So after getting my certification (CCBA) from the IIBA, I had no intention of jumping ship and doing the BA certification from the PMI group, PMI Professional in Business Analysis. I have nothing against it, but I didn't want to have to learn a new structure of information if I ever decided to go and get the next level of certification for myself (CBAP). However, while browsing the BA-Times website, there was a banner to take a look at their guide, so I decided to check it out to see how different it really is. Here is my at-a-glance analysis comparison of the two.
1. The big picture structure is generally the same
The IIBA sections business analysis into 6 knowledge areas and the PMI folks basically use the exact same concepts, only they just call them sections and they (rightfully) group some together. Below is the high level categorization, in the order that they are given the relevant texts.
IIBA Knowledge Areas
- Business Analysis Planning and Monitoring
- Requirements Management and Communication
- Enterprise Analysis
- Requirements Analysis
- Solutions Assessment and Validation
- Needs Assessment
- Business Analysis Planning
- Requirements Elicitation and Analysis
- Traceability and Monitoring
- Solution Evaluation
You can see pretty immediately that they are extremely similar, which is good, because that means basically everybody agrees on what business analysis is, and the certifications from the two will include similar data.
2. The Flow of information is completely different
I have a much more intimate understanding of the BABOK, because I studied it for my certification exam, and in skimming through the PMI guide I found the flow of information very different. As I think about it, the structure and flow of the information is in accordance to what they have titled their relevant works of literature.
The BOK in BABOK, as I failed to mention in the beginning of this article, stands for Body of Knowledge, so the information is very thoroughly sectioned and categorized. For example, each knowledge area is sectioned into Tasks (PMI has roughly the same tasks as well), and each task is sectioned into 4 categories: Inputs, Elements, Outputs, and Techniques. An input for a task might come from an output that actually fall into a later section, therefore you have to jump there to fully understand the input. Techniques are all held in the back of the book, so they just touch on them within the section, you'd have to go back and read more about it. As a result, trying to read in once through will leave a lot of gaps in your understanding. There is a lot of back and forth that has to happens before you can understand everything fully. The order of Knowledge Areas also doesn't quite follow real life, so its a little confusing for a brand new business analyst. However, the organization and categorization of like-information makes it very easy to study for a test.
BA Practitioners Guide Flow
The PMI's book is called Business Analysis for Practitioners: A Practice Guide. It's a guide, so instead of trying to categorize like bits of information and sectioning them together, its more like a walk through from the beginning to end of an engagement. Meaning, if you are a brand new business analyst, you can start from page one, and use it was a walk-through guide as you progress through your project. The techniques are fully explained as you read along. They even throw in common road-blocks and techniques to handle them. It makes it much easier to visualize the typical business analysis process and how specific outputs are reached. BABOK on the other hand might say here are 5 elements of this task, also here are 6 potential outputs of the tasks leaving you a little confused as to how 3 of the 6 outputs exist because they don't quite match the 5 tasks. I can't speak to how study friendly the PMI guide is, because I haven't had to study from it, but it definitely seems like an easier read end-to-end.
The information is roughly the same, the major difference is how the information is organized. In my opinion, the BABOK structure would work so much better as a wiki type of site, where jumping around and digging in where you need to is much more common. The PMI guide would benefit a more green BA who needs guidance and doesn't have a lot of opportunity to nag other more experienced BA's for clarifications.