The IT architect seems to be the new black in information security style: This job role has been a hot topic of discussion of late, and a few certification programs for this position have emerged in the past few months. One notable, recent example is the Open Group, a vendor- and technology-neutral consortium, which announced the launch of its IT Architect Certification program, developed and supported in conjunction with member organizations that include HP and IBM.
Certification for this job role is important in part because IT architects need standards in skills, tasks and expectations. Currently, there isn’t really a clear-cut definition as to what an IT architect is, said Graham Bird, the Open Group’s VP of marketing. “Many individuals would regard themselves as architects: some with justification, and some, we believe, don’t have justification,” he said. “An application or software designer might call themselves an application architect or a software architect. There have been many variations on these labels. It hasn’t been clear. What we’ve done is put a stake in the ground and said, ‘This is what we and our 6,000 members think is a reasonable definition of an IT architect.’”
Bird likens the IT architect concept to the role actual architects plays in the production of buildings. They will develop the plan of a given structure in the abstract, then hand over the construction, electrical, plumbing and other duties to engineers, contractors and specialists. Architects will supervise the overall building process until completion, providing guidance and revisions when and where needed.
The need for IT architects first became apparent to Open Group members when the organization conceived its boundary-less information flow model a few years ago, which involves information integration based on open standards and interoperability, Bird said. “We adopted a vision that nobody really got. It was fairly leading-edge then. Nowadays, that’s fairly common. When you try to move to implementing that sort of a vision, what you discover very quickly is you can’t develop your IT systems on an ad hoc basis. You need some mechanism, vision or plan that pulls it all together and stakes out what goes where, what works with what and so on. What we’ve discovered as our members moved toward that vision is that the need for IT architecture cropped up.”
The result of this realization is the Open Group’s IT Architect Certification, which has no exam, but instead rests on an experience profile and a subsequent interview with already certified IT architects. “It’s really a bit like a résumé,” Bird said of the experience profile. “They would document their experience against each of the criteria that’s laid out in the conformance requirements. When that’s complete, they submit that and, assuming it gets through scrutiny on its completeness and acceptability, they’re interviewed by a board of three certified IT architects, who probe around the experience to make sure that they actually meet the conformance criteria.
“Most certification programs today certify that you know a body of knowledge,” he added. “(Many of them) make no skills or judgments about their experience or skill in applying the knowledge. This program is very different. It defines a set of criteria for the skills and experience an individual has demonstrated to be certified. The requirements are clearly documented. By definition, this is skills- and experience-based. The way you can demonstrate that you can apply that training and knowledge you’ve got is on the job.”
For more information, see http://www.opengroup.org/itac.