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Towards a global cyber institute – Part 1.
By Allan J. Sayle, President Allan Sayle Associates

What service must a professional institute provide?
What are professional bodies for?
A cyber institute is at hand – if you want one

Certificates are of use more for the knowledge the recipient is supposed to acquire prior to their award than the actual remuneration the happy holder might or might not receive from her employer or client. What matters, of course, is the relevance of the knowledge for current business circumstances and how well the holder applies that knowledge.

Members contributing their time, experience and effort for their development determined the bodies of knowledge within such certificates as the ASQ’s CQE, CQA and so forth. The members, not the institutes, “own” that knowledge and it is mobile. Any attempt to copyright would be laughable and unenforceable. Progress means change and a BOK can be changed with ease by a new cyber-based institute.

Of course, for many decades the members of professional bodies decided what should be the requirements for membership, for grades of membership, for technical studies and certificates issued and recognized by their particular institute. Nothing has changed. Nor need it change: the members will still decide. Until now, typically, the members hired a secretariat (HQ) to undertake the administration, none of which can be considered as demanding a high level of cerebral capacity. However, too many anecdotal reports suggest applicants seem required to wait at the pleasure of HQ bureaucrats and finally receive their justly earned certificate long after their fees’ check was cashed, after several reminders, polite pleading and ingratiating themselves for the service they paid for. If certificates could be issued at the speed of the invoice all would be well. One might be forgiven for sometimes thinking HQ staff people, especially an executive, consider they are regulators possessing power over one’s future. If anything, the reverse is the case.

The need for certificates of accomplishment remains. The need for speedy and economic processing of applicants remains. The need for such HQ people does not. Member volunteers and IT can do all that is required, at a fraction of the present cost. In fact, it seems in the case of such qualifications as the ASQ’s CQA, volunteer members screen the applications anyway. HQ people act as a post box and a substantial proportion of the certification fees is absorbed employing and housing them. It could all be done on line and the HQ people removed from the process, fees reduced: disintermediation again.

Foundations for certification

Certification comes as a result of an individual demonstrating to his appointed peers that he has acquired a particular set of knowledge to a level equal to or beyond a prescribed minimum. In some cases, the certificate may also mean the individual has demonstrated to his appointed peers an ability to actually apply it. That the latter truthfully attest they witnessed he or she actually competently accomplished some assigned set of tasks. Those peers are not persons or organizations appointed by the individual. Rather, they should be persons of known competence, in the particular field, approved by others regarded as eminent leaders. Respectable certificates are not things that can be bought or bartered for. Oh, boy!

The foundations of meaningful certification are thus:

An up to date BOK accurately reflecting the skill set, the practical demands on the services expected of the practitioner and the minimum levels of accomplishment acceptable to the person’s peers, such that employers, clients and the community will be protected and respect the associated profession.
A scheme, for fully, honestly and accurately assessing the applicant’s acquisition of and application of that BOK, administered by people of unimpeachable integrity, reputation and associated known experience and competence.

BOK underlying certificates

As mentioned, the BOK required for certificates of all guises never rested inside the BAMs. It is the property of the members. In bygone years (in the great institutes) a committee of acknowledged leaders (gurus, even!) noted for their contribution to the profession’s BOK would determine what would be appropriate curricula, examination content and so forth. That can still happen, but the “committee” can be drawn from many nations.

Up to the present day, BOK committees may have met within BAM walls or used its secretarial services as a postal service or telephone exchange to communicate with each other, but the members were outside of those walls in their places of work. In some, but not all cases, they were gaining personal hands-on experience. Today, it is not necessary to use those traditional BAM facilities. A BOK can be kept current using the internet and direct communication between committee members and applicants. It resides on any number of computers and is easily downloaded from any one of them or from a central server. Suggestions for improvement can be emailed to known committee members without languishing in an HQ in tray. They can be made immediately public by posting them on a web site and the professional community can comment accordingly within seconds.

What does matter is that a carefully selected panel of acknowledged, trusted experts leads and coordinates the continuous improvement of the BOK. I will leave the selection, more detailed workings and authority of such a panel for later discussion and resolution by the new cyber institute. But, suffice to say, it is now practical for panels to contain people from all parts of the world, not just local nationals, as is the case for today’s BAMs. That fact alone makes them far more credible and the eventual certificates more valuable for the successful applicants.

Assessment schemes

The value of these things rests on the integrity of those appointed to undertake the assessments, regardless of their personal competence and experience. Nobody respects certificates that do not have to be earned through real effort, or which do not stretch the applicant. One cannot but feel discomforted by fairly common remarks that “what matters most is the application fee.” Even though that type of remark might be regarded as somewhat cynical or unrepresentative of the majority of cases, there is no smoke without fire.

Schemes must serve the applicant and his/ her paymasters and the community first and foremost. They must not be cash cows for the institute in whose name the certificate is issued. Nor for whoever is appointed to undertake the assessment. Fair compensation, if necessary, is perfectly acceptable and proper.

But any scheme must have teeth. People or organizations that would impugn the integrity of the scheme must face public punishment and dismissal – and not just in theory. Cheats and those who would put personal gain and expedients before diligent performance can have no place in a professional institute. Once again, an overseeing panel of international experts can be charged with the authority to take whatever disciplinary action is necessary. Judgment and justice can be meted out rapidly in a cyber institute: the next meeting of the panel can be as soon as the evidence can be emailed to the members. And an incompetent panel can itself be swiftly replaced.

One of the key methods of disseminating a BOK is, of course, through training courses and these, too, can be controlled and run effectively by a cyber institute.

Training courses

In the current quality world, few institutes’ HQ staff actually runs training courses the institute badges as being their own. They are outsourced, sold on with an appropriate (or egregious) mark-up to pay for the secretarial work and advertising in the BAMs (advertisement subsidized) monthly journal or through conventional mailshots. The staff book people onto the courses, create a delegates list, collect the money and eventually pay the course presenter whose product/ service is being peddled. In reality, the BAMs are an agent for the course providers. At the end of it all, the BAM issues a certificate bearing its own logo as if the service is its own, not the course presenter’s. The course presenter would be expected to sign the blank forms.

Like most other things, the BAMs do a real Tom Sawyer job! The fence needs painting, get others to do the work and if you can get those who do the work to pay for the privilege! Capitalism at its finest. Nice work if you can get it: and they got it. And small wonder the members are called “customers” – after all, they are paying for the painted fence.

Why can the cyber community not do the same and save the cost of the HQ agency and middlemen? In fact, there is no reason at all.


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