Certification programs have a couple of technology options to choose from to manage their program—a certification management software or a standalone candidate management system for certification management.
Both types of systems facilitate the typical certification process where the person starts as an applicant, if they meet the eligibility rules, they become a candidate for the exam, and if they pass the test, they become certified.
Yet, in comparing the types of systems, it is a little like a square is a rectangle, but a rectangle is not a square. And, in this case, a certification management system is a candidate management system, but a candidate management system does not have the feature set to serve as a complete certification management solution.
As a Certification Program, How to Choose?
The first step is to identify the points of complexity in the certification process. The simpler the process, the more likely a standalone candidate management system is a good fit. For example, when a program grants certification on passing the test alone, a candidate management system would work well for that particular program.
The core characteristics of an exam centric program are:
- Eligibility requirements – Work experience and education are not required.
- Initial application – The registration process requires demography data only.
- Application review – Staff do not review the application.
- Recertification – Recertification is by retest only.
Programs with this profile are ideally suited for a candidate management system. Many IT certifications, for example, meet this profile where the rapid evolution of the subject area is best validated through an exam.
The additional upside that a candidate management system offers is the consolidation of vendor management. Most testing providers offer a candidate management solution as a means to register people for the tests they deliver. From a contracting perspective, a single contract where the testing provider supplies both the technology to register people for the test coupled with the test development, delivery, and psychometric services may be ideal for test-centric programs. And, in some cases, testing providers will offer the candidate management system for “free.” How can you beat that?
Beyond the Standalone Candidate Management System for Certification Management
If candidate management systems are so great, why are there certification management systems?
More complex programs will require more than a standalone candidate management system for certification management can offer unless it is significantly customized, which comes at a cost. Certification management software is better suited for programs that require:
- Eligibility requirements – Accept different combinations of work experience and education to sit for the exam.
- Initial application – Requires registration information beyond personal demography data, may require school, employer, or membership information.
- Application review – Requires staff review of the application, either on submission or audit of a percentage of them.
- Recertification – Recertification has multiple components, CE categorization and tracking, assessment options, and non-traditional learning activities.
Programs with these characteristics have operational requirements beyond what a standalone candidate management system offers and will be best served by certification management software designed to handle this additional complexity.
The last benefit of a certification management solution is test vendor independence. Organizations often change testing providers or a component of their testing services. When the application process is tied to a particular testing provider or service, decoupling from those providers/services can be a challenge. And, what might have been an accelerator in the early years of a program becomes a growth constraint over time.
A Side by Side Comparison of Program Characteristics and Solutions
|Program Characteristic||Standalone Candidate Management System||Certification Management System|
|Initial Applications||Demographic informationTest vendor integration||
Demographic informationTest vendor integration
Multiple eligibility paths
Third-party documentation supporting eligibility requirement
|Recertification||Recertification by examRecertification by attestation||
Recertification by examRecertification by attestation with audit options.
Continuing education tracking
Milestone activity tracking
Alternative learning activities
|CE Approved Provider Management||Not available||
Approved provider registrationCourse approval and learner rating
Where to Start?
For organizations with simple applications, a standalone candidate management system for certification management is a great option.
However, as the program evolves, organizations who opted for a standalone candidate management system for certification management often find that a more comprehensive technology solution like a certification management software platform enables them to continue to grow by offering more recertification options, broader eligibility paths, and a reduction in the laborious hours it often takes to close any gaps in the standalone candidate management systems.
And yet, if your program requires multiple eligibility paths and sophisticated recertification requirements, you will be confronted very quickly with the limitations of a standalone candidate management system. Alternatively, certification management software will give you more flexibility over time and allow greater agility and speed to adapt and introduce innovations to your growing program.