Many organisations have discovered the value of using frameworks and methodologies. They provide a ready-made source of common-sense which can usually be applied to good purpose. Areas where this has been used to good effect are in project and service management. For around the last fifteen years or so, a framework has existed to help in the area of systems architecture. It is called the “Open Group Architecture Framework” or TOGAF for short.
Many people think of system architecture as a set of specialised software and hardware items which together provide a set of services to the user. But TOGAF sets its sights somewhat higher than this. For organisations to realise their mission fully, they need systems that together support the plans and aims laid down by the executive. Businesses evolve over time to meet the challenges of their sector. Systems have to evolve in tandem. TOGAF is concerned with successful evolution of the architecture of these systems, so that they remain fit for purpose.
What use is architecture, I hear you say? Understanding the architecture of systems helps to ensure the right functions are provided; that the data model is the most effective; that systems comply with regulations; that security is accounted for properly; that systems in general are aligned to the needs of the business. However, TOGAF does not tell you how to design architecture. The real benefit of TOGAF is that it describes the processes that you should go through in order to evolve/design your organisation’s system architecture. It does so by means of the “Architecture Development Method”, or ADM.
The ADM lays down in great detail the concerns that architects should address. It starts by making suggestions on how to build an architectural capability. Then it focuses on how architecture is defined, how a migration plan is made, and then how to monitor the implementation of a system to ensure it conforms to this plan.
Another major area addressed by TOGAF is the management of architectural change. The ADM in many ways is triggered by the need to respond to change. It embodies a requirements management approach which not only captures the details of change but also enables the impact of change to be properly considered in relation to the architecture.
TOGAF also addresses the complexity of organisations. This is an important additional perspective. In a really large organisation, such as a government, bank or multinational, it is very difficult to visualise systems in anything other than at the highest level. It is at this level that TOGAF can be used to great effect to transform the architecture. New technologies become available; new business models need to be enabled; the overall systems sometimes need to be adjusted after major organisational change, such as a merger. All of the scenarios can be addressed using the advice contained within TOGAF.
Perhaps one of the most important characteristics of the framework is the pragmatic approach it uses. It recognises that every organisation has its culture, its favourite practices, and even its favourite frameworks and methodologies. TOGAF provides advice on how to tailor TOGAF itself so that it fits in with the rest of the organisation. Look out for my next blog, which will explore this in a little more detail.
Written by John Coleshaw -John looks after the Enterprise and Solution Architecture courses offered by QA, leading providers of TOGAF training courses. This includes TOGAF, BCS and shortly ArchiMate. He has been active in this line of training since 2002 which puts him very much in the vanguard of trainers in this dynamic, but immature discipline. Over the years he’s met many hundreds of architects, from senior to junior, and provided training to many of the largest organisations in the UK. He is an author on the subject, and contributor to various frameworks and reference models. Before entering the training environment, John spent many years in industry and commerce, during which time he was involved in architecting insurance, credit risk analysis and financial information systems. He is an early adopter of
What is TOGAF and how does it benefit businesses?
technologies – internet-based systems in the early 90s; expert systems in the late 80s; object-oriented design and development at about the same time.