Show your clients that yours is an agency they can trust. Pursue the Blueprint Quality Management System -- certification.


Reduce errors, increase communication, adhere to industry standards and improve your bottom line.  Pursue the PPMS certification and show your clients that yours is an agency they can trust.

What if your agency could:

  • Cut down on the number of mistakes it makes?
  • Increase communication among various departments?
  • Handle client issues in a more efficient and professional manner?
  • Achieve bottom-line improvement?
  • Be recognized for adhering to an industry standard?

The ACA PPMS -- Professional Practices Management System® program can help your company achieve this and more.

The Program

The ACA International PPMS program includes 18 basic elements. Developing and documenting a PPMS is the core of the ACA International Agency Certification program. The elements include:

  • Those which relate to the overall management of the business.
  • Those which relate to the business activities.
  • Those which provide support to the businesses activities.
  • Those which provide client confidence.

Credit and collections is not a cookie-cutter industry.  That's why the PPMS is not a prescriptive program or a single recipe for effective management. Through the program, your company will have the freedom to define its own procedures.

Get started with the ACA Foundational Training on PPMS seminar available face-to-face or online. Visit the ACA Event Calendar or the ACA Event List for the upcoming schedule.

Interested?  Check out these PPMS Resources today.

Blueprint Basic Elements

An overview of the Blueprint program and details on its 18 elements.

Reviewing vision, mission, goals and expectations.

What is it?

  1. Requires the documentation of executive management’s policy concerning: client satisfaction, continuous improvement, and prevention of negative impacts on the collection industry
  2. Requires management to provide the resources to carry out its policy
  3. Requires a periodic review of the management system to compare performance to management policy

Why do it?

  1. To make sure that executive management provides vision and leadership
  2. To place responsibility on executive management to: define the management system, implement the management system and maintain the management system

Executives review annual agency results

  1. Performance (Example: recovery percentages)
  2. Client referrals
  3. Etc.

Writing company policies, procedures and work instructions.

What is it?
Requires a documented management program (i.e., Company Manual) that: implements the organization’s policies, plans and objectives; and reflects key management practices

Why do it?

  1. To make certain that an agency’s management practices are consistent (i.e., reproducible)
  2. To make certain that an agency’s management practices provide services that meet client needs
  3. To provide a baseline to: measure performance against and improve against

Sample Professional Practices Manual

Determining company’s ability to meet client’s needs and expectations.

What is it?
A formal comparison of client requirements against an agency’s ability to meet those requirements

  • Define client’s needs & expectations
  • Review client’s needs & expectations
  • Review regulatory requirements
  • Define communication protocol
  • Track amendments to agreements

Why do it?
To make certain that an agency will be able to meet a client’s needs before placing accounts.


  • Listing accounts under the wrong client number
  • Format of responsible party data received from client did not follow agreed upon format (Healthcare account sent to agency without patient names)

Maintaining both electronic and paper documents—policies, procedures, work instructions—and removing obsolete information.

What is it?
Establishing control documents & data to ensure: (1) that they are current, (2) that they are accessible where needed, (3) that they are reviewed & revised as necessary, and (4) that obsolete documents are removed from places where they might be used

Why do it?
To make sure that the documents and data that an agency is using are current and available

Procedures to enter new accounts and cash process were updated, but someone (in the agency) used the old procedure (resulting in unhappy clients, irate debtors and happy attorneys)

Managing the purchasing process – major products and services only.

What is it?

  • Establishment of controls over an agency’s purchasing process that have a direct affect on services.
  • Controls should focus on: (1) Defining precise purchasing requirements in P.O.s and contracts (e.g., define criteria up front) and (2) Evaluating vendors who have an impact on your service offering (e.g., letter services, etc.)

Why do it?

  • To make certain the service received from your vendors meets your requirements
  • You in turn incorporate the vendor’s service into your process, which should satisfy your client’s requirements


  • Selecting “Letter Vendor” based solely on price
  • Selecting “Phone Vendor” based solely on price: Agency selected a phone system on price, System & dialer went down (i.e., no incoming or outgoing calls), Vendor did not have the technical ability to service the system and took over 2 days to get the phone system working again

Securing and controlling all data flowing into the office.

What is it?

  • Requires establishment of controls concerning above subject data
  • Controls should include such things as: identification, storage, security and maintenance

Why do it?
To make sure your agency: protects privacy of clients & debtors, complies with regulations, prevents credit fraud, and ensures client satisfaction

Privacy Issues (FDCPA): (1) Shredding vs. throwing records in the trash, and (2) Agency was sued for violating FDCPA when an attorney for a debtor pulled confidential records from the dumpster (i.e., found in plastic trash bags)

Understanding company information and where it belongs.

What is it?
A requirement regarding identification & traceability of incoming data, in-process data, and final data

  • Identification means: The ability to distinguish data from other data
  • Traceability means: To be able to follow the data through the collection process
  • Concerns only data in control of the agency

Why do it?
To make certain that data is properly identified at all stages of your service, in order to avoid errors
  • Managing accounts: (1) Ability to tie data to your client, (2) Ability to document when an account moves to a new stage in the collection process, and (3) Ability to flag account status (e.g., do not call)
  • Most collection software on the market will do the above

Maintaining procedures or instructions for consistent performance—new business entry, cash application collection call, etc.

What is it?
Requires that an Agency: (1) Identify, plan & control the steps to deliver the service, (2) Complies with industry standards, and (3) Monitors & controls work procedures and processes

Why do it?
  1. To make sure all of an agency’s processes are carried out under controlled conditions, to minimize variability in its services
  2. To provide evidence that you are meeting client requirements
  3. To provide confidence to your clients

Collection Process: (1) Initial communication letter was sent, (2) Letter was not responded to by debtor, and (3) Before 30-day validation period expired, a demand payment request was made to pay immediately - a violation of the FDCPA

Testing, reviewing and verifying planned work processes—new business entry, cash application, collection call, etc.

What is it?
Requires that informal audit processes be in place to ensure that the service conforms to specified requirements for: Incoming service - new account listings, In-process service - collection cycle, and Finished service - cancellation or paid-in-full

Why do it?
  • To make sure that accounts are consistently handled
  • To ensure that services conforms to all requirements at each service stage
  • To identify nonconforming products at the earliest possible stage
  • To facilitate corrective action

  • Duplicating work - entered new business twice because it is in the wrong pile
  • Setting your agency up on the system as a dummy account to see if you are getting the correct letter in a timely manner

Verifying that company processes occur in sequence.

What is it?
This element focuses on the following: (1) That all required steps in the collection process take place and (2) That these steps take place in the proper sequence, where applicable

Why do it?
  • To make sure that only services that pass the required inspection & test are released to the next step (Example - If the file is marked do not contact, you do not want anyone from the agency to contact the responsible party)
  • Client satisfaction

  • FDCPA - Do not demand payment in a time frame shorter than the 30-day validation period
  • Debtor’s attorney sends official notice “do not contact the debtor”

Identifying and recording mistakes or problems.

What is it?
Requirement that an agency will: (1) Identify nonconforming services, (2) Evaluate the degree & extent of the nonconformance, and (3) Contain nonconformity to prevent further problems

Why do it?
To make sure that an agency identifies nonconforming services in order to: (1) Prevent further damage, (2) Improve service, and (3) Satisfy clients
  • Client requirements not followed
  • Legal requirements not followed
  • Internal agency procedures not followed

Correcting and preventing problems by finding a better, faster or more reliable way to accomplish work.

What is it?

  1. Investigation & elimination of root causes of nonconforming activities at any point in an agency’s service
  2. Testing or proving the adequacy of procedures/processes to prevent occurrence of nonconforming services in the first place
  3. Re-engineering processes to improve services & reduce cost

Why do it?
  • To make certain that causes of nonconforming services are investigated and a good faith effort is made to eliminate them
  • Elimination of potential causes of nonconforming services before they occur
  • To continuously improve services

Corrective Action - Root Cause Analysis
  • Client Complaint - Agency was taking 3 months to forward out-of-state accounts
  • Reason - Forwarding was done manually
  • Corrective/Preventive Action - Process is being computerized

Disaster planning and delivery of information.

What is it?

  • Extension of Element 6 - Control of Client & Customer Supplied Data
  • Extension of Element 8 - Process Control
  • Covers issues concerning the integrity of an agency’s business: (1) Disaster Planning, (2) Tracking of Money, (3) Daily Cash Journals, and (4) Formats of Client Reports

Why do it?
  • To protect the integrity of service at all stages
  • Make sure to care for client-provided data: (1) How is data handled? (2) How is data stored? (3) How is data preserved? and (4) How is data delivered?

Disaster Recovery Plan
  • General Manager - Responsible for all oversight of recovery activities.
  • MIS Supervisor - Determine if company’s computer equipment is operational and can be moved to a new work location. Arrange for rental equipment if computer equipment is not operational. Recover backup tapes from off-site storage area.
  • Collection Supervisor - If the disaster requires work operations to be moved to another location contact telecommunications vendors and arrange for a temporary service at the new location. Recover hardcopy files (i.e., client & responsible party information) from off-site storage area.

Handling, storing, retrieving and depositing of information.

What is it?

  • Effective control and management of records and data.
  • It includes: Archiving of records, Identification & indexing of records, Retrieving of stored records (e.g., one business day), Storing records effectively (e.g., preventing deterioration), Proper disposition of records (e.g., privacy considerations) and Establishing record retention time

Why do it?
  • To make certain that agency records are available
  • To demonstrate effective operation of the management system (all steps performed)
  • To provide evidence of the achievement of required service quality
  • To use records to help an agency’s service to improve
  • To define how long records are kept

  • Storing of Records: IRS Records (e.g., keep 7 years) and Dispose of complaints (e.g., after 1 year)
  • Destroying of Records And Data: Shredding, Burn Bag and Trash
  • Policies on what Data and Records you want to keep and what you should throw away

Ensuring procedures and policies are followed and the management system is working by having all departments inspected on a regular basis.

What is it?

  • A planned process for conducting internal audits of your management system
  • It includes: (1) Planning & scheduling audits according to status & importance of activity, (2) Carrying out audits using independent personnel, (3) Documenting audit results & any follow-up activity, (4) Communicating audit results to appropriate personnel, including management, (5) Initiating corrective action, and (5) Verifying & recording effectiveness of corrective action taken

Why do it?
  • To check that your management processes are performing to requirements (i.e., client, internal & regulatory requirements)
  • To demonstrate the effectiveness of your management practices

Internal Audit Checklist

Continuous training of all staff.

What is it?

  • A training process that is based on agency’s job requirements
  • It requires: (1) Evaluation of training needs to satisfy job requirements (education, knowledge, skills), (2) Development of a training plan, (3) Training of personnel to meet training needs and (4) Keeping records of individual qualifications

Why do it?
To make certain that employees are trained to do their jobs effectively, so they will avoid mistakes that affect the quality of an agency’s service
  • FDCPA Training
  • FCRA Training
  • Telephone Collection Techniques
  • Skip Tracing Training
  • HIPAA Training

Measuring results internally and externally.

What is it?

  • Identification of measurements to prove that your service is working properly (effectiveness = quality)
  • These measurements should support the following: (1) That an agency is conforming to Internal Requirements, (2) That an agency is conforming to Client Requirements and (3) That an agency is conforming to Regulatory Requirements
  • Identification of measurements to help your agency improve (efficiency = profits)

Why do it?
  • To provide confidence that an agency’s processes are performing to requirements
  • To provide targets for improvement

Improvement Targets - Example Plan

Security of information systems.

PPMS® Requirements:

  • Data and IT are secured
  • User account administration is being monitored

Blueprint Certification

To be certified, agencies must demonstrate they have implemented Blueprint Quality Management System program.  Certification requires that the agency have an independent CPA visit their office, attest to the required information and send it to an independent third-party auditor (determined by ACA) for review. If the information meets the requirements, certification will be granted.


For a complete, detailed description of the requirements access the Blueprint Requirements Information page.

  • Create and maintain a documented "Professional Practices" Manual.  This manual will be used for third party accounts receivables.  
  • Annual executive management review of Blueprint. Continuous improvements to be pursued in the next 12 months. Review results of internal audits and non–conformances. Review industry, customer and code of ethics requirements.  
  • Develop a continuous improvement program.  The program should be based on: (1) Analysis of customer satisfaction including customer feedback information. (2) Trends from non–conformances notes (NCN’s). (3) Internal audit feedback. (4) New industry requirements.  
  • Develop an internal auditing program. All elements of the ACA’s Blueprint will be audited at least once a year.  
  • Create a corrective action program.  (1) Setup a system to effectively handle complaints and non–conformances (i.e., customer and consumer); (2) Investigate the causes of complaints and non–conformances (NCNs); (3) Determine corrective action needed to eliminate the cause of complaints and NCNs; (4) Apply controls to ensure corrective action is implemented and effective.  
  • Training.  Identify training needs and provide for the training of all personnel performing activities affecting delivery of services.

Blueprint Fees:

(Fees are based on agency size and number of locations.  Base prices are listed below.  Contact ACA for nonmember rates.)

  • Initial Certification Fee (Year 1) - $1,794.  Includes $399 required seminar registration fee for training seminar. (Does not include fee for separate compliance seminar and does not include local CPA fees or internal costs incurred by the agency.) Contact ACA for multi–site fees.
  • Surveillance Fees (Year 2, 3 and 4) - $695. (Does not include internal costs incurred by the agency.)
  • Re-certification Fees (Year 5) - $1,390. (Does not include local CPA fees or internal costs incurred by the agency.)


The Foundational Training on Blueprint seminar is a one day face-to-face training session or a three day (2 hours each day) online training session. Attendance by at least one agency representative is required before an agency can begin the agency Blueprint certification process through ACA International. This training seminar provides agencies with the fundamental tools, samples and knowledge needed to develop a customized Blueprint to fit an agency’s unique business needs.

During the seminar, the instructors introduce attendees to the Blueprint program, outline the elements of Blueprint, and detail the processes and documentation necessary for an agency to develop its own Blueprint. In addition, attendees will be required to attend a 1 1/2 hour online seminar regarding compliance issues in areas such as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and other industry regulations.

In addition to a thorough review of each of the eighteen Blueprint elements, the seminar instructors teach attendees about creating the various types of documentation necessary to support the elements, including: Company Manuals, Company Procedures and Work Instructions.

Developing and documenting a Blueprint is the core of the ACA International Agency Certification program. The complexity and amount of documentation required for the Blueprint will vary by each individual agency’s size, services and resources. While each agency’s Blueprint will be unique according to that particular agency’s needs, by following the overall guidelines of the program, the agency will demonstrate a commitment to quality assurance and client satisfaction that is the foundation of the ACA agency certification designation.

Although having a Blueprint certification is a necessary requirement to receive agency certification through ACA International, there are many other advantages as well. The process of developing Blueprint Quality Management System helps an agency to thoroughly explore its processes and procedures and to improve the agency’s overall efficiency and professionalism.

An agency that implements the Blueprint will be implementing a management system focusing on the following:

Standardizing how an agency is managed and run. One way to remove waste (mistakes, rework, poor service) is to standardize processes so all employees understand their jobs and how their work fits into the system. Standardization also increases efficiency – you do not have to reinvent the wheel every time you take on a new client. Standardization will also help you decide when you can charge a client more for an “extra” service that is outside your standard practices.

The Blueprint Quality Management System requires an agency to pursue continuous improvement. No matter how well your agency runs, there is always room for improvement. Blueprint recommends that continuous improvement be tied to the management review process and client satisfaction measurements. In other words, continuous improvement should tie back to process improvement (saving money or developing new profitable services) and/or client satisfaction.


The standards you are talking about fit very nicely under either element 1 or element 17.  Element one says you have a plan, goals, etc. (standards) and element 17 says you are measuring against those goals (standards) that have been set. What you can also do is add your standards as a separate section in the front of your company manual if you don’t feel it fits in any other area.

You need to do one project per year as the minimum requirement.

Anything that improves the business. For instance, evaluating a new skiptracing tool or developing a better legal process.

You need to prove that you are providing continuous training to your staff by the training checklist. If you have 100 employees and only 2 people have had any training over the last year, I would say that is not proving you are providing continuous training to your staff. There is no magic number to pass or fail, it is showing and demonstrating you are doing continuous training.

One way for an IT team to buy into Blueprint is by creating a separate form for them that gets tied to client issues or nonconformities called IT requests. This allows the company to separate out truly IT issues from nonconformities or client issues. Sometimes a client issue will drive an IT request. For example: A client changes their format on the new business file. IT needs to reprogram for the new file format. A client issue would be written and then an IT request to change the program. The Client issue is followed up on by Client services to ensure the client is satisfied with the changes and IT handles Blueprint in their world.


This could be any sort of industry training. If someone from your company has attended any sort of ACA seminar or meeting or another industry related meeting, it would qualify.

You have to have at least one procedure for each of the 17 elements and you have to have a documented policy under Element 1. But other than that, you can continuously update your manual.

It usually takes approximately two weeks.

The trend analysis is done for the entire year, meaning the first six months, then the last six months of the year. If your company chooses to do two audits instead of one for the year, that is your choice, but I am not sure you can tie the audit to a continuous improvement process. You need a minimum of one continuous improvement project a year, very easy to do that one since we all have many going on at the same time.


Work instructions are not required for certification.

Yes and policies are not required except for Element 1 . . . Your management policy.

It is not a requirement for Certification to include your employee handbook in your company manual. It is up to your company to determine what best suits your needs.

PPMS Testimonials

Those agencies that have already completed the process or are currently going through the process provide the greatest testament to the PPMSprogram’s value.

“There is a tremendous bottom-line revenue opportunity for agencies in using this management system. You learn to identify problems with client satisfaction or training issues, which can only help you to improve your business in the long run.” - Gary Williams, president of Williams & Fudge, Inc., Rock Hill, S.C.

“Our level of service to the customer has never been better and we know that thanks to the procedures we now have in place and the measurements we use to gauge production and client satisfaction. Not only are we doing better but every employee knows it and is proud of that fact. Since implementing the PPMS -- Professional Practices Management System program we haven’t eliminated errors but we have minimized them and the fixes are not band-aids but process improvements. So what does all this mean?? Eight months in a row of record collections and fees. Was it worth the effort? What do you think?” - Tom Haag, president of State Collection Service, Inc. in Madison, Wis.

 “As our clients are consistently requesting more, better, faster...PPMS allows us to ensure we deliver what they want while improving the bottom line, not at the expense of the bottom line.” - Mark Davitt, MCE, president of ConServe in Fairport, N.Y.

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