Why Get BPMN-Certified?

Whether you are simply trying to document an as-is process, analyze it for potential improvement, create business requirements for an IT process solution, or design an executable process in a BPMS, you need to be fluent in BPMN. Today BPMN is the critical foundation skill you need for anything you do in BPM. It has the reputation of being "hard" - in some respects, deservedly so - but that's mostly because many people don't realize that you just need a small fraction of the shapes and symbols to express the vast majority of process behaviors. And that in turn is a failure of the BPMN specification itself, which does not clearly distinguish between the basic elements you need for simple documentation and the constructs you need to detail nuances of exception handling. That's easily remedied with a bit of education, such as my book, BPMN Method and Style.

BPMN proficiency, however, requires more than book learning. You need to work through examples, try exercises on your own, and in the end be measured on whether you can really "speak the language" or not. That's where training and certification come in. The number one frustration I hear from managers looking to get their team BPMN-trained is the fact that their existing process models - representing hundreds or thousands of man-hours of meetings, workshops, and diagram creation - are wasted assets. They cannot be effectively shared, since their meaning is clear only to the one or two individuals that created them. The promise of BPMN is that now there is a universal, expressive diagramming language for communicating process logic across the organization. Modelers can no longer make up the meanings of the shapes and symbols. Those are defined in a spec, independent of the modeling tool, and there are rules, so the tool can validate the model. The value of BPMN training is that it allows your team to create process models that will be easily understood by others, across the business and between business and IT.

It's easy to read a book on BPMN, or even sit through two or three days of training, and think you know it. But to really know it, you need to put that learning to a test. Having provided BPMN training for five and a half years, I can say from experience that the post-class certification is where students really learn the language, where all that classroom training finally sinks in. There are organizations that offer a "certificate of training" proving that you paid a fee and attended a class. That's not the same as demonstration of proficiency.

Our BPMessentials certification demands a lot more. Step one is an online exam, multiple choice. A typical question asks about the meaning of a particular diagram, or which diagram is correct. It's not about the exotic shapes, just the important constructs, like joins, timeouts, and error throw-catch, but you need to know the fine details to get the right answer. A score of 80% is required to pass this step, so students are encouraged to go back and re-do the in-class exercises and study the notes first. If you miss 80% the first time, you have two more chances. Step 1 just tests whether you can "read" BPMN. Step 2 tests your ability to "write" it. Students create a model and email it to me for review. It has to follow the Method and Style principles we teach, and it has to include certain basic Level 2 constructs, but otherwise is open-ended. Students have to validate and fix all the basic BPMN syntax and grammar errors before submitting. You might think that's cheating, but actually getting in the habit of validating and fixing is how you learn not to make those errors. Even so, most students don't pass on the first attempt. They get an email back listing the problems and pointers for how to fix and resubmit. This iterative process is where the real learning occurs, much as I might wish it to magically "take" from the classroom instruction alone.

With successful completion of Step 2, students receive the BPMessentials certification. The names (and contact info) of certified students are published on the website, and students receive a paper certificate as well. That certificate really means something to the student. It took hard work to get it. It means something to the manager also, for whom it demonstrates that the investment in training was money well spent. Increasingly I am finding that managers are insisting that all of their students in the class get the certification, which is bundled with the training (at no additional cost) but not required.

If you're thinking that maybe it's time for you or your team to finally learn BPMN the right way, our next live-online class is June 26-28, from 11am-4pm ET each day (8am-1pm PT, or 5pm-10pm CET). Click here for more details, or here to sign up.