In a recent blog post, I mentioned that hiring and developing the right people for EA’s strategic aspirations will be a bottleneck, and as a result, development and certification programs will become a popular topic of conversation. Well it didn’t take long for some client inquiries to come in and show me that while I may be on the right track with that prediction, there's more to the topic than one might think. From the looks of it, the challenge runs deep: Development is about more than skill sets and certifications – it’s also about real career path – and elevating the job to the level of "profession" akin to those that architect our buildings. To get some more information, I called Dr. Brian Cameron, Founding President of The Federation for Enterprise Architecture Professional Organizations (FEAPO) and Program Director of Penn State’s Master of Professional Studies in Enterprise Architecture. Here’s what he had to say:

Q:Our clients are interested in developing their teams as opposed to hiring, due to challenges with funding and attracting talent. What are members of the EA community doing about this? Is it more common than not?

A:  Attracting and developing talent in EA is an issue around the globe.  There are many approaches to developing internal EA capabilities. The field is very fragmented in my opinion, and there are many  publically offered certifications out there.  Many organizations have developed their own internal certifications as well. We have a problem with consistency and quality today.  There is no way to consistently evaluate all of the internally developed and publically offered  EA related certifications.  How does a person who has an internally developed “Level II” EA certification from company A compare with another person who has an internally developed “Gold” level EA certification from company B?  I am not faulting these internal certifications in any way – they were developed out of a growing need for education and training in EA and with no universally accepted standards for the profession and they did the best job possible.  In addition, many EA certifications are very IT centric and often lack the business and strategy focus that is increasingly needed today as the discipline evolves.

What we need is an accreditation body for the profession that can help to establish accepted professional standards and verify that publically offered certifications and internally developed certifications meet these standards.  The same goes for academic programs.  Anyone can put the term “Enterprise Architecture” on just about anything they want and there is no organization out there to say whether that is good, bad, or somewhere in the middle.

At Penn State, we formed a large corporate and government advisory group to help us design our EA programs to get as many different perspectives and as much input as possible.  Most colleges and universities are not going to go to these lengths and we need model curriculums and accreditation bodies for EA certification and academic programs in the future.

Two of our goals at the Center for Enterprise Architecture at Penn State are to help EA (over time) become more of a mainstream academic discipline and to assist in the evolution of EA into a “real profession” (on par with established professions such as accounting and engineering).  To be honest, we have quite a way to go before either of these goals is achieved. 

Q: Do the development programs they leverage internally suggest a sort of common career path is actually emerging for EA practitioners?

A:I was asked to speak to a group of EA professionals at Microsoft and discussed some of the major milestones that I believe we need to have in place as part of the evolution of EA to a “real profession.”  It was very well received. Some of the main items needed to help EA become a “real profession”  with a clearer career path include an internationally a recognized “accrediting” body, and commonality in the definition of EA, the career path, the related certifications, a Body Of Knowledge, academic curriculums, and academic research communities.

So, currently, there is no universally accepted career path for EA related professionals.  The FEAPO organization is currently planning to address many of the bullet points above including the developed of a common career path structure for the profession.  This will be the first time that almost twenty professional organizations from around the globe has came together to jointly develop and endorse something like this.  We have several other projects on our roadmap that have been selected in order to address needs like the ones listed above.  FEAPO has the potential to become this needed accrediting body for the profession. 

Q: What about those that now manage EA practices – where do they go next, and how do they develop themselves further?

A:  This is where we need to distinguish training from education.  Most certifications are designed to train on a particular methodology or skill set.  Those that manage and lead need broader education.   University degree programs are where people typically find this type of broad based education.  Our professional masters program in enterprise architecture is designed to be this type of leadership education.  It is easily the most well vetted program I’ve seen anywhere.  It is designed with the working professional in mind and is fully online.

Q: Publically available certifications come up in conversations a lot. What’s out there, and what does one gain by being certified by any one program?

A:  We’ve discussed certifications quite a bit already.  Many public EA related certifications are focused on one particular methodology or framework, and most do a good job in this respect.  However, most organizations today report to use a hybrid approach to EA where they use aspects of several popular frameworks and methodologies and may develop some of their own unique features as well.  Most of the organizations in our Center for Enterprise Architecture report to use some type of hybrid approach and everyone thinks that they have developed the “secret sauce” for EA.    For these organizations, certification in only one framework or methodology doesn’t really work that well – this is often why they develop their own internal certifications.  What these organizations need is more of a compare and contrast between the popular frameworks and methodologies and guidance on how to construct a hybrid approach that works for your organization.  We do this in our EA masters program and graduate EA certificate program but I haven’t seen this done by any training provider yet.    In addition, the current EA related certifications are typically very IT centric.  Most need to incorporate more focus on business, strategy, and organizations in order to keep pace with developing trends in the discipline.

Q: Akin to certifications, programs like yours at Penn State offer a graduate degree in EA. Where does that fit in with alternatives, like an MBA?

A:  Great question and one that I get quite often.  I have a technical background and an MBA in finance and information systems so I can relate to what people are asking and why.  Currently, most people that aspire to technical leadership roles think that an MBA is their only real option.  There are a few management information systems (MIS) masters programs out there but many of them are seen as dated – few in industry even use the term MIS anymore.   I tell prospective students that if a career in general management is your goal, then consider the MBA.  If technology leadership is your goal, then consider our professional masters in enterprise architecture.  In my opinion, our program is the closest thing to a CIO preparatory program that exists in the marketplace today.   As we outsource more and more functions to the cloud, many corporations in our center see the role of the CIO becoming more about strategy and architecture and see a convergence between the role of the Chief Architect and the CIO coming in the near future (some argue it’s already here).  You can argue the future of the CIO and EA to the cows come home so we’ll have to see how things evolve in the next several years.


What do you think? Should the title "enterprise architect" – along with other architecture roles – require a common course of training and certification? Is it possible to define a clear career path?