Microsoft is preparing to launch a certification program for "elite" IT architects. The program, which is currently in beta, will produce Microsoft Certified Architects, who are project leaders with broad and deep understanding of technologies and enterprise architectural frameworks. The software giant says it expects the program to be in full swing in the first half of 2006.
It will be interesting to see how Microsoft's latest program does, particularly as the Open Group is expected this month to launch its vendor-neutral IT Architect Certification Program, which is also aimed at experienced IT professionals.
In both programs, candidates must be able to convince a panel of peers that they are worthy of the certifications by undergoing a rigorous interview. In Microsoft's case, candidates mush show to a review board documented proof that they have business and technology leadership qualities, have a deep understanding of at least two core technologies - such as storage and networks - and understand architectural best practices. They must also be knowledgeable of such enterprise architectural frameworks as (ironically) The Open Group Architectural Framework (TOGAF) and the information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL).
Other necessities include demonstrable political and diplomatic skills, or as Microsoft describes as "the ability to pick the right battles at the right time and then recognize the political landscape that influences a project ...", the ability to influence others and manage conflicts effectively, and to refine projects from both a technical and business standpoint.
Microsoft says that during the betas phase, applicants are only being received through "trusted referrals" but the program will be open to candidates via a non-referral application process when the program is officially launched. Microsoft is also expected to open the program only to IT architects with 10 years relevant experience (the Open Group's IT architecture program is open to IT pros with 3-years relevant experience).
According to the Microsoft Web site about the program: "The Microsoft Certified Architect credential will not have a prepackaged curriculum or traditional exams. Rather, candidates must demonstrate their skills and knowledge by creating architectures that solve complex business problems and then present their solutions to a board of their peer architects."
Accepted candidates are assigned a mentor, who successfully completed the Microsoft architect program, to help them prepare for the all-important board interview.
The popularity of Microsoft's existing certification programs is undeniable, but it would be interesting to see how well this high-level program takes off. Microsoft says it expects that only a quarter of the emphasis of a candidate's knowledge will be on Microsoft-related technologies and the rest will relate to general architecture principles. But many professional IT architects may not want to badge themselves as a Microsoft IT architect when architects are meant to be able to design and deploy environments that enable businesses to be competitive, no matter what platforms are used.