Microsoft Announces New Architect Certification

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Microsoft will add a new high-level certification, the Microsoft Certified Architect (MCA), to its credentialing program in the near future. The certification, which will verify IT professionals’ ability to develop and implement enterprise-level IT solutions, will be divided into industry architect standards (comprising 75 percent of the program) and Microsoft technology (25 percent).


“We feel that we’re responding to a very clearly articulated customer need and very well understood job role that’s already in the industry, but really lacks a recognized accreditation around it,” said Al Valvano, business and product strategy group manager for certification and assessment operations at Microsoft Learning. “In this case, we’re trying to validate a very influential, very high-impact and very technically challenging job role: architects working at enterprise organizations who are tasked with the infrastructure, the overall technology road map. The skills domain that you have to measure to accurately credential that is very, very broad.”


One unique feature of the MCA is the testing method, which will be a board-based review not unlike those Ph.D. candidates have to go through, Valvano said. “I think one of the biggest things that will catch people’s attention about the Microsoft Certified Architect program is that we’re actually not using our traditional test technology at all. You have to sit down face-to-face in front of a board of your peers—other people who are in that job role—and actually defend a written solution, much like a dissertation, around your ability to architect technology in business. The board is comprised of a mix of internal Microsoft architects as well as (architects from) partner organizations and customer organizations.”


Although Microsoft is not releasing specific program requirements yet, Valvano said there will be a high bar set for MCA entrants in both knowledge and professional experience. Once admitted to the program, MCA hopefuls will work with peer groups and mentors to master the requisite skills domains and work on the technology solution they’ll present at the final board review. Valvano expects to announce this summer detailed requirements and timelines around the MCA curriculum.


“We’re pretty far along,” he said of the certification’s development process. “We have the program basically scoped. We have much of the infrastructure in place. We have the necessary initial resources available. We have the solutions that people will be working toward validated. We’ve done a tremendous amount of research and interactions with a number of architects to get to this point. We feel like we’ve got a really good, strong base from which to work. Our interest at this point is to nurture it out of the gate and make sure it grows very strong and robust. We feel that it will be a prestigious credential. We also feel that it is fairly limited in terms of its scope or scale.”


In next week’s CertMag EXTRA, Valvano discusses changes to Microsoft’s overall certification strategy.

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