The IIBA: Timely or Premature?

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I picked up an interesting article by Joe Gollner this morning in my Google Alerts that seemed to call into question the need or at least the timing of the creation of the IIBA and its accompanying body of knowledge, the BABOK.

I thought I’d send the link on over to Kevin Brennan to get his take, but by the time I had a chance to log on to Twitter, he had already received word of the article and responded via the IIBA blog.

I’d encourage all of you to read both, because a) I think Gollner’s criticisms are pretty common and worthy of discussion, and b) Brennan provided what I feel to be an excellent response.

Point/Counterpoint

Here’s a quick summary, then I’ll chime in with a closing thought or two.

Gollner’s main points, as I interpreted them, are:

  • Business analysis is a “fledgling domain” that has been only recently considered a discipline unto itself, and definition of the role is still very much in flux.
  • For those reasons, “distilling a body of knowledge, and associated certification standards and educational programs, seems very much pre-mature.”
  • While the time is not yet right for formal BA certification standards, pulling together a BA body of technology is a worthy endeavor;  “the effort to bring some order to this field is laudable and overdue.”
  • A central organization driving BA knowledge and standards  “should be directed towards building the necessary tools and techniques, and proving them in practice” rather than emphasizing formal certification at this early stage.

Brennan’s key points, again, as I interpreted them are:

  • Business analysis is not a new profession. It has been around a lot longer than the “business analyst” role as now commonly known.
  • In recent years, more in industry are recognizing the need for business analysis, and people who do business analysis are now more commonly referred to by the business analyst title.
  • Fledgling domains whose role definitions and preferred techniques are in changing/evolving are precisely those that stand to benefit most from efforts to drive a central, standard body of knowledge (as was the case with PMI).
  • Having a shared vision of expectations among practitioners is key identifying good/best practices. It is the aim of IIBA and the BABOK to identify and provide this vision.
  • That the IIBA hasn’t gotten the BOK and certification standards perfect is not a good reason to not do them at all. I saw this as Kevin’s central tenet. In fact, the title of the post is, “The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good”. Further,

“The important question for practitioners is not whether the current BABOK Guide is perfect, but whether it represents an improvement over having no shared understanding or common definition of business analysis.”

My thoughts?

To be fair, I am a member of IIBA and will state upfront that I am very grateful for the work that they have done to provide a focal point and a forum for discussion. IIBA has not mandated standards, but has done just what a good analyst would do and done the research among practitioners to elicit, analyze, specify, validate and then manage them.

I find the BABOK (especially version 2.0. Didn’t care a lot for how 1.6 was organized) to be very useful and an important  step toward being able to compare apples to apples across companies and industries when speaking of business analysis techniques and competencies. I’m glad to be associated with the IIBA and look forward to working with their leadership to continue blazing the trail.

All of that said, I admittedly haven’t come around quite yet as to the need for CBAP certification, but I figure that’s all in good time. For me it has been more a question of economic cost/benefit, than one of concern over whether IIBA and the BABOK were too rough, immature or unstable to be of any value.

My parting questions to those  who might think organization of the IIBA and a set of standards is premature would be, “if not now,  then when? And if not IIBA, then who?”

Go take a look at both articles, though, as my summary gives the gist but doesn’t do either justice. First give Gollner a look, then read Brennan’s response. Hope you enjoy as much as I did!

About the Author

Jonathan Babcock is a management and IT consultant with expertise in business analysis, process optimization and solution delivery methodology. Practical Analyst is his outlet for sharing what he's learned, and for interacting with solution delivery professionals across the globe.

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6 Comments

  1. Hi Jonathan

    Although the conversation, or perhaps more accurately the exchange, spawned by my initial post has officially expired, I got around to drawing up an epilogue. In this epilogue, I returned to the two questions that you raise in your post – questions I thought, as I thought of your post in general, deserved attention. I was a little less impressed with the initial IIBA response, but I tried to use it elucidate some of the core concepts that we might want to either adopt or fashion if the discussion of professionalization is to get very far. I am certainly aware of the sensitivities I stumbled across and, as I pointed out in one of the exchanges, sensitivity is almost an inevitable attribute of communities undergoing state transitions between being a craft and a practice, or being a practice and a profession. At any rate, some points are included in my concluding comment that were intended to get back to the two questions you raised – if not the IIBA, then who? and, if not now, when?

    Regards
    Joe

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Joe, and for stirring things up in the first place. I’ve enjoyed following the discussion, and will certainly check out your epilogue.

      Aside from the value of BA certification, you submitted some questions/ideas I hadn’t really considered.

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