July 17, 2014

The Value of Certifications in Requirements Management

Have you ever thought about taking a certification to boost your requirements engineering career? Certifications in requirements management are a hot topic these days, so what do we know about them?

No matter what you hear, certifications are here to stay and they have an important role to play in advancing your career. In this article, I discuss some of the pros and cons of getting certified.

Drawing a parallel with testing

But first, let’s draw a parallel with certifications in the testing area.

Many testers today choose to become certified. Certification is obtained through the ISTQB (International Software Testing Qualifications Board). ISTQB is an international certification board that launched back in 2002, and offers certifications at undergraduate and graduate levels.

Nowadays there are certifications and preparatory courses in every language ​​and many training companies offer the possibility to become certified. In fact, thousands of professionals have already done this and while certification has become a de facto standard within testing, within requirements management certifications it is still something relatively new, though this is soon to change.

Focusing on requirements management

Requirements management emerged as a distinct profession a few years after the testing became an established job role.

There are fewer professionals who specialise in requirements engineering. Obviously, this is partly due to requirements engineering being a younger career choice. Arguably, the need to collect, document and prioritise requirements in a structured way is less pressing than that of detecting and resolving errors in a system.

However, requirements management is more proactive, whereas testing is more reactive. In recent years, more and more organisations realised that it is better to do things right from the start by having properly defined requirements. It’s smarter to build in quality in a product right from the beginning, than trying to achieve it later through testing.

With these insights and actions, the demand for certifications in requirements engineering has increased considerably.

There are currently two major international certifications in requirements engineering: IREB and REQB. It’s possible to take a course in your native language since there are many training providers spread around the world. It’s likely that thousands of people will soon to be certified, just like what happened in testing.

Requirements management certifications appeals to many, is not for everyone, can be challenged, providing new insights, confirming knowledge, pushing the industry forward, can simultaneously be a journey through ancient times, leading to more investments in the area and leads to more jobs.

Certifications push the requirements management profession forward

Can a certification help advance the requirements engineering profession?

You can think what you want about the specific content of a certification, but there will always be people who want to get certified.

As people get certified, employers will place higher value on certified employees and consultants.

Whether this approach is justified or not, there will be a positive net effect as requirements management becomes more established as a profession.

When more focus, time and money start being spent on requirements management, the field will garner more attention and professionals will benefit by having their voice taken more seriously during the project.

As a maturing profession, requirements management owes most of the progress done in advancing it as a distinct career choice thanks to the power of certification.

But certifications don’t always reflect the latest industry developments

Certifications also have certain disadvantages.

The most common criticism is that people feel they did not expand their knowledge or that they will never apply concepts like ‘oracle’ on the job.

Another criticism of certifications that frequently crops up is that they are behind in the development of the industry.

This is correct and it can be a serious disadvantage, but is also natural.

To become an international ‘best practice’ a certain method or approach must have been extensively tried and tested. Only then will trainers offering certifications agree to include it in their curriculum.

It is important to recall that the purpose of certification is not to experiment with new practices but to consolidate knowledge of the established best practices from around the world.

If you want to know the latest in agile requirements management, such as technology Kanban, or about how to document a claim strategy, then you should turn to other sources.

There are plenty of books, lectures, tutorials and articles with the latest technologies.

A certification is a confirmation of what you already know. A certification also shows what has been established internationally as a best practice.

Certifications: good and bad

Compared to other forms of teaching there is less discussion on a certification course.

The course provider must follow a predetermined schedule which describes in detail what should be included and how many minutes are to be devoted on each section.

On the other courses that do not lead to certification, involve less cramming, more insights, more topical content and, last but not least, more fun!

Sure, certification preparation courses are a bit more boring by definition. There is more cramming to be done, less dialogue and more focus on learning concepts and theory than on practicing the technologies themselves. From the buyer perspective since certification courses follow a syllabus, the content is similar regardless of what training company you choose.

In this way, these two categories of training are very different from each other, but they have different purposes.

But it’s not all gloomy. In some cases certification courses can be quite fun! Shop around before you choose your provider and ask for testimonials or advice from colleagues and friends.

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