I am currently in San Francisco. Just around the corner here in California, the Republican candidates for the presidency are debating, trying to establish who is the most conservative while the Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are holding hands to show off their unity.
The Open Group is having its own show-off. The quarterly member meetings and the Architecture Practitioners Conference are better visited than ever, and for the very first time there is also an IT Specialist Conference. The reason: the direct availability of IT Specialist Certification: a unique, open program which assesses senior IT specialists on people skills, technical skills, experience and contextual awareness of adjacent areas such as business, architecture and project management.
Based on the real-life proven, internal certification programs of Capgemini, IBM and EDS, this open program is destined to quickly become a world-wide standard. And we’re only too sure that the world is waiting for this: the key success factor for organisations to collaborate is still the quality of their individual employees. Technology-driven change highly depends on the proper abilities, experience and skills of IT specialists. These need to be real, demonstrated attributes, so we are not talking about isolated book knowledge or having passed some shallow multiple-choice tests.

More and more solutions are delivered in a global, distributed context. This is catalysed by the growth in offshore IT capabilities and new, upcoming markets. We all will be staffing our projects from multiple sources, possibly both from inside and outside the organisation, possibly from multiple continents and multiple suppliers. Envision a complex network of partners, alliances, providers, clients and even competitors: to thrive in it, it is paramount to have a standardised view of the skills, experience and competences of the IT specialists involved. This will help organisations to find and select the right resources and it is even more relevant now that regulatory compliance demands demonstrable quality of service.
But there’s much in it for the IT Specialist too. Open, global certification provides a clear, motivating path for career development and it contains credentials that are literally ‘portable’ between organisations.
This portability brings us – funnily enough – back to the very origins of the Open Group. Committed to create standards that enable boundaryless information flow (sorry for that ‘boundaryless’, it’s what an English germanism would probably look like) the consortium used to focus on technology standards, such as a single, portable Unix specification. Later, the focus shifted to standards for architecture – through the TOGAF methodology and framework and ITAC certification of IT architects – as it turned out to be the real critical success factor for collaboration. And now there is the IT Specialist Certification program; yet another step forward in the evolving scope of the Open Group.
Please note that the role of IT Specialist in this program is taken in the broad sense of the word, as it should be. It involves all streams that you typically would find in the solutions life cycle, ranging from Business Analysis (certification for this seemingly widely forgotten stream is a scoop in itself) via Application Development, Packaged Application Implementation (yep, another scoop) and Business Information Management all the way to Infrastructure Design and Testing.
Want to know more? Check out the podcast that features Beth Gold-Bernstein of ebizQ, interviewing IBM’s Phil Stauskas and myself on the backgrounds of this new program. Highly recommended, if only to enjoy Beth’s lovely voice or to make fun of my Dutch accent and my painfully limited vocabulary (jetlag, right). Or read Tony Bear’s entertaining blog-item about the IT Specialist conference; given its title – Everything You Know Is Wrong – you may expect some challenging angles here.
In the meantime, think I will have another look at the debates over here. Particularly the Republican candidates are bitterly trying to outsmart each other. Not really a convincing case of boundaryless information flow yet.