July 27 2006 12:32 PM

A growing number of professionals are seeking the credential of Certified Mail Manager (CMM), recognized throughout the industry as the designation of mail management excellence. In 1976, the International Publishing Management Association (IPMA) established its Certified Graphic Communications Manager (CGCM) program, which has become the standard of proficiency for graphic arts and printing professionals. The CMM program was created in 1992 to meet the similar needs of mail managers. Mail professionals can attain this mark of distinction by successfully completing a comprehensive examination, in addition to demonstrating management experience and professionalism.


This voluntary program encourages professional growth and emphasizes the knowledge and technical expertise required to excel in the rapidly advancing field of corporate mail management. It also identifies those managers within the industry who have taken the extra step and attained a recognizable level of competence.


Certification Elevates Industry

John Williams, CGCM, CMM, CMDSM, chairperson of IPMA's Certification Committee and director of Campus Services at Indiana University/Purdue University in Indianapolis, believes that by elevating the status of mail managers, the all-around perception of the entire mail industry is being elevated. "Today's mail manager is bombarded with more challenges and choices than ever before. Our companies are counting on us to be the experts in making qualified decisions based on sound knowledge," he explains. "Certification is a clear-cut measure for visibly displaying our expertise to our colleagues, our employers and the industry. "Many of those who have taken the 360-question plus essay, seven-part exam consider it to be more intense and broader than other exams.


"We're testing an individual's understanding of not only the technical skills but his/her ability to understand completely the concepts and experiences basic to effective mail management, including personnel, finances, computerization and general management," Williams explains. "The essay section helps to identify how effectively managers can apply the information they know in real-life situations."


Establish Credibility

To achieve certification, a candidate must score 75% or better on each part of the exam. To retain the CMM designation, a mail manager must accumulate 15 professional credits and be recertified every five years following initial certification. In an effort to keep pace with mailing and technological advancements, more and more mail managers are lining up to pursue the credential.


John Hurt, CMM, supervisor of Mailing Services at Oklahoma Gas and Electric in Oklahoma City and an active player in the industry since 1993, attained his CMM designation during IPMA's annual conference in June. He initially pursued the credential to gain tangible proof that his mailing operation was providing optimum service. "It's a great refresher and an ideal opportunity for managers to reinforce their strengths and strengthen any weaknesses," he explains. "The exam was difficult, but do-able. It's vital for managers to keep pace with the multitude of challenges facing us every day. The credential offers us an avenue to strengthen our knowledge and gain valuable recognition in the process."


Enhance Existing Knowledge

The certification process has enhanced the professional recognition and validated the expertise of Jeffrey Fraas, CMM, mail center manager at Allstate's Print Communications Center in Wheeling, IL. He admits to finding the exam challenging as well as professionally invigorating. "It was a good, hard test. Its difficulty factor heightened its credibility." He goes on to explain, "The information that most mail managers use day to day is a moving target. Although postal rules and regulations will continue to change, the study process broadens your industry-wide perspective and enables you to become proficient in far more areas. I consider myself well versed in many aspects of mail management, but I was surprised at all the specifics that I learned in reviewing the domestic mail manual."


Peggy Snyder, CMM, manager of Operations Services at KPMG in Dallas, TX, initially pursued the credential to broaden her knowledge base. She, along with her staff of 20, manage over 50,000 mailings monthly for a 600-person facility. "I viewed the process as an ideal way to enhance what I already knew about automation." Her interest was further sparked when she learned, while attending a Pitney Bowes seminar, that the test was considered by many to be an accurate barometer of a manager's true mail knowledge. Her comments echo those of many of her colleagues. "The exam is not easy, especially since I did not have access to local study groups. But the self-study quality control specialist training course sponsored by the post office served as a tremendous help." Snyder goes on to add, "The study process itself is more enriching than any seminar because it pushes you to delve into subjects that you don't visit everyday." She credits the program for opening new doors. "It's added a new dimension to my role as mail manager by giving me a much broader perspective of the mailing industry."


The CMM credential has been a long-standing professional goal for Tammie Makie, CMM, office services supervisor at the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, MN. "The test was difficult, but the personal satisfaction of seeing the credential next to my name makes it all worthwhile." She says many of her colleagues within the industry have congratulated her on the accomplishment. "So many others have indicated that they'd like to attain their CMM too, citing time and fear of failing as two deterrents." Makie sees the CMM designation gaining wider recognition throughout the industry. To round out her professional gains, she hopes to pursue the CGCM credential next summer.


Interested in gaining certification? Here's how: Tests are administered at IPMA's annual conference, all fall regional conferences and upon special arrangement with IPMA headquarters. Specific information on this year's dates and sites can be obtained from IPMA headquarters. Examination fees are $225 for IPMA members and $450 for nonmembers.


The International Publishing Management Association, founded in 1964, has over 2,000 members located throughout the United States, Canada and several other countries who enjoy managerial careers in government, educational institutions and private industry. For more information on IPMA certification or membership, contact the International Publishing Management Association at 816-781-1111, fax 816-781-2790 or by e-mail at ipmainfo@ipma.org.