Alittle over 10 years ago, I got  involved in a discussion on whether or not professional certifcation of software, system and IT architects would be useful. At the time, the conclusion was that especially in software, the profession of architect was not ready for such thing and that it was not necessary.

Since then, we've seen numerous activities in the area of certification of software and IT architects. However, a lot of those certify the knowledge of an architect on a specific technology or framework (did I hear TOGAF?), not so much on their general skills as architects.

This, I believe is not the way to go. Knowing a framework, especially the current frameworks that focus mainly on either specific processes or technology, does not make an architect a good architect. An architect should not only understand processes and technology, he should also be aware of what business he operates in, what business the customers and (end)users of the sytem he's designing operate in. Then, he needs to be able to convince general management, project management and engineers of the usefulness of the architecture he provides, and guard its realisation. 'No shortcuts allowed' is a nice credo, but it requires quite a bit of human interaction skills to realize. In my opinion, an architect should be certified on the taxonomy of skills that are required to fulfill the job, not solely on his technical abilities and good memory for process manuals. A nice overview is provided in the IASA taxonomy, which is in line with what I've been living by the past 10 years, Gerrit Muller's views on Systems Architecting.

With that, certification gets a completely different meaning - it will allow companies to select the best architect for the job, knowing that they are hiring the person that has the right skill set and distinguish between the real architects and the ones that merely adopted the title because it was hip. To stress that last part: in the context of what I wrote above, I still have no clue what a Java Architect actually is. As someone said a while ago: 'there are only two Java Architects: the guys who set up the architeture for Java itself, almost 20 years ago, all the others are just Java expert users'.

Certification of architects on this generic skill set, with some refinements for specific roles an architect may play, is at the core of the IASA certification, which was launched a few years ago. This certification is in that respect, comparable to the already existing, and succesful certification of Systems Engineers by INCOSE.

The certification is already quite well adopted in the USA, India and the UK and Ireland - and more countries, including The Netherlands are picking up. Together with the Dutch IASA Chapter board, my goal is to bring this certification, and the benefits it brings, to The Netherlands. For this purpose, the IASA Netherlands Chapter organises events for architects 4 to 5 times each year, and will facilitate trainings for IASA Core Cerfication and board exams for IASA CITA-P certification from this fall.

After summer holidays, we have planned the following activities:

September 6th: IASA Chapter event at Achmea, Tilburg. Check our Chapter Web page for the registration form (will be published shortly)

October 3-7: IASA Architect Core certification and exam, Amsterdam region (exact location to be defined)

Late 2011/Early 2012: CITA-P certification of 3-5 Dutch IASA members so we can start our own CITA-P board sessions

One a final note, I would like to make explicit that this type of certification and the skills it focuses on are not limited to what we tend to call 'the IT world', meaning the people working on enterprise systems, business process support and information management. The skills tested and certified in the IASA program are equally valid for software architects in embedded software, high tech systems and product engineering.