You are starting out in a new career as an enterprise architect and are currently contemplating whether you should study The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF).
Or maybe you are planning a new major project that will transform an enterprise, and you’re wondering whether adopting TOGAF will help.
Perhaps you’ve been considering TOGAF for a while, but you’re still not sure if it’s the right approach for your enterprise architecture practice.
In every one of these situations, there is a need to assess TOGAF to see how helpful it will be in your new quest. Now, TOGAF is not the only approach to enterprise architecture; nor is it ‘complete’, in the sense that there are plenty of skills and techniques in enterprise architecture that TOGAF does not yet cover. So, you may want to consider alternative frameworks, approaches or methodologies in order to find one that best suits your needs.
I’d like to share three criteria that you can use to assess how helpful TOGAF, or any other EA approach, can be for your career, project, or practice.
1. Can it help you to be a better enterprise architect?
Being an effective enterprise architect requires a very special mindset. It requires the ability to understand and reconcile a wide range of diverse opinions, viewpoints, and concerns. It requires the ability to think strategically for long-term goals while also delivering short-term benefits. It requires you to think architecturally: to envision a big picture that is broad, deep and can encompass all lower-level details and minutiae.
To make it as an enterprise architect, you might need to let go of parts of the mindset that has worked for you in other roles. For example, if your background is in IT, you will need to broaden your horizons to include a business and managerial perspective. If your focus has been on designing a solution for a specific problem, then you will need to expand this narrow focus to include wider, contextual environments and make sure that every component works well with all the other components.
So, there is an element of learning new skills, while at the same time changing old, inappropriate habits. Ask yourself, does TOGAF cultivate a sense of what it means to be an enterprise architect? Does it emphasize the important characteristics, personality and behaviors of a good enterprise architect?
2. Can it help you to embed an effective EA practice in your organizational culture?
This second question is about how well TOGAF would fit into the culture of your organization or enterprise. Enterprise architecture works best in cultures that are grounded in the present, but also aware of the medium and long-term future; in cultures that accept the interconnections of everything, with leadership that recognizes the need for collaboration, cooperation and compromise.
In other words, with the best will in the world, enterprise architecture will not work in some organizations because they are just too short-sighted or narrow-minded to truly benefit from the insights that EA can offer.
So, the second question is: can TOGAF help you to successfully introduce EA to your enterprise? To some extent, this is an extension of the topic described in Chapter 26 of TOGAF – Business Transformation Readiness Assessment. Is your organization ready to adopt and use enterprise architecture techniques? Will it benefit from architectural thinking? []
Will TOGAF help you to establish a successful and effective practice in your enterprise? Do the sections of the Architecture Development Method (ADM), Skills Framework, or Content Framework meet the practical needs of your enterprise?
3. Can it encourage you to think for yourself?
Finally, does TOGAF encourage you to think for yourself? To a certain extent, we all need some guidelines and guidance to be able to practice as enterprise architects.
It is very useful when you come across a document or diagram that explains in just the right way, and with just the right amount of detail, what you need to know so that you can do it yourself. But when there is not enough detail, the examples are unclear or the theory isn’t matched with practical case studies, this might not be enough.
On the other hand, when you get too many step-by-step rules and procedures, they can sometimes get in the way and make it difficult for you to adapt things to meet your exact needs. Ready-made answers can also discourage independent thinking. Remember that every EA project is unique, even when it has some of the characteristics of similar projects. More importantly, every enterprise architect is also unique.
In practice, it is always from life and experience that we learn the most. TOGAF can only ever be a starting point. There is no single definitive EA approach, methodology or framework that is always right for everyone. There are no definitive answers to the three questions that I’ve asked in this blog, but keeping them in mind will help you pick and choose the most relevant guidance from TOGAF or elsewhere.
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 For a free overview of Architectural Thinking see https://enterprise-architecture-courses-online.thinkific.com/courses/architectural-thinking