Salesforce Certified Technical Architect

I passed the Salesforce Certified Technical Architect programme in January of this year (2012), here I’ll share general thoughts on the process and some key areas to study.

Ok, so the CTA programme has 3 elements;

1. Self-certification
Simple record of who you are, plus a self-assessment on domain relevant skills. Note you are required to provide referees who can testify to your expertise and experience.

2. Multi-choice assessment
Typical certification multiple choice exam – 2 hours, 60+ questions. I found that the questions were longer than the advanced developer, administrator and cloud consultant equivalents. I also took the beta version which was 120+ questions over 4 hours – the duration of which, via online proctoring, was a challenge in itself (I couldn’t leave my desk!).

3. Review board
This is by far the most serious undertaking in the realm of certification and given the expense and preparation involved should only be considered by those practitioners with broad and deep platform knowledge and relevant experience as a TA on multiple, diverse technical projects.

The review board session is in 2 parts; hypothetical scenario and customer case study. Note; the exact composition and timings of the session reflect my session in January, it’s likely this will be refined over time.

Hypothetical scenario
75 minutes prep – this was easily the quickest time of my life; a lot of requirements, context and solution design considerations to tackle. A clear strategy of how you intend to synthesise all the information, define solution options (with trade-offs) and articulate this back to the board will be key. You really will need to know the platform intimately, specific examples being the sharing model and where declarative functionality can be employed to avoid the necessity for custom technical components.
30 minutes presentation – present findings back to the board. Clear and confident delivery is key – practice makes perfect if your job doesn’t involve frequent, formal presentations to customers/clients etc.
30 minutes Q&A – you will be quizzed on the rationale behind your proposed solution options – being able to stand-up your design and discuss the alternatives is imperative.

Customer case study
30 minutes presentation – In my view this isn’t an occasion for 50 slides full of text – instead a clear, interesting story covering the topic areas highlighted in the study guide is required. The time is fixed, so practice to ensure you can deliver your pitch at a comfortable pace within 25-30 minutes. I ran out of time on the last slide – meaning I missed some key content, and I’d practiced to an audience 3 times in advance. I took this part of the review board as a time to shine by presenting a recent project I was comfortable to answer absolutely any question on. I also chose to stick to the facts rather than strive to cover 100% of the stated objectives – not every project includes a Change Management Board for example.
45 minutes Q&A – detailed questioning on your case study.

I really enjoyed taking the CTA programme, for technical/solution/enterprise or even cloud architects working with the platform, this prestigious accreditation requires significant personal commitment but the feeling of reward is considerable. As with any architect level accreditation the CTA programme is extremely challenging, however this is exactly how it should be in my view.

Study areas:
The CTA programme has a very different focus from the Advanced Developer certification (DEV501), which primarily examines proficiency with Apex and Visualforce – it’s unlikely you’ll encounter such questions in the CTA multi-choice exam or review board sessions.

The list below is by no means exhaustive but covers the high-level areas I focused my study upon;
SSO (Delegated and Federated via SAML)
OAuth Flows (User Agent, Web Server, SAML Assertion etc..)
Large Data Volumes (big data impact areas, strategies)
Platform Security
Portals and Record Sharing Strategies
API and Integration Use Cases (inbound and outbound)
Data Migration Considerations
Platform Governance (COE, Change and Risk Management)
Development Methodology (Agile, Waterfall)
Build Automation and Source Code Control
Data Modelling (ERD, Normalisation)
Declarative versus Programmatic Considerations
Org Strategy (multi versus single org) Flow

Excellent references:
Dreamforce 2011 sessions on youtube

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