14 April 2005

Microsoft Certified Architect Program

For those of you that haven't heard, Microsoft has announced that it will introduce a new board-level certification specifically for Software Architects. You can read more about the annoucement in the Microsoft Certified Professional Magazine.

This has interesting ramifications for the tech industry. First and foremost, the number of certifications that have been offered but continue to carry little or no weight is just increasing. The number of board-level certifications that exist in the technical field is small and have mixed acceptance. In general, those actually working in the industry see certifications as another scheme from those outside the industry to profit from it. Look at the growing certification market.

I've had my ear to the ground on this particular subject for several weeks now quietly picking up the general attitude towards the announcement. Overall, the industry seems generally supportive. After all, it's hard to pooh-pooh an attempt to legitimize and provide proper standards. However there are several points I've managed to pick-up which seemed to be valid concerns. For example, who will comprise and oversee the board? What prerequisites exist and what weighting is given? Are their continuity requirements?

Personally, I think most certifications are pretty much worthless. Software is simply too fast of a moving target. The critical factors that seperate a good engineer from a poor one are frequently subjective and hard to quantify. They have more to do with working-style, the process discipline they exercise, and their critical thinking. These are not areas that any certification really focuses on. Which makes sense because it's hard to gauge the discipline someone has towards adhering to standards in the confines of T/F and multiple choice.

I do have a bit of an insiders view on these tests having helped to create several of these exams for Microsoft back in the days of Visual Basic 4 and SQL Server 4.2. Once you've been through the ringer trying to formulate these exams, you see things a little differently. I take a little comfort knowing that this new certification program is geared more towards work experience and the board interviews. That should help seperate the wheat and the chaff.

At the end of the day I will probably end up kowtowing like everybody else and just chalking it up to the cost of doing business.

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