More on Certification

I ran across an interesting post from Tom Graves on his feedback on TOGAF. Specifically he talks about certification in his post entitled More on TOGAF Certification. I would also encourage you to take a look at a post I wrote entitled: Making sense of EA Standards.

Tom, like myself hopes to provide objective feedback to the architecture community when it comes to standards. I myself have provided some (what I think is) constructive feedback to various frameworks such as Zachman and TOGAF.

In the post, Tom provides some good fodder to think about when it comes to TOGAF certification. I agree with a lot of his points and I view this as an opportunity for the contributing members of TOGAF to add to the certification. To be objective, what is missing from Tom’s assessment is the ITAC certification. I view ITAC as the more comprehensive of the two (TOGAF / ITAC).

On Tom’s four points: reference architectures being out of date, lack of ADM prescriptive usage, scope of EA not just being IT, EA as a professional discipline… I have commented (here ) in various posts in the past but glad that Tom surfaced these as these are known issues not only in the architecture community but also at the Open Group (as Tom points out).

What I want to highlight out of the entire article is a very powerful statement:

an enterprise architecture certification does not and cannot indicate competence: it needs to be balanced by real-world practice. For which, again, crucially, this profession at present has no means to monitor or measure.

I agree with this statement 100%. I think there are ways to measure confidence we have in a architects’ competency, but it isn’t a sure thing.

As an example, Microsoft Certified Architect (MCA) program has a measure for determining competency based on a board of MCA professionals. The candidate has a limited amount of time and is often quizzed on what would be included in a Jeopardy episode, "Zachman quadrants for 2000, Alex". This is combined with some real-world discussions around what the architect has done and why they have built a solution in a particular way. The problem however is MCA is solution architect or infrastructure architecture not EA. Determining business forces on why a technology decision is made is not often asked. Whether it is EA or solution architecture, the business considerations must be taken into account. No offense to the MCA folks, I know some of them well and they are good guys but I am providing some constructive feedback.

I would much rather to see something like an apprenticeship (like a carpenter) or residency (medical field) type of program for architects that can prove out their competencies in a real world setting. Like other professions, it is important to go through the educational aspects early on and pass on the knowledge aspects but it must be followed by how an architect implements that knowledge.

Thoughts? Comments? Disagreements?

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0 thoughts on “More on Certification”

  1. Hi Mike – many thanks for the link and comments.
    You’re right, I’d forgotten about ITAC. But in fact the ITAC certification is barely relevant here, because it’s only about IT-architecture – and as you yourself pointed out, in your earlier link to Serge Thorn’s post, IT Architecture and Enterprise Architecture are not the same.
    To get ITAC Certified as an enterprise architect (ITAC Level 3), I must first be certified at Levels 1 and 2. But those certifications are both IT-specific: for example, I’m required to have used one or more of the approved IT-architecture methods in an IT-implementation. In effect, ITAC assumes that the only possible career-path for an enterprise architect is via IT-architecture.
    But that isn’t the work I do. Like most EAs, I’ve come from a solid background in software development and the like, but for the past decade at least I’ve concentrated on the business-architecture space and in whole-of-enterprise integration – quality-systems, narrative-knowledge, enterprise metrics, business ‘pain-points’, social complexity, and so on. In other words, definitely enterprise architecture in the sense that you’ve described in your posts. Yet it’s not IT: much of it barely touches IT at all. Hence although I do enterprise architecture, and at a much broader scope than most IT-centric ‘enterprise architects’, there’s no way I could achieve ITAC certification as an enterprise architect.
    The other reason I would ‘fail’ ITAC certification is because I don’t do the actual architecture design and implementation: to my mind, that should only be done by permanent staff, and I’ve never been an employee in my working life. 🙂 I’m more of an architecture methodologist: my role is more to assist in creating the architecture capability within an organisation, guiding the permanent staff whilst they ‘learn the ropes’, and coming back from time to time to keep them on track with new ideas and new developments in architecture. I’m a cross-enterprise generalist, not an IT-specialist. No-one does certification for that type of work as yet: in fact I’ve literally “written the book” on that field (a whole series of books, actually), so just about the only person who could certify my work is me. 🙂 Which leads to an interesting credibility-problem… and one which certainly hasn’t been helped by the way many IT-folks purport to be ‘enterprise architects’ when they are, at most, enterprise IT-architects. 😦
    The key point at TOGAF was that these problems have at last been publicly acknowledged by many of the major players in EA. Although there’s been no overt action as yet, the acknowledgement itself does open the door for much-needed change: a very good sign of the growing maturity of the EA profession.


  2. A practical question.
    In my architecture-consultancy work, just about every gig addresses a different business problem, in a different part of the organisation, often even in a different industry. (In Cynefin terms – see Wikipedia summary at – most of my work sits in the Complex or Chaotic domains.)
    To do that work, I draw from a very extensive ‘toolkit’ of techniques and processes, most of them somewhat abstract and/or from far outside of the IT domain. The only thing that stays the same is a broad set of architecture principles and professional ethics.
    How on earth would I get certified for that type of work?


  3. Thanks so much for your perspective on this.
    I agree that the majority of the EA frameworks out there are IT centric and thus agreeing with you and Serge on that one. My comments on ITAC shouldn’t be taken out of context either. I wanted to highlight ITAC as another Open Group offering just so the readers have visibility. Additionally another emerging certification body is IASA. I provided a link to my assessment on EA standards above but to recap that briefly, I see IASA serving a different function.
    Thanks again and keep up the great posts!


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