A Look at Business Intelligence Certification

August 2, 2010
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test taking 150x150 photo (business intelligence)

test taking 150x150 photo (business intelligence)

The debate over IT certification has been going on for quite a while.  Do certifications have real, practical importance—or are they primarily symbolic?  Does certification increase someone’s worth in the marketplace—or is it mainly a source of revenue for the certification provider? 

There’s no simple answer to these questions, since different types of certification offer different types of benefits to different individuals.  (Check out this lively international discussion for multiple perspectives.)  But a few points are pretty clear:

  • Preparation for certification exams offers the opportunity to review information, assess strengths and weaknesses, and maybe even learn something new.
  • Passing the exams and obtaining certification can boost confidence.  At the least, success will feel good!
  • Failing an exam can provide a wake-up call for folks who overestimated their level of professional accomplishment.
  • Having a certification will not magically double your market value, automatically increase your competitive edge, or ensure a promotion—but it may gain you a little respect.

So for those who can afford the time/effort/money, and don’t expect a miracle, certification may make sense.  But what about the value of certification from the employer side?

For IT departments that are heavily invested in specific tools and platforms, relevant vendor certifications can potentially enhance employee performance.  For example, someone with Cisco or Oracle certification may have an advantage in troubleshooting problems particular to those products.

But when it comes to certification for a particular kind of role—say, project manager, or systems architect—the value proposition is less clear.  And that brings us to CBIP, The Data Warehousing Institute’s certification program for Business Intelligence Professionals . . . .

TDWI offers the only “vendor-neutral” certificate relating to BI/BA.  Their certification process requires all candidates to take two broad-based tests (Core, Data Warehousing) as well as one specialization exam (Leadership & Management, Business Analytics, Data Analysis & Design, Data Integration, or Administration & Technology).  Each exam has 110 questions, to be completed in 1 ½ hours.

So what are the questions like?  How well do they test the knowledge and skills your organization would like to find in an employee?

Love to know!  But TDWI does not offer even generic examples from the test—though of course they do sell test-preparation manuals and workshops.  Luckily, The Data Warehouse Architect posted a very informative series about preparing for and taking the CBIP exams.  A great place to start reading if you are curious about the realities of this certification.

For the record: TDWI’s CBIP brochure says that more than half of those certified in the program take the Data Analysis and Design track, with just 15% seeking certification in Business Analytics.  Among those certified, the largest groups have either 6-10 years of IT experience (30%) or 10-20 years (35%).  And according to the 2009 TDWI Salary, Roles, and Responsibilities Report, “professionals with BI or DW certifications make $7,000 more on average.”

Cynthia Giles
Spotfire Blogging Team

Image Credit: Flickr; Photographer:Nicasaurusrex