The Why of Professional Associations

what is the answerThe traditional description of a professional association is a membership-based organization supporting a closed community and offering member-only services. Historically, because forming and maintaining a professional network and finding and accessing relevant information could be challenging, membership fees and value could be justified. However, the rise of the Internet economy and online professional networks has changed the landscape for professional associations. These reasons are no longer strong motivators for an individual to pay membership dues.

The value an association offers has transformed. Adapting to this change requires a reimagining of more than marketing or services offered. Professional associations must rediscover their purpose, and infuse it into everything they offer and all of their relationships. This means a shift away from the members-only perspective, towards purpose-driven stewardship of the entire community. Putting the community first – ahead of the association itself – is a key step to making the association succeed.

This shift has many implications. Perhaps the most striking is a redefinition and expansion of the categories of membership, to include many relationships with many stakeholders. For example:

  • Traditional Members—Practitioners, Students, Academics
  • Affiliates—members from peer associations
  • Corporate Members—some or all practitioners in an organization
  • Managers—Employ/Hire Members; services promote hiring, advancement
  • Channels—Consultants, Training Providers, Headhunters, etc.
  • Guests—Interest in profession; work with professionals

The stakeholders who employ, manage, or support traditional members deserve new focus because of their contribution to the size, health, and reach of the entire market for practitioners. They increase the relevance of the profession, increase the market for professionals, and increase the influence of the association.

What do associations offer? Why is this important? How is it accomplished?

In the short term, professional associations need to shift their communications, engagement practices, and services to include all practitioners, members or not. At the same time, preparation should begin to transition revenue streams from individual memberships to organizational memberships, to offer premium services for a fee, and to strategically monetize high-value transactions in the community.

Advocate for the Profession
Increase Recognition, Appreciation, Respect, Use
  • Outreach to employers, governments, and other supporting stakeholders
  • Targeted advertising online and within publications
  • Pursuit of traditional media exposure (interviews on radio, TV, newspapers)
  • Creation of Job profiles and career progressions / alternatives for hiring managers and HR professionals to use
Define and Formalize Individual Performance Standards
Drive consistency of understanding, language, and application of generally accepted practices and/or best practices
  • Develop and support Individual Standards
  • Develop and support a practitioner Body of Knowledge
  • Develop and support a practitioner competency model (skills, behaviors, and knowledge required by the practitioner to be effective)
Recognize Practitioners
Establish a baseline of performance
  • Raise perceived value and expectations of the role
  • Differentiate between levels of competency and quality
  • Develop formal recognition programs (e.g., Certification, Certificates)
  • Support opportunities for professionals and academics to publish
Educate Professionals
Increase knowledge, improve abilities, and raise levels of practice
  • Provide on-demand information (webinars, podcasts, online library, discussions)
  • Host Conferences
  • Create and assess others’ course material
  • Support volunteering
Govern Organizational Practices
Establish baseline capability and assess consistency of execution
  • Develop organization maturity models
  • Conduct assessments or practices within organizations
  • Accredit suppliers, corporations, and government bodies who are aligned to established standards
Promote and develop the community
Build cohesiveness, encourage ongoing growth, and support improved capability and contribution of professionals, academics, and organizations
  • Host professional conferences; participate in and/or recognize other events
  • Promote chapters, using them as a “store-front” for outreach into the community and to provide a “face” to the professional association
  • Engage Volunteers in professional association activities
  • Develop special interest groups / communities to further focused growth
Assess Suppliers
Assess alignment to and support of practice standards
  • Review, recognize, and publicly support continuing education, accredited courses, and training aligned with industry standards or accepted practices
  • Review, recognize, and publicly support other professional and industry conferences
  • Review, recognize, and publicly support tools to enhance performance (software and physical)

These products may not drive any individual professional, academic or corporation to join the association. Instead, by becoming a platform for the community, they encourage all stakeholders to participate and support its growth and success.

PMI Expands Offerings in Requirements Management

ColoRace 5Today, a friend of mine forwarded an announcement from the Project Management Institute (PMI), “the world’s leading not-for-profit professional membership association for the project, program and portfolio management profession” announcing its new Requirements Management Knowledge Center of Excellence and Practice. The email also announced a number of other critical initiatives under way at the organization:

  • PMI’s Professional in Business Analysis (PMI-PBA) Certification going into pilot over the next few months
  • Practice Guide on Business Analysis coming in 2014
  • Practice Standard in Requirements Management in 2015

As the founding President and former CEO of IIBA, how do I feel about PMI playing in the BA space?

It is not unexpected.

In early 2013, IIBA became aware that PMI was working on its own certification. A number of IIBA members (who are also members of PMI) were contacted by PMI about activities that it was undertaking in the requirements management space.

  • Firstly, PMI was looking for volunteers for it requirements management role delineation study. Role delineation studies are used to identify essential knowledge and skills required of a profession and are used for the development of qualifying or certifying exams. These studies validate the importance, criticality and relevance of both broad content areas and tasks. While not stated explicitly, the expectation was that PMI would be using the output of the analysis to formulate its own certification.
  • Secondly, PMI reached out to a number of experts in the BA field and asked them to help contribute to a learning guide that would identify key areas of knowledge and resources (books, periodicals) in the requirements management area. This learning guide would support the educational and knowledge requirements of individuals who wished to develop expertise in the business analysis area.

While no further details were made available within these communications, both these activities indicated that PMI was planning on entering the BA space.

It seemed that PMI finally realized what many of us have known for a long time: the best run project will not be successful if it fails to capture what is needed to solve the business problem. Effective business analysis is a requirement for project success.

What will this mean to the business analysis profession?

Even back in early 2013 when I was still running IIBA, I viewed it as a double edged sword. PMI is a HUGE organization and its reach is enormous. It will spread the message of business analysis/requirements management very quickly. In the short term, it will reach organizations that IIBA would have taken years to engage. Companies will invest in business analysis/requirements management. Practitioners will finally get the respect they deserve after years of neglect.

Is there a downside for the practitioner? As it is the Project Management Institute, its perspective on the role may be limited to a project. But it is a start. Raising awareness is the first step towards broader success.

And what about IIBA?

I believe competition is good. It is hard, but it will force IIBA to focus on its fundamentals. Why does it exist? What makes it special? How can it differentiate itself from PMI? IIBA should not go away. It provides a different perspective on business analysis – an enterprise view beyond the scope of a project. It will be a challenge, but IIBA may even grow as PMI pushes the boundaries of the whole market.

As Richard Branson said: “You can be a David vs. a Goliath, if you get it right.”

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