3 Generic Certifications that help you get IT BA interviews!

There is no getting past it that the IT BA market has become saturated. It is no longer enough to be someone who has worked as a BA for years as the market is full of that experience. So the question becomes how do you make it to the interview pile instead of the reject pile?

Today I want to focus on 3 generic IT certifications that are not tied to an industry or solution that can help move your resume into the pile to be interviewed.

#3 Certified Business Analyst Professional or equivalent: This one has been around for quite a few years now. If you have been doing BA work as long as I have, it really does not bring much value in terms of knowledge. If you have less than 10 years of experience, this one is good to add onto your resume. However its value has somewhat diminished with Agile development.

Pros:

  • Shows that you have at least been educated as a BA.
  • Great for when you have limited real world experience.

Cons:

  • Has not become a job requirement like A+ certification (for pc repair).
  • BA roles differ from company to company so some companies add more or less weight to the certification.
  • Does not carry as much weight in the Agile development world.

#2 Certified Scrum Master: You can look on this certification as selling yourself to the client as two for the price of one. For the longest time, clients have liked to put their BA’s in the role of backup Project Manager, being a Scrum Master is the new flavor that Agile development has brought to us.

Pros:

  • Shows that you understand Agile development.
  • Makes you more appealing to the client as you can now fill two roles.
  • Could increase your salary as Scrum Masters can make more money than ordinary BAs.

Cons:

  • You may end up doing more Scrum Master work than BA work.
  • Could make your life busy as you juggle two roles.
  • You may not like being a Scrum Master.
  • Only applicable to Agile development. For non Agile, you could look to taking Project Management certifications instead.

#1 Certified Product Owner: You can look on this certification as being the natural career progression of the BA involved with Agile development. Any BA that wants to stay more in the BA world should look to get this certification sooner or later. It shows a client that you understand Agile and that you understand the BA role through the Product Owner viewpoint. With the advent of the Product Owner role, certain tasks normally performed by the BA have moved to the Product Owner and this is why it is not a large step for a BA to move into this role.

Pros:

  • Shows that you understand Agile development.
  • Makes you more appealing to the client as it shows you should be able to represent what the business wants.
  • Could increase your salary as Product Owners are more involved with the money making side of the business.

Cons:

  • More applicable to Agile development but does carry over into other types of development methods.
  • May not pay as well

In summary, if you are wondering how to get more interviews as an Information Technology BA, getting at least one of these generic certifications can help you move forward. What school or method you choose to get these certifications is not as important as actually having a certification that you can add to your resume.

From a long term perspective with these certifications, you will need to decide if you want to go more on the high paying Scrum Master side (which is more like the old Project Management) or look to move into Product Ownership which is the natural next step for Business Analysts.

Business Analysts who want to become Product Owners should know these two things.

As the market changes for business analysts and more consider the move into the product owner world, the question becomes, what is the difference between the role? Product owners can sometimes just be business analysts with a new job title and in other cases they are really product owners with full authority to make decisions.

Agile development has driven the growth of the product owner role. No longer do business partners have to wait months for development to implement new features / functions, instead they can be delivered in weeks. Since business partners usually have to run the business they don’t have time to spend on agile work so they delegate business representation to the product owner.

Now, let us consider two of the key differences in the product owner role vs business analyst:

  1. Industry knowledge – with the traditional BA role, there is usually time to get up to speed in the industry being worked in (Retail, Utility, Finance, Health, Transportation etc..) as the requirements are gathered. This means that having industry knowledge is not a deal breaker to being hired. In the product owner world, you had better know the industry as decisions have to be made quickly to keep the development moving. For example glass devices are not allowed in food processing plants, so developing a product solution that uses cell phone applications would be a bad decision for any industry that goes inside food processing plants because of the glass touch screen.
  2. Metrics / research – product owners need to make decisions on the priority of features / functions to be developed. As a product owner, you need to know how to justify the decision based on real world facts. This requires an understanding of the research options / data available and metrics desired in new development. Think Google Analytics, combined with any restrictions on data that can be collected / solutions that can be delivered. Business analysts on the other hand normally get this information and direction from their business partners.

How to get the skills needed to be a product owner?

  • Industry knowledge can be gained by either working as a business analyst in the industry for a period of time or getting a job on the business side. Both options will be good to getting the necessary experience.
  • Knowing research options / metrics to justify decisions is not always needed as not all companies expect this of their product owners. However for those product owners that do need to know the information, joining external groups in the industry, reading trade publications, staying on top of trends, working on the business side etc.. can all help to build up the knowledge required to justify decisions.

Are criminals and government fines driving new requirement methods?

We all have had the business partner who never quite tells us all that we need to know when working on a project but spare a thought for those who design solutions to defeat criminals. In their case, the criminal is not sharing what he does and most design is done in reaction mode.

One area that has got recent focus is Money Laundering. Financial Institutions that end up involved with Money Laundering not only risk loss of money and reputation but fines as well imposed by their governments or even other governments. The situation of identifying money laundering has gotten so out of control that nobody really knows how to define the complete requirements to identify money laundering.

Traditional requirement methods basically do not work anymore. With traditional requirement methods, the Business Analysts identify / capture the business rule and then implement it. Unfortunately the people who make the business rules are not the ones sharing it with us.

Criminals don’t tell us that if they do X, Y & Z then they are money laundering. The criminal’s desire is to float under the radar as normal customers. Their methods for appearing as ordinary customers have gotten so good that the people trying to create the rules after the fact to identify Money Laundering can no longer keep up. This puts Financial Organizations in a bit of a pickle.

Governments have made it so that Financial Institutions cannot just ignore the problem of Money Laundering and hope for the best. After all, if a Financial Institution goes belly up, it can affect a whole country. To avoid this worst case scenario, a government may force a Financial Institution out of business if they are not confident that the institution is compliant with laws. If you want to get business owners / board members to do something about a problem, threatening their business is one solid way to go about it and the governments know this.

For Financial Institutions to get round this issue of not knowing the business rules to implement to identify Money Laundering, they are turning to Artificial Intelligence (AI) to fill in the gap of knowledge. AI will scan through large amounts of data to learn, establish, monitor and update the business rules that identify Money Laundering or Potential Money Laundering. Systems will then implement the rules on the fly to freeze accounts, recover laundered money and notify government and law enforcement agencies.

While I am not a liberty to talk about the specific data being worked with, I can discuss what this means from a Business Analyst perspective. Data scientists and AI engineers will take over the role of capturing and implementing the business rules for identification of Money Laundering into the systems. Previously this was handled by the Business Analyst. However, before you cry about the loss of another piece of work for the Business Analyst role, new opportunities will open up:

  • AI needs data and lots of it. Business Analysts will be recruited to provide data interfaces into the AI machine. At least for the next little while. Eventually, the desire is to end up with more of a Web Crawler approach where the AI establishes new sources of data with little to no human intervention.
  • While AI will be good at identifying that an action is needed it will not be good at implementing the action (at least until we build the fictional “Skynet”). Business Analysts will always be involved with ensuring that the action is communicated to where it needs to be communicated and that any automatic response within an organization is performed . With the way Companies, Governments and Law Enforcement Agencies reorganize themselves on a regular basis it is unlikely that this will ever be a static solution. Given that changing environment, this should keep Business Analysts busy for a while.

What I think will be interesting in the future will be for the Data Scientists and AI engineers to be able to explain the reasoning of the AI for its decision that a particular event is Money Laundering. Eventually it could grow beyond their understanding. I can see a future where Business Analysts will be called upon to get the AI systems to pump out human readable reasoning and maybe that will be a new job task for us all.

In summary, criminals and governments are driving the need for AI to step in and generate IT requirements on the fly. This is to ensure that the criminals are kept in check and that businesses are not shut down by governments for not keeping criminals in check. While some BA roles will be lost around business rules capturing and implementing, other new roles will open up in support of the AI infrastructure and especially the output from the AI solutions.