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Do Business Analysts Need Another Certification?

The Project Management Institute (PMI)® announced its newest credential, the PMI Professional in Business Analysis (PMI-PBA)® certification last month. This news isn’t really a surprise for the Business Analyst (BA) community, signs that the PMI would offer a BA credential were there and closely tracked by organizations like the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA). Starting in 2012, […]

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April 29, 2014

The Project Management Institute (PMI)® announced its newest credential, the PMI Professional in Business Analysis (PMI-PBA)® certification last month. This news isn’t really a surprise for the Business Analyst (BA) community, signs that the PMI would offer a BA credential were there and closely tracked by organizations like the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA). Starting in 2012, the PMI launched the Requirements Management Community of Practice and commissioned a global role delineation study. Kathleen Barret, the founding President and former Chief Executive Officer of IIBA, nicely describes the purpose of a role delineation study in her recent blog post:

Role delineation studies are used to identify essential knowledge and skills required of a profession and are used for the development of qualifying or certifying exams. These studies validate the importance, criticality and relevance of both broad content areas and tasks.

The output of the study was then vetted by BA experts, some of whom were members of the IIBA, and used to inform the test for the PMI-PBA® certification. The rigor applied to the development of the exam content is certainly a good indication that the material will be relevant to BA practitioners.

All of this is well and good – however, this new certification still raises two big questions for me: What does it mean for BAs? What does it mean for an employer of BAs? In this post, I’ll address both of those questions to help you and your BAs figure out what this means for you!

What does it mean for BAs?

On the upside, being acknowledged by the PMI underscores the relevance and importance of the business analysis profession. PMI is a big name in our industry and their credentials are still the gold-standard for management consultants and business professionals around the world. With this new certification, PMI recognizes the impact requirements management has on project success and has invested their time and brand in this effort.

On the downside, it means you have another BA certification to consider. And what makes the decision challenging is that it isn’t yet clear what the differences are between the PMI certification and the IIBA certifications. Granted, there are some resources out there trying to explain the differences, namely those provided by Watermark Learning. Watermark Learning has several blog posts dedicated to this topic and promises to develop a PMI-PBA certification study guide soon. Incidentally, Watermark Learning claims to be the only organization that has contributed to both the PMBOK® Guide and BABOK® Guide. (And just to be clear, they will benefit from the pursuit of either certification.)

At a minimum, I would expect that the PMI views the BA role in the context of a project or program and the IIBA views the BA role in the larger, more strategic context of an organization.

It also means you have to factor in market demand when considering what BA certification to invest in, which dovetails into the next question…

What does it mean for an employer of BAs?

Employers are interested in hiring top talent with qualifications that they or their clients demand. Similar to how they want a qualified Project Manager running a project, they also want a qualified Business Analyst managing the requirements. Or do they?

Perform a search on hiring aggregator sites like Dice or Indeed and you’ll find less than 1% of business analyst positions requiring a CBAP credential compared with 5-15% of project manager positions requiring a PMP certification. It’s hard to say why demand for the CBAP has been modest, but one guess is limited awareness about the IIBA and its credentials. The IIBA was established in 2003 while the PMI was founded in 1969, so hopefully in time demand for credentialed BAs will increase.

Why now?

Does the PMI simply want to capitalize on another, relatively well-established market similar to what they did with Agile and the PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)® certification? I’d prefer not to take such a jaded view of the situation and hope that the PMI wants to offer its members a new professional development opportunity that will round out their expertise. How the IIBA responds to the PMI’s entry into the BA market is important for securing their status as the premier professional association for business analysts. And so far, communication to their chapters and members has been timely and forthright.

What next?

Expect to see more communication from the IIBA. The organization recently appointed its new President and Chief Executive Officer, Stephen Ashworth. On a recent conference call, he answered questions from local chapters about the PMI-PBA® certification with candor and shared the IIBA’s plan to clearly articulate the difference between the certifications and value of the IIBA’s certification for practitioners and Endorsed Education Providers (EEPs).

The PMI-PBA® pilot will start on May 12th, the same day that version 3 of the BABOK Guide will be released for public review. A happy coincidence? Who knows. As pioneering BAs participate in the PMI-PBA® pilot, which ends on August 4th, we will continue to learn more and can make a more informed decision about whether this certification is worthy of our pursuit. I plan to be one of those BAs and will keep you posted!

Now it’s your turn: what have you read or heard about the PMI-PBA®? Are you planning to get certified?

PMI, PMP, PMI-ACP, PMI-PBA and PMBOK® Guide are registered marks of the Project Management Institute

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