Business Analysis Certification: PMI or IIBA?

You may be at a crossroads looking at Business Analysis certification. Which Is best: the IIBA or PMI business analysis certification? Or does it matter?

Just as project management knowledge and formalization has developed and matured over the years, so is business analysis. But while there is similarity between the two, there are also differences.

And there are two organizations that have business analysis certifications: the Project Management Institute (PMI) and the International Institute of Business Analysts (IIBA).

IIBA logo PMI logo

Most project contain some aspect of business analysis. Of course, every project has requirements of some sort. IT projects, especially, given that they usually model business processes in some way, are the key type of project where business analysis takes a primary role.

Even so, business analysis, in that sense, is only part of the project. But if business analysis is a profession, how can it be just a role within the realm of projects?

Project management extends beyond an individual project. There is portfolio management, in which projects are coordinated and selected according to higher level criteria. there is program management, where a strategic initiative, called a program, is executed, and within this program is some number of individual projects. There also are Project Management Offices (PMO) which coordinate projects in some way across an enterprise.

So, if there are these things that coordinate, guide, and control the project management function at a higher level, is there any such thing fr business analysis?

I say, "Yes!", there is an enterprise component to business analysis. Like project management, it is tied closely to strategy of the enterprise. And it provides guidelines, expertise, and input to the practice of business analysis on projects.

So it looks like there are two sides to business analysis: that side that is practiced on a project, as part of a project team, and that which is practiced at more of an enterprise level that ties this critical role together across departments, functions, initiatives, and operational systems.

In other words, business analysis has a project side, and an enterprise side.

There have even been various discussions over time as to whether business analysis is even a profession.

On one side, many have argued that business analysis is, in essence, being subsumed as part of projects, and it's difficult to separate it.

On the other side however, many project managers argue that you cannot possibly do both project management and business analysis on a project, unless it is very small. The skill sets overlap, and some cross pollination is good, but conflicts arise in the practice, and it's hard to do both jobs well.

In addition, there is a camp of what I will call business analysis "purists". Many have been practicing form business analysis for many years and consider it to be their profession. Their expertise seems to have been honed by participation on many projects, but with a very strong connection to the enterprise.

In conclusion, we need to recognize that the Project Management Institute Professional in Business Analysis (PMI-PBA) certification is naturally tied to the project side of things. Similarly, it seems that the International Institute of Business "analysis (IIBA), being totally focused on business analysis, is going to slant more to the "purist" orientation, where business analysis is a career and that it extends beyond projets to the enterprise level. It sits at the junction between the bottom up and top down, that is a struggle within virtually all large organizations.

While I can offer input on which business analysis certification to pursue, I will simply say that you cannot go wrong either way. In the end, if you are thinking of going for either, that having an additional certification and additional expertise will serve you well. It you are very strongly on the enterprise side of things, maybe the IIBA certification will be better. And if you are extremely project focused, and want to remain so, maybe the PMI certification is better. I believe that what you learn will be very similar.

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