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The Open Group Certification Guide: Overview And Career Paths

The Open Group Certification Guide: Overview And Career Paths
By , Mary Kyle

If enterprise architecture and IT business processes are the focus of your current career, or figure predominantly in your future career goals, it may be worth your while to pursue an Open Group certification.

The Open Group is a global IT industry consortium that boasts more than 500 member organizations including companies of all sizes from around the world. Platinum members IBM, Capgemini, Huawei, Philips, Oracle and HPE are leading lights in this list. Other member organizations and companies hail from all sectors of the IT spectrum, including tech start-ups, universities, software/hardware developers, consultants, integrators, training providers and customers.

The Open Group has developed a comprehensive set of standards on enterprise architecture, security and risk, trusted technology and several other categories that are relevant to IT in general. The group is also responsible for the TOGAF framework (for enterprise architecture), the ArchiMate modeling language and the IT4IT Reference Architecture (for managing the business of IT). To support these initiatives, The Open Group offers a certification program, along with numerous training options.

The Open Group Certification Program Overview

The Open Group's IT certification program includes vendor-neutral certifications on enterprise IT management, enterprise IT architecture, ArchiMate, TOGAF, IT reference architecture and the Open FAIR body of knowledge. The overall Open Group certification program encompasses six subprograms, each of which has one or more credentials:

  • The Open Certified IT Specialist (Open CITS) Program
  • The Open Certified Architect (Open CA) Program
  • The Open Group ArchiMate Certification Program
  • The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF) Certification Program
  • IT4IT Certification Program
  • Open FAIR Certification Program

Two of the subprograms are experience-based (the Certified IT Specialist and the Certified Architect), whereas the other four are knowledge-based. Let's take a look at each subprogram and its certifications in more detail.

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Open CITS: Certified IT Specialist Program

The holder of a Certified IT Specialist (Open CITS) certification has passed a rigorous, vendor-neutral verification process based on real-world IT experience and technical knowledge. Prospective applicants achieve the Open CITS certification via written applications and interviews with the Open Group's Certification Board. No training classes or exams are required. You just have to know your stuff. Currently, there are more than 3,000 Open CITS credential holders in more than 50 countries.

To obtain the credential, candidates must possess at least five years of IT experience in the preceding eight years, plus three years of technical experience within the past five years. Candidates should also demonstrate knowledge regarding current industry trends and training in technical and project management, and show professional contribution back to the community.

The Open CITS certification also requires applicants to demonstrate skills and knowledge in each of the following three areas:

  • Core Foundation Skills: Exhibiting acumen in all four foundation skills: people (communication, negotiation, dispute resolution, for example) business, architecture and project management
  • Client Focus Skills: Exhibiting acumen in at least one of the following client-focused areas: Services, Sales, Support and Training
  • Technical Focus Area: Exhibiting acumen in at least one technical area including: application development, business analysis, packaged application implementation, data integration, testing, infrastructure and application development, systems and hardware products, infrastructure design, software, security and IT service management.

Three Open CITS certification levels are available:

  • Level 1 -- Certified IT Specialist: Able to perform and contribute with supervision or assistance
  • Level 2 -- Master Certified IT Specialist: Able to perform independently and assume leadership roles as well as drive solution delivery
  • Level 3 -- Distinguished IT Specialist: Performs in a leadership capacity

The Open Group refers to IT professionals who achieve Open CITS certification as "T-shaped people" because they have a broad range of experience in IT environments and technologies, represented by the horizontal portion of the T. The vertical portion of the T represents a single technical focus area that the Open CITS applicant has mastered.

Open CITS certification exams cost $1,250. Annual renewal fees of $175 are required to maintain the credential.

Open CA: Certified Architect Program

The Open Group's Certified Architect (Open CA) program administers, trains and bestows certifications on applicants who have industry experience and can prove mastery of the knowledge and skills required of an enterprise or business IT architect. There are currently more than 4,000 Open CAs worldwide from more than 180 companies.

The Open CA certification is based on the real-world experience and knowledge exhibited by prospective applicants via written applications and interviews with the Open Group's Certification Board. (The Open Group allows candidates at certain certification levels to interview via video conference rather than in person.) No training classes or exams are required to achieve this certification.

There are three levels to the Open CA certification:

  • Level 1 -- Certified: Able to perform with architecture tasks with assistance or supervision.
  • Level 2 -- Master: Able to independently perform architecture tasks and deliver relevant solutions as a lead architect.
  • Level 3 -- Distinguished: Able to lead complex projects from inception to analysis to implementation, including accommodations for business as well as technical requirements and impact. The Distinguished certification applies to applicants on one of three career paths: Chief/Lead Architect, Enterprise Architect or IT Architect Profession Leader. 

The Open CA credential has two tracks -- IT Architecture (the main, and original, certification) and the newer Business Architecture. Currently, all three levels are available for the IT Architecture track, and only Levels 1 and 2 are available for candidates interested in pursuing Business Architecture. The Open Group indicates that an Enterprise Architecture track will be added to the Open CA credential, but no firm plans or dates have been announced.

See our Best Enterprise Architect Certifications article for more details on the Open CA certification.

ArchiMate Certification Program

ArchiMate is a business-focused modeling language that enables enterprise and business architects to accurately design, describe, analyze and document business processes that include or are impacted by IT components, services and projects. ArchiMate has been incorporated into many architecture design tools and is also supported by third-party consulting organizations.

The Open Group offers certification both to individuals and to tools vendors who can demonstrate implementation of the ArchiMate principles in their tools:

  • The ArchiMate 2 and ArchiMate 3 Certification for People Programs are based on the ArchiMate modeling language and ensures that certification holders are fluent in ArchiMate.
  • The ArchiMate 2 and ArchiMate 3 Tool Certification Programs ensures that tools meet the mandatory requirements to support the ArchiMate modeling language.
  • The ArchiMate 3 Certification for People Program focuses exclusively on the latest version of the ArchiMate modeling language to ensure cert-holders' fluency.

Two certification levels are available for ArchiMate 2: Foundation (Level 1) and Certified (Level 2). The Open Group also offers two certification levels for ArchiMate 3: Foundation (Level 1) and Practitioner (Level 2).

Candidates may sign up for ArchiMate 2 and 3 courses through numerous accredited training providers to help ensure that they meet ArchiMate requirements.

TOGAF: The Open Group Architecture Framework 9 Certification Program

TOGAF 9 is a standards-based enterprise architecture framework that is used by tens of thousands of IT professionals world-wide to define, document and manage their projects. Training for the TOGAF 9 certification can be acquired via self-study, classroom or distance learning courses, and TOGAF 9 certification is achieved by passing a two-part written exam. Exams and training are based on the TOGAF 9.1 Standard.

There are two levels of certification under the TOGAF 9:

  • TOGAF 9 Foundation: includes basic concepts, terminology and core principles for using the TOGAF 9 framework.
  • TOGAF 9 Certified: includes the Foundation content plus the knowledge and comprehension required to apply the TOGAF 9 framework to enterprise architecture projects.

TOGAF 9 is a great follow-up for Open CA or Open CITS certification holders to demonstrate a desire for continuing education and expanding their expertise in enterprise architecture.

IT4IT Certification Program and Open Group FAIR Certification

The Open Group's IT4IT certification program targets professionals working with Version 2 of the IT4IT Reference Architecture. The IT4IT Reference Architecture is a standard for an operating model that targets business IT and reference architecture.

At present, a single credential – the IT4IT Foundation certification – is available. The IT4IT Foundation credential focuses on basic skills, including core principles, terminology and basic reference architecture concepts.

The first Open Group certification that does not focus entirely on IT is the Open Group FAIR (Factor Analysis of Information Risk). FAIR is a methodology that gives structure and standard processes to the risk analysis process. This certification is specifically for risk analysts and offers two areas of specialization: the Open Risk Taxonomy Standard (O-RT) and the Open Risk Analysis Standard (O-RA).

Related Jobs and Training Materials

The use of The Open Group standards is well established and pervasive. You'll find organizations implementing the standards globally throughout all industry sectors, such as finance, software development, education, automotive, health care and more. By way of example, a quick search on a popular job board turned up almost 1,000 employers seeking TOGAF-certified professionals to join their teams. Professionals certified in both TOGAF and ArchiMate were particularly popular. For example, we found:

  • A Massachusetts-based global learning company seeking a learning solution architect certified in TOGAF and ArchiMate
  • An IT staffing company in Texas looking for an enterprise architect proficient in ArchiMate and TOGAF
  • A financial group in Indiana seeking an enterprise architect with TOGAF and ArchiMate expertise

Owing to the nature of The Open Group standards, most Open Group certified professionals will find themselves working in enterprise architecture, technology, or security and risk. Open CAs frequently work as senior-level lead enterprise architects, and Open CITS professionals often find work as enterprise-level engineers. Employers also frequently seek certified individuals for non-technical roles, including business analysts, software sales representatives and program managers.

The Open Group provides a regularly updated calendar of accredited third-party training courses for TOGAF, ArchiMate, IT4IT and Open Fair, as well as supplemental training to fill in gaps for other Open Group certifications. These three- to five-day courses cost $1,100 to $2,300, and exam fees (where applicable) are included in the course fee. Candidates may also visit the online The Open Group Store to purchase study guides, practice tests and other prep materials.

The Open Group has refined its standards creation and certification processes to the point that they also consult with other consortia on how to best implement similar programs for specialties that are outside the current purview of The Open Group.

It's one thing to be great at what you do, but The Open Group takes their expertise one step further by helping other industry organizations implement similar standards development and certification programs. That's one sure-fire way to recognize a standards organization that's doing things right: other organizations want to replicate your standards-based success.

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