SATURN 2010: Panel on Certification


  • Rolf Siegers, Raytheon
  • Don O’Connell, Boeing
  • Frances Paulisch, Siemens AG
  • Andy Ruth, International Association of Software Architects (IASA)
  • Linda Northrop, SEI

Moderated by Paul Clements.

Each speaker gave brief overview of their organizations’ certification programs. Then each speaker presented concuding thoughts about certification programs for architects. Discussion and questions were welcomed throughout.

Here are excerpts and highlights:

Raytheon: Targeted for senior systems or enterprise architect practitioners. Companywide initiative that identifies, instructs, and assesses Raytheon’s top systems and enterprise architects. Intended to establish cadre of senior architects to develop architectures that meet Raytheon needs and mentor next generation of architects. Started in 2004. 150+ fully certified, 115+ others fully trained. Rest are at various stages. Certification is a mechanism to curtail “business-card architects.”

Role is to ensure competencies of individuals carrying the “architect” title and set common foundation for architectural knowledge. Discipline needs a formalized, documented prcess continuum integrating enterpirse, system, and software architecture. We need more independent research quantifying positive/negative impacts of architecture practice.

Boeing: Targeted for software or system architect, seasoned veterans. 25 to 100 line items of study, varying according to domain. Takes 20+ hours for seasoned veteran, more than 100 hours for an up-and-comer. Intended to refresh seasoned veterans in state of the art, train upcoming architects. Overall mission is to improve software architecture in Boeing. Software and systems engineering communities affected. More than 100 have completed or are in process. Benefits: common terminology and understanding, networking with peers, ability to develop companywide architecture repositories. Program helps define within Boeing what software architecture means and comprises.

This is all worth it, but don’t have a lot of money to spend on this. Have to balance amount of effort for certification with actual benefits. Future: domain-specific architecture certificates, academic credentials (industry and academia align for software architecture), more Agile practices–not one size fits all.

Siemens: Targeted to a whole set of roles, but mainly senior software architects, experienced architects of most complex systems. Role-based qualification program–architecture driven, but content addresses many other topics. Intended to reduce non-conformance costs. Includes a capability gate that requires demonstration of social and leadership skills. 50 completed, 15 in pipeline. Challenging, very training- and work-intensive. Effects a real change in how architects think and act; serves as a key way to influence the entire organization.

Success factors include

  • holistic architecture-driven approach; but content, not only architecture.
  • application of techniqus immediately in current project so key architects can participate in qualification program
  • connection to expert career path at Siemens and top-management attention to program

IASA CITA-P: Targeted to practicing IT architects. Third level of certification for measuring architect’s career progression. Measures knowledge and experience. Provides predictable and repeatable results in delivering business value. Candidate submits a brief on experience then stands for interview with four senior architects, CIOs, or CTOs. Luminaries in local areas are enlisted to conduct interviews. Documentation of skills is required. 31 successful candidates to date. Individual gets validation of skills and growth roadmap; organization gets reliable measure of architecture skills; community gets another member and view on current business challenges and best practices in architecture. IASA conceives of this certification as being owned by the global community of architects. Will grow as it needs to and as determined by community.

Not working in environment anymore where “ad hoc” works. Complexity is increasing. Takes more skill to deliver a complex project. Architect profession started gaining traction in the 90s. We don’t have an agreed on body of knowledge or set of tools, but need to move in that direction.

SEI: SEI is a federally funded research and development center (FFRDC) whose mission is to improve the practice of software engineering, as means for providing confidence that systems will do what they’re intended to do. SEI doesn’t certify architects. It offers two certificate programs–Software Architecture Professional and ATAM Evaluator. No teeth behind certificate, only a weak evaluative component, an exam introduced in 2008 based on content of the Software Architecture Principles & Practices course. Software Architecture Professional targets practicing architects, designers, developers, those who need to know about software architecture. No minimum qualifications. Candidates must complete four SEI courses. ATAM Evaluator qualifies people to participate in ATAM evaluations. Two courses are required. SEI does certify ATAM Leaders, qualifying people to lead evaluations using the Architecture Tradeoff Analysis Method (ATAM). This certification is for practicing architects with superior communication, interaction, and facilitation skills. More rigorous requirements than certificates. ATAM Leader certification includes observation. 1140 people have earned Software Architecture Professional certificates, 521 ATAM Evaluator certificates, and 11 (9 SEI) have earned ATAM Leader certification. Individual gets improved understanding and confidence; at organizational level, these credentials result in improved practices and architectures (see, for example, Impact of Army Architecture Evaluations). At community level, they foster a greater focus on quality attributes and connecting business goals to architectural decisions. SEI is in process of developing other certificates in areas such as SOA and embedded systems.

What guarantee is there that a certified person can deliver a successful architecture?

Northrop: This is why SEI doesn’t certify architects.

Ruth: Sooner or later, the IT industry will be regulated. Medical industry is self-regulating, and that’s what I would hope that we would do.

Siegers: We assess competency of existing work. We want to see what you’ve done, not what you’re going to do.

See also these additional blog posts on architecture certification.


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