A recent study showed that 80% of UK BAs surveyed hold at least one BCS (ISEB) module. What are you doing to differentiate yourself?
A regular topic of conversation within the BA community is one of certification, and specifically which certification route is best. Within the UK the two qualifications that are often compared are:
- BCS (previously ISEB) diploma in Business Analysis
- IIBA CCBA or CBAP
There are keen advocates of both qualifications, and the debate is often framed around which qualification is best. I take a different view and believe there is benefit in an experienced Business Analyst holding both.
The two qualifications have different structures, and they have their own strengths. Certainly the BCS (previously ISEB) diploma is most widely recognised in the UK as of 2012, with CBAP currently gaining recognition and traction. CBAP has an advantage that the holder must demonstrate experience in a BA role, which acts as some level of assurance to any potential employer.
Here’s a quick comparison of the two:
|ISEB CBAP/CCBA||BCS Diploma|
|Experience requirement||Both CBAP and CCBA require evidence of the applicant having carried out a BA role.(7,500 hours for CBAP3,750 hours for CCBA)||No direct requirement for the applicant to have experience.|
|Flexibility in material||No flexibility: The BABOK is the mandatory text book.||Flexible structure: There are core modules, but an applicant can choose which optional modules they want to take. Therefore study pathway can be tailored.|
|Self-study vs Classroom||Available as both – self study is not for the feint hearted and there are real benefits from structured learning.|
|Examination||One multiple choice exam.||Modular approach.written exam per module, then a final oral exam|
|Recognition||Up-and-coming.Gaining momentum.||Well established.Well recognised.Employers ask for it.|
|Suitable for||CBAP : Experienced BAs (5 yrs +)CCBA: BAs building their experience (2.5 -3 yrs +)||Aspiring BAs.New BAs.Experienced BAs looking to formalise their knowledge.|
The BCS (previously ISEB) diploma covers some useful ground. It provides a common baseline of knowledge that all BAs should have.
The CBAP and CCBA require that attendees prove their experience. As an applicant, this can seem like a painful process, but it demonstrates that the holder has hands-on experience within the BA role.
CBAP and CCBA are based on the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK), which is split into different ‘knowledge areas’. This provides usable framework that is supported and developed by the IIBA. It also provides a common language – it sets out the scope of areas like Enterprise Analysis, Requirements Elicitation. This helps to ensure that BAs speak in precisely the same language from organisation to organisation. The BABOK is a dry read – I won’t lie. BUT, having studied for CBAP, I do find myself referring back to the BABOK.
So.. the million dollar question… which should you choose?
Well, here’s my view:
If you’ve recently become a BA:
If I was a BA starting out today, I would take my BCS diploma first. However, I would also study the BABOK and understand the framework, and I’d consider taking a course to help me achieve that.
If you’re wanting to make the transition to a BA role
Aspiring BAs should be aware that employers look for experience as well as the diploma. Holding the diploma alone is unlikely to get a foot-in-the door. If you are looking to make a transition to the BA role, then perhaps consider how you can gain experience alongside structured learning. Look for the course that covers the right learning objectives, that will allow you to “hit the ground running” when you get your first job. Look for a course that offers practical material and make sure you leave the course with a practical, hands-on understanding of how to select and use BA tools and techniques. Ask the training company “how will this course help me to get a BA job?”.
If you already hold the ISEB BCS diploma
But to those of you experience BAs out there who have the ISEB BCS diploma, my message is “don’t stop developing!” I would highly recommend considering CBAP as your next qualification – I believe it’s a great way of future-proofing your career. It’s also a way of differentiating yourself from your peers. The recent UK IIBA survey showed that 80% of respondents held at least one BCS (ISEB) Diploma module. By holding both qualifications, you might just give yourself the edge.
The job market can be hard, and in my view CBAP is a great investment.
So… the choice shouldn’t be ISEB or CBAP. There is benefit in holding both!
I’d love to hear your thoughts and views. Please feel free to add a comment below.