PMI and Business Analysis Certification a Fit?

Several people have asked me what I think about the upcoming business analysis certification program being offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI®).  For those of you who have not heard, PMI has applied for a trademark for PMI-PBA (Professional in Business Analysis) and is planning to offer a certification program later this year. I don’t yet know any details about the program, so I can’t comment on its quality or validity. But I can give you my thoughts about what it will mean for the International Institute of Business Analysis™ (IIBA) and the business analysis profession.

PMI’s Success

PMI has over 400,000 members worldwide, and more than 500,000 people have earned the PMP® credential. Compare these numbers to IIBA® membership, which has been just above 25,000 for the past two years, and you can see the implications of PMI getting into business analysis. In addition to having a significantly larger membership than IIBA, PMI is very well known by other professionals and organizations that work with project managers. The number of people who are aware of PMI is probably several million.

Since joining RMC Learning Solutions, I have been working with lots of project managers, many of whom have earned the PMP or CAPM® certification from PMI. Many of these individuals had not heard of IIBA and were not aware that business analysis has become a separate profession. When PMI enters the business analysis arena, thousands of people will be introduced to business analysis as a valuable skill set. This will be great for the business analysis profession and for organizations that struggle to find employees who are strong analysts.

Is Business Analysis a Good Fit for PMI?

PMI’s focus, of course, is on project management, but project management as defined by PMI and other project management organizations includes much of the work referred to as “business analysis.” It includes requirements gathering, product scoping, stakeholder communication, and risk analysis. Within the context of a project, business analysis dives deeper into these areas, analyzing requirements by categories, eliciting detailed requirements, and facilitating solution designs. In addition, much business analysis work is performed outside the context of a project. Business analysis, as defined by IIBA, includes Enterprise Analysis—the identification of business needs, solution ideas, and business cases, often before a project has been initiated. Business analysis also includes analysis of how well the result of a project is working for its users after implementation and project closing. These pre- and post-project tasks are not included in the PMBOK® Guide. For this new credential to be valid, PMI must either limit the certification to business analysis work within a project, or broaden its perspective outside its core competency.

Competition Can Be Good

How will this move by PMI affect IIBA and its certifications? As a business owner, I learned long ago that as much as we hate competition, it does drive excellence. When your organization doesn’t compete with another, you can struggle to stay focused on customer needs. IIBA currently has a few competitors, like the British Computing Society, but none as big as PMI. For IIBA to have a huge competitor will put pressure on the organization to increase service to its members and prove the value of its certifications. This will require IIBA to increase its focus on member support, and it will be a factor in all of the organization’s decisions about future priorities.

Unfortunately, the size disparity between the two organizations is so large as to possibly render IIBA obsolete. If PMI decides to “take over” the business analysis certification business, it can probably afford to market IIBA out of existence. When Microsoft® decided to sell a project management software package (Microsoft Project), it destroyed many small companies who offered far superior project management products by offering a less expensive (and inferior) solution. There is also a question about the future of certifications in the coming years. Some people predict younger workers are less likely to value certifications, leading to a decline in their popularity. If the demand for certifications decreases, smaller players in the market will struggle.

If PMI’s business analysis certification turns out to be an entry-level offering, it may provide a great boost to IIBA. IIBA’s CBAP® and CCBA® certifications are difficult to achieve and could be positioned as next steps after the PMI designation. I can’t predict the future but I’m hopeful the increased attention that will be given to business analysis as an important skill set will continue to grow the profession and improve our organizations. And isn’t that what it is all about? Project managers and business analysts work to improve the way our organizations support customers and to increase the quality of our products. Anything that advances these initiatives will be good for organizations around the world.

If you want to learn more about the PMI-PBA exam content, read my series of posts on the domains starting with PMI-PBA® Domain: Needs Assessment

“PMI,” “PMP,” “CAPM,” and “PMBOK” are marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc. 

IIBA® is a registered trademark owned by International Institute of Business Analysis. CBAP® and CCBA® are registered certification marks owned by International Institute of Business Analysis. These certification marks and trademark are used with the express permission of International Institute of Business Analysis.

Microsoft is either a registered trademark or trademark of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries.