So you are a business analyst, you have been for a few years and now it is time to take it to the next level. So... what should you do? Should you get CCBA or CBAP certified by the IIBA, should you go get your MBA, or is there something better out there? It's about time someone puts it all together to make it make sense for you.
I am IIBA certified (CCBA) and after getting some feedback from MBAs as well as recruiters, I suddenly started making sense of all there is out there for us. Here is my take on a productive way to get the right training to enhance you as a business analyst.
Why You Should First Get IIBA Certified (CCBA or CBAP)
The IIBA's focus is on defining what it is to be a good business analyst. Getting certified WILL NOT make you a better business analyst. Instead, it helps you define what a good business analyst should be able to do. It covers areas of knowledge that a business analyst should understand, competencies that a business analyst should have, and techniques that a business analyst should be able to perform.
Honestly, certification isn't necessary if you can commit to learning the BABOK material, but getting the certification basically certifies for yourself and others that you really do understand what it means to be a good business analyst. It's also one of the cheapest certifications anyway, so you might as well start your career with a strong understanding of what your role is really all about!
Next, You Should Focus On Your Weak Spots
Once you have understood what it means to be a good business analyst, now you know where your gaps are. For the most part (as depicted in the diagram), understanding the business analysis knowledge areas is basically satisfied by getting an IIBA certifcation, but that certifcation will not improve your competencies, nor will it improve your ability to perform certain techniques. At this point, its time for you decide which gaps are most important for you to fill. The decision can be based on your current position and the gaps in your company or just your desires/passions as an individual.
Finally, Pick The Right Training for You!
Depending on your personal gaps, the gaps in your company, or your passions or career aspirations as an individual you have plenty of options for training. Below summarizes the types of training that are common in the business analysis arena.
Getting and MBA is more than just a title. Most MBA programs focus on how businesses work, progress, and thrive and as a business analsyt, this is what you are trying to help your stakeholders accomplish. An MBA will bring you closer to the business, help you understand their needs, and certainly help you grow in your career. Business analysts who get there MBA find it easier to transition into roles such as enterprise architects. In fact, that's exactly what happens to the business analyst in my company who become MBA degree holders.
Other Post-Graduate Degress
An MBA is not the only post graduate degree that would benefit a business analyst. Your role as a business analyst is about satisfying business needs and being the center of effective communication. Master programs in communications, psychology, information management/architecture, and user experience design could alll help you become a more effective business analyst. While an MBA might look good on paper, there are many master programs that will make you a better business analyst in practice, which to me is the most important.
Choosing a certification program is really not all that different than choosing a degree program. Still kinda formal, but less demanding from a time and money perspective than a degree. Certification can help you learn more about different competencies or push you into a career path that you think you might be intersted in. Right now, I'm pursing a certification in User Experience, because I find it incredibly interesting. Later I will likely get a degree and at that point I'll decide whether I will continue the UX route or go for the MBA.
While certifications can give you certain titles, I would use them as a means to acquire lacking skills instead of a gaining a title for something you are already knowledgeable about. At the end of the day, performance is more important than any title you might hold.
Webinars and Seminars
Webinars and seminars are typically very fast and cheap ways to gain specific skills. They may not make you an expert, but they can improve a lacking skill, or they can teach you a new skill that you will be able to implement quickly. For me personally I use these as a means to gain immediate access to specific skills. Usually these are related to business analysis techniques that I am less familiar with. Places like Udemy.com and Lynda.com are great from getting educated on specfic areas of knowledge. I hope you found that useful and if you think there is more to add please feel free to leave comments! I want to learn from your experiences too! Knowlege is power and I always welcome new information.
Don't forget to check out the CCBA and CBAP Prep Course at Udemy.Com if your planning to prepare for the exam (it's much cheaper than most online training programs that cost in the thousands).