may be added or removed. Different kinds of data might need to be collected. But how do you intentionally apply these changes? The answer is to create a new workflow for the new set of rules and divide those going through the process into cohorts.

Applicants in the “legacy” cohort complete the certification or recertification workflow they started under the original set of policy rules. New applicants, however, will enter a new workflow reflecting that change. After all applications in the “old rules” workflow are completed, that workflow will effectively stop being used, as new applicants automatically enter the “new rules” workflow.

LearningBuilder Aligns Certification Management Workflows to Your Business Processes

At Heuristics, we navigate the nuances of workflow design day-in and day out. Our experienced Implementation Analysts have successfully launched enough programs to know that they haven’t seen it all yet, so they’ve made it their business to get into yours — your business processes, that is. They know the right questions to ask to help articulate your business objectives and translate them into your system. With process optimization and process engineering expertise built into implementation, LearningBuilder makes it easy to tailor your certification management workflows to suit your business model — now, and later. Want to know more about our suite of certification management tools? Schedule a call with us today.

Heuristic Solutions is a leader in software and technology for certification, licensure, and accreditation. Partner with us today, and we’ll modernize your system to better serve your organization.


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