A guide to the Certified Professional for Requirements Engineering (CPRE)

International Requirements Engineering Board (IREB)Since its inception in 2007 the CPRE Foundation Level certification has evolved to the most popular personal certificate in Requirements Engineering (RE) worldwide. Right now over 20,000 people have been certified in more than 50 countries.

So, what is the idea behind the CPRE, how does the CPRE compare to other certifications and what are the benefits of the CPRE?

Origin and Vision

In 2006 the International Requirements Engineering Board (IREB) e.V. [IREB] was founded by renowned Requirements Engineering representatives from business, consulting, training, research and science from across Europe. As a non-profit organization, it is the IREB’s stated intention to improve knowledge and cross-national communication in RE and thus to enhance the professionalism in RE – worldwide.

The first focal point was to reach as many professionals in the community as possible and not only those who are already highly qualified. Consequently the Foundation Level was developed with a syllabus on the knowledge level of an advanced beginner. The second cornerstone of the CPRE certification scheme is the Advanced Level with modules offering sound knowledge in specific fields of Requirements Engineering. A third level, the Expert Level, will then follow.

An excellent certificate is a vast added value – both for individuals and for companies

Why did the International Requirements Engineering Board (IREB) not just provide a body of knowledge but instead develop a complete certification scheme? The motivation for this is evident: a certification scheme is a solid path of education. Companies who recognize a personal certificate as valuable start to invest in education in this discipline. Whatever notion one has of certifications, they are a successful instrument to create interest at organizations to invest in education.

Picking up speed in RE is important

Not everyone from the community is a Requirements Engineering and Business Analysis specialist; not everyone has a university degree in Systems or Software Engineering. Many get involved in Requirements Engineering in a project by chance, or they move from another role into an RE role. For this audience a high level certification scheme would mean doing the second step before the first one: they need easy access to professional RE skills – with a direct impact on their daily work.

The CPRE certification – fairness and neutrality are guaranteed

The International Requirements Engineering Board (IREB) strictly separates the subject matter related work from training and certification – compliant with the ISO/IEC 17024:2012 standard. Unlike other certification schemes, exams are neither conducted by the holder of the certification scheme itself (IREB) nor by the employees of a training provider. Exams are conducted by certification bodies as personally and organizationally independent organizations.
This model ensures the fairness and neutrality of the examinations and avoids conflicts of interests.

International Requirements Engineering Board (IREB)
The Certified Professional for Requirements Engineering(CPRE) certification scheme

The exams for the Foundation Level can be taken in Chinese (Mandarin), English, Dutch, French, German, Portuguese (Brazil). The Advanced Level exams can be taken in English and German.

The CPRE Glossary – basis for an efficient communication

The CPRE certification scheme is based on a Glossary, which is consistently used in all levels/modules. It currently comprises definitions for 128 terms and covers the base terminology in various languages. The definitions in the books and scripts which accompany the Foundation Level and Advanced Level modules have been aligned with those in the glossary.

The CPRE Foundation Level syllabus – fundamental knowledge ready for use

The CPRE Foundation Level syllabus [CPRE FL] covers the most important topics of Requirements Engineering:

  • Introduction and Foundations: This section highlights the important role of RE in software and systems development. It offers definitions for the most important terms in RE and provides fundamentals of communication theory and requirements types.
  • System and System Context: How to define the considered system and its boundaries and context and how to delineate it from the irrelevant environment.
  • Requirements Elicitation: How to identify stakeholders and how to deal with them. Introduction of different types of elicitation techniques and how and in which context they should be used.
  • Requirements Documentation: Importance of requirements documentation, basic rules, structure and quality criteria for requirements documents. Introduction of different types of requirements documents and importance of a glossary.
  • Documentation of Requirements using Natural Language: Effects of natural language and common problems when documenting requirements in prose. How to avoid these by using requirements templates.
  • Model-based Documentation of Requirements: Documenting requirements with models; different types of models and how and when to use them.
  • Requirements validation and negotiation: How to ensure that the documented requirements meet the predetermined quality criteria, such as correctness and agreement. Identifying conflicts between stakeholders and resolving them.
  • Requirements Management: Assigning attributes to requirements, defining views on requirements, prioritizing requirements, and tracing requirements as well as versioning requirements and managing requirement changes. This includes individual requirements as well as complete requirements documents.
  • Tool Support: Discussion of different types of tools and how to evaluate and introduce them.

(Syllabus available in Chinese (Mandarin), English, Dutch, French, German, Polish, Portuguese (Brazil) and Spanish)

Due to the nature of a syllabus, the topics are not discussed in detail but learning objectives are defined for each of them. There are several books covering the CPRE Foundation Level, but Requirements Engineering Fundamentals [Pohl, Rupp] discusses the topics in detail and can be regarded as the body of knowledge for the CPRE Foundation Level.

The CPRE Advanced Level syllabi – sophisticated knowledge in specific topics

The CPRE Advanced Level [CPRE AL] consists of a set of modules, which offer sound knowledge in specific fields of Requirements Engineering.

Requirements Elicitation & Consolidation: Different sources of requirements are discussed along with many elicitation techniques like questioning techniques, observation techniques, creativity techniques and artifact-based techniques. Conflict resolution is supported by a set of consolidation techniques and clear guidelines in which situation to use which technique.
(available in English and German)

Requirements Modeling: How to use models for requirements elicitation and documentation. The main focus is on modeling of information structures, functions, behavior and scenarios in Requirements Engineering.
(available in German, English expected end of 2015)

Requirements Management: The module Requirements Management focuses on topics, which arise from the necessity to manage requirements and activities or (system) components. Particular focus is placed on the tasks of requirements management, such as creation of views, prioritization, traceability or variant management, on reporting, analysis and evaluation of requirements management tasks.
(available in German, English in preparation)

The CPRE compared to other certificates

There are two other important certifications which overlap to some extent with the CPRE:
The CCBA/CBAP from IIBA and the Certificate in Requirements Engineering from BCS. How are they related to each other?

The CCBA/CBAP from IIBA

The CCBA/CBAP and the CPRE are often regarded as competitive certifications, but if you have a close look at them they are not!

First, the CPRE clearly focuses on Requirements Engineering, which is clearly a very important sub-section, but a sub-section nevertheless, of the larger Business Analysis field. The CCBA/CBAP aims to cover the complete area of Business Analysis. Secondly, with its high entry criteria the CCBA/CBAP are clearly addressing the advanced professionals, whereas the CPRE Foundation Level is addressing the advanced beginner.

Together with the CPRE Advanced Level modules the CPRE represents an education path for professionals. So the CPRE offers detailed knowledge on a core part of the CCBA/CBAP – it perfectly suits professionals on their career path towards CCBA/CBAP!

The Certificate in Requirements Engineering from BCS

The setup of the BCS Certificate in Requirements Engineering is much more comparable to the CPRE. The Certificate in Requirements Engineering is part of a whole certification program of BCS and just one brick of the BCS Business Analysis Diploma. The CPRE Foundation Level and the BCS Certificate in Requirements Engineering do have an overlap of about 80 %. Therefore the International Requirements Engineering Board (IREB) and BCS have signed a Memorandum of Understanding where it is agreed that

  • Candidates who have completed the IREB’s CPRE Foundation Level are exempt from taking the BCS Certificate in Requirements Engineering to achieve their Diploma.
  • Candidates who have completed the BCS Certificate in Requirements Engineering are exempt from taking the International Requirements Engineering Board (IREB) CPRE Foundation Level to progress to the CPRE Advanced Level.

Starting point: CPRE Foundation Level

So rather than deciding between the CPRE and the other certification schemes, it is sensible to start a career path with the CPRE Foundation Level and then to advance to one of the higher qualifications like the CPRE Advanced Levels or other certifications.

Wrap up

With over 20,000 certified professionals the CPRE of the International Requirements Engineering Board (IREB) is probably the most successful certification scheme in Requirements Engineering worldwide. The Foundation Level focusses on the advanced beginner and together with the Advanced Level modules and the planned Expert Level it offers a comprehensive career path for Requirements Engineers and Business Analysts. Professionals can start their qualification path by first achieving a CPRE Foundation Level certificate and then progressing on to the CPRE Advanced Level, the BCS Diploma in Business Analysis or the CCBA/CBAP.

Sources:

[CPRE FL]: The Certified Professional for Requirements Engineering – Foundation Level syllabus
[CPRE AL]: The Certified Professional for Requirements Engineering – Advanced Level syllabi
[Dreyfus] Stuart E.; Dreyfus, Hubert L.: A Five-Stage Model of the Mental Activities Involved in Directed Skill Acquisition (February 1980)
[IREB]: The International Requirements Engineering Board (IREB)
[Pohl, Rupp 2015] Klaus Pohl, Chris Rupp: Requirements Engineering Fundamentals, A Study Guide for the Certified Professional for Requirements Engineering Exam – Foundation Level – IREB compliant, 2nd edition, Rocky Nook Inc. (April 2015), ISBN-13: 978-1937538774

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