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5 Myths About PMI’s Business Analysis Certification

In this article I aim to debunk some of the misinformation I often hear surrounding PMI’s Professional in Business Analysis (PMI-PBA) certification in hopes of providing better clarity to support improved decision making.

Background: The PMI-PBA certification hit the market in late 2014. It’s not quite three years since its launch, but it is doing well; having now attained credential holders in 82 countries. The idea that PMI was developing products in the business analysis space was shocking to some, but PMI has been recognizing the importance that requirements play in achieving program and project objectives for years. For those who are familiar with “A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Sixth Edition” (PMI, 2017), it’s no surprise to hear that successful projects require the effective use of business analysis. It makes complete sense why PMI would be investing heavily to raise awareness about the relationship between mature business analysis practices and organizational performance. In “Business Analysis Leading Organizations to Better Outcomes” (2017), PMI reported that organizations with high business analysis maturity, demonstrate above average performance across all key organizational success metrics—including:

  • Financial performance (69% versus 45%),
  • Strategy implementation (66% versus 21%),
  • Organizational agility (40% versus 14%), and
  • Management of individual projects (62% versus 29%).

So there should be no question on why PMI cares about business analysis and has set out to develop a top-notch professional credential to help organizations improve their capabilities to deliver on their strategic objectives.

Despite approaching its 3-year anniversary, there is still confusion about what the PMI-PBA is all about. As with many new products, there are early adopters and there are those that take a wait and see approach; certification is no different. For those who adopt later – there may be weeks or months spent researching, discussing, or listening to others share their experience and knowledge. This is the time where there should be sufficient and accurate information to base discussions and decisions on; and there is – on! Unfortunately, (as I have found firsthand) there are some postings, presentations, and conversations on social media that are perpetuating a misunderstanding about the scope, structure, and value of the PMI-PBA. I don’t believe it is being done on purpose or maliciously—I think it is a byproduct of the community misunderstanding PMI’s objectives and the product characteristics. I hopefully clarified PMIs objectives above—so let’s set the record straight on the PMI-PBA product.

5 PMI-PBA Myths

I have assembled a short-list of the top five misguided statements I have heard about the PMI-PBA. Hopefully this article provides you better information and helps to dispel the misinformation. If you are considering a PMI-PBA, hopefully this information helps you further your discussions with your manager and professional contacts. At the end of the day, the decision to pursue a PMI-PBA or not, is owned by those who must make the investment. Be wary of taking the advice of consultants and peer business analysts who convince you that a certification is right or wrong for you. Everyone needs to perform their own analysis, because each person’s situation is different. This article isn’t about convincing you one way or the other, it’s simply intended to provide you factual information to assist you in your decision making process.

Here we go…the top five myths about the PMI-PBA:


Myth #1: The PMI-PBA is an entry level credential.

This is absolutely false! You can debunk this misinformation by taking a look at the eligibility requirements in the PMI-PBA Handbook downloadable from PMI’s website. To be eligible to take the exam, you must demonstrate either 7,500 or 4,500 hours of business analysis work experience and 2000 hours of business analysis experience working on projects. The 7,500 or 4,500-hour requirement is determined based upon your educational background. Further details are listed in the PMI-PBA Handbook. These hours were not randomly selected. An extensive role delineation study was performed by an external third party and the results indicated that these were the hours required in order to demonstrate competency in business analysis. The PBA exam is also structured to include scenario-based questions which rely heavily on experience not book knowledge to answer. From my personal experience taking the exam, I can attest to the fact that the PMI-PBA is clearly developed for experienced professionals.

Myth #2: The certification confines business analysis to projects and programs.

Completely false! PMI research has shown that 83% of business analysis is performed on programs and projects in highly mature organizations, but this does not mean that PMI defined business analysis only to this context. You can debunk this misinformation by taking a look at PMI’s definition of the term portfolio which states it consists of “projects, programs, subsidiary portfolios, and operations managed as a group to achieve strategic objectives.” “The Standard for Portfolio Management Fourth Edition” (PMI, 2017) is more than managing projects; hence PMI’s business analysis standards do the same because business analysis is discussed in the context of how it is performed in support of portfolio, program, project management and operations. The “Business Analysis for Practitioners: A Practice Guide” (PMI, 2015) provides an entire chapter, Needs Assessment, that discusses pre-project business analysis activities. Later this year you can take hold of “The PMI Guide to Business Analysis” (PMI, 2017) which goes further than the practice guide in explaining how business analysis supports portfolio, programs, projects and operations. Keep in mind that how business analysis is defined is based on extensive research, not any one person’s idea of how it should be defined. 

Myth #3: The PMI-PBA was developed by a group of project managers.

No, sorry this is false too! I can see where some people might think this is the case, but PMI definitely used a team of experienced business analysis professionals from around the world and across industries to develop the PBA exam questions. PMI continues to do so too, because the test bank is refreshed on an ongoing basis. New exam writing initiatives ensure that the PMI-PBA exam questions remain relevant and reflect the latest thinking as presented in PMI’s standards and confirmed across the profession. Those assisting in writing new exam questions are just as experienced as the original development team. I think I should also mention that all PMI-PBA exam questions once written, are also reviewed by experienced business analysis professionals. Additionally, each exam question is required to be backed by at least two independent business analysis references. I don’t want to forget to mention that exam writing teams also have access to extensive PMI research. This credential is absolutely developed by business analysis professionals for business analysis professionals.

Myth #4: The certification is for project managers or PM/BA hybrids.

I can’t say this statement is completely false, because there are some PM/BA hybrids or project managers who qualify to sit for the PMI-PBA exam BUT not all project managers and not all PM/BA hybrids are eligible. In fact, not all business analysts are eligible! In my response to myth #1, I indicated the work experience requirements. It is these requirements that dictate eligibility, not your job title. Product owners, business analysts, project, program, portfolio managers, requirement managers, IT analysts and numerous other titles may be included because it’s not the job title that matters. What does matter is the number hours of ‘business analysis’ experience you possess. You demonstrate your experience on the PMI-PBA application. Therefore, if you are doing any of the work discussed in PMI’s business analysis standards, you are performing business analysis and may qualify to sit for the exam. It’s worth checking out the eligibility requirements to see if you qualify – regardless of your job title!

Myth #5: PMI has defined business analysis as a subservient role to project management.

Oh gosh no! I think it’s time we debunk this PM/BA subservient concept, it’s been around a long time and it’s not how we operate at all if we want to be successful. PMI research shows that highly mature organizations encourage high levels of collaboration between their portfolio, program, project management, and business analysis professionals (“Business Analysis: Leading Organizations to Better Outcomes” [PMI, 2017]). We are all part of the same team and we will jeopardize our success if we fail to collaborate. PMI has not defined business analysis as a subservient role. In fact, the “PMI Guide to Business Analysis” and “The Standard for Business Analysis” publishing this year will sit among some of PMI’s most prestigious standards” – the “PMBOK® Guide,” “The Standard for Portfolio Management” and “The Standard for Program Management.” Business analysis is no less important, but equally important for organizations and individuals to understand and embrace.

I hope my responses to the top 5 myths about the PMI-PBA helps to dispel some rumors, reduce confusion, and allows for improved decision making when it comes to researching a professional certification in business analysis. Remember, PMI may be the Project Management Institute, but this doesn’t mean PMI only serves project managers. It’s not practical to think this way. Those who have experience working on ‘successful’ change initiatives within their organizations can attest to the fact that it’s a collaborative effort. We can’t succeed by separating our business analysis professionals from our project management professionals! This is one of the reasons I am encouraged by the contributions PMI is making to the business analysis profession and even more encouraged to see that recently ranked the PMI-PBA as the highest paying business analysis certification on their list.