Software certification process

The certification process consists of a two-stage examination by BARC and the award of a seal of certification, which may be used for advertising purposes.

Examination by BARC

The examinations are carried out by BARC, the independent research and consulting institute for business software. Once the software provider has reached an agreement with BARC on the technical, administrative, and financial details of certification, IBCS® Certified Consultants from BARC examine in the BARC lab whether the software is able to create IBCS®-compliant charts [and tables]. The examination is carried out in two stages: compliance with IBCS® and ease of use.  After passing the examination, the software is awarded a seal of certification, which may be used for advertising purposes.

Compliance with IBCS®

Software providers give evidence of compliance by creating predefined IBCS®-compliant chart templates and table templates in the BARC lab using the software to be certified, which are then evaluated. The design of the templates and the evaluation criteria are based on the International Business Communication Standards (IBCS®). The templates and the criteria were developed by HICHERT+FAISST in cooperation with the IBCS Association.

The templates created by the providers with their standard software are evaluated based on transparent criteria. This concerns the notation of business meaning (terms, measures, representation of time, analyses of time series, deviations and structure) and the design of report components (page layout, text elements, highlighting, scaling, chart types, visualization elements, legends, labels, axes).

The software passes the examination of the first stage (A) if each of the templates achieves at least 70 percent of possible evaluation points, whereby each knock-out criterion must be met by at least 50 percent. The knock-out criteria focus on the semantically correct visualization of scenarios, comparisons, and deviations, the design of text elements, the correct scaling, and the selection of the correct chart layout.

Ease of use

The second stage does not involve achieving the highest possible level of compliance with the predefined templates, but rather the ease of use in the first-time creation of the templates as well as in subsequent changes.

In establishing these criteria, BARC focused on the EN ISO 9241 standard, an international standard for human-computer interaction. The standards describe the requirements for the working environment, the hardware, and the software. The evaluation includes, for example, the time and effort involved, ease of use, and error rate with which IBCS-compliant charts [and tables] can be created, supplied with data, modified, and distributed to report recipients. The evaluation represents a measure of the anticipated level of user satisfaction.

It should be possible to create the templates using the software’s standard functions and should not require programming. The software does not pass the examination if over 30 percent of the functions needed to create the template are not available to users as standard functions.

Certification and advertisement

Once the examination has been passed successfully, the provider is awarded the IBCS® Certified Charts [and Tables] certificate for the software. The seal of approval indicates whether charts were tested alone or in addition to tables; it contains information about the provider, the version of the software product tested and the month in which it was tested.

In addition to the seal of approval, the provider may also use the designation IBCS® Certified Charts [and Tables] in conjunction with the certified software. If needed, this may be accompanied with the following statement: “BARC confirms [provider] that IBCS-compliant charts [and tables] can be created with [SOFTWARE, VERSION]“.

Use of the seal of approval is limited to the certified version of the provider’s software (or major release). In the event of a new major release, the seal may only be used after the software has been successfully recertified. If a provider does not carry out software development in a major release and instead makes continuous smaller changes to the software, then the seal may only be used for a maximum of 24 months.

Unsuccessful examinations are treated confidentially.

The certified software products are presented on both the BARC and HICHERT+FAISST websites. There, providers also have an opportunity to present themselves.

In addition, the successful certification of software products is announced in the BARC and HICHERT+FAISST newsletters, which reach more than 20,000 recipients.