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Enterprise IT architect certifications appear most often at the apex of certification programs, where less than 1% of IT professionals ultimately ascend. Even so, many IT architect certifications are available, and you don’t need to invest in one certification sponsor’s vision to reach the top.
Many IT certifications in this area fall outside vendor umbrellas, which means they are vendor-neutral or vendor-agnostic. Nevertheless, the number of vendor-specific IT certifications exceeds vendor-neutral ones by a factor of more than 2 to 1. That’s why we devote the last section of this article to all such credentials, as we encountered them in search of the best enterprise architect certifications.
For IT pros who’ve already invested in vendor-specific certification programs, credentials at the architect level may indeed be worth pursuing. Enterprise architects are among the highest-paid employees and consultants in the tech industry.
Enterprise architects are technical experts who are able to analyze and assess organizational needs, make recommendations regarding technology changes, and design and implement those changes across the organization.
The national average salary per SimplyHired is $130,150, in a range from $91,400 to a whopping $185,330. Glassdoor reports $133,433 as the average. Ultimately, the value of any IT certification depends on how long the individual has worked and in what part of the IT patch.
Becoming an enterprise architect is not easy. While the requirements may vary by employer, most enterprise architects have a bachelor’s degree or higher in a computer-related field along with 5-10 years of professional work experience. Many enterprise architects obtain additional certifications past graduation.
Certifications are a great way to demonstrate to prospective employers that you have the experience and technical skills necessary to do the job and deliver you a competitive edge in the hiring process. Certification holders also frequently earn more than their uncertified counterparts, making certifications a valuable career-building tool.
Below, you’ll find our top five certification picks. Before you peruse our best picks, check out the results of our informal job board survey. Data indicates the number of job posts in which our featured certifications were mentioned on a given day. The data should deliver you an idea of the relative popularity of each of these certifications.
|AWS Certified Solution Architect (Amazon Web Services)||1,035||464||2,672||240||4,411|
|ITIL Master (Axelos)||641||848||1,218||1,119||3,826|
|TOGAF 9 (The Open Group)||443||730||271||358||1,802|
|Zachman Certified – Enterprise Architect (Zachman)||86||107||631||252||1,076|
Making its first appearance on the leaderboard is the Certified Solutions Architect credential from Amazon Web Services (AWS). AWS, an Amazon subsidiary, is the global leader in on-demand cloud computing. AWS offers numerous products and services to support its customers, including the popular Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) and Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). AWS also offers numerous cloud applications and developer tools, including Amazon Comprehend, Amazon SageMaker Batch Transform and Amazon Lightsail.
AWS offers certifications at the foundation, associate and professional levels across five role-based categories: architect, developer, operations, cloud and specialty certifications. Foundation-level certifications validate a candidate’s understanding of the AWS Cloud and serve as a prerequisite to AWS specialty certifications. Foundation certifications are a recommended starting place for those seeking higher-level credentials.
Associate credentials typically have no prerequisites and focus on technical skills. They are required to obtain professional-level certifications, which are the highest level of technical certification available. Specialty certs, meanwhile, focus on skills in targeted areas.
AWS currently offers the following credentials:
The AWS Certified Solutions Architect credential is available at the associate and professional levels. The associate credential targets candidates with at least one year of experience architecting and implementing solutions based on AWS applications and technologies. AWS updated the associate-level test in February 2018 to include architecture best practices and new services.
The AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional certification targets senior AWS architects who can architect, design, implement and manage complex enterprise-level AWS solutions based on defined organizational requirements. Candidates should have a minimum of two years’ direct experience deploying and designing on the AWS cloud and be able to translate organizational requirements into solutions and recommend best practices. The associate credential is a mandatory prerequisite.
|Certification name||Certified Solution Architect – Associate
Certified Solution Architect – Professional
|Prerequisites and required courses||Associate: One year of hands-on experience recommended, AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner
Professional: Certified Solution Architect – Associate credential plus a minimum of two years of hands-on experience
|Number of exams||Associate: One test (65 questions, 130 minutes to complete)
Professional: One test (170 minutes to complete)
|Certification fees||Associate: $150 (practice test $20)
Professional: $300 (practice test $40)
|Self-study materials||AWS makes sample questions, practice exams, test guides, whitepapers and more available on the certification home page.|
CTA: Certified Technical Architect
In 1999, Salesforce revolutionized the world of CRM when it introduced the concept of using the cloud to provide top-notch CRM software. Today, Salesforce has more than 150,000 customers, making it the industry leader for CRM enterprise cloud platforms. Currently, Salesforce offers solutions for various focus areas, including sales, service, marketing, commerce, engagement, community, productivity (Quip), platform and ecosystem, integration, analytics, enablement, internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence, mobility, and industry (financial and health).
To meet industry needs for qualified and experienced professionals with the skills necessary to support its growing customer base, Salesforce developed and maintains a top-tier certification program. It offers many paths to candidates, including for administration, app building, architecture and marketing.
Salesforce Architect certifications are hierarchical, with most (but not all) lower-level credentials serving as prerequisites for more advanced credentials. At the top of the certification pyramid is the highest credential a Salesforce professional can earn – the Certified Technical Architect (CTA), which is our featured Salesforce certification.
The Salesforce Architect certification pyramid has three levels:
Salesforce requires CTAs to maintain current skills. Credential holders must pass maintenance module exams with each new product release cycle (typically in summer, winter and spring). While challenging to earn, the CTA is important for IT professionals who are serious about a Salesforce technologies career.
|Certification name||Certified Technical Architect (CTA)|
|Prerequisites and required courses||Salesforce Certified Application Architect and Salesforce Certified System Architect credential:
|Number of exams||One test (four hours to complete; candidates must formulate, justify and present recommendations based on a hypothetical scenario to a review board)|
Retake fee: $3,000
|Self-study materials||Salesforce maintains links on the certification webpage to numerous review materials, including the online documentation, tip sheets, user guides, exam guide and outline, Architect Journey e-books, Trailhead trails, and the Salesforce Certification Guide.|
ITIL Master Certificate – IT Service Management
One of our favorite credential sets (and for employers as well, judging by job board numbers) is the ITIL for IT Service Management credentials from Axelos. Axelos is a global provider of standards designed to drive best practices and quality throughout organizations. ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) joined the Axelos family in 2013.
Axelos manages ITIL credentialing requirements and updates, provides accreditation to Examination Institutes (EIs), and licenses organizations seeking to use ITIL. In addition to ITIL certifications, Axelos offers credentials for Prince2 2017 (which includes Foundation, Practitioner and Agile qualifications), Prince2 Agile, Resilia, MSP, MoP, M_o_R, P30, MoV, P3M3 and AgileSHIFT.
ITIL is a set of well-defined and well-respected best practices that specifically target the area of IT service management. There are more than 2 million ITIL-certified practitioners worldwide. ITIL is perhaps the most widely known and globally adopted set of best practices and management tools for IT service management and support.
Axelos maintains a robust ITIL certification portfolio consisting of five ITIL credentials:
Axelos introduced ITIL 4 in early 2019. ITIL 3 practitioners should check the Axelos website frequently for updates about the transition to ITIL 4 and availability of the ITIL 4 transition modules.
The ITIL Master is the pinnacle ITIL certification, requiring experience, dedication, and a thorough understanding of ITIL principles, practices, and techniques. To gain the ITIL Master designation, candidates must have at least five years of managerial, advisory or other leadership experience in the field of IT service management. They must also possess the ITIL Expert certification. Once the skill and certification requirements are met, the real certification work begins.
Upon completing the prerequisites, candidates must register with PeopleCert, the sole approved Axelos Examination Institute, and submit an application. Next, candidates prepare and submit a proposal for a business improvement to implement within their organization. The proposal submission is followed by a “work package,” which documents a real-world project that encompasses multiple ITIL areas.
The work package (1) validates how the candidate applied ITIL principles, practices, and techniques to the project; and (2) documents the effectiveness of the solution and the ultimate benefit the business received as a result of the ITIL solution. Finally, candidates must pass an interview with an assessment panel where they defend their solution.
Axelos will soon be sponsoring 50 lucky people in their quest to obtain the ITIL 4 Master certification. You can register your interest in the program here.
|Certification name||ITIL Master Certificate – IT Service Management|
|Prerequisites and required courses||ITIL Expert Certificate: Five years of IT service experience in managerial, leadership or advisory roles|
|Number of exams||No test required, but candidates must complete the following steps:
|Certification fees||$4,440 if all ITIL credits obtained through PeopleCert
$5,225 if some ITIL credits were obtained from other institutes
|Self-study materials||Axelos provides documentation to guide candidates in the preparation of proposal and work package submissions. Available documents include ITIL Master FAQs, ITIL Master Proposal Requirements and Scope, and ITIL Master Work Package Requirements and Scope.|
A leader in enterprise architecture, The Open Group’s standards and certifications are globally recognized. The TOGAF (The Open Group Architecture Framework) standard for enterprise architecture is popular among leading enterprise-level organizations. Currently, TOGAF is the development and architecture framework of choice for more than 80% of global enterprises.
TOGAF’s popularity reflects that the framework standard is specifically geared to all aspects of enterprise-level IT architectures, with an emphasis on building efficiency within an organization. The scope of the standard’s approach covers everything from design and planning stages to implementation, maintenance, and governance.
The Open Group offers several enterprise architect credentials, including TOGAF, Open CA, ArchiMate, IT4IT and the foundational Certified Technical Specialist (Open CTS).
The Open Group reports that there are more than 75,000 TOGAF-certified enterprise architects. At present, there are two TOGAF credentials: the TOGAF 9 Foundation (Level 1) and TOGAF 9 Certified (Level 2). (The TOGAF framework is currently based on version 9.2, although the credential name still reflects version 9.)
The TOGAF 9 Foundation, or Level 1, credential targets architects who demonstrate an understanding of TOGAF principles and standards. A single test is required to earn the Level 1 designation. The Level 1 test focuses on TOGAF-related concepts such as TOGAF reference models, terminology, core concepts, standards, ADM, architectural governance and enterprise architecture. The Level 1 credential serves as a steppingstone to the more advanced TOGAF Level 2 certification.
The TOGAF 9 Certified, or Level 2, credential incorporates all requirements for Level 1. Level 2 TOGAF architects possess in-depth knowledge of TOGAF standards and principles and can apply them to organizational goals and enterprise-level infrastructure. To earn this designation, candidates must first earn the Level 1 credential and pass the Level 2 exam. The Level 2 test covers TOGAF concepts such as ADM phases, governance, content framework, building blocks, stakeholder management, metamodels, TOGAF techniques, reference models and ADM iterations.
Candidates wanting a fast track to Level 2 certification may take a combination exam, which covers requirements for both Level 1 and 2. Training is not mandatory for either credential but is highly recommended. Training classes run 2-5 days, depending on the provider and whether you’re taking the combined or single-level course. The Open Group maintains a list of approved training providers and a schedule of current training opportunities on the certification webpage.
|Certification name||TOGAF 9 Foundation (Level 1)
TOGAF 9 Certified (Level 2)
|Prerequisites and required courses||TOGAF 9 Foundation (Level 1): None
TOGAF 9 Certified (Level 2): TOGAF 9 Foundation (Level 1) credential
|Number of exams||Level 1: One test (40 questions, 60 minutes, 55% required to pass)
Level 2: One test (eight questions, 90 minutes)
Level 1 and 2 combined test (48 questions, 2.5 hours)
|Certification fees||$320 each for Level 1 and Level 2 exams
$495 for combined Level 1 and Level 2 exam
Exams are administered by Pearson VUE. Some training providers include the test with the training course.
|Self-study materials||A number of resources are available from The Open Group, including whitepapers, webinars, publications, TOGAF standards, the TOGAF Foundation Study Guide ($29.95 for PDF; includes practice exam), practice test (99 cents for PDF) and the TOGAF 9 Certified Study Guide (a combined study guide is available for $59.95). The Open Group also maintains a list of accredited training course providers and a calendar of training events.|
Zachman Certified – Enterprise Architect
Founded in 1990, Zachman International promotes education and research for enterprise architecture and the Zachman Framework. Rather than being a traditional process or methodology, the Zachman Framework is more accurately referred to as an “ontology.” Ontologies differ from a traditional methodology or process in that, rather than focusing on the process or implementation, they focus on the properties, types and interrelationships of entities that exist within a particular domain. The Zachman Framework ontology focuses on the structure, or definition, of the object and the enterprise. Developed by John Zachman, this framework sets a standard for enterprise architecture ontology.
Zachman International currently offers four enterprise architect credentials:
Zachman credentials are valid for three years. To maintain these credentials, candidates must earn continuing education credits (referred to as EADUs). The total number of EADUs required varies by certification level.
|Certification name||Enterprise Architect Associate Certification (Level 1)
Enterprise Architect Practitioner Certification (Level 2)
Enterprise Architect Professional Certification (Level 3)
Enterprise Architect Educator Certification (Level 4)
|Prerequisites and required courses||Level 1 Associate: Four-day Modeling Workshop ($3,499)
Level 2 Practitioner: None
Level 3 Professional: None
Level 4 Educator: Review all materials related to The Zachman Framework; Level 3 Professional recommended
|Number of exams||Level 1 Associate: One exam
Level 2 Practitioner: No exam; case studies and referee review required
Level 3 Professional: No exam; case studies and referee review required
Level 4 Educator: None; must develop and submit curriculum and course materials for review and validation
|Certification fees||Level 1 Associate: test fee included as part of required course
Level 2 Practitioner: None, included as part of Level 1 required course
Level 3 Professional: Not available
Level 4 Educator: Not available
|Self-study materials||Live classroom and distance learning opportunities are available. Zachman also offers webcasts, a glossary, the Zachman Framework for Enterprise Architecture and reference articles.|
Beyond the top 5: More enterprise architect certifications
The Red Hat Certified Architect (RHCA) is a great credential, especially for professionals working with Red Hat Enterprise Linux.
The Project Management Professional (PMP) certification from PMI continues to appear in many enterprise architect job descriptions. Although the PMP is not an enterprise architect certification per se, many employers look for this particular combination of skills.
Outside of our top five vendor-neutral enterprise architect certifications (which focus on more general, heterogeneous views of IT systems and solutions), there are plenty of architect-level certifications from a broad range of vendors and sponsors, most of which are vendor-specific.
The table below identifies those vendors and sponsors, names their architect-level credentials, and provides links to more information on those offerings. Choosing one or more of these certifications for research and possible pursuit will depend on where you work or where you’d like to work.
<td”>EMC Cloud Architect Expert (EMCCAe) <td”>GoCertify </td”></td”>
|Sponsor||Enterprise architect certification||More information|
|BCS||BCS Practitioner Certificate in Enterprise and Solutions Architecture||BCS homepage|
|Cisco||Cisco Certified Architect (CCAr)||CCAr homepage|
|Enterprise Architecture Center of Excellence (EACOE)||EACOE Enterprise Architect
EACOE Senior Enterprise Architect
EACOE Distinguished Enterprise Architect EACOE Enterprise Architect Fellow
|EACOE Architect homepage|
|FEAC Institute||Certified Enterprise Architect (CEA) Black Belt
Associate Certified Enterprise Architect (ACEA) Green Belt
|FEAC CEA homepage|
|Hitachi Vantara||Hitachi Architect (three tracks: Infrastructure, Data Protection, and Pentaho Solutions)
Hitachi Architect Specialist (two tracks: Infrastructure and Converged)
|Training & Certification homepage|
|IASA||Certified IT Architect – Foundation (CITA-F)
Certified IT Architect – Associate (CITA-A)
Certified IT Architect – Specialist (CITA-S)
Certified IT Architect – Professional (CITA-P)
|National Instruments||Certified LabVIEW Architect (CLA)||CLA homepage|
|Nokia||Nokia Service Routing Architect (SRA)||SRA homepage|
|Oracle||Oracle Certified Master, Java EE Enterprise Architect Certified Master||Java EE homepage|
|Red Hat||Red Hat Certified Architect (RHCA)||RHCA homepage|
|SOA (Arcitura)||Certified SOA Architect||SOA Architect homepage|
These architect credentials typically represent pinnacle certifications within the programs to which they belong, functioning as high-value capstones to those programs in many cases. The group of individuals who attain such credentials is often quite small but comes with tight sponsor relationships, high levels of sponsor support and information delivery, and stratospheric salaries and professional kudos.
Often, such certifications provide deliberately difficult and challenging targets for a small, highly select group of IT professionals. Earning one or more of these certifications is generally the culmination of a decade or more of professional growth, high levels of effort, and considerable expense. No wonder, then, that architect certifications are highly regarded by IT pros and highly valued by their employers.
Enterprise architect credentials will often be dictated by choices that your employer (or industry sector, in the case of government or DoD-related work environments) have already made independent of your own efforts. Likewise, most of the vendor-specific architecture credentials make sense based on what’s deployed in your work environment or in a job you’d like to occupy.
Though there are lots of potential choices IT pros could make, the genuine number they can or should make will be influenced by their circumstances.
Salesforce has added new fields for gender identity and pronoun data across its product line, to help customers be more inclusive when it comes to collecting and using personal data.
The firm has launched two new fields across the Lead, Contact and Person Account objects on Salesforce. This opt-in addition lets customers and their users select, identify and capture pronoun options like he/him, she/her, they/them, and gender identity options like male, female, non-binary. Both fields also offer a ‘not listed’ option.
The fields are part of Salesforce’s core objects, which means they are populated through most of its products and available by default.
Organizations from airlines to hotels, restaurants to government agencies and healthcare companies all need this type of personal data to be able to serve their customers accurately. Standardizing the fields removes the need for admins to create custom versions, so companies can capture more accurate customer data in a more efficient way.
However, there is no pressure on customers to use the fields, as Salesforce's Chief Ethical and Humane Use Officer, Paula Goldman, explains:
We understand this data can be sensitive, so we've designed it with a walkthrough process for admins setting this up. There's guidance that says you don't always need to be collecting this data. In fact, there are some times when it may not be as appropriate to collect this data. Then admins would choose to include it or not include it, as they're setting up various instances of Salesforce.
Salesforce worked in close contact with its Inclusive Language Steering Committee to develop the gender inclusive features. This included members of Outforce, the company’s LGBTQ+ employee resource group, and Out and Equal, an Oakland-based organization working on LGBTQ+ workplace equality.
Working in collaboration with relevant groups is a standard approach at Salesforce’s Office of Ethical and Humane Use. One of its core pillars is ethics and inclusion in Salesforce products, so the Office works hard to ensure the products the firm delivers are inclusive and accessible to all. Goldman says:
A core way we do that is knowing that I as an individual and my team, we don't have all the answers, and nor necessarily do the teams that are working on these specific products. Participation and gaining insight from folks that live these experiences directly is very important. That's why we worked both with our Employee Resource Group to understand first of all - what's the problem; second - what's the right solution, what's the right language to learn, which of these terms are the most important to address.
Similarly with outside experts, if our whole goal is inclusion in our product, then we need to be inclusive in the processes that lead to these outcomes as well. We need to be bringing in this expertise and designing based on that expertise.
Using the right identifiers is a key part of building trust with users, but the standard options in data systems and CRM tools don’t always capture peoples’ full identity, or make it simple to do so. By making these new fields available, firms can use the gender inclusive features they prefer, and if they don’t need or want to collect gender-related data, they can bypass the features. Goldman notes:
For airlines or hotels or restaurants, which are giving personalized experiences to their customers, they don't want to be making a mistake on sensitive data like this. They want to be giving the correct experiences to their customers and serving them well. If they were to make an error on something like this, you can imagine how that would break trust.
Conversely, when people feel included, they’re more likely to trust the company they're interacting with. Goldman adds:
Study after study shows that when people trust companies, they're willing to share more data. That in turn feeds a more accurate and trusted personalized experience with the company, which feeds the sort of data they're willing to share.
At a time when first-party data is so crucial for companies wanting to serve and market in different segments, this model creates a virtuous loop where they're going to have more customer loyalty and trust, and be able to better serve their customers.
The new identity fields are part of Salesforce’s ongoing efforts to develop and promote ethical and inclusive technology. The firm had already made updates to its technical language in 2021 to address implicit bias and increase racial inclusivity. Goldman says:
We spent a long time remediating language in our code and our product around racial terms, like master and slave or blacklist and whitelist, and replacing those with more inclusive terms.
Ethics and inclusivity are embedded across product development at the company, she adds. For example, in the area of Artificial Intelligence, Salesforce aims to ensure that the data sets it’s using to train models are representative of the populations it’s serving and as free from bias as possible.
The firm also puts intentional defaults in its products to make them as inclusive as possible. During the pandemic, one of the products it was developing for vaccination campaigns offered default pick lists associated with that product type. Goldman adds:
We decided that we shouldn't make an address field mandatory for people that wanted to sign up for vaccine. Why? Because if you are unhoused, that might exclude you from getting access to the thing that you're signing up for. Oftentimes it's these small design decisions that can make a world of difference in how inclusive products are when they launch and are used in the world.
A positive move.
Marc Benioff has built Salesforce into one of Silicon Valley’s most successful ventures but the personal style of the arch salesman, who co-founded the software company, has long grated on his Wall Street critics.
There was the string of acquisitions, even after he appeared to promise to stop, and the preference for growth over profits. Those — and a slump in the company’s stock price — have put Salesforce squarely in the sights of some of Wall Street’s most-feared activist investors.
Elliott Management this week confirmed it had built a multibillion-dollar stake in Salesforce, joining fellow activist Starboard Capital, which disclosed a position in the company late last year. Jeff Ubben, former head of ValueAct, also owns a stake through his new fund Inclusive Capital.
Just one activist on the shareholder register can typically send companies into a panic. The pile-in from three such investors shows how far Salesforce’s star has fallen since its coronavirus pandemic peak, with the company shedding about $170bn from its valuation.
Salesforce investors are concerned Benioff has become distracted. As one of the software world’s most effective marketers, Benioff has long cultivated close relationships with a number of high-profile figures to help further the company. But the fondness for surrounding himself with celebrities, including on corporate business, has also raised concerns.
According to one person familiar with the company, both musician Will.i.am and actor Matthew McConaughey are frequently involved in strategy discussions at the company, distracting from normal business. An outsider who has attended internal Salesforce meetings also expressed surprise at bumping into celebrities in high-level corporate discussions.
Another person familiar with the company’s senior management said the singer and the actor had only been involved in casual discussions about the company’s business, not formal strategy sessions. Will.i.am’s strong understanding of technology and McConaughey’s role in Salesforce’s advertising helped to explain their presence, two people said.
Benioff’s close relations with celebrities and passionate support of sustainability causes have fed doubts about his commitment to the company. On more than one occasion he has looked at stepping back from Salesforce to devote his time to his philanthropy, said people who know him. The uncertainty has fuelled concerns about how serious he is about appeasing Wall Street, and whether he has been distracted by personal pursuits.
“It is time for the business to be run for shareholders,” said a senior technology investor.
Under scrutiny are Benioff’s long-running preference for growth over higher profits, which has grated on Wall Street for years, as well as controversial acquisitions. They include the nearly $16bn deal for data analytics firm Tableau and its $28bn takeover of Slack, the workplace chat app it bought at the height of the pandemic.
Salesforce investors say the company overpaid for both businesses, and Benioff could face significant pressure to sell at least one if performance does not improve. “Everything should be on the table,” one investor said.
Salesforce paid a 55 per cent premium to acquire Slack based on its share price at the time, as it sought to compete with Microsoft’s Teams, but has struggled to integrate the app into its platform. Stewart Butterfield, Slack’s chief executive at the time of the acquisition, and Bret Taylor, who as co-chief of Salesforce was the architect of the deal, have since left their roles.
“That is a big part of the issue here. What investors really care about is capital allocation and Benioff had promised a pause on M&A and then reneged on those promises,” another investor said.
Activist investors have made it clear that a sale of either Slack or Tableau should be explored, said a person with direct knowledge of the matter. However, Tableau has already been integrated into Salesforce’s other services, making it harder to spin out, and the company has belatedly set about tying Slack more closely to its other software to better compete with Microsoft.
Benioff’s dealmaking spree feeds into a larger problem at Salesforce — soaring costs. Investors said they wanted the company to curb spending and Improve its margins, which have remained stubbornly low despite the group becoming one of the most successful businesses in Silicon Valley.
While sales have surged from a little more than $8bn at the end of 2017 to an estimated $31bn last year, profits have not followed. Salesforce’s operating margins have remained around 20 per cent for years, disappointing many investors who had expected the company’s bottom line to grow in tandem.
Former chief financial officer Mark Hawkins forecast in 2017 that mid-30 per cent margins would be possible over the long term, but Salesforce has fallen far short of that target for years. The company in its September forecast said it would hit margins of 25 per cent by 2026.
Now, with its revenue growth slowing, Salesforce’s depressed margins have come to the fore. Investors who spoke to the Financial Times said the company traded at its cheapest-ever multiple of free cash flow, lower than Oracle’s, making for a “compelling” investment.
“The stock is cheap, that is the bottom line. For Elliott, if they did nothing it’s a good investment,” said the senior technology investor. “But if they turn up the heat, they can make Salesforce more aggressive on costs.”
Salesforce is yet to update investors on its long-term financial targets, which would have to take into account the restructuring announced by Benioff earlier this year, including a 10 per cent cut to the company’s workforce.
The window to nominate directors for a possible proxy fight opens on February 12, according to Don Bilson, head of event-driven research at Gordon Haskett, giving more time for talks to continue.
What is currently a friendly and constructive confrontation could turn into a more acrimonious one, said a person who is following the situation closely.
Several people pointed out Elliott had indirectly worked well with Starboard in previous activist situations including a campaign at eBay in 2019. Elliott and Starboard jointly agreed to a settlement with the company that spurred it to sell its classified advertising business.
But if Benioff disregards the activist investors, he should expect Elliott to seek a board seat and play an important role in overhauling management. “They are friendly now but it could get nasty,” said the person with knowledge of the matter.
Letter in response to this report:
Investors should look at Salesforce’s stock issuance / Ken Broad, Mill Valley, CA, US
The Council of Architecture has released the results for National Aptitude Test in Architecture (NATA) 2021 at nata.in. The BArch candidates can access the NATA resuts by logging into the online test portal using their name and roll number. The results for NATA April session have been announced in the form of a scorecard depicting the qualifying status of the candidates along with their ranks. The Test 1 of NATA was held on April 10 at 196 centres in a Computer-Based Test (CBT) mode.
NATA scorecard bears details such as candidate's name, roll number, marks obtained in each section, marks obtained out of 200 and candidate's qualifying status.
Step 1: Go to the official website of NATA 2021--nata.in.
Step 2: Click on the link ‘NATA 2021 result'
Step 3: Log in using your credentials and click on the ‘submit' button
Step 4: NATA 2021 scorecard will be displayed on the screen.
Step 5: download the NATA score card and take its printout for future use
A total of 15,066 candidates had applied for Test 1 out of whom 14,130 candidates appeared for the examination. COA had earlier released NATA answer key that contained correct responses against the question number. COA might also release the NATA response sheets to allow the candidates know their responses in the exam.
Candidates who are unable to qualify the NATA Test 1 or want to Improve their scores in the entrance exam, can appear for NATA Test 2 to be held on July 12.
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Salesforce appointed three new directors to its board on Friday as the software giant seeks to fend off criticism from activist investors and turn round a business being hit hard by the broader tech downturn.
The San Francisco-based group has appointed Arnold Donald, former chief executive of cruise operator Carnival Corporation, Sachin Mehra, chief financial officer of Mastercard and Mason Morfit, chief executive of ValueAct Capital, an activist fund that is also an investor, according to people familiar with the matter.
“As highly respected business leaders, they each bring valuable experience to further enhance and balance the diverse skills on the board and advance our value-creation initiatives,” said Marc Benioff, chair and co-chief executive of Salesforce.
The company added that Sanford Robertson, co-founder of buyout group Francisco Partners, and Hasbro chair emeritus Alan Hassenfeld — who have both sat on Salesforce’s board since 2003 — will step down.
Benioff has come under mounting pressure to Improve Salesforce’s performance, after several activist investors disclosed they had built positions in the company.
Elliott Management said this week it had built a multibillion-dollar stake in the company, joining Starboard Value, the activist fund run by Jeff Smith, which disclosed a position in October.
ValueAct also has a stake in the company, as does Inclusive Capital, the firm set up by Jeff Ubben, the former head of ValueAct, said people briefed on the matter.
Salesforce has become a target for activists because of its dismal performance over the past year, in which several software technology companies faced setbacks following a pandemic-driven boom that bolstered profits and valuations. Its market value has dropped almost 50 per cent since its 2021 peak to about $165bn.
The activist investors want Salesforce to cut costs, boost profit margins and evaluate the sale of certain assets that were acquired in exact years.
Salesforce acquired workplace productivity tool Slack for $27.7bn in 2020, representing a 55 per cent premium to its share price at the time. The company wanted to compete with Microsoft’s Teams, but has struggled to integrate the app into its platform. Stewart Butterfield, Slack’s chief executive at the time of the acquisition, and Bret Taylor, who as co-chief of Salesforce was the architect of the deal, have announced their departures.
Benioff has taken some measures to get the company back on track, including cutting about 10 per cent of its workforce.
The decision to slash jobs followed a hiring spree across the tech sector during the height of the pandemic when demand for digital services surged.
The activist investors had been friendly in their public communication about Salesforce but behind the scenes they were pushing for significant changes, said people briefed about the matter.
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Salesforce (NYSE:CRM) shares slipped fractionally in premarket trading on Friday as investment firm Citi opened a negative catalyst watch and said it has seen signs of "slowing demand" going into the company's fourth-quarter results.
Analyst Tyler Radke, who has a neutral rating on Salesforce (CRM) shares, noted that partner checks indicated further slowing from the third-quarter and there is an overall "fatigue" for front office or customer relationship management software that could limit upside for the period and the company's initial outlook for fiscal 2024.
"Conversations with CRM partners suggest the weak demand environment hasn’t letup with calendar 2023 growth outlooks deteriorating to 8-10% (vs. ~15% in our pre-F’3Q23 checks)," Radke wrote in a note to clients. The analyst added that pricing commentary was "mixed" though there was some positives, including "more resilient top-of-funnel trends" and strong public sector demand.
As such, Radke believes that with shares up roughly 27% year-to-date due to cost cuts and activist involvement, shares could be "ripe for a near-term pullback as margin upside may be priced in and growth metrics could disappoint."
Despite the negative catalyst watch, Radke raised his per-share price target on Salesforce (CRM) to $182 from $164 on the potential for higher margins. He also lowered his revenue growth estimates for fiscal 2024 to reflect slower current revenue performance obligations.
Salesforce (CRM) is slated to report fiscal fourth-quarter results on March 1.
Earlier this week, investment firm Wells Fargo said improvements in Salesforce's (CRM) margins and the addition of activist investors could be positive catalysts for the stock.
When people talk about high-priority SEO activities, they usually point to crucial areas like keyword research, content planning, and link-building.
Website architecture is rarely top of the list.
But the fact is that nailing your site architecture can have a hugely beneficial impact on your organic performance.
In contrast, poor site structure is a fast-track ticket to Google obscurity.
In this post, we’ll explain why site architecture is so essential for SEO, look at different ways of organizing your site, and offer some tips to make your site structure as SEO-friendly as possible.
So, let’s dive right in.
Website architecture refers to how pages on a website are arranged in relation to one another.
It encompasses all aspects of a site’s hierarchical structure, including how related content is grouped, and how different pages link together.
As you’ll see, having a clear, coherent, and intuitive site architecture is fundamental in ensuring your website is both usable for humans, and crawlable for search engines.
So, how exactly does website architecture affect a site’s ability to rank better in search engines?
Here are five reasons why site architecture is critical to SEO.
Before search engines can rank your content for appropriate keywords, they first need to understand what the different pages of your site are about.
To achieve this, search engine spiders crawl the content on your site and then store the information in the search engine’s index.
When your site has a logical information architecture and internal link structure, search engines can efficiently locate all your content and build an accurate picture of your site’s purpose.
Link equity (sometimes called “link juice”) refers to the authority passed from a linking page to a linked-to page.
This is important because the more authority a page has, the likelier it is to rank.
An orderly system of internal links creates pathways for link equity to pass from one page to another.
You can significantly boost your authority for given Topics by grouping together thematically similar content.
Doing so lets you signal to Google that your site deals with that subject in considerable breadth and depth.
Once the search engines view you as an authoritative source of information on a specific subject, it’s much easier to rank for related keywords.
A good site architecture will allow Google to generate organic sitelinks for your website.
Sitelinks are sub-listings appearing within some top-ranking search results. They enable Google users to access different website sections directly from the search results page.
For this reason, sitelinks can Improve your organic click-through rate (CTR).
Since Google automatically generates sitelinks, there’s no direct way to optimize for them.
But it’s safe to say you won’t earn any sitelinks if Google struggles to crawl and decipher your website.
Of course, a coherent site structure doesn’t just make things easier for search engine spiders. It’s also the foundation of a positive web user experience.
A well-structured website makes it easy for users to find the products, categories, and information they need in just a few clicks.
We all know that a confusing site architecture can be extremely frustrating. More visitors will stick around, convert, and link back to your site by eliminating as much friction as possible.
Moreover, it’s important to remember that Google’s algorithm takes factors like user experience into account when deciding where to rank a given website.
Now let’s look at which site architecture model you should use to maximize SEO benefit.
The most crucial distinction here is between deep and shallow site structures. If a site has a deep structure, it means that users often need to click through multiple links to reach the page they want.
Here’s a schematic example of a site with a deep structure:
On the other hand, a shallow site structure (also called a flat structure) lets users reach the page they need in only a few clicks.
Here’s an example:
Note how the hierarchy here resembles a pyramid.
The homepage sits at the top and links to high-level category pages, which in turn link to sub-category pages, which finally link to product and post pages. In theory, a visitor landing on this site could reach any page they wanted in three clicks at most.
As you may have already guessed, a shallow site structure is better for SEO, since it minimizes the number of steps required for search engines and users to locate specific content.
Implementing a shallow site structure is the first step toward optimizing your site architecture for SEO performance.
That said, there are several other factors to consider to ensure your site structure is truly SEO-friendly.
Keep in mind the following best practices when designing your site layout.
When planning your site, you need to think carefully about how you categorize your pages.
Creating a neat category taxonomy is especially important for sites that contain several product pages or content like articles and case studies.
The trick here is to define your category and sub-category pages in a way that leaves no product page or piece of content unaccounted for. At the same time, you don’t want to create more categories than necessary.
Chances are, you already have a good sense of how your products and content could be grouped together.
But it’s worth looking at how other sites in your niche approach the same problem. You could also run a card sort with test participants to see how they think you should categorize your pages.
Topic clusters are a helpful tool when it comes to organizing your site.
One of the most significant design considerations for any website is the top-level navigation menu, which gives search engines and users yet another snapshot of your site’s information hierarchy.
The goal of site navigation should be to help users find what they’re looking for as quickly and as effortlessly as possible.
No matter how big your site is, visitors should be able to navigate to the content they want in three to four clicks. Visitors will simply leave if it’s hard to move around your site.
Your website’s top-level navigation bar should contain links to all your main category pages. This is why limiting your primary categories to only what’s necessary is important.
Having too many top-level categories creates a cluttered, hard-to-use navigation menu.
For sites with thousands of pages, like ecommerce stores with extensive inventories, it’s often a good idea to implement faceted navigation.
Giving users the ability to filter their searches within your site can significantly reduce the time it takes them to find what they need.
(Just know that faceted navigation can create some SEO headaches that will also need to be addressed, such as duplicate content issues).
Here’s an example of faceted navigation on the ASOS website:
Alternatively, bigger sites can opt for a so-called “mega menu” to facilitate navigation. These drop-down menus expand to reveal deeper-level categories options when you interact with them.
Here’s an example of a mega menu from John Lewis, a British department store website.
URLs should be neat, consistently structured, and reflect your website category hierarchy.
Here’s a schematic example of what a well-structured URL looks like:
Organizing URLs into subdirectories is another way of signaling to search engines that the pages within that site section are topically connected.
It’s also helpful to understand the types of URL structures that Google prefers, and those it doesn’t. Here are a few URL structures Google does not recommend:
We’ve already mentioned how your internal links allow search engines and users to find their way around your site and understand the relationships between pages.
If you think of your website as a building, internal links are like the hallways and staircases connecting different rooms and levels to one another.
You can use two main types of internal links: navigational and contextual.
Navigational links appear on your homepage, navigation menu, and site footer.
Contextual links are those you embed inside a piece of content to direct users to some related information.
The key to using internal links strategically is to ensure you frequently link to your top-priority pages from your most authoritative pages (i.e., from pages that receive the greatest number of high-quality backlinks).
For most websites, these pages are the homepage and one or two high-performing pieces of content. Linking from these pages allows your priority pages to receive second-hand link equity, thereby improving their ability to rank.
For example, if your blog is particularly important to your business, it makes sense to link to it from your homepage and top-level navigation menu.
Doing so will pass link equity to your blog section and, in turn, the various blog posts within it.
Additionally, you should embed your internal links inside keyword-rich anchor text.
This helps search engines better understand what the linked-to page is about. That said, if you link to the same page multiple times across different pages, it’s a good idea to vary your anchor text slightly to avoid coming across as spammy.
So, suppose you had a piece of content titled “How to write an ebook.” In that case, you might link to it using the following anchor-text variations:
Finally, you should periodically revisit older pages and content on your site to see whether there are opportunities to add contextual links pointing to more exact content (and vice versa).
Breadcrumbs are internal links appearing just above a page’s title, allowing users to track the path they took to that page. Each link along the path is clickable, enabling users to immediately return to a previous page if needed.
Here’s an example of a breadcrumb trail on the IKEA website:
As well as helping web users know where they are, breadcrumbs are yet another way to deliver search engines a better understanding of your site hierarchy.
Creating an XML sitemap is one of the best ways to help search engines crawl your website.
Essentially, this is a file that lists all your site’s URLs and specifies how they’re related to each other. The sitemap also includes additional metadata about each URL, such as when it was last modified.
Although Google can usually find all the pages on a website without referring to a sitemap, creating one can make things easier, especially if your site is large, complex, or poorly interlinked.
You can also create a user-facing sitemap, known as an HTML sitemap.
This sitemap acts like a table of contents for your website, allowing users to locate any pages they haven’t been able to find via internal links or your navigation menu.
One of the indirect SEO benefits of cleaning up your website architecture is that it can help you root out potential instances of keyword cannibalization.
Cannibalization occurs when two or more pages on a site target the same keyword and search intent. This can mean the site ends up competing against itself in Google’s results, thereby diminishing ranking potential.
Once you clearly understand your site structure, it’s much easier to identify any pages that may be cannibalizing one another.
You can then fix the issue by merging content, implementing 301 redirects, or adding a canonical tag to the page you want Google to rank.
Defining a clear and coherent website architecture is key to optimizing your website for greater organic visibility.
A carefully-considered site structure ensures that search engine crawlers and website visitors can easily access all the pages on your site.
Some essential elements of a solid website architecture include a logical content taxonomy, an easy-to-use navigation menu, and plenty of internal links.
Now it’s time to put what you’ve learned here into action and start reaping the benefits of a well-organized website architecture.
Featured Image: Chaosamran_Studio/Shutterstock
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