Constructing a Community -- One High-Achiever at a Time

When Microsoft's Certified Architect Program reaches its nine-month anniversary in mid-February, program officials estimate that about 175 specialists worldwide will have qualified for the elite IT designation.

Of those, 66 earned the top-tier credential even before Microsoft officially kicked off the program at its annual Tech-Ed Conference in Boston in June 2006 (see "Building a New Community," August 2006).

Microsoft, which hopes to issue a maximum of 3,000 architect certifications over the next five to seven years, attributes the program's slow ramp-up to its rigorous qualification requirements. The intensive process culminates with each applicant undergoing a two-hour in-person review administered by a panel of previously certified architects. With fewer than 150 Certified Architects currently available worldwide, coordinating those peer-review sessions can take a while.

For candidates, the application process also requires a hefty time commitment; program officials estimate that successful candidates typically log 80 to 120 hours of prep time over three to six months. And it's not cheap: Each candidate pays $200 to apply and, if successful, an additional $10,000 fee to join the program.

Despite those hurdles, Microsoft officials expect the top-tier credential to continue attracting new applicants. "We're going to see more as time goes on," predicts Don Nelson, Microsoft's general manager for worldwide partner sales and readiness.

About the Author

Anne Stuart, the former executive editor of Redmond Channel Partner, is a business technology freelance writer based in Boston, Mass.