Monday, 18 July 2011 16:01

Can a Junior BA benefit from pursuing the CBAP?

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A long time ago, in my early days as a business analyst, my role had a myriad of definition. Some managers thought of a BA as one who only document requirements, other thought that they documented pseudo-codes and yet others only thought of the business analyst as an assistant role. As some of you may experience, business analysts are usually tossed across a number of functions. Unfortunately, not all these functions lead to the development of true business analysis skills. And if you are looking to build a career as a business analysts, you want to ensure that your effort is spent performing those tasks related to business analysis. A good motivation to keep your experience in alignment with the business analysis standards is to look at the CBAP® (Certified Business Analysis Professional) application process.

What is the CBAP®?

The CBAP® certification is a designation awarded by the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA®) upon successful completion of the CBAP® Exam. The designation is given to Business Analysts who possess a significant amount of experience in the craft (7500 hours where at least 3600 of those hours is evenly distributed among 4 of the 6 knowledge areas). It is a very though exam that challenges even the most experienced business analysts.

In order to sit for the exam, you must go through rigorous application process. It is during this application process that you will have to compare your skills against the standards defined in the Business analysis body of knowledge (BABOK®)

Where to begin?

Though my experience occurred a dozen of years ago, I have talked to many business analysts who currently share the same experience. They are either performing non-related business analysis tasks or they are stuck performing the same business analysis task quite some time. This does not lead to growth in their skill sets.

If you are in the same situation, the first step is to understand what growth within the business analysis career means. Growth within the business analysis profession is the ability to perform all the business analysis tasks and techniques that are commonly used in the business analysis community.

The second step is to compare your experience to these common tasks and techniques. You wan to identify those tasks you have mastered, the tasks that you could improve on, and those that you have never performed.

My experience

I was not as fortunate as you are today to receive advice from other business analysts on what to do to improve my career. My growth in business analysis came at my own expense. I had many do-overs, set backs and mountains to climb. I read many books and through trials, I learned by trial and error the business analysis tasks needed to complete a project. I developed my skills through that process. The great news is that you do not have to start at zero to figure out what to do to maximize your skills.

My biggest “aha” moment that helped me determine my career growth occurred when applying for the CBAP®.

When I started categorizing my experience into the tasks defined in the business analysis body of knowledge, I discovered my strengths and my weaknesses.

The exercise

As I was applying for the CBAP®, I created a simple spreadsheet (see below for download) to help you organize your experience following the standards defined by IIBA®.  This exercise will revealed your current experience in business analysis as well as other areas of improvement.

Use it to enter the information for your previous projects. Keep it handy to continuously organize any of your future experiences.


If you are in your career debut as a business analyst, you can certainly benefit from pursuing the CBAP®. You may not be ready to sit for the CBAP® by the end of the year, but you can certainly begin organizing your experience to conform to IIBA® standards. You will develop a baseline for you current skills, which in turn will lead you to determine the best path to take your career to the next level.

Linda Erzah

Linda is a mentor and a consultant.

She currently holds the position of principal as well as instructor at BAMentor, LLC.

Her passion for business analyst combined with her love to see other professionals succeed has inspired her to create BAMentor.


  • Comment Link Sharon C Monday, 18 July 2011 20:42 posted by Sharon C

    Wonderful!!! Thanks so much for sharing. This will help me immensely.

  • Comment Link Sean Mates Monday, 18 July 2011 21:01 posted by Sean Mates

    Great article Linda.

    For someone like myself who has returned to the BA role after some absence I do feel like I am refining and relearning many of the basic BA skill sets again.

    I appreciate having a guide map of sorts laid out to help me navigate my learning. Your post helped me put into perspective what I could benefit from aligning myself with the CBAP exam, and although I might be sometime off from formally sitting it, it can help me develop a 'standard' of tasks to follow.

  • Comment Link Doug Goldberg Thursday, 28 July 2011 19:09 posted by Doug Goldberg

    Hey Linda

    You wrote up a great piece here that I think needs some additional advertising....which I will take care of on twitter after I post a comment.

    The whole aspect of sitting for a certification exam can be really overwhelming and all-consuming....and that is related to season professionals. It's even worse for more junior level folks who may have not been exposed to much of the body of knowledge content contains.

    I've learned over time through facilitation of CBAP study groups that learning is learning, so there is always an open invitation to my groups for those who have no interest or do not qualify to sit for the exam, yet have a strong desire to learn. The hope is that an earlier exposure to the material will foster an earlier incorporation of best practices and yield a better experience in studying for and sitting for the exam.

    I say this because I sat for the exam and failed. Through much thought and humility, I also learned something about myself, and that is though I am very comfortable performing BABOK functions, I'm not so good a relearning what I've been doing for years. It's much more difficult to untrain one's mind, so to your point about the early value to a junior BA.....go for it and gobble up some knowledge!

    For those of you looking for a superior CBAP coach, get hooked up with Linda. You can't have a better guide through a pile of difficult material.

  • Comment Link Linda Erzah Thursday, 28 July 2011 22:46 posted by Linda Erzah


    I am touched by your openness and humility. Yes, it is always easier to learn it the first right time than re-learning. Re-work has never been something fun.
    And you are doing a commendable job by encouraging anyone to learn it the right way the first time. It's amazing what opportunity IIBA gave us BAs. And I think helping folks see it the way we see it will continue to increase value in our profession.

    And to touch on your first attempt at the CBAP... I know that you know that a journey isn't over until YOU decide it is. Many folks who are in your shoes need a hero to show them how not to give up. I am waiting impatiently to see how you are going to turn this minor set back into a coaching opportunity for those who have tried and failed on their first attempt.

    I am rooting for you Doug!

  • Comment Link Jenny Nunemacher Wednesday, 17 August 2011 18:11 posted by Jenny Nunemacher

    Hi Linda,

    When I click on the link to the spreadsheet, I get a .zip download rather than an Excel spreadsheet. The zip file doesn't actually have an .xls file it it, but rather a bunch of .xml files.

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