In 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.