With the first new certification class in a number of years, Microsoft is choosing a slightly different path. The Microsoft Certified Architect Program is designed to provide certification for top-level IT professionals who have experience to designing and deploying solutions that use both Microsoft and non-Microsoft products. Not only is the approach different, in that it’s not designed to test your experience in MS products, but the path to achieving certification is different. Rather than a series of exams there is a whole range of tests, interviews and examples of past work. The process is expected to take 12 months and will involve the person getting certified will be assigned a mentor who will guide – and guage – the candidates progress through the process. This also means that the individuals will be peer-reviewed. The reliance on exams along has – in many certification exams – created a situation whereby candidates can cheat simply by knowing the answers to the multiple choice questions. Have a good memory and you can pass the exams, whether or not you actually have the experience. I’ve met many people with a Microsoft certification who I simply wouldn’t trust to install a piece of software correctly, and I know many managers who completely ignore certifications from Microsoft and others because of similar experiences. This is not a reflection on the test itself, which I can assure you is highly complex, but relying purely on the answers to questions, rather than actual applied knowledge is always going to lead to problems. Thinking about our cars for example I wouldn’t expect to be given a driving licence simply by answering the questions in the theory test. Microsoft have done a lot to improve the situation in recent years, and hopefully this new certification process is an indication of further improvements in the way certifications are distributed.