Enterprise architecture (EA) was first mentioned in John Zachman’s 1987 publication titled “A Framework for Information”. While EA has been defined as the discipline of analyzing, designing, planning, and implementing the structure and operation methodology for executing an organization’s strategy, EA is a rather general methodology that is not specific to any industry.
Zachman’s framework did lay the foundation for other frameworks that came after like TOGAF (The Open Group Architecture Framework), IAF (Integrated Architecture Framework), FEAF (Federal Enterprise Architecture Framework), and others. TOGAF, the most widely adopted framework also oversees the development of tools and TOGAF training courses that are critical to the implementation of the framework across the globe.
Through the principles and best practices outlined in its EA, an organization can effectively realize its business strategy without distractions, losses, and waste of resources to stay ahead of the competition and enhance business growth.
Introduction to enterprise architecture
EA is a key pillar of digital transformation. It plays a critical alignment role by incorporating an organization’s IT systems, processes, principles, and business strategies into one framework for efficient management.
With the advancement in technology and businesses having to integrate a number of emerging technologies in their structure, it is important to have a framework that unifies IT with business and one that seeks to set consistent standards of operation to drive change, improvement, and effectiveness in the business. At the same time, this framework works to manage the complexities brought about by adopting different technologies. Standardization is important as it enhances digital transformation and promotes the growth of information technology in the business. Current EA frameworks are built for the business as a whole and not just for IT departments. They are a reflection of the long term growth strategy of the business.
Core elements of effective enterprise architecture
- EA governance
- EA framework
- Implementation methodology
- Documentation artifacts
- Architecture repository
- Best practices
The Role of Enterprise Architecture
The role of EA is summarized into four important points
- EA integrates information technology with the management’s business strategy into a comprehensive framework
- It manages complexities where the business hosts a number of operating systems and applications within their structures
- EA frameworks facilitate and manage change and improvement in the organization
- Bring about standardization of processes and implementation to enhance IT value to the business and its clients
The declining popularity of enterprise architecture
Much can be achieved through enterprise architecture. However, EA is generic and so achieving strategy is possible through tweaking the EA to suit the specific needs of the business. This is perhaps the reason why EA is not as easily understood as each industry attempts to define it in a way that works for it specifically.
For instance, while the manufacturing industry would define EA as a tool or methodology for aligning information with material/product flow, government entities would look at it as a framework for information/communication flow. With so many perspectives on what EA should entail, there is no one definition that explains EA comprehensively.
These diverse perspectives could, in fact, be the reason why subsequent frameworks were developed. To address the ambiguity that came with general EA. The implication of this ambiguity was a lack of optimal application of the framework which in turn affected the very growth and operations that businesses sought to enhance. Secondly, it made it difficult to come up with KPIs to track the performance of the EA. Based on this, EA application was often coupled with other frameworks like TOGAF which could have as well delivered great value to the business when implemented as a stand-alone.
Another challenge that visibly came out of EA is a bias towards and possible waste of resources on matters relating to documentation. Because EA has succeeded in subdividing the enterprise into different functional components with the view that knowing each component individually will contribute to improving the entire framework. The need to understand each component tends to push the teams’ efforts to documentation and presentation activities and not resolve problems to drive real business value.
Another downturn associated with the almost distinct EA elements was that this framework was bound to fail, to some extent, to address the continuously changing and evolving nature of the business. Still, we shall not fail to recognize the fact that EA has played a vital role in bringing to birth frameworks like TOGAF that have widely been adopted.
What is TOGAF and why is it still popular
TOGAF, referring to The Open Group Architecture Framework, has seen wide adoption for the last two decades. Since it first came to the scene in 1995, TOGAF has gone through several updates with newer versions delivering even better value. The latest version, TOGAF v9.2 was released in 2018.
This framework, like most other enterprise frameworks, enables organizations to align business goals with IT goals. More specifically, TOGAF offers the framework and methodology for enterprise software development. It helps the business to plan, develop, implement, and manage enterprise architecture in an approach that speeds up software development, reduces errors, keeps within the budget while producing high-value outcomes.
Roles of TOGAF
According to the Open Group, TOGAF plays the following significant roles.
- Unifies all stakeholders of the enterprise in one language
- Standardize open enterprise architecture methodologies to avoid being locked within conventional solutions
- Facilitates the effective and optimal utilization of resources
- Helps the business to set practical ROI and achieve it
Pillars of TOGAF
TOGAF has three main pillars which are:
1- Enterprise Architecture Domains
This pillar divides enterprise architecture into four key domains
- Business Architecture. Business strategies, organization, processes, governance, and standards.
- Applications Architecture. Model for the development of enterprise software and their integration with business processes.
- Data Architecture. Structure of logical and physical data assets along with data management resources.
- Technical Architecture. A collection of hardware, software, and network infrastructure that the business requires to deploy systems and applications.
2- Architecture Development Model (ADM)
Architecture Development Model (ADM) based on an iterative approach that features improvements from expert feedback through the development cycle. The iterative approach helps architects to customize the architecture framework to meet specific organizational requirements.
3- Enterprise Continuum
A system that tracks the solutions, both generic and customized, that have been implemented within the enterprise architecture framework.
Features that make TOGAF popular
TOGAF facilitates the implementation of technology solutions in an organization’s structure in an efficient and structured manner. It unifies the technology and business goals of an enterprise for better realization of business strategy.
- TOGAF provides a structured approach to software development and deployment. This standardized approach can be used across all departments and stakeholders to bring consistency and derive high value. Additionally, it can be used iteratively to roll out solutions in phases to the organization or to scale the organization’s systems as and when required.
- A standardized approach also minimizes risks and errors during the implementation of the framework.
- TOGAF is applicable across all business sizes and types since the business does not have to implement the entire framework. It can choose to focus only on those aspects that are relevant to its growth strategy.
- To enterprise and software architects and other professionals, TOGAF training and certification, as the most coveted EA certification, comes with immense benefits. These include better pay packages by averagely $10,000 – $20,000 and opportunities for career growth.