Matt Deacon, chief architectural advisor of Microsoft UK, is calling on professional organisations and vendor groups to work together on an internationally recognised certification for technology architects.
Microsoft currently has its own certification scheme for architects, the Microsoft Certified Architect scheme, but he believes a vendor-independent body would be more valuable.
There is already an Independent Association of Software Architects, IASA - of which Deacon is also UK chair - but he notes that there are other groups such as the British Computer Society, BCS, offering different certification and training and as a result there is not a single standard in the space.
"We want to see the creation of a body that combines the best of these various groups," Deacon said, "so the challenge is to get all of these groups to work together."
Deacon said that he would prefer not to see yet another body doing yet another certification scheme, but instead some sort of over-arching framework or consensus for a single unified architects' certification.
He said that the Microsoft Certified Architect scheme works well but will be difficult for Microsoft to scale out on its own. Microsoft will later this year begin working more closely with the IASA on architect certification, with or without the blessing of the other architecture certification schemes from the BCS and others.
Deacon said Microsoft has already begun a dialogue with the BCS, for instance, and he is 'optimistic' that a consensus can be reached.
Nevertheless he noted that architect certification is still largely in its infancy. He said there are three main areas of architecture: solutions, infrastructure and enterprise, and only the first two of these have been addressed by Microsoft's MCA or indeed the independent IASA.
Solutions is the portion that covers the lead developers on projects, solution architects and the like. Infrastructure refers to the architecture of the data centre, storage, networking and so on.
But enterprise, so far not tackled in the certification programs, is all about governance, control and process architecture.
Deacon said that the architecture arena is still relatively immature: "Architects are looking at challenges from solutions to enterprise to infrastructure, yet there is no defined career path, a question over which skills these people need going forward, and there is a professional debate going on as to how architecture actually fits into the future of software and development."
Recent ComputerWire stories about enterprise architecture vendors like Telelogic and Troux Technologies have seen how vendors are trying to emphasise the message that architecture needs to be 'actionable'. They recognise that enterprise architects and the architecture models that they have been known to create are often misunderstood or sidelined by both the business and technology departments in many cases.
While architects clearly have a valuable role to play, clearer definition of exactly what architects bring to the table and how the architectural representations that they create can have a positive impact for both IT and the business is sorely needed.
A consensus on what constitutes a professional architect - as well as acknowledgment from the EA vendors that architecting for its own sake is of little value - should go some way to raising the profile of architects and making their proposition more compelling.
Until then, architects will often find themselves doing a thankless task: in the IT department's view often oblivious to the real technical challenges facing the organisation, and from a business perspective producing architecture models that are too complex to understand, let alone act on.