On #ArchiMate Certification

The Open Group has set up a system of ArchiMate certification. Companies can offer training and let their students participate in official TOG Exams. Management likes this, they want ‘certified’ Enterprise Architects.

The usefulness of TOG Certification is — I think — limited, and in some ways it may even be counterproductive.

The reason certification has a limited meaning lies in the fact that ArchiMate is not a language, but it is a grammar. The ArchiMate 2.0 Standard describes and explains that grammar.

Suppose you would learn some new foreign language, you would not learn it by studying books about its grammar, let alone a book that is purely about the grammar and how that grammar is constructed. Testing if you understand the language would not consist of checking if you can reproduce the information in the grammar book. Testing would mean that you are asked to use the language in a way that conveys meaning, that is, listening/reading and speaking/writing actual texts with real meanings.

But in ArchiMate, there is no such thing. Because the ArchiMate grammar leaves so much freedom with respect to its use, that everybody using the grammar more or less speaks their own language. Different words with different meanings in different patterns. You get the picture.

So what can TOG test? Given that their standard is not about all those different ways you can (still) correctly use ArchiMate but about the language’s structure, they test you on that structure. You are, in fact, asked to reproduce the (wording of the) standard. That is like testing if someone understands a foreign language by testing them on their reproduction of a book on analysis of the grammar of the language. Which is quite different than listening/reading or speaking/writing texts, or — in other words — understanding the language.

Add to that that TOG’s ArchiMate Standard (and thus examination) has all these little parts that are not about ArchiMate at all (but for instance about TOGAF, TOG’s Enterprise Architecture framework) and add to that that ArchiMate also has its fuzzy edges and slightly problematic examples, and you can imagine how rather useless it is to know if someone has passed an ArchiMate certification exam. It says something, but not much. If it was an examination they passed after their first introductory course, it means even less.

If you compare that to the certification structure that comes with BPMN, ArchiMate certification is rather meagre. But on the other hand, ‘BPMN’ certification is about much more than just the BPMN grammar itself, as it turns out. The official OMG Certified Expert in BPM™ (OCEB™) is about many, many things and covers things like “Change Management”, “Enterprise Architecture”, “BPM Awareness”, “Vendor Selection”, “Six Sigma”, etc., etc.. In fact, using BPMN itself (the grammar) on paper makes up roughly a third of the certification (but far less than that if you look at the volume of materials you need to study).

The best way to learn BPMN I have seen is Bruce Silver’s BPMN Method & Style, which is about actually using the grammar to model your processes in a consistent and coherent way, teaching you the ins and outs of using the BPMN grammar properly by modeling actual business processes.

So, TOG and OMG went in quite different directions. TOG has set up a certification scheme that tests you on something which has a pretty limited relation to using the language well, while OMG has created a certification for ‘BPMN’ that throws everything but the kitchen sink at you.

Management of a company will look for ways to establish some sort of measurable indicator of ArchiMate proficiency, and the only one currently available is TOG Certification. Demanding it satisfies management, but I’m afraid it will have little effect on the ability of your organization to use ArchiMate effectively.

PS. Understanding a language clearly means being able to use it. Sounds again as if Uncle Ludwig had a valid point in his Philosophical Investigations.


  1. A timely article since I just completed said TOG ArchiMate certification. A few thoughts…

    Of course, you are correct that certification based on a two-day course is a bit slim. But I do think I got tremendous value from it.

    Background – my modeling experience goes back to watching the (still relevant) Ganes & Sarsen films around 1980 and goes through a variety of methods and tools to the current day. ArchiMate caught my attention a few years ago because it provided a consistent way to see the layers individually or together. But the resources at hand (Primer, Lankhorst) did not get me going at all, so, for me, ArchiMate stalled.

    Since ArchiMate addresses problems I continually face I finally decided to act – and took the course and certification (a bonus). I could not be more pleased. I’m not sure about the others in the class, but for me it (almost) all made immediate relevant sense. I could use it immediately because of prior experience combined with need. Do I need time and experience to become a proficient practitioner? Yes. Bit I wouldn’t be in this position, I think, but for the course,

    It was from resolving an issue I had that I ended up at this blog. From being indoctrinated in Michael Hammer’s process organization (not functional organization) I experienced a bit of a clash with the Process and Function usage in ArchiMate. I have typically modeled Processes as a series of Activities performed by a Role. Or, back to Structured DFDs, without regard to any functional entity. So this aspect of ArchiMate is forcing me to think this through.

    Thanks for the blog, and I will be taking a good look at the book.


      1. I missed your reply – but WordPress just now popped it up. Will check back. Thanks.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: