To start with, TOGAF has a strong pedigree. The Open Group is a very well established global consortium, formed in 1996 – so it has been around for some time.
It is supported by over 400 member organizations, and these range from IT vendors and consulting groups, through government agencies, to many of the world’s leading commercial organizations. Through its various member forums The Open Group provides a platform for discussing and defining requirements for standards and certification programs.
The Open Group and TOGAF
The Open Group offers a number of certifications, and TOGAF is one of the best known. The Open Group Architecture Forum comprises more than 200 enterprises, and together they are committed to gradually improving TOGAF – through iterative or maintenance improvements such as the latest 9.1 release, or the next major updates, version 10 – which is in development. So there is plenty of ongoing support for the work that the Open Group is doing in the architecture space, and this isn’t likely to change.
As well as corporate support and sponsorship, there are a growing number of individuals who have TOGAF certification. The total number of TOFAF certifications is 22,876, of which nearly 16,000 are fully TOGAF 9 certified. This is an impressive number, and the figure is steadily growing.
TOGAF – The negatives
That is all positive news, but what about the downsides?
TOGAF continues to have its detractors, and while some of the criticism is undeserved, there are some points that are quite reasonable concerns. The TOGAF exam is the subject of frequent vilification! In comparison to other professional disciplines – such as doctors, lawyers or building architects – the time needed to “learn” TOGAF and pass the exam is ridiculously short. I know of at least one person, with no experience whatsoever as an enterprise architect, who became certified in order to run TOGAF training courses!
Then there is the TOGAF exam itself, which often seems to be testing how well you can remember the gospel according to TOGAF rather than having any understanding of its concepts and or the practicalities of being an architect.
Then there is the content of TOGAF. It is very difficult to keep material like this up-to-date as the subject matter is constantly shifting and improving. It is even harder when the process for keeping it up-to-date involves a community of people with different priorities and viewpoints.
As a consequence, some of the material in the TOGAF documentation is a bit dated, and some lacks detail. For example, the reference architectures (the Technical Reference Model and Integrated Information Infrastructure Reference Model in TOGAF Part VI) are often seen as needing an overhaul. And some of the latest techniques and current practice in enterprise architecture are simply not yet covered by TOGAF.
TOGAF is adaptable
On balance? TOGAF is certainly not perfect, but then it makes the point that it should always be adapted and customized to suit the particular needs of an enterprise. There is a danger that some might take the TOGAF certification as a serious indication of skill and expertise, rather than recognising it for what it is. But at least the Open Group is making a valiant effort to document EA best practice and promote the notion of enterprise architecture as a professional discipline.
In the short term it seems unlikely that anything else will come along to usurp TOGAF. It seems to have achieved enough critical mass to become well established.
But in the long, long term I think one of two things will happen. If enterprise architecture is here to stay, then gradually it will become more established as a professional discipline – which will mean that more formal training and qualifications will become the norm.
There are already universities degrees in enterprise architecture, and several organizations have been set up to improve the professional status of EA.
But I also think that the ideas of enterprise architecture will become better understood, and will become more accepted and better integrated with other disciplines – in particular enterprise transformation and strategic thinking. If that happens, then the leading architects will be known by reputation, in a way similar to great building architects.
TOGAF is therefore a starting point and part of the process, but not the final destination.