PMI has announced a new certification for business analysis work: the Professional in Business Analysis (PMI-PBA)®. I took the pilot exam and wanted to share my initial thoughts. As part of the pilot group, I agreed to take the PMI-PBA® exam without knowing much about the content. PMI published a list of five domains and tasks within each domain and a list of eleven books representing the knowledge base of the exam.

Exam Source Material

I am proud to say that one of the books is my Seven Steps to Mastering Business Analysis. Another of the eleven books is PMI’s Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide), and I would say it is the one from which most of the questions were drawn. My guess is that a person who has passed the PMP® exam could correctly answer about 30 percent of the questions without having read much about business analysis or requirements engineering. Since PMI is the largest professional association for the project management discipline, it makes sense that they would reinforce their most popular standard with this new certification.

PMI-PBA Exam Focus

In terms of business analysis practices, the exam focused on a few topics like requirements management, traceability, and baselining. The answer choices included a large number of techniques. And there were indications that PMI assumes business analysts help design products, develop technical specifications, and perform testing in addition to being responsible for gathering requirements and getting customer sign-off. The development approaches described were closer to plan-driven, document-heavy requirements methodologies rather than lightweight, change-driven approaches.

Good News for PMPs

The new certification will come as good news to existing PMPs who perform business analysis work. The questions support PMI’s philosophy and reinforce the importance of requirements traceability, integrated change control, and requirements management (as described in the PMBOK® Guide). You’ll need to learn business analysis techniques and have the mind-set that a business analyst is a team member, separate from the project manager.

Study Plan for Business Analysts

For business analysis professionals who have not studied PMI’s PMBOK® Guide, the exam will be more difficult. The PMBOK® Guide is a large, complex standard that is challenging to absorb without supporting materials. Most PMPs use a study guide and/or attend a prep class to understand PMI’s project management processes. If you haven’t studied for the PMP exam, I recommend reading Rita Mulcahy’s PMP® Exam Prep guide, along with your business analysis study materials. Even if you have experience managing projects, you’ll need to learn the PMI approach, terminology, and philosophy.

PMI-PBA for Certification Holders

PMI’s stated goal is to recognize individuals who perform business analysis work on projects. The exam questions assume a business analyst is a team member separate from the project manager. By tying the exam so tightly to the PMP, PMI has, intentionally or not, created a certification that will primarily be earned by existing certificate holders.

People who sat for the pilot exam were asked to provide feedback, so I expect the exam will be different when it is released in October. Like all certification programs, it will evolve as more people are involved and provide feedback.

Read my post PMI and Business Analysis Certification: A Good Fit?

“PMBOK,” “PMI-PBA,” and “PMP” are registered trademarks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.