Mike Walker's Blog: Mike Walker Open CA Certified Level 3 Distinguished Chief Architect

As some of you may have noticed on my twitter feed, I have been activity doing research the Open CA certification. Through the research and it’s reputation, I decided that I would take it based on my findings. I am happy to announce that I passed my Level 3: Distinguished Chief / Lead Architect certification!

I have to say, what a great experience this was. Not because it was easy, it was actually quite a lot of work and it is a very serious certification that wasn’t easy at all. But rather, I was amazed by how professional the whole process was. The formality from the beginning to the end showed there was no variability in the process and no hint of any sort of subjectivity in the process. This is what an Enterprise Architecture certification must provide. Additionally, the certification board that interviewed me was top notch. I was humbled to be interviewed by such professionals with their level of experience and knowledge in EA and other fields.

A big thank you to the Open Group and the members of the board that interviewed me.


Some maybe wondering what is Open CA. How is it different from what people commonly think of from an EA certifications or the differences in Open CA and TOGAF certifications. The Open Group has two certification programs: TOGAF and Open CA (formerly ITAC). These two are very different certifications. They are for two different purposes. 

  • TOGAF Certification – in simplest terms, TOGAF certification validates that you know the TOGAF specification to a great level of detail. This certification excludes validating that you are an architect. So by this rule, a non-architect that studies the TOGAF materials can be TOGAF certified. One can learn the TOGAF book and do a multiple choice computer based exam. If the exam is done in good standing, the architect is certified. TOGAF certification looks very much like most exam based certifications (e.g., PRINCE 2) certification for project managers.
  • Open CA Certification – is primarily concerned with the competencies that an architect possesses. In other words, how an architect thinks through solving a set of broad highly impactful enterprise problems to realize business value. For Open CA certification, it is not needed to be TOGAF certified or even know the TOGAF framework , that is one of many validated frameworks. One must prove to be able to have done architectural work in real life situations for many years. Open CA certification is very much like PMI certification for project managers that require detailed documentation, letters verifying your experience and a set of interviews to validate what was documented.


It is extremely important to have the TOGAF certification as well as the Open CA. Both are important and both have roles. As I stated above, TOGAF certifies that you have the skills to know what are the architecture practices, methods, models, tools and mental models. However, Open CA certifies that you have the competencies to do architecture well by validating how you do architecture.


So the difference in my mind: TOGAF = Skills and ITAC = Competencies


There are approximately 2,500 Open CA at three levels combined and 7,200 TOGAF 9 certified architects in 50 countries around the world.

The Open CA certification is an international standard. There are three levels:

  1. Certified IT Architect

  2. Master Certified IT Architect

  3. Distinguished Certified IT Architect


Level 1 is the easiest to get, level 3 the hardest.


To get Open CA certification, a certification package must be created by the applicant. This certification package must contain proof of the various Open CA conformance requirements, including signed documents letters from people you worked with. A level of quality control here is  that these reference letters can not come from a direct report of yours nor can it come from one of you direct line managers either.

After the certification package is applied, the architect is invited to visit a certification board. The architect must then present a case from his certification package to the certification board. The certification board will ask questions to the architect. And if all goes well, the architect can receive certification.

The requirements that lead to the certification package are not easy to conform to. Below are some resources to give you more information:


The Open CA certification is very hard to get, but it is a very valuable title to have as an architect.