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.