Agile is here to stay!
Being a capable business analyst in an agile environment is no longer a specialization. Every competent BA must be comfortable working in an agile environment, and that should be reflected in the certifications offered by the IIBA.
Version 3 of the Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK) was released in 2015. This version identified agile analysis as one of five sample perspectives that “provide focus to tasks and techniques specific to the context of the initiative”. Other perspectives included business intelligence, information technology, business architecture, and business process management. The expressed intent was that these perspectives represented common views of business analysis, and that they should be applied as appropriate in any project context to provide ways to approach business analysis work.
At the time, there were ongoing “debates” in the community regarding the need for or value derived from including business analysts on agile teams. Indeed, the identification of roles in the Scrum Guide: scrum master, product owner, developer, motivated many (misguided?) teams to specifically reject the notion of business analysts as necessary or desirable members of a Scrum team. This premise became common throughout the industry.
Parenthetically, I have always found it interesting that no one seemed to question the inclusion of testers as a specialized role on Scrum teams.
Why overlook business analysts? The question could generate an article unto itself.
As agile methods became more widely accepted, it was clear the business analysis domain needed to address this oversight. The IIBA partnered with the Agile Alliance to create and release version 2 of the Agile Extension to the BABOK Guide in 2017. The Extension was intended to demonstrate the need for business analysis in an agile context and to clarify the application of solid business analysis, independent of project context or development paradigm. The Guide “demonstrates how an Agile mindset can be applied to all domains and how any BABOK® Guide task can be performed in an agile context”[i].
In 2018, the IIBA introduced the Agile Analysis Certification (IIBA®-AAC). This was the first of their “specialty” certifications, expanding on the core certifications: Entry Certificate in Business AnalysisTM (ECBATM), Certification of Competency in Business AnalysisTM (CCBA®), Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP®). The certification was designed to be methodology-agnostic, focusing on the business analysis principles necessary to support iterative, adaptive development, independent of the domain. Some new techniques were introduced, but by and large, the focus was on how good business analysis practices described in the BABOK® should be applied in an agile context.
No one should argue that doing business analysis in an agile, change-driven context is the same as traditional, plan-driven analysis. The differences, however, focus largely on the timing and the level of detail in the application of standard BA practices. The same practices generally apply regardless of the team’s development approach.
Fast forward several years, and the agile paradigm is dominant in the software industry. Many organizations are extending, transitioning, or having transitioned to agile frameworks and methodologies. At the same time, those frameworks, methodologies, and teams have recognized that business analysis is not antithetical to agility. Indeed, business analysts or those project team members having strong business analysis capabilities are now seen as vital to successful initiatives.
Where does that leave the AAC? As of August 2022, the IIBA Certification Registry lists 1,474 registered holders of the IIBA®-AAC. This may not represent the entire total, as holders can choose to exclude their names from the directory. Compared with the other core and specialty certifications the numbers tell an interesting story:
- ECBATM – 7,359
- CCBA® – 2,743
- CBAP® – 16,331
- IIBA®-CBDA (Business Data Analytics Certification) – 338
- IIBA®-CCA (Cybersecurity Analysis Certification) – 253
- IIBA®-CPOA (Product Ownership Analysis Certification) – 634
Clearly, the core certifications are more popular than the specialty certifications. This is particularly true of CBAP®, which has been around for a longer time, requires verifiable work experience, and has more recognition in the marketplace. There is more interest in AAC than any of the other specializations, but that may be a result of the length of time AAC has been available in comparison to the other specialty certs.
What I find most interesting, however, is the integration of agile principles with the other specialty certifications. The IIBA emphasizes that the specialty certifications, particularly CBDA and CPOA, which is really an Agile certification, include the application of agile techniques along with an expectation of the application of techniques and practices from the BABOK®.
People preparing for certifications have a duty to understand more than just “what’s in the book”. To be an effective BA, the practitioner needs to be able to apply techniques and practices from any perspective that will support the initiative. In providing training for aspiring BAs and certification candidates, I often refer to information not only from the BABOK®, but also from the Agile Extension and a variety of other agile frameworks and methodologies.
Going forward, I can easily see the AAC being rolled into the core certifications, particularly at the ECBATM level. While that would eliminate one outlet for my services (AAC certification courses), I think it would ultimately serve the domain and result in better BAs.
[i] IIBA and Agile Alliance Release Version 2 of The Agile Extension to the BABOK Guide (https://www.agilealliance.org/the-alliance/news-press/iiba-and-agile-alliance-release-version-2-of-the-agile-extension-to-the-babok-guide/#:~:text=The%20Agile%20Extension%20to%20the%20BABOK%C2%AE%20Guide%20will,be%20available%20for%20enterprise%20licensing%20in%20September%202017)