In my last blog entry I looked at some of the reservations that students had about TOGAF just after they’d completed the TOGAF training course. Because many students are new to it, the TOGAF material can be daunting at first, but students also have a lot of positive comments to make – about TOGAF and about the training.

So this time I want to take a look at some of the typical positive remarks that I get.

The most frequent comment I get is surprise that the TOGAF community is so large and growing rapidly. If you are taking the TOGAF training then it can’t be a bad thing that TOGAF is attracting so many supporters and that people are getting certified in such large numbers!

Some people who become TOGAF certified are indeed highly qualified enterprise architects – people who have been working in the field for many years and gained a wealth of experience. Others are relatively new to architecture, and some are taking the TOGAF training as their very first step towards becoming an EA professional.

Some might argue that for experienced architects TOGAF training isn’t necessary, while for novices it won’t be able to give them the necessary years of hands-on experience.

I would say that the key point is that the Open Group, through TOGAF, are providing a vital backbone to establish an emergent discipline and build a community of EA professionals.

What exactly is it about TOGAF that students like the most?

Many students go on to praise the fact that TOGAF is open and free-to-read. As such it provides an excellent body-of-knowledge about common EA practice. The Open Group say that this is “best” practice. I would argue that it is common practice and it may be good practice, but to be best practice requires highly experienced and knowledgeable practitioners.

It is also worth pointing out that it is difficult for the TOGAF documentation to keep up-to-date with the latest EA practice and techniques. But the body of knowledge that is freely available in TOGAF comes from contributions from a wide community of practicing architects, and this material is credible and generally well-received in the EA world.

In my last blog I said that students frequently find the breadth of TOGAF quite daunting. On the other hand, this breadth is one of the strong points of TOGAF. Although originally it was very IT-oriented, it has grown to become more business focused, and now ranges from business, through data and application, to technology architectures. The ADM process is also pretty thorough – covering both the architecture development and the governance and implementation of the architecture through solutions.

Some organizations have EA teams that don’t cover business or organizational concerns as well as IT concerns, or fail to adequately govern architectural evolution. As students often point out, in this respect the breadth of TOGAF makes sure that you include or think about things that might otherwise get forgotten.

Students and the ADM

Obviously covering the Architecture Development Method (ADM) takes up much of a training course, and the general impression is that this is a thorough and well-defined method. Students sometimes see the ADM as a bit prescriptive, so it is important to emphasize that the ADM should be adapted to meet your needs.

Here it is essential to point out that the guidelines and techniques described in Part III of TOGAF are in large part about adapting the ADM to need. There is always a danger that any documented process can be taken as rigid, whereas methodology always has to be flexible and adaptable.

Something that doesn’t always get the attention it needs in TOGAF training is the role of EA in guiding executive strategies, decision-making and investment! It is important to emphasize that enterprise architects aren’t the final decision makers. Good enterprise architecture explains stakeholder concerns in terms of the constraints that current architectures impose and provides potential resolution for stakeholder concerns in the form of future architectural options.

TOGAF actually provides good support for sound decision-making – from the guidance of the ADM, through the use of architectural principles, to the governance framework, the use of architectural contracts, and the documentation of architectural decisions. Sometimes students pick up on this aspect of TOGAF and appreciate the depth of its decision support; sometimes it is something that needs highlighting.

Highlighting the positives

The really positive point is that most students feel that TOGAF is going to be practical and useful to them when they get back to their work. Sometimes this comment is made with a comparison to other architecture frameworks.

For example, students might say that TOGAF appears to be more practical than some more theoretical frameworks, such as the Zachman Framework. Certainly the objective in TOGAF is to provide practical guidance based around sound EA theory, while some other architecture frameworks can appear to be too academic or complicated.

I always find it very enlightening to get student feedback at the end of a course. And the good news is that generally speaking, comments about TOGAF are positive!

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