10 Questions Answered about the Project Management Institute’s Professional in Business Analyis (PMI-PBA) Certification

This evening at the September dinner meeting of the Chicagoland chapter of the Project Management Institute, we had Dayle Bayer give a presentation entitled “The Quick Start Guide to Getting Certified in Business Analysis”, about the relatively new certification from PMI, the Professional in Business Analyis certification (PBA).   She gave a talk about the requirements for the certification, and what kind of career opportunities it would open up for those who obtained it.    Here are many questions that came up both in her talk and in the Q&A session that followed it.

1. What is the experience requirement for the PBA?

4,500 hours of business analysis experience, and 2,000 hours working on project teams.    You can double up on these requirements, so if some hours on project teams were related to business analysis, those hours can count for both categories.    NOTE:   This is if you have a college degree; you need 7,500 hours of business analysis experience if you don’t have a college degree.

2.  How difficult is the test compared to the Project Management Professional (PMP) exam?

It’s the same level, in the sense that there are 200 questions which you have 4 hours to answer.    Like the PMP, there are situational questions, but unlike the PMP, there are no questions involving calculation.

3.  Why did PMI feel the need for introducing the PBA?

In an analysis of the various root causes for project failure, PMI found out that 47% of projects that fail had poor requirements, so that even if a project was a “success” in terms of being on time and within the budget, the customer was not satisfied with the final deliverable because it did not meet what they felt were the requirements that they had conveyed to the company.

4.  What domains are covered by the PBA?

Just as in the PMP, where there are five domains or process groups, there are five domains for the PBA which are listed as follows, followed by the percentage of questions (on average) that the test will comprise in each domain:

  1. Needs Assessment–15%
  2. Planning–20%
  3. Analysis–35%
  4. Traceability and Monitoring–15%
  5. Solution Evaluation–15%

5.  What are the benefits of the PBA?

For the test taker, greater employment opportunities.   For the companies that hire them, PBA’s are increasingly becoming an important form of “internal consultant”, because they can make sure project requirements reflect key strategic business initiatives.

6.  How many people have taken the PBA?

There are 400 people in PMI who have taken and passed the PBA exam, as opposed to 500,000 who have taken and passed the PMP exam.

7.  Is PMI the only organization that offers a certification in business analysis?

No, the International Institute of Business Analysts holds two certifications:

  • CCBA–Certification of Competency in Business Analysis (junior level certification)
  • CBAP–Cerified Business Analysis Professional (senior level certification)

In terms of experience levels, these are roughly comparable to the CAPM and PMP certification levels for project management in PMI.

8.  What is the best way to describe what a PBA will be able to do as a business analyst once certified?

He or she will be able to prevent problems before they happen, and translate between strategic business requirements originated at the C-suite level and the functional requirements of the various departments in the business.

9.  What is the difference between the focus of the CBAP certification run by IIBA and the PBA certification run by PMI?

The IIBA certification focuses on translating between customer requirements and the functional requirements of the company’s technical departments that will make the product for the customer.    The PBA certification focuses on translating between the business requirements of the company and the company’s technical requirements.    In the business world, both sets of skills are needed, one to keep the customer happy and the other to keep management happy.

10.  What are some tips on how to pass the PBA?

  1. Pick a target test date
  2. Create a study plan
  3. Refresh the purpose of the exam–what is your purpose and passion for studying business analysis?
  4. Make the unknown known (get a copy of the Business Analysis for Practitioners, which is free from the PMI website if you are a member)
  5. Don’t train for perfection–you don’t need 100%, but just to pass the exam (so aim for 80% or more on practice tests because the actual passing rate is 70%)

I appreciated the succinct but thorough introduction to the PBA for those project managers in the room who are increasingly called upon to serve in capacities that were traditionally thought to belong to business analysts.   The key to success nowadays is innovation, and that requires you to be ready to capture ideas and put them into practice.   The PBA can help you realize that ambition!


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