Client Mission & Objectives
In May of 2014, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) announced plans to release a new certification program, with two certifications: the SHRM Certified Professional (SHRM-CP) and the SHRMP Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP). SHRM’s primary objective when embarking with Cobalt on their initial implementation was to have a system in place by January 5, 2015, through which applicants could, for a limited time, transfer their other Human Resource (HR) certifications by viewing a tutorial, or if they didn’t have an existing HR certification, apply through a separate process for the SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP. SHRM staff would then need to easily manage the application process through the system.
Additionally, SHRM wished to provide certificants with the ability to register for continuing education with preferred providers. They sought a solution that would enable educators to apply become SHRM-preferred, and SHRM staff would then need to manage those applications through the system as well.
The project team faced a number of challenges on the way to achieving our objectives:
A new program means unknowns around business processes; SHRM was building their certification processes as we were building the system, so the risk of scope change was significant. Because the exam was new, there were also unknowns around testing, and integration with the testing vendor.
Additionally, complex integrations with SHRM’s existing accounting, Association Management System and online quiz vendors meant we would need additional time to handle issues as they arose.
Industry Anticipation & Expectations
SHRM’s new program was highly publicized; the project had to be live within the announced timeframe. This left limited space in the project timeline to handle potential issues.
During the second half of the project, SHRM raised the issue that they expected a large amount of traffic to their portal at go-live, and the system as we tested it would not support the high volume.
Cobalt’s adaptation of the Agile software development methodology helped us to combat each of these challenges. When a scope addition was made, or an issue arose that would threaten the timeline, SHRM identified what the priority was and the project team shifted focus based on that. When the project team realized the portal would not handle the amount of traffic SHRM expected, the team was agile: SHRM and Cobalt prioritized addressing this issue over non-business critical custom functionality, which was moved to a future release.
Additionally, in anticipation of the challenges posed by SHRM’s complex integrations, we educated ourselves as much as possible on the systems we were integrating with, started development on integrations early in the project, and allotted extra time for testing. Thorough testing was emphasized across the board; SHRM added a dedicated QA employee, and held beta testing with non-technical personnel.
Overall, the key to combatting these project challenges was a united effort – together, SHRM and Cobalt practiced open communication by holding in-person meetings with the project team and SHRM user groups, and never shying away from issues as they arose. We stayed flexible, and tested, tested, tested.
With Cobalt Certification Dynamics and Microsoft Dynamics CRM (now 365), SHRM’s users are able to log onto the portal and submit certification applications via forms configured from within staff interface. Using Cobalt’s query-based requirements engine, the applicants responses dictate whether they are eligible to apply for the SHRM-CP or the SHRM-SCP. Cobalt also configured Certification Dynamics to select a certain percentage of applications for audit, and then surface those within Dynamics 365 so that SHRM staff can audit the documentation submitted by users on the portal and approve or reject their applications. Once the application meets all of the certification requirements, the applicant’s authorization to test is creates and their eligibility information is sent to Prometric, SHRM’s testing vendor. Certification Dynamics’ testing provider integration also includes the ability to consume the results automatically from Prometric which is the last requirement to be met before granting the certification.
SHRM’s implementation of Certification Dynamics also included the ability for both individuals and providers to report professional development credits (PDCs). The SHRM preferred provider program was a key component to the success of these new certifications. This program allows approved providers to list their professional development offerings on the SHRM certification portal to take the guesswork out of selecting their continuing education activities.
In addition to these core certification management functions, Cobalt also worked with SHRM’s staff to take advantage of the robust capabilities that come with the Microsoft Dynamics platform. This included creating dashboards and reports to track the volume of applications and progress towards the goals of this initiative. SHRM also leverages the built-in customer service capabilities of Dynamics 365 to track customer requests and issues.
In March of 2017, just over two years from the initial launch of the program and Certification Dynamics, SHRM has certified more than 100,000 individuals.
Like many of our customers, SHRM’s programs and systems are evolving to meet the needs of their customers. We recently upgraded SHRM to the latest version of Dynamics 365, prepared them for the first wave of recertification applications and implemented Cobalt’s badging solution. Thanks to this solution, today SHRM can automatically issue badges upon granting certifications. Currently, we’re working together on an automated system for regression testing so we can ensure the greatest product quality is delivered with every new release.