PMI-PBA® Domain: Needs Assessment | Converging 360
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PMI-PBA® Domain: Needs Assessment

Study Guide Writing Is Underway – Excerpt 1

I have started work on our PMI-PBA® Exam Prep study guide! Writing an exam prep book is a big undertaking and always a little daunting. I know many potential exam takers are anxious for a resource to use for their preparation, and I am looking forward to providing it. Until then, I thought I would post excerpts as I develop the content for each domain. This will give you some previews of our study approach and give you an opportunity to share feedback in anticipation of the entire book being published.

The first Domain: Needs Assessment, so that’s where we’ll start. Needs Assessment is often the domain that’s most difficult for exam takers because it’s the one where people have the least amount of experience. Here’s some more information from the first draft of the book.

Defining a Business Need

Needs Assessment describes the work necessary to define a business need, decide on an approach to address that need, and determine whether the organization should invest in the proposed change. It includes work that should be done before a project is initiated, to make sure the project will bring sufficient business value to the organization.

This is the domain that most concerns people preparing to take the PMI-PBA exam. My goal is to alleviate your concerns and help you discover that you probably have more experience with this type of work than you think. When you realize you have done the tasks in this domain many times, you will be more prepared to answer the exam questions. Expect to see approximately 36 exam questions from this domain.

Experience Defining the Business Need

Let’s start by considering the words need and assessment. Need describes a lack of something useful—there is something your organization does not have or cannot do that would be worthwhile. Some organizations call their needs “missing capabilities.” Now think about the word assessment. You perform assessments all the time, both at work and in your personal life. To assess is to estimate the importance of something. So when you put these two words together, you are looking at something the organization is lacking and figuring out its relative value. How much does the organization need it? Is it a more critical need than other needs? Not all needs have equal weight.

A Business Need Can Exist for One of Three Major Reasons:

  • First, there is a problem within the organization that needs to be fixed. This could be an inefficient or costly process, for example, or a customer service problem.
  • The second type of need comes about because there is a potential opportunity the organization could take advantage of. Maybe someone in the company has a new product idea that would improve its competitive advantage. Or maybe there’s a new technology or new market that could be exploited.
  • The third type of need is an externally imposed change. This could be a new or updated regulation. This constraint usually has a fixed compliance date that dictates its priority.

Considering Multiple Business Needs

Businesses often have to consider multiple needs based on these different reasons to determine which ones they’ll address. When that happens, these three different types of needs must be compared to each other to determine their relative priority. Comparing these very different types of needs is difficult and requires sophisticated business analysis. We compare them by identifying potential solutions, estimating the cost of each solution, and estimating the business value each solution would bring. This cost-benefit analysis allows us to prioritize and sequence a long list of requests in a rational, logical manner.

Like I said above, I have started work on our PMI-PBA® Exam Prep study guide! This will give you some previews of our study approach and give you an opportunity to share feedback in anticipation of the entire book being published. Please stay tuned for our next blog post covering the Domain: Planning, as I develop the content for it.


So, there you go—the first step in my writing journey. Please send me your thoughts and questions along the way. I hope this book can be the result of a conversation with those of you preparing to take the exam that answers your questions and gives you the confidence to pass on your first try!


PMI-PBA is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.


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  1. Hi Barb,

    I was one of your students in the beta course of PBA exam prep. I offer my support if possible to review and provide feedback for your planned book.

    Please let me know whenever you publish a new excerpt.


  2. Joseph Abboud Reply

    Hi Barbara,

    I am willing to take the PMI-PBA exam soon. Currently, I’m project lead for a multinational company in the Gulf region, based on Oman. Through my career as a project manager, I had to put on the BA hat plenty of times. Willing to participate and orifice feedback.
    I hold MSc. in Project Management, and certified PMP and PMI-ACP.


  3. Deborah Steidinger Reply

    Hi Barb,

    I was in your beta course. Will plan to take the test beginning of year. I will review questions and provide feedback.


    • Deborah, I am finishing up my PBA Study Guide and have a few questions at the end of each chapter. Would you be willing to provide feedback on them in the next couple of weeks? Barb

  4. Claudia Herz Reply

    Hello Barbara,

    I am currently preparing for the PMI-PBA exam and a study guide is something I would really want now. I am looking forward to it.
    Currently, I am working on my application and sometimes I am not sure how much detail is required for each project/ BA activity. Will you have a section in your guide that will give some hints and tips for the application?


  5. Claudia,
    Thanks for your note. Yes I’ll have a section about applications hints but until the book is out let me give you a few pointers here.
    1. Read the PMI-PBA Exam Contents outline and highlight the words and phrases which describe business analysis work you have done
    2. I would suggest drafting your application in a document and reviewing it before completing the online application process. You will be able to cut and paste your project descriptions into the PMI screen and then you’ll still have your document in case you need to go back and make changes.
    3. Write one or two paragraphs describing each of your projects. Be sure to use the words and phrases highlighted above because PMI’s application process has an automated tool looking for those key words.
    4. Make additional notes about how many hours you spent on each project in case your application is audited (mine was).

    I hope this helps, let me know if you have more questions as you work towards your certification!


  6. Zeeshan Khan Reply

    Dear Barb

    I am currently preparing for PBA exam. I often come and visit RMC website to see if PBA study guide was released.

    When do you think this study guide will be available?

    • Zeeshan,
      Thanks for your question. Our study guide will be available in September. I’ll post on the blog to let you know when pre-orders will start.

  7. Hi Barb,

    Any updates regarding the Study Guide and the pre-orders?.


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