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Software // Enterprise Applications

New Group For Enterprise Architects Aims To Elevate The Profession

Certification and standardization are two main goals backers say are important in validating the role enterprise architects play in an organization.

There are professional organizations for lawyers, doctors, and even project managers. But now IT architects will also have their own specialized association for hobnobbing, sharing knowledge and experiences, and potentially raising the profile of the profession to employers.

This week, Open Group -- best known as a nonprofit vendor-consortium for IT standards -- is launching the IT industry's first professional association for IT enterprise architects.

The new Association of Open Group Enterprise Architects, or AOGEA, is focused on "elevating" the IT architect profession; promoting the employment of certified professionals; establishing standards for ethics and architecture principles; and sharing experiences and knowledge, says Open Group CEO Allen Brown.

"Architects want a professional body, much like doctors and lawyers have," says Brown. And apparently he's on to something: Even before the group was formally unveiled on Jan. 29, 715 enterprise architects had already signed up to join through word of mouth, he says.

So far, those who have already joined are IT architects who have at least one of two Open Group professional certifications -- ITAC, or IT Architect Certification -- and TOGAF, short for The Open Group Architecture Framework. Brown says there are about 4,000 IT architects worldwide who have at least one of those two certifications. Having an ITAC or TOGAF certification is recommended for AOGEA membership.

However, the association is also offering other "grades" of membership, such as "associate" status to those architects who don't have either the ITAC or TOGAF certifications, but are working towards the credential. The association is also open to students and "affiliates" who are studying or have an interest in enterprise architecture.

Brown envisions the new organization to become similarly esteemed to IT architects as the professional organization Project Management Institute is to project managers.

There are two key reasons why Open Group created the new organization, says Brown. The first was to provide individuals with opportunity for advancing their careers as IT architects by raising the profile of the profession.

"There's more value in the marketplace" for individuals who have special professional distinction, he says. For instance, "a CPA gets better rewarded in the market place than an accountant who's not certified," says Brown.

The second reason for creating the association is to send a message to employers, says Brown. "Employers are looking for professionals, they want a known quantity because you don't have to substantially train a known quantity," he says. Right now, when employers hire an enterprise architect, "you don't know what you're getting," he says.

Jason Uppal, chief architect at Quick Response Systems, an IT training and education company based in Canada, is spearheading the new local Toronto chapter of AOGEA, which he hopes will not only provide IT architects with social networking and knowledge sharing, but will also enlighten local CIOs and CEOs about the important role enterprise architects play in an organization.

Uppal's chapter has already signed up 20 members and has slated its first meeting for mid-March. The plan is to each month offer members several all-day workshops, some of which would also be open to local CIOs and CEOs. "We'd like to bring in CIOs for two hours a day [during these workshops] to ask them 'what do you need?'" as well as help them understand what an enterprise architect does and what he or she needs to be effective, says Uppal.

Enterprise architects are akin to a company's city planner in aligning IT with the business goals -- however, the architect "can't sit in an ivory tower, he needs to be down there in the trenches" in understanding the organization and its needs, says Uppal. "Ninety-percent of what an architect does has nothing to do with technology, but rather it's about people, processes, and the organization," he says.

Prior to the creation of the Project Management Institute for project managers, "everyone managed projects their own way, there was no consistency," Uppal says. And similar to how the PMI helped to bring forth standard methodologies and better understanding about project management to businesses, those are the goals for AOGEA, says Uppal.

Membership to AOGEA is free to ITAC and TOGAF certified architects. For others, the cost of annual membership is $175.

This story was updated Jan. 31 to correct Quick Response System's company name.

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