CITA-P – Certified IT Architect

Written by Simon Guest

Last week I took (and passed!) my CITA-P examination. CITA-P (Certified IT Architect) is a new certification, offered through IASA (the International Association of Software Architects). I wanted to share some thoughts on the certification, the process, and why you might want to consider applying yourself.

The Certification

The CITA-P certification evaluates an IT Architect across six core areas:

  • Business / Technology Mapping
  • Design Skills
  • Human Dynamics
  • IT Environment
  • Quality Attributes
  • Software Architecture or Infrastructure Architecture (you pick one of the two)

Each of the above six areas has around ten or so subcategories which go into some detail. There is a worksheet available here on the IASA site that covers all six, and can be very useful to reflect on your own strengths and weaknesses, even if you are not planning on taking the exam.

The goal of the certification is to gauge your level of competency across each of these six areas. The majority of this will of course be based on your knowledge, experience, and personal reflections.

The Process

Because it would be impossible (and indeed, wrong) to certify IT Architects through a multiple choice examination, the process of certification is an involved process, although very well structured.

The first part requires submitting a set of documentation. The details of what is required can be found in the application guide, and for my submission I decided to offer my perspectives and thoughts across the six certification areas. I wrote a story about each, reflecting my experience, views, and examples of projects that I’ve been involved in.

After submission, I received my date for the in-person board review, which is split into three parts: The first part is a 30 minute presentation of your choosing. The board is looking for experience across the certification areas, and also for communication skills. Staying within the 30 minute timeslot and having a presentation that is both engaging and covers all of the areas is difficult, but important if you are going to be successful.

Following the presentation comes a line of questioning, with each of the four board members given ten minutes to question you about your presentation. The idea here is not to pick holes in the presentation or play stump the chump, but merely to validate experience in areas that you may not have shown in the presentation. A large amount of my presentation was based on a framework around cloud computing, so while I had many questions related to this, I also saw the board trying to relate the material to other areas which I didn’t mention in the material.

After the first round of questioning, you are given a 15 minute break. This is a great opportunity to get some water and gather your thoughts while the board compares notes to look for areas they might have missed. Another round of questioning follows (4 x 10 minutes) on various topics and it’s all over. After the board review concludes, the board members meet and you are given their decision together with helpful advice in a couple of days.

A Good Thing?

Although this is my first experience, I’ve been a strong supporter of IT Architect certification since my time in the Platform Architecture Team here at Microsoft, and I believe it’s a good thing for the industry.

We see many IT Architects in our industry today. Most inherit that role during the natural evolution of their career. Many of these are indeed valid IT Architects, but I have the impression that other are also riding on the cache of the title. If we are going to grow this profession, it’s important that we standardize the areas and level of experience we expect from this role.

More Information?

For more information about CITA-P certification in your area, I would recommend getting in contact with IASA for more information.