Accreditation and certification. Two words that excite, divide, animate and occasionally overspill to righteous anger within the Enterprise Architecture community. It’s an important debate, although not quite as important as many would have us believe. Those who predict the death of EA without some kind of trading body are as deluded as the lazy chancers who cling to a title without any clue to what they are doing.

Let’s break this thing down – there are two types of accreditation; practitioner or practice. I’ll be back to both of these in more detail (in later articles) but today let’s cover off the main points. Architects are pretty much the first evolutionary branch from the genus: argumentus bloodymindedness which explains why we can’t even agree if accreditation in any form for anybody might be a good idea.

This is a problem as it’s hardly purporting a united front to those still unsure of the value of EA. Even writing this article I was arguing with myself, although it was on the salient points rather than at the extreme ends of the argument. This latter approach manifests itself rather too often within the EA community, which for all its supposed holistic and free thinking outlook regularly regresses to shouting without listening – especially when commercial agendas are in play.

There’s slightly less dissent on the issue of creating a single accredited body/book of knowledge/guild/etc for EA as a whole. The problem is more the staggeringly vast alternatives to choose from – some with a partial toehold in the wider industry, others advocated by a strong niche player. It’s far too boring to list them all, never mind attempt to differentiate their strengths and weaknesses. Because until there’s some kind of coalition around what that body needs to do, how it will be governed, how membership might work and what’s the value proposition for the customer, then it’s pretty much two bald men fighting over a comb.

Personal certification is even more thorny. On one side Gartner – and others – propose a business-outcome approach based on a blended framework customised for each engagement. On the other TOGAF – and the many derivatives – believe a well defined framework, with sufficient breadth and practiced by accredited architects, can work for any size organization.

Here we find the difficult intersection of accreditation to a recognised body through the attainment of a universally acknowledged qualification. Methodology fragmentation, vested commercial interests and a body largely apathetic suggests this may be an unbridgeable gap.

Anyway, the do-not-certify believe this is – at best – largely pointless and really nothing more than monetisation of clothes possibly once belonging to the emperor. The one-true-wayers speak passionately of consistent delivery, shared artefacts and hallmarks of professionalism. There is little meeting of minds, with many of the arguments aimed straight at the heart of the periphery. The truth is, as ever, somewhere in the middle.

My own experience is I’ve seen much more of TOGAF on CVs and job adverts than I have in practice, but then one mans’ ten year EA journey is hardly statistically significant. For balance, there’s been much in that decade labeled as EA but really was nothing more mashed up presentations with very little useful content. Generally delivered through a combination of smoke, mirrors and large consultancy fees.

EA is a relatively young discipline and casts envious glances at the likes of engineering, the rather more ancient art of architecture and even project management with their standards, accreditations, trade bodies, conferences and funky branding.

I find it hard to place to customer in all this. Recruiting EA talent must be a nightmare with a marketplace splintered by competing methodologies and rampant evangelism. There would certainly be benefit in selecting from a proven and certified pool of architects. Although if they all slavishly follow the same method, where is the point of differentiation?

Like many questions posed around Enterprise Architecture, it’s a hard one to answer. My own feeling is the value of accreditation – right now – doesn’t feel like it justifies the pain and distraction of making it happen. Which doesn’t negate the efforts of those attempting to further the cause – either individually or for the wider enterprise world.

Maybe we should focus on demonstrating the value of EA by actually using the skills, frameworks and experience, rather than endlessly circling around a rather introspective point of view.

In the meantime, it gives us something to argue about. And we’re good at that.