BA Certification – ISEB or CCBA/CBAP?

 

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:

 

Man holding stack of books 2
ISEB or CBAP/CCBA? There’s benefit in both!
  • 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

AspiringBAs 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.  And if you like my blogplease subscribe.

 


PS — If you liked this article, you might also like to read “Tips for forming a CBAP/CCBA study group“, and you might even be interested in our CBAP/CCBA Accelerator Course.


 

About the author:

Adrian Reed is Principal Consultant at Blackmetric Business Solutions, an organisation that offers Business Analysis consulting and training solutions (including a CBAP/CCBA Accelerator Course). Adrian is a keen advocate of the analysis profession, and is constantly looking for ways of promoting the value that good analysis can bring.

To find out more about the training and consulting services offered at Blackmetric, please visit www.blackmetric.com

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David Smith

Great article Adrian. I obtained my ISEB Diploma 12 months ago in order to ‘formalise my knowledge’. I’m just about to start a CBT CBAP course at work and hope to apply this year. Although I’ve been a BA for 8 of last 10 years, it’s been a hybrid role so documenting my hours is no easy task. Even if I don’t apply, I think taking BABOK-aligned traIning is great for my development.

Adrian Reed

Thanks Dave, I’m glad you enjoyed the article. I agree that documenting hours is a tricky task… in retrospect I would have kept a log as I went along! I’d be interested to know how effective the CBT training is — would you mind letting me know your thoughts on it?

Adrian Reed

Hi Bindu — of course I remember you 🙂

I’m glad you enjoyed the article. In the UK, I get the sense that the CBAP is still gaining momentum, but I certainly see a need for it.

Take care, hope to catch up with you soon, Adrian.

Beatrice Kilcommon

Adrian,
Great article. Thanks for the comparison. I hold my ISEB Diploma and do agree with you that there is a benefit in holding both. I’m a great fan of the Babok, taking the CBAP exam is something that I would definitely consider.

Adrian Reed

Fantastic – thanks Beatrice. I agree with you that the BABOK is a great resource — I find myself referring to it at work (which is something that surprised me actually). I also have a copy of the BCS “Business Analysis” book (that is the ‘set text’ for ISEB) and also a copy of “Business Analysis Techniques” by James Cadle, Paul Turner & Debbie Paul. I refer to them when needed too. All of these are great for a “refresher”!

Anna

Hi Adrian, Thanks for the article very helpful. Just some extra advice…..I am looking into being a BA but so much is out there and don’t really know where to start between the Certificate or the Diploma. Being that I want ot home study I have been advised to prep for the Certificate but from you article you seem to suggest the Dipoma is a better bet for a complete novice. I am not and have not been a BA so abit concern with the hours experience required as well.

Adrian Reed

Hi Anna, I’m glad you found the article helpful. If you are not currently a BA, then you wouldn’t be able to consider CBAP/CCBA at this time (as both require demonstrable BA experience). You could consider progression towards the BCS diploma — perhaps starting with an individual certificate. Each module has a separate exam, so you can study for them separately. In order to pass the diploma, you require a total of four modules and you are required to sit an oral exam.

For more information about the structure of the BCS diploma, take a look here: http://certifications.bcs.org/content/ConCertification/51

For more information about CCBA/CBAP (in case it is of interest in future), take a look here:
http://www.iiba.org/IIBA/Certification/IIBA_Website/Certification/Certification.aspx

I understand from your comment that you’re not currently a BA (and haven’t been a BA in the past). One additional consideration, as well as considering which certification/qualifications are most appropriate, is how to gain BA experience. If you are currently in a non-BA role, you might want to consider whether you could take up a side-project or a secondment to gain additional hands-on experience. A key factor in any case is that whilst certification is extremely useful, it is the hands-on experience that complements, completes and cements the learning cycle.

I hope this is useful. Kind regards,

Adrian.

Rainer

Hi Adrian, Thanks for this article, great. I have written a White paper http://www.masventa.eu/fileadmin/user_upload/media/pdf_en/Business_Analysis_Certificates_2014.pdf dealing with two BA/RE-Certificates which are most popular in Germany, the CBAP and the CPRE. I share your opinion that the CBAP certificate could be the second step, once you have taken the ISEB or the CPRE. On the other hand, I recommend to young BAs to go for the CCBA which is the smaller certificate offered by the IIBA. The CCBA has some advantages, it ensures that certificate holders have proven experience (3750 hours which is half of CBAP’s 7500 hours) and it is halfway to a later CBAP certificate, which can be considered to be the top one. I think that the BABOK is similar to the PMBOK something which will become the world-wide industry-standard for Business Analysis. The development of the No. 1 PM certificate “PMP” shows us how a global standard develops compared with more local certificates like ISEB (UK) or CPRE (Germany) in Business Analysis or Prince2 (UK)and GPM (Germany) in Project Management. My recommendation therefore is: Think globally, go for CCBA and CBAP, depending on your experience.

yusuf alsayeh

useful article , i was looking for such article to describe the benefits for each certification and this one is very helpful , i’m new in this field and i think i will proceed with the ISEB .

Brian Hunt

Hi Adrian. As the holder of both qualifications, you’re able to provide an informed perspective on both of these qualifications.

My own view (as a CBAP) is that the IIBA route is great for independent consultants who meet the experience criteria, but the BCS ISEB route, because of it’s greater recognition in the UK and the structured path towards it, is the best choice for organisations wanting to set up a BA community.

As we’ve discussed previously, a big problem in the UK is that there are so many views on what a BA is. These range from a relatively junior role managing requirements documentation to a more senior role such as reviewing and advising on corporate strategy.

Where I believe that the IIBA qualification has a significant edge is from the experience requirements that have to be met before even taking the exam, and then the need to keep experience current to retain the qualification. That means that all registered CCBAs or CBAPs are in current practice.

Brian Hunt

After further investigation, I’m now on route for the BCS BA Diploma. As a CBAP, I have two modules to complete: Business Analysis Practice (just completed, exam to schedule) – that one is mandatory and Modelling Business Processes as my practitioner specialism. I plan to complete both exams within the next month and then schedule the oral exam.

Pedro

Thank you for this article, I have only 1 year left to complete a Bachelor in Business Administration and I am considering to obtain a BCS this year. I have no BA experience but are willing to start from scratch, and through this article I believe this may be the best way to get started.

Thank you once again

Megha Jain

hi
I am a software engineer and was doing contracting job, but now i have left the job as i wanted to become a BA , currently i am preparing for my bcs diploma and finding it hard to pass the exam . so what advice will you give me to enter into BA ROLES . should i start with the training jobs and gain some BA experience and then again try for the diploma ?

Please advise !

Adrian Reed

Megha, it is difficult to provide advice without knowing about your background. However, if you are struggling to pass the exam, one consideration is whether you could find a local accredited training provider in your area to assist you. Certainly, having certification on your CV will be an advantage.

However, in terms of becoming a BA, this is a much bigger question. I would recommend you find people in your network who you can speak to, and who can provide you personal advice. Additionally, the general resources below may help.

Firstly, I’d highly recommend finding your local IIBA chapter. IIBA (International Institute of Business Analysis) is an excellent resource, and an excellent way of finding like-minded BAs. Engaging with IIBA is a great way of drawing on the collective experience of the BA community:

http://www.iiba.org

You may also want to take a look at the many useful BA web resources that are out there, for example:

http://www.bridging-the-gap.com (a very useful website for those starting their career)
http://www.modernanalyst.com
http://www.batimes.com

I hope this helps — Adrian.

Kay

Hi Adrian, I found your article very useful however, my situation doesn’t fit any of your examples (entry level, transition, already have ISEB), and wonder if you could help me to sing post where I can get better advice. I have been working as BA for 15 years in IT but have no ISEB or CCBA qualification. Currently I am in senior BA role. I have long and solid IT business experience and know whole life cycle of business. I’ve started to notice these certificates appear some time ago and I am keen to develop my skills. But I am not sure what is the best course of action, and I am still not clear number of things – I am under impression that recent framework of work positioned BA as stepping stone to PM (project manager), thus BA is junior role compared to PM, these certificates are more focused on people with technical background.And lastly these certificate don’t take into account person like me. Any suggestion would be appreciated.

kunal

Hi Adrian, I have less than a years experience in business analysis. but i would like to know how do i train and for and give the exam inn India

Adrian Reed

Hi Kunal,

I would recommend that you contact the exam provider, and ask them for a list of endorsed education providers/accredited training organisations in your area.
You will find further information on their website (or via Google!)

I hope that this helps, Adrian

Jonny

Hi Adrian, can you advise if there are any exemptions when completing the CCBA (or any other IIBA) certification if you have already obtained the BCS (ISEB) Diploma?

Adrian Reed

Hi Jonny,

Thanks very much for your comment. The short answer is no, not at present (i.e. there are not any current exemptions for holders of the BCS Diploma). However, depending on the type of course that you took, you might find that the training that you took in order to achieve the BCS International Diploma in Business Analysis will count towards the ‘professional development’ requirement for ECBA™, CCBA®, or CBAP®. For example, to sit the CCBA® exam you need 21 hours of professional development, for CBAP® you require 35. Depending on the modules/type of training you took this might count.

Incidentally, I have recently put together a summary of the differences between CBAP®, CCBA®, ECBA™ etc, which you might find useful. Here it is:

http://www.blackmetric.com/certification/

Also there is a short video here:

http://www.blackmetric.com/2017/01/09/video-iiba-multi-level-certification-framework-an-overview-ecba-cbap-ccba-cbatl/

You will also find IIBA’s certification handbook useful, I suspect:

http://www.iiba.org/certification-handbook/intro-cert-framework-intro.htm

I hope you find this information useful. Remember, IIBA’s website is always the ‘master’ source of information, so be sure to check that out in detail too.

Kind regards, best of luck with your studies,

Adrian.

Perry Bridges

Hi Adrian

Thanks for the article (and the subsequent comments help too!). I’m a relatively junior BA looking to complete the BCS.

That said my role has taken a more hybrid turn recently and now I’m doubting my certification choice. I would imagine, not unlike a growing number of BA’s, I’m now being utilized as a BA and a Project Lead. I’ve read a number of interesting articles saying this isn’t an uncommon approach being taken by businesses. And in fact I completely agree with the logic, why hire a BA and a PM when one resource can be used!

I’m wondering what your thoughts are on the BSC course and its benefits to Project Lead/ PM roles? I can specialize in ‘BCS Foundation Certificate in Project Management’ but I’m not sure if future employers would see this as enough of a qualification for me to complete Project Lead work (my current employer has no problem with it). Or if in fact there’s a best certification I can look to gain?

Thanks in advance
Perry

Adrian Reed

Hi Perry,

I’m really glad you found the article interesting.

In true BA style, I think my answer would be “it depends”.

Firstly, it depends on what you mean by ‘project lead’. There are many BAs who, for example, act as Lead BA–and this will involve a significant chunk of business analysis planning & monitoring. It will (typically) involve accountability for estimating and planning the *BA* element of the work, working out the BA approach and the number of BA resources needed. But, crucially this *is* still a BA role.

Then, there is pure-play project management. Of course, we work with PMs, and there are practitioners who are skilled in both project management and business analysis. However, on any kind of large scale project, my personal view is that it is difficult (if not impossible) to undertake both roles simultaneously.

In my experience you need the ‘healthy tension’ between a BA and a PM; you need a PM saying “I need you to meet the deadline” and the BA saying “What about the quality”. It is a partnership that works well, but (in my mind at least) they are separate disciplines.

I cannot, for example, imagine doing the business analysis AND project management for a major transformation that is implementing a new system, moving an office across locations, creating new job roles and implementing 20 new processes. In fact, I suspect there would be a team of BAs, and a number of Project/Programme management & support roles to

So, if you want to venture into a pure Project Management role, then there are probably other certification options that are more appropriate for you (PRINCE2, PMP etc).

If, however, you are aiming for a Lead/Senior/Principal BA role that has significant elements of BA planning & monitoring, then the certification you mention would be a good choice.

Incidentally, I wrote an article a *long* time ago with my views on the BA/PM debate. Here’s a link:
http://www.adrianreed.co.uk/2012/11/20/the-pm-and-ba-debate/

Of course, this only represents my view–other views exist in the community–but I hope that you find it useful. Drop me a line if you need anything else. And if you’re not already subscribed, be sure to hit the ‘subscribe’ button on the top of the blog so you hear about new articles too 🙂

Best regards, Adrian.

Chaz B

Hi Adrian! I’ve been contracting as an application support analyst for 3 months and looking to migrate to a BA role in September. I’ve been looking at multiple accredited training providers (that were enlisted on the BCS websited) that offer a BCS International Diploma for Business Analysis course. I’ve seen some bad reviews on Knowledge Academy, and right now I’m unsure who to pursue. Hasn’t got any easier. I was wondering if you could recommend a provider?

Thank you!

Chaz, UK

shedges76

Hi Adrian,

It’s 5 years since your original post – has the world of BA changed in that time? Has the CBAP/CCBA qualification gained significant traction and recognition in the UK? Or is BCS still better recognised and a preferred starting point for qualification?

I am a contract BA who has spent most of his career in the Business Intelligence and PM arena, only settling on the BA path in the last 3 years. Whilst I have 19 years experience in the IT industry as a BI consultant and project manager, I am considered inexperienced as far as BA is concerned. I’ll be funding my training through my own limited company, so would you recommend I go for BCS initially? Or aim to use my experience and go for the CBAP/CCBA route? And yes, I’ll be looking for a provider … any recommendations?

Regards,
Sam

Adrian Reed

Hi Sam,

The world of BA seems to *always* be changing; I think a lot has changed in five years. There is greater recognition for the role; a new version of IIBA’s BABOK has been released, a new multi-level competency based certification structure from IIBA, a new version of the BCS book ‘Business Analysis’ and so much more…

So, some resources that might help with your question. Firstly, in terms of IIBA’s certification structure, here is a short explanatory article that I wrote in my ‘day job’

http://www.blackmetric.com/certification/

If you prefer a video version, you can find a short video here: http://www.blackmetric.com/2017/01/09/video-iiba-multi-level-certification-framework-an-overview-ecba-cbap-ccba-cbatl/

The question over whether BCS or IIBA is a better match for you is a more complex one, and difficult to answer on a blog 🙂 Take a look at the resources above, and if you need further information drop me a line via http://www.blackmetric.com/contact-us-2/ (mark it for my attention & I’ll pick it up) and we can arrange a time to talk.

Kind regards, Adrian.

larry

Hi Adrian, I’m looking to become a Business Analyst. I don’t have any experience in the role or have any qualifications but I come from an IT & Marketing backround. I run my own small business too, would the BCS be good starting point?

Thanks

Adrian Reed

Hi Larry,

That is a very difficult question to answer without knowing more about your background. You mention that you don’t have any experience in the role… yet with an IT & Marketing background, I wonder whether you might have more experience than you might anticipate. For example:

In marketing, have you ever created a business case for a particular campaign/approach (e.g. “We need to engage digitally; what will the ROI be?” Or even if you’ve crunched numbers like cost-per-order, aquistion cost etc… this is *similar* to some of the analytical thinking that underpins part of a typical business case…)

In IT, have you ever helped understand a user’s needs, and helped articulate their requirements so that they can solve a problem?

I know this is all very high level, but the key point I find is that often, even though people haven’t been a *business analyst* they have actually (sometimes) done *elements* of business *analysis*. This is (for me) a really important point; so often previous roles actually provide a really good opportunity to practice and hone elements of the BA skillset.

Of course, that’s not to say that you will have experienced the whole breadth of the BA role… but perhaps you may have touched on elements of it.

Anyway, I digress–you asked about certification. If you have no (or little) previous formal experience, then the either the BCS route (e.g. perhaps starting with the Foundation Certificate in Business Analysis) or the IIBA Entry Certificate in Business Analysis (ECBA) would be worth looking at. The ECBA was released fairly recently, so isn’t mentioned in the article above. You can check out further details here:

http://www.iiba.org/Certification/certificationlevels/level1-ecba.aspx

Certification is, of course, only part of the picture. It would be worth looking at the job descriptions for the types of BA roles that you are interested in. What skills are they looking for? What skills are you strong in (and a good match), and what skills do you need to develop a little further? Certification and training will of course help, but there are many other ways too.

I hope that this helps! Best of luck, and do stay in touch.

— Adrian.

larry

Hi Adrian,

Thank you for replying so quick. Yes, I run advertising campaigns, source new products, crunch numbers to make sure we are making good margins on each product. I run their Amazon platform selling products too. I have broad experience with Website developement, SEO (Search Engine Optimization), I’ve also been running my own small business for some time.

I’ve never created a business case but I do have some in depth experience with launching products into the market knowing we will hit the ground running etc.

I’ll take a look into the ECBA.

Thanks

Regards

Adrian Reed

You’re welcome Larry. If you have been running your own small businesses, then it’s likely that you’re doing business analysis without realising it there too!

Do check out the certification, but I’d definitely recommend checking out job specifications for the types of job you are aiming for, to make sure that you invest your time/effort in the right places.

Kind regards, Adrian.

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