PMI-PBA vs. IIBA’s CBAP

PMI-PBA vs. IIBA’s CBAP

PBA versus CBAPWith the PMI’s recent release of the new Professional in Business Analysis (PBA) certification, business analysts (BAs) in the community are asking what is the difference between this new PMI-PBA and the IIBA’s existing Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP)? Also, if we’re looking into getting certified, which one should we go after?

In their announcement to offer the new certification, the PMI quoted a statistic by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics that “business analysis jobs are predicted to increase 19 percent by 2022.” We agree that this is a good reason for more people to get certified in the field of business analysis. We’re looking at this new certification from the PMI as great news; business analysis as a profession needs to break through the lack of recognition and demand more respect from the global community so that we can all be more successful in our jobs. This certification is definitely a step in that direction.

But before you go and sign up for the PMI-PBA pilot program, we recommend making sure it’s the right certification for you. After looking at the available literature, including the PMI-PBA Examination Content Outline (ECO), it is apparent that this particular certification is focused on a very specific area of business analysis, and is developed for a very specific subset of business analysts.

According to the PMI’s literature on the new certification, “business analysis is a critical function that helps define business requirements in order to shape the output of projects and drive successful business outcomes. In order to ensure the quality of requirements and projects, it is crucial that individuals be skilled and knowledgeable in industry standards and best practices.” While at Enfocus Solutions we agree this is true, we’re also aware that there is a broader usage of business analysis than the PMI-PBA’s project- and program-focused definition.

There’s more to business analysis than just requirements. We’ve always preached that at Enfocus Solutions. While the PMI has acknowledged there are broader applications for business analysis, they do not focus on those topics as a part of the PMI-PBA certification. Their website is very clear that the focus of the PMI-PBA is business analysis in the context of project and program management.

The scope of the PMI-PBA is much narrower when compared to the CBAP offered by IIBA. The PMI makes it clear their BA certification significantly emphasizes requirements management, especially with the recent release of the Requirements Management Knowledge Center of Excellence. On the other hand, the IIBA’s Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK), a well-established resource for BAs, incorporates enterprise and strategic business analysis, as well as requirements management. Comparing BABOK’s Knowledge Areas to the PMI-PBA ECO’s Domains, you can see the PMI-PBA is centered around requirements development and management activities, whereas BABOK has much broader applications.

PBA vs CBAP

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s just something to keep in mind when looking for the right certification for yourself. In what ways will you need to use business analysis? Are you performing it on an enterprise-scale, or a project-scale?

When we compare the qualification requirements for the two certifications, it becomes apparent that the PMI-PBA leans toward a certain type of audience—that of project and program management. For applicants with a relevant bachelor’s degree, the PMI-PBA requires less hours of BA experience. The PMI-PBA requires 4500 hours over 8 years, versus the CBAP’s requirement of 7500 hours over 10 years. The PMI-PBA is actually more similar to the Certification of Competency in Business Analysis (CCBA) offered by IIBA, which only requires 3750 hours of BA experience over 7 years. What does this tell us? That people going after the PMI-PBA probably don’t spend all of their time on business analysis, and most likely have other project-related responsibilities.

Also, to renew the PMI-PBA every 3 years, you must complete 60 Professional Development Units (PDUs). These courses are created by education providers registered with the PMI, meaning the content is generally focused on project and program management. This is also something to keep in mind if trying to decide between one certification or the other. Are you planning on following a project management-focused path? Or, will you need to learn broader applications of business analysis?

While both certifications have their merits, the PMI-PBA is very obviously geared toward someone with an existing project management background. The IIBA’s CBAP is geared toward a broader audience by including enterprise and strategic business analysis activities. There is an existing, well-established body of knowledge developed by the IIBA, covering all areas of business analysis. However, some people don’t need all of that information. Business analysis is often only a part of what someone does. So, depending on your goals, either certification could be the right one for you. Generally, we suggest people who work in more of a project management capacity to apply for the PMI-PBA as a natural continuation of your project management skills development.

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16 Comments

  1. Really much needed article in the times of confusion as to which BA Certification has to be done.

    Reply
  2. The 4500 or 7500 hours experience difference does not make any difference. If some has done BA for 4500 or 7500 hours, they still know enough about BA to do the job.

    This is a false dichotomy.

    Regarding the 60 PDU requirements:
    You are not required to take courses ONLY from PMI registered providers. I have taken courses from many other sources and as long as the material was in line with the certification the PDU requests were accepted.

    I both certifications are too expensive and not worth the money.

    Study for the cert and gain a rounded out knowledge base to build on and skip the expense.

    In the job market, only those that already have the CBAP ertification care.

    Reply
    • I know this is an older post, but just wanted to share that as a PMI member, the PMI-PBA is only $155 now if you opt for the computer based testing. The PBA is gaining in popularity There is much to gain from pursuing professional certification.

      Reply
    • I realize this is an old post, but for those still following the discussion the PMI-PBA is only $155 right not until the end of May for PMI members taking the computer based exam. Great deal.

      Reply
  3. I am wondering to what extent 7500 hours or 4500 hours make the difference when one is already passed certain point in his learning curve. Better to conider learning curve when comming up with these requirements.

    Reply
    • What would you suggest for study material? I just passed my PMP and want to get the PBA. Any info would be really appreciated. I’m not finding mush online. Thank you for the info on the price and any feedback.

      Reply
  4. Re: 7500 – 4500 hours.

    They just want it to seem exclusive.

    The folks at IIBA are very difficult to work with and they don’t seem to understand what the real world is like.

    Until now they did not have any competition.

    Both certs a still too expensive to earn and maintain.

    Reply
    • Well…… There is important factor to decide which certification to go
      What are you planning for future?
      If you want go for mix role of BA and PM then you should go for only PMI-PBA; since it focuses more on mixed role
      If you are targeting to go in direction of Principle consultant which will be core BA role then definitely CBAP is right choice.

      Reply
  5. Informative article. I worked as PM for around 1 year and due to job opportunity, I have to come to Business Analysis again. My long term plan is project management and I think I should go for PMI-BA course.

    Suggestions are most welcome.

    Thanks !!!

    Reply
  6. Shiver me timbers, them’s some great inrtfmaoion.

    Reply
  7. IIBA folks have a nasty application process. You are supposed to show X amount of hours in each knowledge area. They have added dummy ( intentionally incorrect) activities under each knowledge area. They then proportionally deduct the hours marked against these dummy areas. So, please careful else u lose money !!!!!

    Reply
    • Agree with this very strongly. Both of these appear to be money making opportunities for their organizations first and foremost. That said, the IIBA process is less transparent, more arbitrary and requires up front payment for the application process – no recourse that I could see if the mystery reviewer of your application decides you are unworthy.

      I would also agree with earlier comments that after the number of hours required to be eligible to take these tests you may certainly be already qualified as a BA. It’s highly doubtful that being good at preparing for and taking a test isn’t going to turn you into a BA if you haven’t already gotten the grounding from that kind of experience.

      So…I guess I’d rate the primary objective of these tests beyond making money for PMI and IIBA respectively to be checking a box, either at an employer’s behest or to improve your chances for further gainful employment in the sunny and beautiful, yet standardized world that is the future of business analysis. 😉

      I’d rate the whole thing most unsatisfactory. And, due to the less byzantine application process, I’ll be applying for the PMI certification myself.

      Reply
  8. I will also go the PMI-PBA way , as I am PM and DM and need to know both modelling and Analysis only for the bird view level. I am already a PMI-ACP and studying for PMP making it cheaper and easier for me.

    Reply
  9. Hahahaha. I’m not too bright today. Great post!

    Reply
  10. I went to the PMI site to see what its value proposition was to professional business analysts and I didn’t see anything that makes me believe $450 – 555 for a PMI certification does any business analyst, any good. The PMI should teach their PMs how to manage requirements so when the business analysts tell them how long good requirements for our projects will take, they will accept that we speak from experience and our truth is in that experience. PMs are responsible for the failure of projects.

    Reply
  11. Ditto David’s comment about how hard the IIBA is to work with. I am now noticing many job posts that say “CBAP or PMI-PBA Certification desired,” which tells me it really doesn’t make any difference which one from an employment perspective – they just want someone who took the trouble to become certified.

    Reply

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