Why I Chose Not to Renew My IIBA Membership

I had a call this morning from the IIBA to confirm whether I had received their emails reminding me that my membership had expired (yes) and whether I had deliberately not renewed (also yes).  I was at work and didn’t really have time to chat, so when they asked why I was choosing not to renew I gave a few quick responses and had to end the call. But I wanted to explain my logic in more detail here so that:

  1. I could see if anyone else out there has the same issues I do or can provide good reasons why I am wrong
  2. I could provide a fuller explanation in case anyone from the IIBA actually cares and is willing to consider changes
  3. In hopes of changing the minds of some people so that they too stop being IIBA members

This isn’t going to be short, but I’m going to try and keep my discussion of each issue relatively brief if I can. Please read on if you are interested.

So here are my major concerns with the IIBA:

 

The IIBA is Too Member-Focused

The first, and by far the most important issue to me is that I think the IIBA is too focused on its members. Even more importantly, I think the IIBA is way too focused on trying to make sure that it adds more members. Indeed, the first of the IIBA Guiding Principles is “Members first”.

I’m sure that seems strange to a lot of people, but let me explain why this is a problem for me. Quite simply, I want to support an organization whose primary focus is on the Business Analysis profession at large, not just members. I want to support an organization that engages with, shares knowledge with, and collaborates with anyone interested in improving the field of Business Analysis; whether they are members or not. I want to support an organization focused on education at large, not just education of those willing to pay.

But what does that mean in concrete terms? Well, as a few examples I would support an IIBA where:

Instead, all of those things are only accessible to members, or as published materials you have to buy from a retailer. Indeed, nearly everything the IIBA offers is only available to members, to corporations willing to pay, or those willing to purchase retail. It’s a philosophy I don’t agree with.

Also, in the production of critical materials such as the BABOK Guide, the IIBA doesn’t even serve most of its members.  While the BABOK is accessible to members, the process that the IIBA undertook with BABOK 3 showed me that members at large have almost no input into the contents of it.  Sure, there was an opportunity to provide feedback on a draft that was 85-95% complete, but the amount of changes that resulted from that feedback that I could see were minimal. Rather, the vast majority of BABOK 3, including all of the critical decisions on its structure and content seem to have been written and decided upon by a team of 12 people.

 

The IIBA is Too Money-Focused

Building off the theme above, I believe the IIBA is too focused on revenue generation. I realize the organization needs money to operate, but far too many of its decisions seem to prioritize making money over serving the broader community (see the section above).

The following decisions seem to me to be more oriented to earning revenue than to serving the business analysis community:

  • The decision to not make the BABOK guide freely available on the web (see above)
  • The decision to try to drive membership by making Quick Tips for Better Business Analysis and the Business Analysis Competency Model members only.
  • The apparent greater focus on finding things to sell to corporations (competency model, EEP, ECP, Sponsored Webinars, etc.) than serving the broader community or even just members

Also on the issue of expenses, I have to wonder if the IIBA’s expenses aren’t much higher than they need to be. According to the IIBA’s Statement of Operations:

  • In 2014 Membership and Certification Fees accounted for $4,732,833 in revenue, out of a total of $6,128,459
  • 2014 Wages and Consulting fees made up $2,845,512 of the associations expenses

I’m left with the question of whether the IIBA really needs “35 full-time, part-time and contract staff” and whether it could achieve more with less by following more of an “open-source” route for much of its content while focusing its administrative work purely on membership and certification development / management.

 

The Re-Certification Process is Focused on “Consultants”, not “Professionals”

The re-certification process for the CBAP and CCBA seems really geared to “consultants” and very biased against practicing “professionals”. And just generally full of bad choices.

  • First, the only “Professional Activities” that count towards re-certification are essentially publishing, teaching, or doing the conference circuit. To me, these are “professional activities” for people who are in the “consulting” business, and very biased against those who do BA work as a full-time normal profession.
  • Second, the contrast between the CDU’s awarded for actually working as a Business Analyst, with all the challenges that entails, and the CDU’s awarded for things like webinars is extremely odd to me. You can get 1 CDU for a 1 hour webinar sponsored by a tool provider that is little more than a 1-hour sales presentation. But you need to work for 25 days, 8 hours a day, doing ONLY work that aligns with the BABOK guide to get a similar 1 CDU via actual work experience (but with the caveat that you can only get them 5 CDU’s at a time apparently).

That means if you do any user training, user acceptance testing, quality assessments, project management work, or any other activity that does not align to the BABOK for a 50% or more of your work day that it is impossible to get the 1000 hours per year you need (assuming an 8 hour day, 3 weeks’ vacation per year, 1 week of total holidays in a year).

This seems really like a really odd weighting against actual BA work.

Then add in that the IIBA does not even classify their “Endorsed Education Providers” as being eligible to provide “Academic Education” CDU credits and it gives the impression that the IIBA really thinks that CBAP is more equivalent to an academic or consulting career where “teaching” (either giving or receiving) is far more important than “doing”.

From my perspective the CDU breakdown should be something like this if you truly want to encourage continuing development among certification holders:

 

20 CDU’s max of Self-Directed Learning, including:

  • Books read (each book, say 3-5 CDU’s per book)
  • Articles read in journals, blogs or BA-web sites (.1 or .2 CDU per article)

 

20 CDU’s max of Professional Education, including:

  • Classes from colleges (and “extension” courses)
  • EEP courses
  • Other eligible education such as internally developed training programs (with some evaluation of the program content and structure by the IIBA to ensure appropriate content)
  • Attending workshops & similar at conferences
  • Webinar attendance
  • IIBA Chapter presentations

 

40 CDU’s max of Professional Experience, including:

  • Published books, academic papers, etc.
  • Work experience (20 CDU limit if you want)
  • IIBA Chapter attendance
  • BA conference attendance (non-workshops)
  • Volunteer BA work
  • Mentoring and on-the-job instruction in a non-formalized environment (require manager confirmation if you want)
  • Publishing of blog and similar non-peer-reviewed articles online (IIBA can review if they want)

 

The IIBA is Opaque

A more minor complaint on my part is that the IIBA is very opaque, and very poor at communicating what has happened or the rationale behind various decisions. Examples include:

  • A 3-year Strategic Plan that consists of 5 generic statements and 21 bullet points.  There is no information about how the organization perceives the environment in which Business Analysis exists; why those 5 concepts and 21 items were chosen; how progress to achieving those goals will be measured; or what other goals were considered but not included. For example, what the hell does the “Rebranding” bullet under “Encompass Full Scope of Business Analysis Discipline” mean? Are they trying to re-brand the Business Analysis discipline? The IIBA? Something else?
  • The communication around the new Global Strategic Alliances has been very poor. If you go to the IIBA web page supporting these, all you find is a generic intro and a couple of links. What do the new strategic alliances actually mean? If you click through the link for the “four global organizations”, and continue reading past the 3 page press release, you will eventually find a short paragraph and a few Key Outcomes for each MOU. If you read the press release for the ASPE MOU, you don’t even find that. For Strategic Alliances the IIBA sure is doing a poor job of communicating what benefit they are providing to members or the business analysis community.
  • The extremely poor communication that surrounded the departure of Kathleen Barret as President. I would note that her full-time replacement still hasn’t been found. I am also guessing that the “Termination Expense” of $150,353 identified in the Statement of Operations is due to this change, although I have no way of confirming that.
  • The decision to rebrand the CBAP / CCBA certifications as part of a broader “Gold Standard” certification with levels. Besides the horrible name, there was no request for feedback from members that the IIBA was considering changing the name of the certifications or even adding new certifications.

As I said, I don’t see these last few items as critical. But to me they are indicative of an organization that is opaque and very poor at communication. And as an organization that is supposed to represent business analysts as practitioners and as a profession, this is a problem for me. Especially when added to the issues described above.

 

So What Do You Want?

I’m sure some people will dismiss these concerns as unimportant. Or certainly not worth foregoing membership over. And indeed, I’ve stayed a member for the past few years despite having them. But I’ve come to the point where for me membership seems counterproductive because I believe the IIBA is truly continuing in the wrong direction. Add in the recent attention the PMI is giving to the BA space (and in all the wrong ways IMO); having the IIBA acting as a “PMI-lite” focused on money, memberships, and a lack of openness just seems like a situation ripe for setting back the BA profession.

So what are some concrete changes the IIBA could make that would make me want to support them again? Here are a few:

  1. Move the BABOK content and its evolution to a wiki structure similar to the SEBOK. Preferably in cooperation with the IREB and BCS in the same way the BKCASE Governance and Editorial Board that manages the SEBOK is overseen by representatives of INCOSE, the IEEE, and SERC. They could use the same concept of Editors and an Editor in Chief that the SEBOK uses.
  2. Make the Business Analysis Competency Model freely available on the web at a minimum. It would be nice if its content could be managed in a similar way as the BABOK in the suggestion above.
  3. Make the Quick Tips for Better Business Analysis a freely available resource to everyone, just as IREB does with Requirements Engineering magazine.
  4. Significantly overhaul the recertification process to something that is more oriented towards working BA professionals, and less oriented to “consultants”. The current criteria are just ridiculous IMO.
  5. Make a significant effort to improve communications:
    1. Expand the Strategic Plan significantly so that members and potential members have a much better idea of how the IIBA sees the business analysis environment, what the IIBA hopes to accomplish during the time period of the strategic plan, and what specific factors in the environment guided the goals that were chosen.
    2. Provide better information on what employees the IIBA has and what their roles are. This way at least members (and potential members) have some way of partially evaluating whether their membership dues are being well spent.

Since I don’t expect any of those to happen, my current decision is to not be an IIBA member. If someone wants to start up an organization that is more in line with the goals above, I would be happy to support them. In the meantime if you want to agree, provide information that clarifies or contradicts my statements above, or just want to present an alternative perspective, feel free to add comments below.

 

NOTE: Minor edits for spelling made on 1/28.  That’s what happens when I don’t have an editor and write a post after a long days work.



© 2016 by David Olson

23 thoughts on “Why I Chose Not to Renew My IIBA Membership

  1. Stefan

    Hi Dave,

    You raise some good points, particularly around the recertifition requirements. Have you considered trying to get onto the IIBA board so that you can try and implement some of your suggestions? I find in life it is easy to criticise but much harder to do it oneself. Would be interested to hear what some of the current board members think of your concerns.

    Reply
    1. Dave Post author

      Stefan,

      I have neither the time, or the desire, to run for the IIBA board. I could tilt at windmills, playing Don Quixote and trying to change the IIBA from within. But there is no need to change the IIBA. It’s already working hard to make itself irrelevant. The lack of a coordinated response to the PMI’s entry into Business Analysis (communicating the differences in vision, if nothing else); the seemingly frantic scramble for “Alliances” even when those alliances are with one vendor or one training provider and end up possibly alienating other vendors or training providers; and now the decision to (apparently) re-brand the CBAP into something literally called a “gold standard certification”; all seem like the efforts of an organization with no vision and no plan trying to ensure their survival.

      Despite that I think if there was a wide-spread desire for the changes I think are desirable, it wouldn’t be only coming up for discussion when I raise the issue on LinkedIn. There would already be a movement toward such a thing, with it coming up in discussions on Modern Analyst, the IIBA’s old forums, blog posts, and elsewhere. But it hasn’t come up because BA’s are either satisfied with the IIBA, apathetic about it, or they have made a decision to ignore it as much as possible. Instead, I think what you see are small groups or individuals simply trying different ways of working around the IIBA. On certifications they recommend options other than IIBA to their peers (such as BCS, PMI, or IREB). On BABOK replacements you see at least one WikiBook out there, efforts inside their organization to make the IIBA irrelevant and develop standards and practices internally, or in my case sites like this one.

      It simply seems a battle unworthy of fighting at this time.

      Reply
  2. Mary McClure

    Absolutely Excellent Posting.

    In addition to the very relevant and valid points you have made above, I would add that if a Business Analyst gave me a 350 page document on any subject without some way to make the content more accessible, my opinion of them as a BA would not be high. The BABOK strikes me as a make work project not well articulated nor particularly usable. I see a lot of this in government work where people seem to be paid by the word not by the content.

    I love Business Analysis and admit that if you get me talking about it is hard to get me to stop. However, I also believe Business Analysis is all about communication. BABOK is not a communication tool.

    Reply
  3. Sandra Wragg Miller

    Hi Dave,

    I too have chosen not to renew my IIBA membership this time. I agree with you that relevant practical experience of the professional BA is under-rewarded at recertification time, and the CBAP does feel more targeted at consultants. I get at least 80% of my true professional development from my work and project experiences, and not from vendor webinars etc. Your “what do you want” points would be a good place to start for the IIBA.

    Good of you to document your thinking on this. I tend more to the apathy as you alluded to above. I also do support BCS as a good alternative for practising BA’s.

    Cheers
    Sandra

    Reply
  4. Miranda Mawer

    I’m a member and not immediately planning to change that, but I very emphatically agree with your comments on CBAP CDUs.

    I spend my days doing business analysis and all the associated activities, which include elements of project planning and management, testing, business change and so on. I read and contribute to online discussions and I attend presentations when they are accessible to me and likely to be relevant and interesting. And I am starting to think I need to schedule time for some irrelevant, uninteresting or inconveniently arranged webinars just to build up my CDUs.

    I understand and endorse the value of lifelong learning but some of us have a living to earn as well; and not all employers have the budget or time to send everyone off on training courses for a week or two each year. And telling my manager, and my team-mates, that I cannot do some of the project tasks because I need to maintain the hours to support my professional certification is not likely to be well received.

    I value my CBAP above my MBA because the latter is a “get and forget” thing whereas the CBAP has to kept polished regularly. But the polishing can seem a bit artificial at times; more silicone surface than deeply nourishing wax.

    Reply
  5. john

    When I read the header on my high resolution monitor, I read NRA, not IIBA.

    I read your blog and agreed with some of the content.
    I was wondering the size of your organization?
    Also what are your membership dues?

    I am a application development consultant and a member of PMI, PE, and a Microsoft MVP.
    and did not realize there was such an organization as IIBA.

    Reply
  6. Shalini Gupta

    Dear Dave,

    I applaud you on an excellent post. I was a member of the IIBA for two years, until I realized I was getting absolutely no value in being a member. I worked for many years in a BA capacity, albeit as a consultant, however, the structure of the certification and work experience requirements make it too onerous to complete the certification. I did even try to volunteer for input on the BABOK, etc, but never heard from anyone — I was told they would contact me for my input when I was taking courses at Sheridan to update my BA skills after being out of the workforce for some time. Your post makes me feel much better that I did not continue to support an organization that in my opinion neither serves the membership nor the BA community.

    Reply
  7. Olufunke

    Excellent post. I was a member yet to convince myself why I should renew. No value for my money so far.

    Olufunke

    Reply
  8. Karen Henderson

    Nice post. I have worked as BA/BSA for 16 years and was only a member for one year. I’ve known of fellow business analysts who were CBAP certified, but yet didn’t really know how to be a good analyst. I have thought many times about going for the certification, but find that my actual analyst work consumes way too much of my time and I don’t need it right now.

    Reply
  9. nish

    Absolutely solid post. I totally advocate ongoing education to advance one’s career but experience is invaluable. When a business makes a mockery of a profession through monetisation and greed, it loses integrity. Thank you for writing this article.

    Reply
  10. Cristian Sequera

    Hello Dave

    This is a very comprehensive explanation of why leave the IIBA.
    I don’t think that your career is going to be in any way impacted for not to be a member, neither any BA.

    All of those guides you’ve mentioned, they are methods around an approach that could be improved by an open source strategy and the share of the doing.

    It seems that they are more interested in adding badges to the professionals BA, PMP. CAMP- CPBA – MBA, AGILE BA and else.

    I mean the education is really important, but after all these years, I’ve noted that a good lead BA is way better than sending all your staff for a certification.

    and if they grow and decide to pursue the certification, it is not because it is a badge of their knowledge but it is a opportunity to teach and share.

    Reply
  11. Pingback: Unhappiness with IIBA | MarkjOwen's Blog

  12. Ciara Griffin

    Fully agree -excellent points made here.

    From my perspective, there is a huge variation in both company definitions of a BA(many job descriptions I read for BA roles are just adopting the PM job descriptions with slight variation, which is a big indicator for me) and the actual skills possessed by BAs (I know several for whom Excel is a challenge, and some who could make the same Excel sheet macros turn on your dishwasher remotely). There is always a variation in skills between equally qualified professionals but the variation is extreme at the moment.

    As many have stated previously, the standardization content for BAs should be open source, which I think allows a balanced and widely accepted baseline to evolve.
    Normally at this point, the certification providers would step in to make the money by building specialization certification programs but fundamentally all providers are starting from the same set of basic standards.

    This is not what has happened. The IIBA has pretty much shot themselves in the foot by branding and selling something which claims to be a standard but is not. There is no globally understood concept of a BA yet.
    The IIBA are trying to develop a membership base of well paid consultants, not practioners. Maybe they should instead split into IIBA Consultants and IIBA Professionals/Practioners (think Dave made this point too).

    I started off a month ago buying the CBAP study guide as it was my intention to be certified. Having laboured my way through the guide and drawing many many diagrams to reinforce information, I have decided not to pursue the IIBA certification.

    This is principally because
    -simply memorising BABOK seems to be the ticket to success which discourages me. I have to spend 8hrs justifying my application for CBAP and the exam is simply parroting text?
    *this is the point at which BABOK becomes completely irrelevent to me, and I think I would be better off getting a PM qualification instead
    -I fundamentally do not agree with the knowledge area groupings – most BAs(practioners) work in project teams either alone or with other BAs in the context of projects so it would make sense that BA tasks are more distinctly aligned with actual project phases. This Controlled Start, Middle, End is an extremely weak alignment and in many cases does not work. Solution Assessment and Validation is far from a Controlled End, and in the study guide this is even openly acknowledged
    *the knowledge areas do not each have distinct and unique techniques associated with them. The techniques in many cases are applicable in variable forms for numerous tasks. This leads to alot of repetition and confusion.
    *unnecessary formalization of concepts. For example – Underlying competencies rabbits on about (n x (n-1))/2 lines of communication. Seriously, knowing and calculating the lines of communication is a required competence? I have never ever been asked this for any project – I am asked what are acceptable lines of communication.
    – working for a vendor of solutions means the customer come to me with a set of stated business requirements, a business case which is approved and mostly a complete stakeholder list. Therefore there are already tasks I will never be engaged in, and I am immediately disqualified from CBAP

    Reply
  13. Les Elbert

    I disagree with the message of the article that it is “wrong” to have a focus on the number of IIBA members, the number of Certified BA’s, etc. In my view, the biggest problem of the IIBA is that, in over 10 years, it has failed to build a significant membership base. Having a large membership should and will enable the IIBA to lower membership fees, exam fees and offer more benefits.

    The BABOK cannot have a WIKI structure. It has to have a firm and steady scope because it forms the basis of two certification exams. (I agree that the contents of the BABOK could be brought closer to daily challenges and activities of a real BA.)

    Why would the BABOK be free for all? Having access to BABOK is the single most important membership benefit. Besides, the BABOK costs about $50 on Amazon. If anybody wants it without membership, it is certainly not out of reach for most organizations or individuals. The same is true about the Business Analysis Competency Model.

    Some other points of the article are worth discussing, like the need to improve communication, openness, the recertification process, the value of membership, the value of certification, the various certification types, etc. There is always room for improvement!

    Reply
    1. Dave Post author

      Les,

      Thanks for the comment. I would say that one of the major reasons the IIBA has failed to build a larger membership is because they started their certification efforts with something that only BA’s with 5-10 experience were likely to be able to qualify for. They should have taken the route the BCS and IREB have and start out with certification options that anyone can qualify for and then add the certifications that require experience later on as higher-level options. This approach is why (in my opinion at least) the IREB has more people who hold their Foundation-level certification than the IIBA has members. The IIBA also started with a focus on project BA’s, which both left out process-focused BA’s and continued the general impression out there that BA’s only work on projects as requirements specialists.

      Lastly, in regards to the BABOK other organizations have used that structure (see the SEBOK as a great example) by having a “current” version that is static and approved and a “sandbox” version where people are constantly adding content and making revisions. Editors are responsible for specific sections, and there is a senior editor (or editorial board) who ensure that only approved content is moved into the “current” version. This enables the “firm and steady scope” you are looking for with the ability for content to added and revised by anyone (rather than a small select group of writers invited by the IIBA). In regards to the “free access” point, as soon as the IIBA changes their organization description to say that they are only there to benefit their members, they can logically charge as much as they want for the BABOK and other materials. But as long as they claim to represent “the BA profession” they should not be charging (again, IMO).

      I’m glad you decided to comment and would be happy to continue this “discussion” here if you are interested. Or email me (see the “About” page) if you prefer to do so in private. Best regards.

      Reply
  14. Shirley Shorter

    I am not very impressed with the IIBA so far, as it does seem to be just another money pit for aspiring professionals and not “giving back” to the community – in other words, a bit greedy. I like ISACA and would consider that organization to be the certification authority role model for all others. My opinion – you want to be a BA, get an MBA instead of a CBAP and just learn the rest on the job.

    Reply
    1. Dave Post author

      Why do you consider ISACA a better model? Like IIBA they don’t provide anything for free to the general community. Their Journal and just about all of the information on their website requires membership to access. And their membership fee’s are roughly inline with the IIBA’s. Other than ISACA offering so many additional standards, I just don’t see much difference. Would you care to elaborate your reasoning?

      Reply
      1. Shirley Shorter

        ISACA sets a high standard in response to actual industry needs. Their COBiT framework is unparalleled in scope and flexibility and is the cornerstone for IT governance. They have set a globally recognized standard based on quality and usability. The framework is a necessity for keeping corporations on-track with regard to financial and regulatory compliance, security and privacy, not to mention IT Governance which includes profitability and social responsibility.

        The membership fees at ISACA are in-line with the quality of information and organizational framework. For example, our chapter here in Virginia offers exceptional seminars. The continuing education (CPE’s) required each year are essential to keep up with fast-paced changes in IT methodologies, laws and industry trends. Members have numerous free webinars, on-line conferences and web-based research in addition to the monthly publications. Their available information is based on technological advances such as DevOps, security updates, vulnerabilities, management methods etc. Remember, an IT Auditor has to be able to audit the entire IT environment – that means Everything!

        I think IIBA is a step in the right direction, but the drivers for the model are more vague. ISACA is in step with IT Audit and IT technology changes. ISACA is adapting to government and legal standards and technology advances, where IIBA follows methodology trends because they are popular today. I don’t see as much value for the price. When I read the BABOK I fall asleep instantly as it seems to provide common sense solutions that any critical thinker might already be aware of. If I ever become a CBAP it will really test my ability to stay awake getting through the most boring process.

        Unfortunately I find it difficult to pursue certification in yet another standard which requires so much time on top of the CISA requirements I currently have to fulfill. I think a CISA can do a better job in a process audit than a CBAP because the audit process training is more thorough for a CISA. I do support IIBA and in spite of everything said here have great respect for it – just think ISACA is the gold standard.

        Reply

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