Last month I referred to the cult comedy Office Space when I posed the question, Is Enterprise Architecture Completely Broken? After speaking with two authorities on The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF), perhaps I had the wrong film. A better choice: Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Apparently, Enterprise Architecture is not dead yet.
In fact, TOGAF is perhaps the most popular Enterprise Architecture (EA) framework today, and its popularity is only increasing, in spite of the fact that many organizations misapply TOGAF. Yet, even for those organizations that successfully leverage TOGAF and thus achieve positive business outcomes, business agility is still largely out of reach. Thus, while Agile Enterprise Architecture may have crossed the chasm, TOGAF has yet to make the leap.
TOGAF: Work in Progress
The Open Group is a non-profit organization that drives the development of “leading global standards for Enterprise Architecture and certification for enterprise, IT and business architects,” according to their Web site. At the center of this volunteer-driven effort is TOGAF, an EA methodology and framework that is now at version 9.1. And even though “TOGAF is a work in progress,” according to Allen Brown, President and CEO at The Open Group, “the number of TOGAF certifications is accelerating around the world. It’s kind of strange. I would have thought it would have plateaued.” Perhaps TOGAF’s accelerating success is simply because it’s the only game in town. “Many companies report ‘of course we’re using TOGAF’,” according to Brown. “‘What else would you do?’”
Vish Viswanathan, Managing Principal of C C and C Solutions based in Sydney Australia, has a similar perspective. “There’s a revolution taking place, particularly among the Indian System Integrators (SIs),” according to Viswanathan. “Everyone is trying to jump on the TOGAF bandwagon.” Viswanathan is a globally recognized TOGAF expert and a pioneer in designing and delivering The Open Group’s TOGAF Certification Course as well as handholding customers in the TOGAF start up phases.
He’s seeing an uptick with the Indian SIs in particular because these firms have historically been the low-cost providers of business process outsourcing and software development, but now economic pressures are pushing them up the consulting food chain, and EA represents the topmost spot. “TOGAF training is the first step to an architecture mindset,” reports Viswanathan. “What looks like common sense is a mind-boggling change to the rank and file of technology consultants learning TOGAF.”
TOGAF’s popularity, therefore, doesn’t necessarily have much to do with how well it actually helps organizations achieve success with their EA efforts. “TOGAF is not a cookbook,” explains Viswanathan. “TOGAF isn’t a cure all for all of enterprise problems. It’s merely an important link in the EA value chain.” In fact, many TOGAF-driven initiatives have failed, although not necessarily because of problems with TOGAF or even EA more broadly. According to Viswanathan, “Failure of EA initiatives is often not the failure of the EA itself. It’s often the fact that C-level management hasn’t taken the time to set the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for the EA team and the Chief Enterprise Architects properly.” In other words, EA efforts are doomed to failure unless executive management becomes the champion of such initiatives.
Even with such a champion, however, TOGAF initiatives are still bound to fail when the people involved apply it improperly. “Another big reason TOGAF can fail is when people take it too literally,” Viswanathan said, “when people assume you have to do all of TOGAF from end to end to make it successful.” There is also clearly a shortage of deep TOGAF expertise on the market. Explains Brown: “If people are struggling with TOGAF, either they’re not adapting it for their organization, or they’re not getting people who’ve ‘been there, done that, got the T-shirt, have the scratch marks’ to help with the initiative.” Viswanathan summed up the problem succinctly: TOGAF consists of “best practices, processes, principles, rules, guidelines, techniques – basically, a toolkit,” but according to Viswanathan, “ A fool with a tool is still a fool. ”
Baselining: Where TOGAF Shines
For many organizations, TOGAF has gained traction simply because it’s better than doing nothing. “Without EA, companies muddle through, where business managers have to ask for information for decision making all the time,” explains Viswanathan. “Companies forget Information Technology (IT) is forinformation. Every time there is a request for information from business managers, the IT managers invariably have to assign a team of people to run around and collect data from different places over and over again.”
Such organizations are desperate simply to clean up their existing legacy IT mess of duplicated systems, data islands and inflexible infrastructure. “Because of the mess they’re in, they want to take advantage of technologies such as Cloud, etc., as there’s lots of attraction with cutting edge technology,” Viswanathan said. “Without a framework, how do you connect corporate strategy to projects downstream? Without EA there’s no proper link. They have to clean up the mess to a point that they can create a baseline.”
Such baselines can unquestionably lead to business value. Viswanathan gives an example of a company that got their baseline right: with TOGAF, they were able to achieve “one source of truth and clarity into what applications and data existed in their environment. Now they can confidently move onto future scenario planning toward their target business outcomes.” Achieving business outcomes, then, would be the strategic win for TOGAF – if only organizations can clean up their legacy first.
As Viswanathan explains, there are three basic approaches to applying TOGAF: “The first approach is to baseline first, because it’s good for cleaning up messes. Second, target [business outcomes] first, which is best for greenfield companies.” But for many organizations, the mess is so bad that if they spent all their time on the baseline, they’d never achieve any business outcomes at all. For those organizations, Viswanathan recommends “some baseline, then target. Take an iterative approach. Take a pain point, create that slice of EA. Back the TOGAF cycle into that.”
Business Agility: Missing from the TOGAF Story
In those cases where organizations can apply TOGAF at all, most of the time their EA efforts focus on resolving existing problems with their legacy environment, but a few organizations can actually achieve business outcomes with the approach. Furthermore, taking an iterative approach to applying TOGAF is a best practice and follows Agile thinking. What’s missing from this picture, however, is how EA can help organizations become more agile.
Allen Brown sees this problem driving TOGAF in the future. “The agile approach is where we need to go with TOGAF,” he explains – but he’s careful to point out that he means EA that supports business agility drivers, rather than an EA methodology that simply lines up with Agile software development approaches. “EA needs to catch up with the agile approach, not ‘Agile as such,’” he explains. This confusion over the word “agile” is actually one of the challenges with EA today. “‘Agile’ is a loaded term and largely associated with building solutions rather than the Enterprise Architecture,” according to Brown.
“Technology change is accelerating business drivers at rates that are increasingly difficult for organizations to keep up with, not only for IT, but also for management,” Brown continues. “Trends such as Cloud, BYOD, Big Data and the Internet of Things are driving information overload for today’s enterprises, putting intense pressure on lines of business to respond quickly to market drivers, data-driven imperatives and internal demands. Organizations are being forced to change—whether they are ready or not.”
Organizations that seek to leverage TOGAF, therefore, fall into four buckets: firms that apply TOGAF incorrectly and as a result, show no value; organizations that are able to achieve a baseline that helps to resolve legacy issues; those that are able to achieve specific business outcomes; and companies that want to deal better with change overall, and thus look to EA to help them become more agile.
However, even though the pace of change in the business and technology arenas, coupled with increasingly ambitious Digital Transformation initiativesare driving demand for EA approaches that can deliver business agility, such approaches are largely in TOGAF’s future – and without practical tools for Agile Enterprise Architecture, organizations have no choice but to muddle their way toward greater business agility.
Image credit: Todd Sternisha