TOGAF – The Best EA Framework?

January 30, 2012

The Open Group Architecture Format (TOGAF) is a framework to support the development of an enterprise architecture (EA). Its role as a framework means that it gives provides a structure and a methodology for defining the architecture, leaving the details to the implementers. While there are many possible frameworks for defining an EA, this post will focus on the development of TOGAF and compare its strengths and weaknesses against the leading competitive frameworks.

TOGAF is currently in version 9.1.(1) The original version dates back to 1995 and was based on the current DoD standard at the time, known as the Technical Architecture Framework for Information Management. The DoD gave The Open Group explicit permission to develop TOGAF based on this standard, and thus TOGAF was born. I believe this is an advantage that TOGAF enjoys, as the mission of The Open Group is “to lead the development of open, vendor-neutral IT standards and certifications.” Besides TOGAF and EA, The Open Group is involved in standards around platforms, security, enterprise management, service-oriented architecture, and others.(2)

TOGAF was originally created to support the Technology Architecture of an organization.(3) As of version 8, TOGAF has been extended to incorporate the four generally-accepted EA domains – business architecture, data architecture, applications architecture, and technology architecture. With this extensibility came a level of complexity unseen neither in the earlier versions nor in the closest competitors, namely Zachmann, Gartner, and FEA.

When I studied the Core Concepts of TOGAF 9.1, I found no less than five detailed diagrams which depict the interrelationships between deliverables, repositories, capabilities and continuums.(4) In my opinion, this is way too complicated without a dedicated staff to build and maintain the EA. The building of TOGAF relies on the Architecture Development Model (ADM) for accurate fulfillment. In this model are nine phases, one preliminary and eight iterative phases to complete an entire cycle of development. To begin a new cycle requires that each of the nine phases be completed once more, which in my view makes the framework somewhat inflexible.

In a comparison of the four major EA methodologies (TOGAF, FEA, Zachmann and Gartner) completed by Roger Sessions of ObjectWatch, he found that the strengths of TOGAF are in the areas of process completeness (guidance towards creating an enterprise architecture), vendor neutrality (likelihood of NOT being locked into a single vendor solution), and information availability (documentation about the methodology).(5) The next highest marks were given for reference model guidance (how the methodology helps with building a set of reference models) and time to value (speed to which high business value can be achieved from using this model). From the same paper, Sessions gave TOGAF its lowest mark in the area of maturity model, which is the ability to assess your organization’s EA maturity using the methodology. The complete scoring is shown in the table below.

Table 1 – EA Framework Ratings

If your organization is adopting ITIL, there is a close linkage to EA within the service lifecycle of ITIL. The chart below (6) depicts the connections between TOGAF and the ITIL frameworks.

Figure 1 – ITIL and TOGAF Mapping

Within my company, our EA team has chosen TOGAF as its methodology for creating our enterprise architecture. The team has been in place for over two years now, and they are still very actively creating content in order to document my company’s EA. I have been part of the meetings where the EA team is performing interviews to collect data that feeds this content. As a manager in the Technology Support area, I can honestly say that my area has seen little value from the contributions of EA. However, it has helped our application development area understand how they impact the lines of business. The volume of information collected by the EA team to date is quite substantial, and the repository is fairly complex.

In summary, the selection of an EA framework is largely dependent on how much of the EA question is being addressed and what criteria are most important to the organization. With sufficient manpower and cooperation across business lines, TOGAF can yield a detailed picture of an organization’s enterprise that is second to none. However, with the complexity of the framework and the level of detail collected, maintenance of the EA under the TOGAF framework will be a continual effort.

Submitted by Paul McGuire









2 Responses to “TOGAF – The Best EA Framework?”

  1. Helen Todd said

    Paul, interesting and I liked your ratings chart. It leaves me wondering what our IT group follows or does. From the outside looking in I’m not sure I can tell. But, this gives me some framework to ask questions.

  2. Mike Gann said

    Ah, but Helen, that’s the modus operandi of IT departments. You aren’t supposed to know 🙂 Seriously though, the best IT department doesn’t bother users with details, stuff just works. All we have to do at that point is convince our management that we’re actually doing something to keep it that way.

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