Thanks to the excellent work of organisations such as the International Institute of Business Analysts, a number of Business Analyst Certifications have recently emerged. Banter around the water cooler would suggest that there are a number of us out there who are considering certification, but are unsure how we’ll get return on our investment.
There are two organisations which provide programs for BAs in the Australian market which meet my criteria for an acceptable certification, i.e. that they:
- are governed by an independent body;
- assess candidates against entry level knowledge requirements;
- mandate experience in a commercial environment; and,
- enforce continuous improvement.
These are the International Institute of Business Analysts, which provides the Certificate of Competency in Business Analysis (CCBA) and the Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP), and the Australian Institute of Business Analysts.
Argument #1: BAs don’t need to be certified
When you think about some of the older professions, the value of certification is obvious. Would you trust a surgeon to operate on you if they didn’t at the very least have the right qualifications? Would you appoint a Chief Financial Officer who wasn’t at the very least a Chartered Certified Accountant? And yet, if I asked these questions 100 years ago, I would have received vastly different answers.
The Association of Chartered Certified Accounts (ACCA) was formed in 1904 as the “London Association of Accountants”. It initially comprised of eight(!) accountants who had the admirable goal of allowing more open access to the profession. The ACCA went through a number of mergers and title changes to become what it is today, an internationally recognised organisation with approximately 150,000 members.
Argument #2: Certification won’t make me better at my job
The CCBA and CBAP are excellent certification programs and the process of certification (whilst somewhat arduous) will certainly make you a better practitioner. To achieve the CBAP qualification, you’ll need to:
- Demonstrate that you have at least 5 years of experience (7500 hours “hands on” experience) in the Business Analysis Knowledge Areas;
- Provide two references demonstrating your suitability for candidacy;
- Prove that you have undertaken at least 21 hours of accredited professional development in the last three years; and,
- Successfully pass an examination on the contents Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK).
The BABOK, provided with IIBA membership, provides a fantastic source of reference material, tools and techniques. A Certified Business Analysis Professional needs to abide by a Code of Ethics and needs to renewed every three years demonstrating ongoing professional development. Not only will certification expand your toolkit with proven, standardised practices, it will also give you added motivation for continuous improvement. More information can be found on the IIBA’s website.
Argument #3: I’m going to wait until certification is more prevalent
The origins of medicine are a little cloudy, but history records that practitioners of medicine were first referred to as “Doctors” at the Medical School of Salerno in Southern Italy in ~900 AD. To attend the five year course, students had to be 21 years of age and had to have studied three years in “in scientia logica” (logic studies). The course itself included lectures in the teachings of the renowned early physicians Hippocrates and Galen.
Once the course was completed the student was required to practice for a year under the guidance of an experienced physician, providing free medical advice to the poor. Certification at the Medical School of Salerno was by Roman decree declared a pre-requisite for medical practice in 1221.
Early practitioners of medicine used a variety of techniques that by modern standards seem laughable. For a more modern example, research the origins of the phrase “don’t blow smoke up my a**”. Certification has driven medical practitioners to standardise on techniques that were proven to be effective and nowadays you cannot, by law, practice medicine without being certified.
My advice? Jump on board with BA certification now while it’s in its infancy. There are already over 1600 certified BAs and you’ll probably find that certification will become a mandatory requirement for some roles in the future. In the meantime, the strictness of the entry criteria and the costs of certification are only going to increase.
So now that I’ve spent all this time trying to justify certification, it’s probably high time for me to start practicing what I’m preaching. I hope to see you at a CBAP study group in the near future!