This article covers many of the most prevalent problems with TOGAF. Many students and practitioners continue to ask questions such as “Is TOGAF still relevant?” and “How difficult is TOGAF certification?” With several TOGAF-equivalent certification courses on the market, it is important to be aware of what’s ‘wrong’ with TOGAF and how to work around it.
We dive into some of the complaints most commonly volunteered by practicing enterprise architects, complete with tips and links to help users get around the limitations of the TOGAF framework.
“TOGAF is difficult to understand.”
The issue: TOGAF doesn’t always explain enterprise architecture (EA) concepts in the best or easiest ways, and students can end up skipping key points without fully grasping them.
Some suggestions: When you get down to them, most of the techniques and concepts in EA are actually very easy to understand. They just need to be explained in straightforward language using good examples and clear diagrams. The issue is that these concepts and techniques are often described in ways that make them appear more complicated than they need to be!
To get around this problem, try creating your own simple explanations for each individual TOGAF concept or technique and make them as straightforward as you can. For example, the Enterprise Continuum can be broken down into several simple ideas, such as:
- Reuse rather than reinvent wherever possible
- Adapt generic ideas to fit your specific needs
- Enterprise architectures in the same industry segments may share several common EA components
It is often easier to grasp each of these ideas in isolation before combining them to make sense of larger concepts. There are even more ideas to consider in the Enterprise Continuum than those listed above, and plenty of other complicated concepts for you to break down as you study the framework.
“TOGAF does not have enough practical exercises.”
The issue: The best way to learn about EA is by putting its ideas into practice, but TOGAF focuses on teaching theory rather than explaining it through practical examples.
Some suggestions: This is a bit of a Catch-22 – to learn the theory, you need to put it into practice, but to practice as an enterprise architect, you first need to know the theory behind it! TOGAF does provide some examples in the form of the scenarios found in the Part 2 examination, and it also provides other cases (albeit randomly) in the documentation (such as Figure 31-2: Example Architecture View – The Open Group Business Domain). Unfortunately, because these examples are not part of a coherent or integrated case study, they may be difficult to apply to your own projects.
Try seeking out new case studies or examples of organizations applying TOGAF (ideally, you will be able to find some which show similarities to your own projects). You can find plenty of these by searching online (be sure to look out for any presentations made at EA conferences). You might also want to work through an iteration of the Architecture Development Method (ADM) using one of your examples as if you are using it in practice. Try to use several examples, as this will help take you from applying the basics of TOGAF to using more mature and complicated iterations of the framework.
“TOGAF misleads the naïve.”
The issue: TOGAF gives an impression of how enterprise architecture works that is quite divorced from reality. A novice might come to think that practicing EA is as simple as following the steps outlined in the TOGAF ADM. The fact that you can become TOGAF-certified after taking a short training course and passing two multiple-choice exams may also suggest that becoming an enterprise architect is easy!
Some suggestions: As with many professional disciplines, the day-to-day work of an enterprise architect is not a simple, sequential process. The description of the ADM might imply that EA simply comprises ten phases that are repeated over and over. The alphabetical labeling of the phases also suggests a sequential flow, while the crop circle diagram indicates a cyclical workflow. But an enterprise architect is faced with numerous challenges every day, with thoughts constantly switching from one project to another, from high-level considerations to minute details, from strategies to solutions, or between business and technical domains.
Because of this, you should bear in mind that once you have ’learned‘ TOGAF, you will probably need to unlearn it – or at least learn to adapt it to meet the realities of enterprise architecture. With EA, you learn the rules before you can break them. Becoming an enterprise architect is so much more than gaining a TOGAF certification, and it would be naïve for anyone to think that being TOGAF-certified is equivalent to being a fully qualified enterprise architect.
TOGAF is a starting point, not an endpoint. It is a part of enterprise architecture, but EA is far more than just TOGAF. You can learn about TOGAF on two levels, Foundation and Certified, but there will still be additional learning experiences beyond this. Even after you study how to apply TOGAF in practical situations, you will still have much more to learn in your enterprise architecture career (I started in EA in 1984 and even I’m still learning!)
How can I learn TOGAF practically?
Good e-Learning’s TOGAF 9.2 Certification & Implementation Suite offers a comprehensive and practical learning experience for enterprise architects. It offers everything you need to become a certified TOGAF practitioner, but it does more than simply teach theory!
Students can also enjoy:
- 200 multiple-choice practice exam questions
- White papers and posters demonstrating key TOGAF concepts and how to apply them practically
- 24/7 tutor support to ensure candidates can understand course materials
- Engaging certification training tools, such as audio-narratives, interactive videos, and customized graphics
- Full course access even on mobile phones and tablets
Best of all, students will also receive FREE vouchers for the official TOGAF Foundation and TOGAF Practitioner combined certification examination.
Remember, the best way to memorize the theory behind TOGAF is to practice applying it. Follow the advice above and search for case studies to use with your studies. You may even find that you can apply what you learn in your day job. With 12 months of course access, you will have more than enough time to fit studies around your work schedule.
How does ArchiMate support TOGAF?
ArchiMate 3.0 is an enterprise architecture modeling language. Like TOGAF, it is owned and updated by The Open Group, and in many ways it is designed to complement TOGAF as well as other EA frameworks.
As useful as enterprise architectures can be, they can often be too complex for uninitiated audiences to understand. The discipline is also becoming more complex as the growth of the Digital Age and the Internet of Things continue to reshape typical organizational structures.
In a nutshell, ArchiMate is used to create graphical representations of complex architectures. Simplifying them in this way can make the architectures far more simple to comprehend, making it easier for high-level managers and executives to make decisions based on them. ArchiMate practitioners can also vary the complexity of their diagrams, allowing them to present architectures to audiences of various backgrounds and experience levels.
Remember, creating clarity is a key part of effective enterprise architecture. An architect’s job is to enable major organizational changes quickly and efficiently. As such, many architects treat studying ArchiMate as the next stage in their training. They may even choose to study both TOGAF and Archimate in a combined practitioner suite.