The ISEB has announced the replacement of its existing IT ...
The ISEB has announced the replacement of its existing IT Architecture Certificate
by two new Intermediate and Practitioner Certificates, which meet the needs of
enterprise architects, solutions architects and systems integrators.
What follows is an interview with a member of the working party about these new ISEB
certificates in enterprise and solution architecture.
Q1) Why make this change?
In 2002, the ISEB offered a Practitioner Certificate in IT Architecture based on a syllabus
of about 80 items. Training providers then ran courses based on this syllabus. Students
sat the exams (either within the course or at a public sitting) and most succeeded in
obtaining a certificate. The scheme was internationally-recognised.
However, over several years, the ISEB observed that training providers and students
were sometimes challenged by differences in
• interpretations of the “IT architect” role and
• opinions about the best answer to some of the exam questions.
In 2007, the ISEB created a working party to overcome these challenges. Over the next
year, the working party developed the new ISEB qualifications in Enterprise and Solution
Architecture, based on a new reference model with over 400 items.
Q2) How did you address interpretations of the “IT architect” role?
ISEB research showed that almost nobody calls themselves an IT architect. It identified
a family of architect roles in these broad categories:
• Enterprise architect
• Solutions (sometimes applications) architect
• Software (sometimes application) architect
• Business architect
• Infrastructure/technology architect
Both old and new ISEB schemes span all these roles. However, the best fit is to the first
two roles, since these are generalists who:
• enable and improve business processes
• by analysis of data processing systems to
• outline better target applications and technology architectures,
• under constraints set by enterprise architects, and
• to be detailed further by more specialist architects.
Enterprise architects set the direction, but solution architects play a pivotal role in
practice. And solution architects are a neglected market. Many service providers and
systems integrators out there are either not training their solution architects, or offering
them training that is designed for other roles.
Q3) What makes an ideal enterprise or solution architect?
A popular quote is: “The ideal architect should be a man of letters, a mathematician,
familiar with historical studies, a diligent student of philosophy, acquainted with music,
not ignorant of medicine, learned in the responses of jurisconsults, familiar with
astronomy and astronomical calculations.“ Vitruvius, circa 25 BC
You could say the ideal enterprise or solution architect should be a [wo]man of letters, a
mathematician, familiar with the history of computing, a student of architecture
paradigms and design patterns, acquainted with programming, not ignorant of testing,
learned in the responses of technical design authorities, familiar with business concerns
and business modelling techniques.
In short, the enterprise or solution architect must be a generalist. The ISEB reference
model lists goals and skills for the roles (including communication skills) but the point I
want make here is that these roles are broad. No one syllabus, training course or
examination can be enough to make an architect. The architect is at or near the top of a
“T” shaped career path. The role requires extensive experience on a variety of projects.
The role spans the spectrum from business concerns to information technologies.
Architects usually work at a higher level of abstraction than designers. They must be
able to manipulate abstractions. Enterprise architects tend to use generalisation. They
generalise across several solutions. They define what can be shared by way of IS/IT
strategy, principles, standards, data, and processes. They govern solution architects in
their implementation of the generic enterprise architecture. By way of contrast, solution
architects tend to use composition. They compose an outline solution. They design
coarse-grained components to be elaborated by functional/software/hardware/network
Q4) How did you remove ambiguities from exam questions?
The working party set out to extend the syllabus. It eventually grew from 2 to 11 pages.
But long before we got that far, we realised a syllabus alone would not be enough. It
was suggested we look at the reference model for software testing used in the
successful certification scheme on that topic. We all agreed the new scheme needed a
comparable reference model for architects.
The resulting reference model for architects has more than 400 entries under these 11
1. Architecture and architects
2. Architecture precursors
3. Architecture frameworks
4. Business architecture
5. Data architecture
6. Software architecture
7. Applications architecture
8. Design for non-functional requirements
9. Infrastructure architecture
10. Migration planning
11. Architecture management
We are pleased with the reference model. It is as comprehensive and consistent from
end to end as you could reasonably hope.
The purpose of the reference model is to focus and constrain both examiners and
training providers. Examination questions should be about the concepts defined in the
reference model. Training materials should be consistent with those terms and
Yet the scheme also allows a lot of flexibility. We expect the reference model to remain
relatively stable even if training providers or enterprises change their mind about the
processes or notations they want to use. So training providers are free to decide the
sequence in which topics are presented in training materials, the "process" that students
are taught and the notations they use in architecture models and descriptions.
By the way, the reference model is mapped to levels of the Bloom taxonomy. The entries
are classified as Foundation, Intermediate and Practitioner. This mapping helps to break
up the large reference model into what can reasonably be taught at different levels. Each
level of certification embraces the level below.
Q5) Can you summarise the aims of this new ISEB scheme?
The primary aims are to give enterprise and solution architects a broad framework that
covers the range of architecture work that precedes and steers system development,
and to focus attention on areas where the architect is responsible for effective design
and risk management.
A secondary aim is to provide architects with generally applicable knowledge and
training. General here means independent of any specific architecture framework
(Gartner, TOGAF, etc.). This enables training providers to teach general knowledge and
skills, rather than framework-specific terms, concepts, structures and processes.”
The ISEB now offer the following two qualifications:
• The Intermediate Certificate in Enterprise and Solution Architecture shows that
candidates have demonstrated a consistent and comprehensive platform of
knowledge about architecture terms and concepts (a prerequisite for the
• The Practitioner Certificate in Enterprise and Solution Architecture shows that
candidates have demonstrated application of their intermediate level knowledge
to a case study. It also elaborates on the organisation and processes required to
manage an architecture successfully.
Q6) How does the ISEB scheme differ from TOGAF?
The ISEB scheme is pan-framework. It covers general features shared by more specific
architecture frameworks, including TOGAF. The experience of students who have
attended training for both is that they complement each other by covering overlapping
territories with different emphases and in different ways. Anybody with a TOGAF
certificate who wants to apply it in practice will find it helpful to attend a training course
for the ISEB practitioner certificate. Anybody with an ISEB certificate will find it easier to
take on and use TOGAF.
The ISEB reference model includes a few TOGAF-specific concepts, and they share
some broad topic headings – notably business, data and applications architecture. But
training courses and examination questions for the two certificates are surprisingly
different, even where they address the same subjects.
TOGAF ISEB E&S Architecture
For enterprise architects. For enterprise architects and solution architects.
More top down. More bottom up. (E.g. includes Software
More abstract and logical More concrete and physical. (E.g. includes Design
Based on its process (ADM). This Based on a reference model of > 400 items. This
is its main strength. is its main strength.
Training and examinations focus on Training and examinations are about general
the process and other features of architecture concepts, deliverables and
A framework for contributions from The reference model is consistent from end to
hundreds of contributors; with end.
inevitable overlaps and
Accreditation constrains training Accreditation constrains training providers less –
providers more as to presentation ISEB expect them to add value
The new certificates are described at http://www.bcs.org/server.php?show=nav.10540
For your diary: April meeting of the BCS Enterprise Architecture group
Talk: New Qualifications for Enterprise & Solution Architects
Date: April 7th 2009.
Time: Arrive 5.45 pm for 6.15 pm start. Finish about 7.30 pm.
Venue: BCS, First Floor, The Davidson Building, 5 Southampton Street, London, WC2E
Light refreshments will be available at 5.45 pm.