TOGAF and the Framework Universe of 2010

As opposed to other architecture frameworks that take a more ontology based approach, TOGAF focuses more on how to describe an architecture than on what aspects must be described.

Ever since John Zachman first described his Framework for Information Systems Architecture, in 1987, the idea has

been growing in influence. Today, the big new kid on the block is The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF), a creature of the Open Group industry consortium. In addition, there are a slew of other framework acronyms in use.

That’s a potential source of confusion. And, as Zachman notes, frameworks are not always comparable.  “My Framework is an ontology, whereas most other frameworks that are popular today are very methodology-oriented.  These are two completely different things.  An ontology is not a methodology and vice-versa.”

Put another way, "Zachman focused on what to describe; not on how you do it but what it is that you must describe in order to describe a comprehensive enterprise architecture," says David Hornford,  architecture chairman at the Open Group and an enterprise architect in his own right. And, he continues, each of the frameworks developed since Zachman’s pioneering work have focused on solving a slightly different problem. For example, he notes, the US Department of Defense Architectural Framework (DODAF) is focused on interoperability across time and organizational domains. It has a set of artifacts that must be produced to show how you will interoperate.

Similarly, the United States Office of Management and Budget has the Federal Enterprise Architecture (FEA), which is focused on the US federal government problems, namely on organizational simplification.

TOGAF methodology

TOGAF, for its part, is focused on how you do architecture not what you describe. So, explains Hornford, it has been very focused on methods. TOGAF evolved based on the needs of Open Group members and what they wanted in terms of common methods – not a common set of descriptors. You can happily use TOGAF methods with DODAF or Zachman descriptors and FIA descriptors. “Up until the last release, TOGAF was very quiet on what you actually described,” adds Hornford.

Some use TOGAF to create an EA in DODAF and it is very common for people to use TOGAF to create a Zachman architecture, says Hornford. “The big change that is happening in TOGAF is to be more descriptive about what is produced and as TOGAF evolves down that pathway there will be more competition with Zachman because TOGAF won’t go to a federal or DOD descriptor, it will go to a generic descriptor usable in multiple industries.

That’s surely progress, according to Gartner analyst Henry Peyret.  The title of one of his 2009 papers seems to betray his approval: “Use TOGAF 9 As Your Next EA Framework.”  Still, Peyret says TOGAF is not all things to all people; it is simply the best known framework.

Concerns about TOGAF

“It is not perfect. In fact, the way it was built, the coverage is driven first by customer requirements and then it involves consultants such as Capgemini and SAP. They are providing their knowledge. However that means we are only collecting best practices, not building next practices. Peyret says it takes from one to three years to build a new version of a framework so if you are looking for the next practice; even TOGAF version 9 is still not covering some important subjects. For example, Peyret says TOGAF is weak on the communication aspects and marketing of an EA as well as the metrics and value of an EA or even building an EA strategy. “The plan and the business architecture are not well covered within TOGAF and all of those subjects are lacking, though some are being worked on within different parts of the Open Group,” he says.

In terms of selecting the right framework for your needs, Peyret says TOGAF is best thought of as a tool box. “For someone who has some expertise, it provides a library of best practices.”  Then, he notes there are framework offerings from consulting companies such as Capgemini. “The only free framework that I am aware of is Pragmatic EA Framework (PEAF) which comes from the UK,” he adds.

In addition, there are many government sponsored efforts, including DODAF and FEA noted above, as well as the United Kingdom Ministry of Defence Architectural Framework (MODAF).

Whichever one you select, Peyret recommends working with a consultant if possible. “When you adopt a framework you need to adapt it to your needs, tuning it to what you need to accomplish,” he says.  And, he warns, the worst thing you can do with TOGAF or any other framework is to follow it slavishly.  “If you work with a consulting company, be sure they aren’t purists – you don’t want to use the methodology just for the sake of the methodology,” he adds.

This was first published in December 2010

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