Do We Need (Another) Business Analysis Certification?

Ambitious executive holding cash moneyIn a recent blog post I predicated that within the year PMI would come out with a Requirements Management Certification. In the interest of full disclosure and learning from our mistakes, I’m writing here to acknowledge I was wrong (how many other people making predictions do you see do that?)

Well, I was sort of wrong. Here’s what I wrote:

A New Certification will appear (as if we needed another)
Within the next couple of years, there will be a requirements management certification from the Project Management Institute (PMI). This is probably one of the worst kept secrets (if it is even intended to be a secret) in the world of PM/BA certification. Note that I called it a requirements management certification. Based on what I heard at the recent PMI Global Congress, the PM community does not think of dealing with requirements as business analysis, rather they look at requirements as another thing to be managed. Their view on the topic still appears to be at the gathering and documenting requirements stage, which is where thinking in the BA Community was five or so years ago.

It turns out that PMI is bringing out a certification of relevance to business analysis, but instead of focusing on requirements management, it is actually going to be called PMI PROFESSIONAL IN BUSINESS ANALYSIS (PMI-PBA). Here’s some text from the trademark application filed in December to reserve the name:

The PMI PROFESSIONAL IN BUSINESS ANALYSIS (PMI-PBA) is a service related to Testing to determine professional competency, namely, testing and evaluating of professionals working in the field of project management to determine their level of professional experience and competency in the specialized field of business analysis; business services for others, namely, credentialing of project management professionals in the specialized field of business analysis; and business services for others, namely, verifying and monitoring the business, professional and educational credentials of project managers within the area of business project management in the specialized field of business analysis for business purposes. The PMI PROFESSIONAL IN BUSINESS ANALYSIS (PMI-PBA) service has not yet been made publicly available yet in the United States. The PMI PROFESSIONAL IN BUSINESS ANALYSIS (PMI-PBA) is in the category of Advertising, Business & Retail Services.

So PMI is taking a broader perspective on this certification than I expected, looking to encompass business analysis skill sets, not just the portion that is labeled “requirements management”.

The first question that came to mind is the title of this post. Do we need (another) business analysis certification? There already is one. It’s called the Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP) offered by the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA). Why does there need to be another one?

Some Important Disclaimers
Let me admit right here that question is heavily influenced by the fact that I am not a fan of certifications.

I don’t like certifications primarily because they are too often looked upon to indicate something that they cannot. They do indicate that the holders of the certificate full filled the requirements, which often entails a certain amount of professional experience, a certain amount of training, the ability to pass a test, and a certain amount of money. What certifications do not indicate, at least any I’ve seen to date, is the ability of the holder to effectively apply the knowledge that they were tested on well.

All the same those organizations that factor the presence of certifications in hiring and personnel decisions certainly believe that certifications indicate that, or at least indicate that a person who holds a certificate is dedicated to their “profession”. I suggest that relationship is more correlation than causation. Someone who has a certificate is certainly more likely to be dedicated to their profession, but it does not guarantee that they are. Just as people who do not have certifications are very dedicated to their professions.

I’ll also admit that certifications may have some upside. They generate the need to establish a common language that people use when they talk about a particular field. That is one of the aspects of the IIBA that I am happy about. They have provided a start to a ubiquitous language to use when talking about business analysis. It’s beneficial up to a point, because you can certainly get into some very pedantic discussions about how closely you still to the letter of some standard or another. Everything is good in moderation.

Certifications are also nice recognition that someone has gone through a course of study to increase their knowledge, much like a college degree. Ok, there’s some benefit there, especially for folks who are not naturally included to continuously learn and need some sort of incentive. (Full disclosure, two of my top five strengths on Strength Finder  are Learner and Input, so the idea of needing extrinsic motivation to learn more is a little foreign to me.) Also, once you have most of these certifications, you have to participate in activities to hold the certification (I just had visions of Jerry Seinfeld at the rental car counter when I typed that.) such as volunteer work, attending further training, or adding to the knowledge of the community.

But Really, Another BA Certification?
So back to the original question. If certifications are associated with standards, what happens when there are two certifications covering the same topic? Do we then have competing standards? Who exactly does that help in the long run?

Also, why would PMI choose to enter the business analysis arena? And why now?

Was the Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK Guide) insufficient in some way?

Does PMI think that business analysis looks different if someone with a title of project manager does it?

Does PMI want to reinforce their view of “Collecting Requirements” as is described in Version 5 of the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide)?

Could it be that PMI needed another market in which to sell training and conferences?

Is it just part of their goal to make Project Management indispensable for business results similar to their recent assimilation of two formerly independent project management focused websites?

I don’t know the answers to these questions. Perhaps some out there do. I do know that there will be some winners and losers in the aftermath. What I’m not sure is which side of the scale business analysis practitioners and the organizations in which they work will end up. My fear is this new certification will cause more confusion than it does clarity, but I suppose time will tell.


  1. Olya Broadwell says:

    Kent, you raised some great questions about the motivations of the PMI in offering yet another certification. I don’t believe it is due to an insufficient BABOK, nor do I imagine that the PMI would think that business analysis is performed differently by a PM. I think you hit the nail on the head with the PMI BA certification opening the door to additional training and conference tracks!

    • kent says:

      Thanks for your comment. I’m not sure of PMI’s true motivation, though I suspect it is either financial motivation or some odd desire to dictate THE way to run projects. At least that’s the conclusion I come to when looking at this move and the recent move with the two websites.

  2. Aaron Whittenberger says:

    Kent, I, too, believe this is just the PMI looking for more revenue tracks. I also believe this is further evidence that the PMI has lost focus and forgotten their purpose and their core audience. I don’t believe we are going to see a great deal of people move from IIBA to PMI for this certification. I also don’t believe we’re going to see a lot of CBAPs run after this certification, unless they already have the PMP. If you already have the CBAP and PMP, does this certification mean anything, I think not. So does this certification have a market, I guess time will tell, but it looks like it will have difficulty finding one. Maybe this is PMI’s attempt to keep BA professionals from joining IIBA. Just like David and Goliath, David will prevail!

    • kent says:

      Thanks for your comment. I don’t share your optimism with respect to the impact on IIBA. We probably won’t see a lot of people who already have CBAP’s go get the new certification, at least most practitioners. There are a group of people who like the alphabet soup after their name that will go get the new certification even if they already have CBAP and PMP. Also, you’ll see a lot of PMP’s go out and get the certification specifically because it’s from PMI. I suspect the number of people with PMI-PBA will quickly outstrip the number of CBAPs.

      The unfortunate thing about the whole picture is that I don’t think on the whole business analysis practitioners will be well served by the existence of this new certification.

    • JB says:

      For the record, I was in the process of getting my CBAP, but changed courses and I have shown interest in this certification. In my personal opinion the BABOK is too heavy and full of useless processes and techniques…so I am hoping this will have a lighter framework and something that plugs right into the PMI framework, not something to run on top of it.

  3. Wouter Nieuwenburg says:

    There are already other courses and certificates for a BA, Kent.
    For example:
    the BCS International Diploma in Business Analysis or
    Semba by Capgemini.

    I believe that due to different kinds of views to the same BA profession there will be a market for more than one certificate. There will be differences in approaches or focus on key knowledge area’s and by following the different courses you can broaden your horizon as a BA. And your value for your organization.

    • Robert K. Wysocki PhD says:

      I’m a fly on the PMI wall: Hmm, how can we spend $200,000,000 to increase our revenues and to own all project management intellectual property? We have the gold so we make the rules. Let’s put a plan in place to acquire IIBA. Where do we start? Let’s get into the certification market with a PMI-Professional in Business Analysis. We can out spend and out market anyone on the planet.

      Nonsense you say – I don’t think so. What could PMI’s motivation possibly be? There are lots of people who share my thoughts. Put this in your time capsule and open it in 2020. I hope I’m still around to say “I told you so!”

      • kent says:

        Sadly Bob, I think you are right. One does tend to wonder why a non profit professional association needs $200 Million just laying around.

    • kent says:

      Hi Wouter,
      Thanks for your comment. I’ll admit that I had a distinctly North American centric viewpoint when I wrote the post. I’m all for having multiple views of business analysis – however I experience tells me that multiple different certificates are the best way to share those views and allow practitioners to pick the things that work best for them. Multiple certificates end up creating pointless “my certificate can beat up your certificate” arguments rather than a rational sharing of information.

      I guess time will tell.

  4. Carlos José Locoselli says:

    Para que mais uma certificação de análise de negócios? Para concorrer?
    Se o objetivo é o desenvolvimento profissional, não seria melhor compartilhar e cada um cuidar de sua especialidade: PMI com Gerenciamento de Projetos e o IIBA com Análise de Negócios?

    • kent says:

      Thanks to Joao Azevedo for the following translation of the previous post:

      Why should we have one more certification? To compete?
      If the objective is professional development, wouldn`t be better to split and each one take the responsibility for what is competent for:
      PMI with Project management and IIBA with Business Analysis?

      Good point Carlos. One wonders why PMI thinks they need to branch out from Project Management…

  5. Hmm, kind of funny, kind of sad… a bit disappointed, but not entirely surprised. Let me explain: it’s 2008 and I’m attending the first joint Project Managers AND Business Analysts World conference in Orlando, FL; if memory serves me well, I’m listening to the guest speaker, Dr. Harold Kerzner (all PMPs should know who I’m talking about) and I’m quite shocked how in his speech he’s trying to make Business Analysis sound just like Requirements Management done by Project Managers. Maybe I was wrong… or, maybe I was right. Who can tell?!? Bottom line, shouldn’t we focus more on collaboration between PMs and BAs (each a profession in its own right), rather than trying to conquer it all?
    Just my 7 cents thought,
    Certified BA & PMP

  6. genevieve mcculloch says:

    This was discussed at the February meeting on the IIBA, Greater Boston Chapter. Is IIBA and the CBAP certification losing their cache in the marketplace? I occassionally punch in ‘IIBA’ and ‘CBAP’ into the keyword section of some of the search engines, such as Indeed and Simply Hired. The number of BA jobs that reference these is less and less (and there are quite a few BA jobs out there, btw).

    I am agree with those of your that mention the increased revenue stream. But also give props to the PMI for maintaining its prestige in the industry. Maybe the IIBA needs to step it up a notch and do the same.

    My $.02…

  7. Greg A. says:

    You’ve made some outstanding points regarding the value of a cert. Here’s how I justify certs:
    1) Job Descriptions. I’m convinced of the market value as evidenced in job descriptions. Go to > trends and search on the cert.
    2) Resume Screeners. I have the experience but don’t have the cert keyword(s) on my resume.
    3) Time and Money. My employer will cover the time and cost.
    There are other ways to demonstrate competency. For example, start your own website and post valuable content.

  8. David says:

    I think PMI realized that for all their PM content they’ve compiled over the years, projects just can’t be successful (or executed using their guidelines) without the input a solid BA can provide. As redundant as the certification may be in the industry, the PMI-PBA fills a hole in what PMI offers – definitely has potential to help develop better ways to tie in the BA role into PMLCs.

  9. Sheila says:

    Looking at PM job descriptions in the Toronto, Ontario area, the jobs want the PM to be the subject matter expert which indicates that PMs are expected to do business analysis on the fly. Shades of “programmer-anayst”. Save money on a staff position.

  10. HM says:

    I believe PMI has the following motivations:

    1. To build strong defense against competing organization (e.g., Association of Project Management). In order to be the authority in the domain of Project Management, its needs to have a complete repertoire of bodies of knowledge for PM, Program Management, Portfolio Management. Adding Business Analysis is just another important item to be added.

    2. Of course, another revenue stream for PMI-BA Certification. PMI do have an advantage over IIBA – it has captive customers and the marketing know how.

    3. A PMI BOK on BA will provide further elaboration on some existing PMBOK processes, e.g., Collect Requirements, Perform Quality Assurance, Control Quality, Validate Scope, Control Scope, etc)

  11. Ryan says:

    Being a Business Analyst myself with a decent IT experience, I am quite surprised at the PMI’s decision to come up with a BA specific certification. It does not go down well with someone like myself, who has been doing a lot of research and pre-CBAP preparations for the IIBA certification.

    Why o Why are these bodies trying to compete against each other and create confusion in the minds of BA’s and PM’s is totally out of my understanding. You guys (the 2 bodies) talk about collaboration being an important tool at workplace. Put it to use in practice as well. Maybe that would actually help people pursuing certifications, rather than confuse them more.

  12. Shiela Brown says:

    I think it is an absolutely great move by PMP. This certification is based on a ‘hybrid’ BA which is the role played by the majority of BA’s. CBAP although known more so in North America does not have that many holders of the certification. PMP is much more well know professionally and PBA is the next step forward.


  1. […] yes! There are signs that PMI is going to come up with a new BA certification. My good friend Kent McDonald was not too happy about it, and yes, I get his sense of indignation. However, I feel that this can actually be a good thing for […]

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