Business,IT Management,Solutions,Technology

CBAP Certification13 Jun

On June 9, I passed the Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP) exam. The certification is established and managed by the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) and is designed to recognize “senior business analysts who have the skill and expertise to perform BA work on projects of various sizes and complexities.” If you’re unfamiliar with business analysis it is basically the practice of soliciting, defining and managing requirements for business solutions. Of course, you can always refer to Wikipedia for a more detailed description.

Since I also achieved the PMP certification several years ago, the CBAP process was quite enlightening. IIBA seems to be where PMI was 20 years ago. They’re just getting their methodology fully defined, just getting the kinks worked out of the exam and application process, and just breaking through as a “required” certification for professionals in the field.

To me, the certifications are not terribly valuable by themselves. Sure, they get added to the resume, the website, LinkedIn, etc., and they might one day help get my name through the initial HR screeners for some positions. But I’ve been doing BA and PM work for long enough to know that the real world does not generally operate as the academic structures of the two methodologies suggest.

So why did I bother subjecting myself to the ridiculous application and testing process required to get the CBAP certification?

When people want to know what I do, I most often tell them I’m a project manager / business analyst with some technical skills in database development and business intelligence.  Simply put, when you are an IT practitioner working for small to mid-size businesses in Montana, project management and business analysis are very complementary skills. In this market, companies don’t usually hire distinct project managers or business analysts. In my experience, if a company is big enough to start hiring an IT staff, they go first for networking and desktop support and then they hire will programming skills. They’ll usually hire several people with technical skills well before they ever hire someone who thinks about the business side of IT. By then, they’ve had a number of problematic experiences where their IT staff (however talented they may be) has failed to deliver in a number of key areas.

I work with these companies. They need people who can understand their business, translate their business requirements into technical terminology, and then procure (if necessary) and manage the technical resources to get the job done.

That’s my niche.

The PMP and CBAP certifications designate me as someone who designs, builds and delivers high quality IT solutions. They don’t prove I can do it, but the successes I’ve had with my clients and employers over the years do.

Business,IT Management,Software development,Technology

Ideas to Improve Your Likelihood of Project Success13 Apr

I recently completed a large project for a non-profit client in the social services industry. The goal was to develop a system that would allow them to manage their case loads efficiently as their existing systems were inadequate to the task. I learned and confirmed several things by managing this project that I think you might find useful.


IT Management

PMP Certification07 Jan

Here’s a post I just found in the “I forgot to push the Publish button” file…

This past week (actually late August 2008), I achieved the Project Management Institute’s highly respected certification – the Project Management Professional (PMP). Unlike many certifications, PMI places a priority on verifying that a candidate has sufficient real-world experience to justify the credential. Before candidates can even schedule the exam, they have to document over 4500 hours of project management activities and at least 35 hours of formal education in project management. There is also an ongoing commitment to learning which requires PMPs to complete at least 60 hours of professional development activities over a 3 year span. So I’m pretty proud of this achievement.

The PMI method for managing projects, outlined in the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), is extremely rigorous. Only the largest of projects would implement the entire methodology as described in the PMBOK. However, there are some great takeaways for smaller businesses. (more…)

IT Management,Training

The Value of IT Certification28 Jan

IT employees require constant training and skill development opportunities.  It goes with the industry.  As a small business owner, if you have any hope of keeping IT employees around for any length of time, you need to understand this and come up with a strategy that fits the needs of both your business and your employees.

First and foremost, you may be struggling with the expense and value of training classes.  One of the big questions is always "Is certification worth it?"  This is a question at hiring ("This person has a ton of certifications, they must be good."), it’s a question when your employees want training ("Are they going to get this training and then leave?"), and it’s a question after the training when some employees may ask for a salary increase to recognize their new skills.

I’ve never put much stock in certifications myself.  But a couple weeks ago, I had an experience that may be altering my opinions on the subject.


IT Management

6 Reasons Businesses Fail at IT08 Oct

This is a blog about technology for the small and mid-sized business. So when I read a recent Harvard Business Review article about decisions IT executives should not be making, I had to comment. The article intends to say that well-meaning IT executives can’t possibly be responsible for the business impacts of their decisions. So they should stick to the technical details and let the rest of the executive suite worry about the success of the business.

I’m no Harvard MBA, but Ms. Ross and Mr. Weill have it all wrong. Companies that follow their advice are doomed to mediocre IT performance. Here are the six decisions they say are best left to non-IT execs, and why I think they’re off-base.

HBR: “How much should we spend on IT?”

Reality: Does the head of marketing decide how much to spend on accounting staff or tools? No. If your CIO or head of IT is not capable of understanding your business goals and planning a budget to meet those needs, then you’ve got the wrong person in that position.

HBR: “Which business processes should receive our IT dollars?”

Reality: It’s smart to selectively approve IT projects. But don’t forget that most IT funds are spent maintaining existing systems or on infrastructure requirements. Business executives forget about last year’s projects much less that project from 5 years ago.

HBR: “Which IT capabilities should be firmwide?”

Reality: This statement blatantly contradicts the author’s assertion that technical implementation details should be left to the IT execs. Again, if your CIO is not capable of understanding your business enough to develop an operational model that supports it, you need a new CIO.

HBR: “How good do our IT services need to be?”

Reality: The authors suggest to not let IT execs push for the “Cadillac” when a “Buick” is all that’s needed. Are you kidding me? Certainly all executives like to provide the best tools possible to their teams. But just try to imagine the CFO allowing the CIO or head of marketing to state how good the accounting services need to be!

HBR: “What security and privacy risks will we accept?”

Reality: Of the 6 points, this one is actually the most reasonable. The business needs to understand and accept the tradeoffs between convenience and security. But it’s the CIO’s responsibility to educate the business and help them find that balance. After all, the CIO is likely to be named in any HIPAA or Sarbanes-Oxley lawsuit!

HBR: “Whom do we blame if an IT initiative fails?”

Reality: If you’re thinking this way, it’s a bad sign for your business. Change your mindset now. You should be thinking, “How can I help ensure that IT initiatives helping me achieve my goals are a success.”

In the end, the HBR article fails to comprehend the true nature of IT’s role in the enterprise today. To be sure, there are companies who run their IT departments this way. But we know that companies that use IT strategically grow faster and are more profitable than those who don’t. Viewing the IT department as a cost center that needs to be tightly controlled by non-IT executives is certainly not a strategic way to do business.

Contact Me

Granite Peak Systems, LLC
PO Box 80892
Billings, MT 59108
Tel: 406-672-8292


Since 2007, I have funded a Kiva account in recognition of my clients. Whenever I get a new client, or find a microloan that relates to the industries my clients serve, I contribute to the account. You can see my lender profile here: