by Ethan Pack

TOGAF and defining a digital vision

Mar 21, 2018
Digital TransformationEnterprise ArchitectureIT Strategy

Embracing The Open Group Architecture Framework allows architects and organizations to adopt additional or fewer steps to match the culture and approaches required within the firm. Just don’t expect a tight, holistic view to come out of loosely coupled concepts alone.

Oh, TOGAF, you nearly 700-page behemoth of controversial architecture framework text.  Why are you both so loved and loathed in the enterprise architecture world?  I like The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF), but I do not view it as the be-all-end-all tome of EA.  This shouldn’t be too much of a surprise to those who either know me or read my last article, “The enterprise architecture paradox,” as TOGAF is indeed a collection of “loosely coupled concepts around a central theme”—enterprise architecture.  It is a framework per Merriam-Webster’s definition, “a basic conceptual structure (as of ideas).”  Architects and organizations expecting more than just a framework from TOGAF are setting themselves up for disappointment, if not failure.

My support of TOGAF comes via embracing it as an incomplete framework.  Many frameworks are perpetually incomplete, undergoing revision as the overall context changes and applications of the framework trigger new requirements.  TOGAF 9.1, the current version, continues the slow elevation of enterprise architecture out of the IT architecture-only bubble, but there is more work to do in that regard. 

I don’t think TOGAF needs a complete rewrite, but I do hope that future iterations begin to mature the notion of enterprise architecture’s connectivity with strategic planning, change management, project and portfolio management, and business analysis (BABOK Guide version 3, in particular).  The Open Group’s joint effort with the SABSA Institute documenting the integration of business security architecture with TOGAF is an endeavor to pursue with other consortia to broaden TOGAF in these other areas.

The “how-to” portion of TOGAF is found in its Architecture Development Methodology (ADM). The ADM consists of 10 phases, each covering an area of developing architectural change using an inputs, steps, outputs pattern.  For those seeking a paint-by-numbers approach to enterprise architecture, the ADM provides the closest guidance to that end.  Keep in mind, however, that enterprise architects need to tailor the generic ADM contained within TOGAF to ensure proper fit for their organization.

I believe many enterprise architects have gotten too caught up in “doing architecture” (or “doing TOGAF”) disconnected from driving change and delivering positive business outcomes.  A lot of this “architecture work” happens through documentation—much of it done after change is already in motion.  This style of EA work produces lagging architectural outputs instead of leading architectural products that help organizations define the necessary change and set the stage for successful execution.

So, what does TOGAF and the ADM have to do with an organization’s digital business aspirations?  An understated—and potentially missed—part of the digital journey organizations undertake is the very act of defining digital.  In the McKinsey & Company article “Why digital strategies fail,”, “fuzzy definitions” is cited as the first pitfall to digital, stating that “very few [organizational leaders] have a broad, holistic view of what digital really means.”  Let’s explore how TOGAF’s ADM “Phase A – Architecture Vision” could be employed to either establish a digital vision or clarify an existing one.

Here are the steps outlined in Phase A:

Establish the architecture project

I equate an enterprise architecture project with any initiative that introduces change into the organization, so this step should eventually become part of the firm’s DNA.  Furthermore, with a roadmap to outline and sequence large initiatives, following it will have already set this step in motion.  Again, think leading (before) instead of lagging (after).

Identify stakeholders, concerns, and business requirements

Leaders across the organization may have different expectations for the digital business.  The enterprise architect must empathize with and understand each stakeholder to gauge the commitment, support, desires, and biases of each stakeholder to successfully sell a unified vision.

Confirm and elaborate business goals, business drivers, and constraints

The findings from knowing stakeholders’ motivations may confirm, extend, or contradict the architect’s perception of business goals, drivers, and constraints.  EAs must surface these findings and resolve discrepancies.

Evaluate business capabilities

Business capabilities describe what an organization does to produce value, so it cannot be understated how important this step is when determining the necessary changes to existing capabilities as well as any new capabilities that may need to be introduced.  For example, how has the Order Management capability changed at Domino’s Pizza?

Assess readiness for business transformation

This step evokes popular change management methodologies and is crucial to executing the arduous digital transformation.  Inspired by the Canadian Government Business Transformation Enablement Program (BTEP), TOGAF provides thoughtful guidance on performing a readiness assessment.

Define scope

Many times, the digital effort will have an enterprise-wide scope, but if only a segment of the business is targeted for digitalization, then the scope should explicitly state the boundaries and constraints.

Confirm and elaborate Architecture Principles, including business principles

Similar to confirming and elaborating the business goals, drivers, and constraints, the principles for the digital business architecture should be reviewed and revised to ensure they support and guide the upcoming initiative(s).

Develop Architecture Vision

Armed with the findings obtained in the previous steps, the enterprise architect develops the target architecture vision.  EAs can create various depictions such as application and services landscape diagrams, storyboards, presentations, and any other materials to help convey the digitalized enterprise.

Define the Target Architecture value propositions and KPIs

In addition to the graphical representation(s) of the target architecture, architects develop value propositions to help message how the target architecture addresses their needs and concerns.  Keeping with the “what gets measured, gets managed” business proverb, digital business KPIs are created to indicate the metrics of success once the architecture is realized.

Identify the business transformation risks and mitigation activities

Risks are a cost of doing business and are ever more present in undertaking digital transformation.  EAs should work with stakeholders and others in the organization to understand any risks and identify opportunities to mitigate them.

Utilizing the steps outlined in TOGAF’s ADM Architecture Vision phase can help guide the formulation of an organization’s digital vision.  Embracing the framework allows architects and organizations to adopt additional or fewer steps to match the culture and approaches required within the firm.  Bringing clarity to blurry vision is an enterprise architecture necessity and helps spotlight the enterprise architect as a key player to unify the increasingly interconnected business ecosystem.

Just don’t expect a tight, holistic view to come out of loosely coupled concepts alone.