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:
- I could see if anyone else out there has the same issues I do or can provide good reasons why I am wrong
- I could provide a fuller explanation in case anyone from the IIBA actually cares and is willing to consider changes
- 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:
- The BABOK Guide is freely available on the web to anyone who wants to read it or contribute to it. Like the Systems Engineering Body of Knowledge (SEBOK), or the AgileBOK, or even as a WikiBook such as the Introduction to Software Engineering.
- The Business Analysis Competency Model was freely available and contributable to in the same manner.
- The Quick Tips for Better Business Analysis was freely available on the web to anyone who wants to read it. If the smaller IREB can do this with their excellent Requirements Engineering Magazine, why can’t the IIBA?
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Make the Quick Tips for Better Business Analysis a freely available resource to everyone, just as IREB does with Requirements Engineering magazine.
- 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.
- Make a significant effort to improve communications:
- 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.
- 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.