No Longer Rodney Dangerfields, Business Analysts

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Many IT professions have certification programs that verify expertise in the field. Developers are certified in the products they customize. Salespeople are certified in product knowledge. Engineers are certified for server technologies. Technicians are certified through the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA).

IT business analysts, however, did not have such designations until recently. So that their skills would be adequately valued and understood, the International Institute for Business Analysis (IIBA) looked at the skills of mid- to senior-level business analysts and developed a certification program to test them. The Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP) standard aims to unify IT business analysts in their challenges and triumphs and to raise the practice to a best-in-class standard across organizations where CBAPs are employed.

“IIBA created CBAP to identify the skills and competencies of business analysis professionals and to create standards that had been absent,” said Richard Larson, president and founder of Watermark Learning in Minneapolis. His firm teaches IT business analysts observed best practices, readying them for the certification exam.

“When we knew that the CBAP was coming, we drew on the knowledge of what PMP [the Project Management Professional designation] did for the project management community and crafted our course to help get business analysts certified,” he said. Watermark also educates project managers, instructing them on the best practices identified in their profession.

CBAP achievement speaks to the professional dedication of an IT business analyst, but it also helps pave a recognizable career path for these practitioners. “IIBA cuts across industries with the common work of what business analysts do that will help solve business problems or meet business objectives,” Larson said. “It helps people reach a higher level of professional advancement.”

He foresees a day in which organizations will cite CBAP in their career advertising and reject job candidates without the acronym after their names. “One of the things that companies are facing today is when they are hiring and place an ad for a business analyst, it means so many things to so many people,” he said. As the number of CBAPs increases — there are currently fewer than 200 — there will be a common understanding that IT business analysts without CBAP status lack the experience necessary for more arduous IT projects, he said.

Successful CBAPs must submit professional references and prove a competency that only comes from significant time on the job and engagement in demanding projects. “Organizations, when they hire a CBAP or when one of their business analysts becomes one, eliminate some risk,” Larson said.

He applauds the professional designation for IT business analysts because it helps define the profession and elevate the professional within the IT function at any organization, as well as catapult organizational effectiveness and efficiency to a higher level.

“The major mission is to recognize business analysis professionals,” he said. “Business analysis is a separate and distinct career path within IT. I hope that companies will acknowledge that and pay compensation such that business analysts don’t have to become project managers to make more money.”

“People feel frustrated,” he said. “Even though business analysis is critical to a project, sometimes the project manager gets more recognition because of the PMP designation. CBAP recognizes the value of the contribution of the business analysis professional.”

It may take CBAP a couple of years to get to where PMP is today. However, early adopters, such as Allianz Life Insurance Co., have committed their organizations to excellence in business analysis and their staff to CBAP certification, methods, terminology, communications and modeling.

“They are a shining star in what organizations will do,” Larson said.

Kelly Shermach is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn, N.Y., who frequently writes about technology and data security. She can be reached at editor (at) certmag (dot) com.

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