The PMI-PBA vs. IIBA CBAP or CCBA

There has been a lot of discussion lately about the impact of the Project Management Institute (PMI)® new Professional in Business Analysis (PMI-PBA)℠ certification on the business analysis profession and what it means to the Certified Business Analysis Professional™ (CBAP®) and Certification of Competency in Business Analysis™ (CCBA®) offered by the International Institute of Business Analysis™ (IIBA®).

1060975_64577059Although I very, very reluctantly pursued my CBAP®), I do believe that PMI entering the business analysis space is a good thing for us as business analysts.  In this article, you’ll learn about a few of the differences between the PMI and IIBA® certifications, why the PMI-PBA℠ is good for business analysis, and then I’ll offer up some criteria you might use to choose the right certification as part of your near-term professional development goals.

First, let’s take a look at what the PMI-PBA is.

The PMI-PBA is explicitly for business analysts who work on projects and programs, as well as project and program managers who perform business analysis as part of their role. According to PMI, the certification spotlights your ability to work effectively with stakeholders related to project or business requirements, and ensure projects drive successful business outcomes.

To obtain a PMI-PBA, first you complete an application that verifies you meet the following requirements:

  • Minimum of 3 years (4,500 hours) of business analysis experience within the past 8 consecutive years if you have a bachelor’s degree. (Or 5 years/7500 hours of experience if you do not.) (For comparison, the CBAP® requires 7,500 hours of experience and the CCBA® 3,750.)
  • 2,000 hours working on project teams within the past eight consecutive years.
  • 35 business analysis education (contact hours).

Source: PMI Professional in Business Analysis (PMI-PBA)℠ Handbook

Then, you must pass the PMI-PBA exam covers the following material:

  • Needs Assessment (18%)
  • Planning (22%)
  • Analysis (35%)
  • Traceability and Monitoring (15%)
  • Evaluation (10%)

Source: PMI Professional in Business Analysis (PMI-PBA)℠: Examination Content Outline

As of this writing (January 2015) the Handbook which will detail the above knowledge areas and tasks has not yet been published. Anyone preparing for the exam must work solely from the Examination Content Outline which explains each of the tasks and provides a healthy list of relevant techniques.

One insight to take away is the the PMI-PBA is much smaller than scope than the CBAP® and even the CCBA®. The Examination Content Outline appears to be written around what the business analyst role looks like when the business analyst is working under the wing of a project manager on a discrete project.

The IIBA® view of the business analyst role is much larger than this.

In contrast, IIBA® does not confine business analysis to projects or programs. In fact, IIBA® explicitly defines a collection of business analysis activities that transcend the project and are applicable to all types of organizational improvement. And, at its best, business analysts should be routinely involved to evaluate opportunities before projects are even approved – or before a project manager has even been assigned.

Of course, the PMI view of business analysis is what’s more commonly in place at today’s organizations. However, the IIBA® view gives us something to strive for as we seek out senior business analyst opportunities and grow our careers generally.

Let’s look at some specific differences between the two understandings of the role:

  • The Needs Assessment in the PMI-PBA outline is much more limited in scope than the Enterprise Analysis Knowledge area of A Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge® (BABOK® Guide), which includes many additional tasks to proactively determine the business needs, current capabilities, and define the business case, rather than to merely review and refine the existing business case or meet with stakeholders to understand their needs.
  • In the PMI-PBA outline, Elicitation is wrapped up inside the Analysis knowledge area, rather than being a discrete Knowledge Area that applies to a wide-variety of different business analysis activities.
  • The Planning task as defined by the PMI-PBA outline is confined to the Requirements Management space, rather than the broader view offered by the BABOK® Guide in the Business Analysis Planning & Monitoring Knowledge area. The IIBA® BABOK® Guide gives business analysts a role in identifying the best possible techniques, activities, and approach to the entire business analysis effort.

One area that the PMI definition is broader in scope is that the Evaluation tasks cover some elements of Quality Assurance, whereas the BABOK® Guide specifically limits the business analyst role in this matter.

(Of course, all of this insight is pending two very important publications, scheduled for delivery this year. The first being the PMI Business Analysis Practice Guide, which may offer more detail to counter some of the assumptions I’ve made here based on the high-level outline. The second publication is the third edition of the IIBA® BABOK® Guide, anticipated in April 2015, which has been said to further expand the business analysis role.)

Why two certification options is a good thing for business analysts.

Even with a more limited view of the business analyst role, PMI’s decision to enter this space is a sign of many positive things to come for business analysts.

With the strength of PMI behind the business analyst role, I think we will see wider adoption of business analysis, as a discrete role from project management, on more and more projects. Through the new practice guide and PMI-PBA certification, PMI will drive an awareness of the role globally that IIBA® has simply not had the resources to do. This is a good thing as it means more jobs, even higher business analyst salaries, and less time spent selling our value.

However, it doesn’t seem as if PMI will define and promote the next generation of business analysts – the type of opportunities that excite me about being a business analyst and that make it an attractive profession for senior-level professionals looking for leadership opportunities. We need the IIBA® for that. This work is much more challenging and the path to success will necessarily be slower. IIBA® will need our support, strength, and resources to lead the charge on our behalf and keep it going even as the number of PBA credential holders quickly surpasses the number of CBAP® and CCBA® Recipients.

Is the PMI-PBA or IIBA® CBAP® or CCBA® right for you?

As a professional with limited time and resources, you might be wondering whether you should choose the PMI-PBA instead of the IIBA® CBAP® or CCBA®. While it’s way too early to know for sure how each certification will impact your job prospects and career aspirations, here are some criteria you can use to decide what is in your best interest in the short term.

  • If you are in a project-focused business analyst role right now, and happy to stay there, and your organization is engaged with PMI, the PMI-PBA could be a really good option to gain more internal credibility.
  • If you are in a project-focused business analyst role, but discontent and want a bigger seat at the table (or a seat at all), look to the CBAP®. As a by-product of the certification process, you’ll expand your view of your own capabilities and discover ways to add even more value to your organization.
  • If your organization already supports the CBAP®/CCBA® route or your certification process is underway, stay the course. You can always pick up the PMI-PBA later should it prove beneficial.
  • If you are targeting project-focused business analyst roles, either the PMI-PBA or IIBA® CBAP® or CCBA® could help set you slightly ahead of the pack when it comes to your business analysis job search. It’s too soon to tell if the PMI-PBA is going to significantly outstrip the CBAP® or CCBA® from the perspective of employers hiring business analysts.
  • If you are happy where you are in your career or dislike certifications, then do what you would have done anyway and ignore them all!

Of course, many professionals have already chosen both by opting to add the PMI-PBA to their existing CBAP® or CCBA® credential. Since each certification means something different, that is certainly a valid path.

Personally, since I’m already a CBAP®, I’m keeping an eye on the PMI-PBA since I want to do everything in my power to help my readers, course participants, and coaching clients as much as possible.

And, the last word.

Obviously, the PMI entrance into this space signals only more good things to come for business analysts. We’ve reached the point of the professional timeline where we are no longer in the early adopter stage. Business analysis is making its way as a proven profession with a wide variety of viable career paths.

If you’ve been on the fence for awhile, it’s an excellent time to consider starting your business analyst career, whether that means starting a new business analyst role, shifting your responsibilities, or gaining formal acknowledgment for the business analyst job responsibilities you’ve been doing for awhile. And while the time to get in on the ground floor has passed, it’s still a great time to get in and experience a lot of growth relatively quickly.

Of course, if you are looking to get into business analysis, you should pick up a copy of the second edition of How to Start a Business Analyst Career.

What do you think?

I’d be really interested to know what you are thinking about these certification options, so I’m going to leave the comments box open for a little while. Please leave a note and let me know if you are thinking about the PMI-PBA, PMP®, CBAP®, or CCBA® and a little bit of why. Or, if you already have one or more of these certifications, what was your decision process like and what benefits have you experienced as a result?

Stay informed about new articles and course offerings.

(You'll get a free step-by-step BA career planning course too).

Click here to learn more

Comments

  1. Srila Ramanujam says:

    I believe this is just a great idea to have it on a single platform as a comprehensive certification for somewhere along the path of a BA there is almost always that he/she is prone to a certain amount of proj mgt and so is the case for a PM to only know quite a bit of the BA process to be effective in his/her PM role.
    Merging these roles in terms of a combined certification is just a delayed “marriage” I guess :)!
    Am totally for it Laura and always appreciate your inputs and support in this space, thank-you.

    • Thanks for your comment Srila. I still see the PMI-PBA as a distinct and BA-specific certification. But I do agree that another benefit to the PMI-PBA to us as business analysts is that it’s helping raise awareness of the business analysis discipline within project management circles.

    • Steve Hodnett says:

      Not a fan of Business Analysis being subservient to the PM domain. If we do not provide true analysis, evaluations, and recommendations to our business partners then our value to deliver solutions to the business diminishes. I believe the discipline should continue to be independent of the PMI. In my role as a BA, I need the PM to function in a coordinator, note taker type role so that I can create the vision and strategy to execute the project.

      • Steve, The PM should NEVER function as a coordinator in a note-taker role. And the BA should not be the person to “execute” the project. Please tell us what company you work for so I can avoid it like the plague.

  2. Cari Faanes-Blakey says:

    Thanks for the article, Laura. I’ve had the CBAP since 2011 and got my PMI-PBA in October. I agree the PMI version does concentrate on the BA’s role within the project environment and find it interesting that we conscientiously avoided referencing “project” on the writing team for BABOK 3.0. Your recommendation of project based versus broader based is very accurate. And if you are an experience junkie like me, consider getting both!

  3. Christopher Herrmann says:

    Thank you for the informative article Laura. I am in a position in my BA career where I wish (and probably have the experience hours now) to pursue either a new technical or BA certification. It’s good to have both the PMI and the IIBA options. Given that my 3 years of BA experience is heavily weighted toward the latter half of projects (i.e. the tail end of Requirements Gathering/Analysis and the full cycle of Validation/Testing and Implementation/Handover), I’m thinking the CCBA is more appropriate. Would that be a fair assessment?

    • You are welcome, Christopher. When submitting the application for the CBAP or CCBA the phase of your project work does not matter. However, the CBAP does have more stringent experience requirements in terms of the overall diversity of your experience and requires about 5 years of BA experience total. I’d recommend documenting all possible experience, including any BA tasks in roles before you officially became a BA, and then seeing where that takes you.

      Here’s a link to a separate article on choosing between the CBAP and CCBA:
      http://www.bridging-the-gap.com/should-i-pursue-the-cbap-or-the-ccba/

  4. Mike Frenette says:

    Hi Laura,

    Interesting overview of the two certifications. Thanks!

    I wanted to add that PMI released the first edition of the Practice Guide for BAs (“Business Analysis for Practitioners: A Practice Guide”) in mid-December, 2014. It available for free download (but only for six months) on the PMI.ORG web site here:

    http://www.pmi.org/learning/Requirements-Management.aspx

    I agree with your assertion that interest, guides and an additional certification from another organization is a very strong indication that things are looking up, way up, for business analysts overall.

    Best regards,
    Mike

    • Hi Mike,

      Thanks so much for sharing the link with our readers. I had combed the PMI site and couldn’t find it, so it seemed we were still working from the outline.

  5. Ashish Mehta says:

    Hi Laura,

    This is fantastic view point. Thanks for consolidating it for the BA community.

    Cheers,
    Ashish

  6. You are welcome, Ashish! And thanks for stopping by.

  7. Rochelle Tan says:

    Thank you for this informative article Laura. It helps to see the comparison and to see the PMI-PBA in this perspective. I have my PMP and CBAP because these certifications aligns with my line of profession. This new certification is the perfect consolidation of the work that ai do. Thus, I am researching on the benefits of adding this certification in my resume. You have provided very helpful insight regarding this matter.
    Rochelle

  8. Santosh Parvataraju says:

    Hi Laura,

    It was a very interesting information. It came in hand at the very important stage, as I was investigating around the certifications around BA. As part of my job, I play a role of a BA and also as applications support (functional) specialist for a CRM based application and other application for the past 4 years. I was looking out for something like the PMI-PBA that would give me some understanding at the project management level.

    Cheers,
    Santosh

  9. Thanks Laura for valuable info

  10. Hi Laura
    To update you on the progress of the Practice Guide on which much of the PMI-PBA is based, the soft copy was released in December and the hard copy at the end of the year. We authors received our hard copy the first week of January.
    However, the exam is based on material from a small library of BA books which are listed on the PMI website. I echo Cari”s comments since we worked together on V3 of the BABOK. I think the IIBA lost some momentum with the revision since we all finished our writing work in the fall of 2013.

    • Cari Faanes-Blakey says:

      Fortunately, the small library for PMI-PBA are fairly common in most BA’s libraries. I think I was missing one. I guess the good news about the BABOK writing team having finished so long ago (over a year? time flies!) is that the book will be a new experience even for those of us who lived with it all those months.

    • Hi Steve,

      Yes, I’ve since downloaded the BA Practice Guide from PMI. Now, just to go through it! I didn’t realize about the time gap between the writing and publishing o BABOK v3. From the notices I am receiving as an EEP it sounds like there is some traction behind the publication and updated exam now.

      Laura

  11. Great and nice blog ! your blog content contains many things that are like very good . thanks for sharing…

  12. Jim Reich says:

    Thank you for the thoughtful article. I appreciated your perspective. I’ve been in Business Analysis for 15 years and recently obtained my PMI-PBA. I tested for the CBAP in 2012, but sadly I failed. However I learned a great deal about Business Analysis from IIBA, and put things in place at an organization that represented the more strategic approach that you mentioned.
    The one comment I would make regarding the decision to pursue one certification over the other is, to not only assess what a BA desires to focus on, but also what does the organization have an appetite for when it comes to business analysis. In organizations that I have working with in Banking, Healthcare and Insurance, I have found that by and large, all of the organizations want a more project-oriented BA. I find that most organizations are not ready for the strategic BA; mostly from the IT perspective.
    I would welcome your thoughts in return. Thanks again!

    • Hi Jim,

      Great points about looking at what your employer wants. I would add to look around at what other local employers want too. Sometimes we can get locked into boxes inside our organizations that make us less marketable elsewhere, which limits our career options long-term.

      As far as my thoughts on the project BA…

      -Many organizations are doing some level of strategic business analysis, it’s just not the BAs who are doing it. I did a lot of this work as a Director of Enterprise Solutions, when I was leading a BA/PM/QA team.
      -We cannot merely deliver what the organization asks of us and be disappointed when our role doesn’t expand. Just like you did, we need to educate our organizations about the kinds of activities we can take on as strategic business analysts and proactively work to expand our roles if we want to move into more strategic work.

  13. Dan Tampa Bay says:

    Hi Laura,

    I found your article and comparison assessment of the two certifications very insightful. I am a BA with some PM experience going on my 3rd year in a large financial institution. I ascertained from the article that it is really a mix of 1. what your employer’s scope is/what they desire, 2. what best fits your experience 3. your objective and goals when choosing the right certification. I have been on the fence but am ready to get certified and articles like this certainly help in the decision making process. Thank you for all the insight! I will be following you from now on! Oh and I think the PMI-PBA is the right route for me.