Integration Architecture Designer Certification Guide & Tips [Updated 2020]

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Table of Contents

Introduction

For architects, analysts, and application managers who want to prove they can design and implement secure, scalable integrations with the Lightning Platform, and are able to communicate the solution and design trade-offs to business/technical stakeholders.

The beauty of the Salesforce App Cloud platform is that it not only allows you to build apps at lightning speed but also provides tools to connect the platform with external systems. With its API-first approach, you can integrate the App platform with almost any legacy system and with other cloud platforms like AWS, GAE etc, without writing a lot of code.

To help you become a better implementer and platform architect, Salesforce introduced (no prizes for guessing) the Integration Architecture Designer Certification.

Integration Architecture Designer is part of the System Architect pathway – in the same domain as: 

  • Identity and Access Management Designer
  • Development Lifecycle and Deployment Designer
  • Mobile Solutions Architecture Designer

Is this a good starting point for the Architect pathway? I would say this is a good exam to take before other System Architect certifications. It follows on nicely from Platform Developer 1 in your first step into the Architect level.

The exam will test your knowledge on:

  • Salesforce Integration Capabilities (28%): which API/APIs to use when, Lightning Connect, 
  • Salesforce Integration Patterns (17%): Request and Reply, Fire and Forget, 
  • Enterprise Integration Architecture Concepts (15%): data cleaning, standardization, deduplication, and data transformation as part of data integration, 
  • Salesforce Integration Testing (10%)
  • Integrating with Salesforce Security (15%)
  • Tools (10%)
  • Monitoring (5%): identifying and isolating integration challenges. 

Who's the Ideal Candidate?

From the certification guidelines, the following skillset and knowledge is desirable and recommended to take this exam. I’ve copied them below verbatim for reference.

  • Has 5+ years of delivery experience,
  • Provides experienced guidance on the appropriate choice of on-platform and off-platform technology,
  • Although not pre-requisites, I recommend you are a certified on Admin, Advanced Admin, Developer, or Platform App Builder,
  • Understands integration capabilities and patterns, design trade-offs, and has the ability to communicate design choices,
  • Has held a technical architect role on multiple complex deployments or has gained equivalent knowledge through participation and exposure to these types of projects [either with single or multiple projects],
  • Has a thorough understanding of Web Services in general and SOAP and REST specifically; understands the basic workings of HTTP/S,
  • Understands the different Force.com APIs and is able to design solutions using the appropriate API,
  • Understands data migration considerations, design trade-offs, and common ETL tools,
  • Has experience with common integration patterns used on the Force.com Platform,
  • Understands patterns/mechanisms to secure integrations, such as TLS for HTTP.

If you haven’t taken the Platform Developer 1 Exam (and don’t have a coding background) there will be extra study involved for you to grasp some of the concepts! 

Key Topics

Salesforce Integration Capabilities (which API/APIs to use when)

The largest bulk of the exam will be around which API/APIs to use when. You will be presented with a business scenario and will be asked to recommend a design an integration design using a single API or multiple APIs. 

API-based integrations:

  • SOAP,
  • REST,
  • Bulk,
  • Streaming,
  • Canvas,
  • Workflow outbound,
  • APEX (Callouts, @ future, etc.).
  • plus, know Salesforce Connect.

You need to know:

  • When to use each
  • Compare design trade-offs (advantages/drawbacks)

The Which API Do I Use? Overview Table is a good place to start organising your existing knowledge.

Salesforce Integration Patterns

When it comes to Integration Patterns, you will need to:

  • Selecting the right pattern – and any issues that should be considered for each.
  • How the chosen pattern will achieve business goals (of the business scenario presented in the exam question)
  • Compare design trade-offs (advantages/drawbacks):
    Remote Process Invocation—Request and Reply, Remote Process Invocation—Fire and Forget, Batch Data Synchronization, Remote Call-In, and UI Update Based on Data Changes.

This PDF is your key resource, which includes a list of Patterns and ideal scenarios, and a very helpful Pattern Selection Matrix:

Integration Patterns Overview

You should also go beyond Salesforce and be comfortable with Integration Patterns principles more broadly. Often we are caught up in upskilling on Force.com that we forget to read wider. Use this resource hub to expand your knowledge. 

Salesforce Security Mechanisms

Know which Salesforce security mechanism to use when (both inbound and outbound integrations). Here’s a video that gives an overview of the topic.

Study Strategy

Wow! Trailhead really is amazing. There is now a Trailmix called “Architect Journey: Integration Architecture” which is the first place to start. Invest the 46 hours estimated to complete this Trailmix – you will find many key resources linked there (including some of the most important ones I mentioned in the ‘Key Topics’ section). 

Salesforce certifications are designed for you to prove you can apply your knowledge, and worm out anyone that is only memorising to pass the exam. Hands-on experience is important, but it’s understandable if your current day-to-day role doesn’t offer the breadth of multiple business use cases. To fill the gaps and solidifying your knowledge, take advantage of Trailhead modules with activities in Trailhead Playgrounds. 

Ladies Be Architects have kindly made their Study Group webinar recording public, great for those of you who prefer video/visual learning. Plus, check out their full Youtube playlist with 12 videos, each between 1.5-2 hours long.  

Exam Strategy

When exam day finally hits, there are a few things you can do to give yourself the best chance of passing with flying colours.

Firstly, if there are any concepts that you are struggling to get to grips with, then print off a cheat sheet and memorize just before the exam, so they are fresh in your memory.

When taking the exam, pay particular attention to the question, and read it through a few times. If you have taken other Architect-level exams (or others eg. Salesforce Administrator, Sales Cloud) you would be right to expect long questions; however, even though the questions are mostly scenario-based, they are not as long as the other exams in the Architect pathway – which was refreshing after taking many certifications, myself!

Don’t let the shorter questions fool you! When deciding on the answer, be sure to use the process of elimination to get rid of the answers that are definitely incorrect. Always think back to key concepts will help you to cross-off wrong answers, even if they look like possible answers the first time you read them! (eg. inbound vs. outbound integrations, SOAP vs. REST, synchronous vs. asynchronous).

You also have a the “Mark for review” feature at your disposal. On each question, it’s a checkbox that you can mark if you cannot think of an answer right at that moment, or if you doubt your answer. At the end of the exam, you will have a chance to review these questions. Depending on the amount you have selected, this will give you a good idea of how likely you are to have passed the test! Regardless of the questions marked for review, I would always recommend to go through every question again.

Resources

Tips

Final Thoughts

In my opinion, it is not an easy exam but it is not unfair, if you cover all the topics mentioned above in your revision and understand the intricacies and complexities of Salesforce integration you should be able to pass it (with flying colors). Feel free to reach out to me on twitter (@anup) if you have any specific questions about the exam.

9 thoughts on “Integration Architecture Designer Certification Guide & Tips [Updated 2020]

  1. Avatar

    Has anyone sit the new Winter 21 Integration Architecture exam? I was very confident on the actual technical questions, but there were a few extremely ambiguous questions that have me really frustrated.

    These questions are paraphrased:
    1. Is Apex SOAP or Apex REST API the better recommendation for a large enterprsie requiring a secure integration.
    2. If SF is the master of customer data and customer wants to send it to 3x destination systems (one way), do you recommend creating 3x External ID in SF, or building a Control Table in the middleware to perform the mapping.
    3. Customer requires a fire and forget pattern to integrate with a SOAP end point. Do you use “Platform events towards the endpoints direction” or “Outbound API towards the endpoint’s direction”. (Note, the “Direction” was verbatim from the exam, very ambiguous as it doesn’t tell you if there is a middleware or not. )
    4. How would you publish a custom notification to all currently online users: Streaming API, Metadata API or Tooling API?

    Another observation is “real time” is used a lot in the exam and in many cases events are the only valid answer. They aren’t being very technically accurate about “Real time” vs. “Near real time”

    Let me know if there is a clear recommendations for any of these…

    1. Avatar

      AB – Did you pass the exam? I failed due to all these ambiguous questions. I found the new exam to be extremely hard and there is not enough information available to adequately prepare for the exam. The questions also seem extremely long and I almost ran out of time answering all of them. I had very similar questions as you, but here is how I would answer if I re-do the exam.

      1. Originally I picked Apex REST API but I think Apex SOAP is more secure. WS-Security for transmission along with Secure Socket Layer makes SOAP more secure for large enterprises.
      2. I am not sure about this either. I think 3x External ID in SF should be the right approach. I think middleware shouldn’t be used for persistence for large amounts of data for long term.
      3. TBH I am unsure as to how to still answer this question. It could be Outbound API, because it’s the simplest solution still to publish to a soap API. Technically I think it could also be platform events. It’s the direction that SF seems to be headed based on the investments. You can also publish platform events using process builder. Outbound API seems to be the old way of doing things. But if you are using platform events, it will up to the consumer to read the message from the event bus and then publish it the SOAP api. Interested to hear your thoughts on this.
      4. The custom notifications should be published using Streaming API. Specifically Generic Streaming should be used instead of PushTopics. Streaming API supports sending notifications with a generic payload that aren’t tied to Salesforce data changes.

      1. Avatar

        Hey Sam, I too failed the exam and found that it was extremely lengthy. I finished my last question right on time and hardly had any time to review my responses. Good to know I wasn’t the only one who struggled with this one.

        1. If we had to pick one that would have to be the one but I find that to be again one full of assumptions. If implemented correctly, REST can be as secure. I think this is a terrible question given SF is favoring REST in their newer API’s. I find it hard to believe SF to come out and say SOAP is more secure. If the enterprises are more old fashion and have established SOAP…sure…

        2. Again this was a terrible question. hard limit on External ID’s are 25 and I don’t see any documentation form SF guiding how many SHOULD be used for this described use case. Practically speaking, 3 sounds like a very reasonable number of ID’s to capture in SF and given a chance to use SF as the MDM platform, why wouldn’t you.

        3. I agree as well and that is exactly what stumped me. There’s no hint on whether there is or isn’t middleware which absolutely makes PE a valid recommendation. As you said, with the Push for streaming API’s, I can’t fathom why SF would throw such a question like this in here. Really splitting hairs as to which is the recommended one given this set of info. I was also not a fan of how ambiguous when it said that the External System has SOAP API’s. I did second-guess the intent of the question being that the external system itself can send outwards SOAP API calls (as opposed to inbound).

        4. I interpreted this question requirement as needing to display a visual notification to the user and my assumption was needing to do this via LWC/EMP API or whether there was some hidden config in metadata api to do maintenance notifications. (It’s also possible I may have mis-read it given it was one of the last questions and I was running out of time and this seems to have little to do with integration)

        Here’s a couple bonus ones since you got me started.
        5. How did you find the “Evaluating Business Requirements” section? All the “Which requirement should the architect evaluate” were awful in my opinion as it just tests how many assumptions you’re willing to make around which ones are more important.

        6. There was another question around there being a error being found (I can’t recall exact error). The options included some short term fixes and some long term (best practice) fixes to avoid it occuring again. The question worded it around “What should the architect do to fix this situation” or something along those lines which made it unclear whether they want the short or long term fix.

        Were there any other ones you thought were particularly hard/poorly worded?

        I wrote a long detailed complaint through to salesforce after the exam and hope others who have felt the same about the exam did too. I failed by just 2 questions by my calculations and I’m in a dillemma as to whether I re-sit it soon or whether I wait it out and let others provide more feedback to SF.

      2. Avatar

        Hi Sam,

        I did Fail this too. I’ve done pretty well in other exams to date and this one was a shocker. Ran out of time similar to you as well, finishing the last question right as time ticked away. Agreed with you on all of the above. Furhter comments I have are:
        1. Frustrating question as I have not seen SF take a point on which of the two is more secure. Highly doubt they’d openly have this recommendation given their new API’s are REST.
        2. I’ve researched this more and still can not find any SF recommendation on this beyond the 25 hard limit of External ID fields. If you have an opportunity to use SF in place of an additional MDM solution, why wouldn’t you?
        3. Again very frustrating question. I was also stuck as to whether they they meant the external system needed to RECEIVE SOAP API’s or needed to SEND SOAP API’s. Again – terrible question and just depended whether you resonate with their assumptions or not. SF is certainly encouraging everyone towards the platform event path, however I can’t fathom why they’d throw in SOAP if this was the case.
        4. The way i read this question was that they wanted to show a visual notification to all users that are currently logged in. I was thinking whether there was some wizardry with LWC + empAPI.

        A couple of others I also took note of:
        5. How did you find the “Requirement Evaluation” questions? I thought they were crap and just came down to how far you’re willing to generalize their requirements.
        6. There was a question i remember that was particularly frustrating where there was an incident and the question was what should the architect do to resolve this issue. There were short term (workaround) and long term (better) options and wasn’t clear to me which one was the one they were looking for.

        Hope you made a complaint through to SF as well to help them refine these awful questions. Were there any others that you thought were questionable?

    2. Avatar

      HI AB, You are not the only one. I just had my exam yesterday. I have to say the new set of questions are quite lengthy and challenging.

        1. Avatar

          overall not good, I have some confusions as well. Prepare to study again to reake the exam.

          I am not too sure the question:
          Design a solution for Salesforce sync records with 3 external system.

          I choose Change Data Capture, but not too sure MDM or MiddleWare.

          But I think MDM should do, as they want to locally cache external Id in middleware, this doesn’t feel like a solid solution at all.

          I have remebered some questions, happy to share to you via email and discuss.

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