Monthly Archives: January 2018
Apologies once more for the lack of posts in this blog in recent years. After Ebola, I stayed on at the World Health Organisation in the role of a Business Analyst and so no longer regularly work with Dynamics CRM at present.
This post then is about business analysis, something relevant for any work that seeks to bring about a change to a business and so potentially of interest to those working with Dynamics CRM projects.
In an earlier post, I covered Microsoft’s Sure Step methodology, but here I’m going to concentrate on the ECBA – the Entry Certificate in Business Analysis from the IIBA – the International Institute of Business Analysis (based in Toronto). This is the entry level qualification ideal for those wishing to start a career in business analysis or for those, like me, that have done the work for years but now seeking some certification to validate that experience.
Beyond ECBA there are two higher levels of certification also available, CCBA (Certification of Capability in Business Analysis) and CBAP (Certified Business Analysis Professional). There is also a “Thought Leader” certification CBATL.
Details of all four levels and how to become a member of IIBA are available from their website: –
ECBA seems to be a fairly new or under-utilised certification (I suspect that most people might head straight for CCBA) as I wasn’t able to find much information online about preparing for the exam so I hope this blog post will fill that vacuum since I took and passed ECBA in January 2018.
Business analysts enable change in an organisation by studying needs, formalising them as requirements and then recommending solutions. It’s a critical part of any project and poor business analysis is a sure-fire way to project failure and unhappy customers.
The IIBA provides a methodology to guide the correct execution of business analysis work and its synthesised into the BABOK – the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (currently at version 3.0 and published in a big orange “guidebook”). All exams are based around the BABOK.
Preparing for ECBA
Regardless of whether you are starting out in your career as a business analyst or bringing years of wizened experience, you are going to need to spend some quality time with the BABOK guide (currently at v3.0). The ECBA is taken exclusively from this material and so you will need to become a member of the IIBA (by paying a yearly subscription fee) and then either downloading or ordering a paper copy of the book.
Everything you need is in the book and you will have to develop good familiarity with the terminology, the methodology and the definitions that BABOK employs.
My recommended approach is: –
- Read through the book in its entirety once. Concentrate particularly on the introduction to ensure that you know, after the first reading, the definition of stakeholders and concepts and how BABOK approaches business analysis (i.e. the difference between a knowledge area, a technique, a competency). You should know the requirement categorisations.
- Have a look at the preparation material on the IIBA site itself, they give a percentage breakdown of the number of questions to expect from each area. You will see that for ECBA the stress is mainly on definitions
- Go through the six work areas in detail and make your own notes, at the end you should be able to look at a big chart listing each work area and the tasks within it and speak about each to describe what it does. You can use a diagram like the one below. For instance, you should know the difference between validating and verifying requirements or the difference between the “Define Change Strategy” task and the “Assess Requirement Changes” task. I have included a link to my notes at the end of this article.
- Reread the definitions and the introduction section of the book so that you understand the definition of a requirement, an assumption, know the responsibilities of each of the roles (What does a sponsor do? What jobs fall to the business analyst?) and can talk about them to a friend that tests you.
- Read through the competencies and the techniques once, there are fewer direct questions on these in the ECBA but questions will reference them via the work areas so you need to understand the terms and have a basic familiarity with the different approaches to elicitation and modelling that a business analyst can apply.
- You can now attempt some practice questions. There’s a small set of six questions available on the IIBA site via the Certification section and these will give you a flavour of what to expect. Beyond that I didn’t find any other free practice material, only paid for question sets and most of them were for CCBA and CBAP. Personally, I didn’t buy any question sets, I just developed my familiarity with the BABOK guide to the level described above and I believe that is enough for the ECBA exam.
- Pay exam entry fees via the IIBA website (more details in the next section) and schedule your online proctored exam with the provider. When I did the test, the provider was PSI (https://www.examslocal.com) and you will be guided through creating an account on their site.
Cost of ECBA
Costs for the exam are available on the IIBA website and I won’t include figures here which are likely to get out of date but the cost breaks down as follows: –
- Yearly IIBA membership.
- Application fee for exam.
- Exam fee.
After passing you will have the option to find a local chapter of the IIBA and they may also charge a (normally much more modest) membership fee for access to business analysis events in your area.
Format of ECBA
ECBA is an “online proctored” exam meaning that you will take the test from your own machine via a web browser maximised to full screen while an invigilator monitors your desktop and your webcam to ensure fairness. The exam authority (PSI) should provide a utility to check that the machine on which you wish to take the exam meets minimum standards and you should check this BEFORE paying to the sit the exam!
I’d then recommend logging in 15 minutes ahead of your exam slot (you can start up to 15 minutes early than your scheduled time) to complete the pre-exam checks. The invigilator will guide you through these via a chat session: –
- Make sure that you are in a room with no one else.
- Make sure that you are working on a clean, empty desk with nothing within arms’ reach.
- Make sure that there are no whiteboards or information posters on the wall which might contain information to help you in the exam.
- Make sure no one disturbs you during the exam, talking to anyone can mean a disqualification.
- During the exam, the invigilator will ask you to keep your eyes on the screen.
- The exam will be run in full-screen mode with your desktop monitored so that you can’t reference anything on your machine. He/she will also walk you through opening “Task Manager” and shutting off any other processes running on the machine.
- Obviously, no screenshot or notes can be taken during the exam.
This might sound like a lot but don’t worry, the invigilator walks you through the process with competence.
The invigilator cannot however answer information about the exam format so you should check these on the IIBA website beforehand. The essentials are: –
- ECBA consists of 50 multiple-choice, single-answer questions.
- It must be completed in 1 hour.
- The interface will allow you to return to questions.
- The interface will allow you to flag questions you are unsure about.
- The interface will allow you to change your answers.
- You will have a confirmation when you “End Test” and you will receive feedback straight away on whether you passed or failed. No indication of your score is given.
- You will receive a confirmation email within two days from IIBA confirming the result and this also does not give you a score, but simply describes if you were above, below or at average for each topic area that the exam tests.
- If you fail I believe you can retake up to twice in one year (a fee applies each time) before needing to wait.
Without practice questions, I did go in to the exam with a bit of trepidation. All up I probably spent about 3 man days reading over the BABOK guide and writing my notes and this was plenty. If you have zero background knowledge or work experience of business analysis then I think five days would be more realistic.
The ECBA is a worthwhile endeavour, it helped me align my language and terminology, taught me about some new techniques I had never used (decision modelling anyone?) and made me reflect on my own competencies and scope for improvement.
So, good luck, I hope this has proved useful and please feel free to download and use the notes I made during my ECBA preparation by clicking on the link below.