Enterprise architecture (EA) frameworks like The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF) and the Zachman Framework offer powerful reference models through which enterprises can build out infrastructures that try to better align business and IT. Obviously every organization has its own approach to architecture, making it something of a relative concept. But does that mean enterprise architecture is arbitrary?
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John Zachman himself recently wrote a post in which he seemed to chide much of the IT world for not treating EA as a serious enough discipline. Zachman said EA is relative, but not arbitrary:
This is what is killing Enterprise Architecture… every computer programmer, systems designer, software architect, solutions architect, technology architect, computer operator, PC owner, data architect, database architect, network architect, business analyst, systems analyst, enterprise architect, service architect, object architect, project manager and CIO calls whatever they want to or maybe, whatever they are doing, “Architecture.” It is chaos. No wonder we don’t have Enterprises that are coherent, integrated, flexible, dynamic, interoperable, reusable, aligned, lean and mean and working.
If building architects and non-IT engineers treated their own disciplines as “arbitrary,” Zachman wrote, we would not have skyscrapers and jetliners. Perhaps in an ideal world, EA would always be ruled by common frameworks, information models and the like – but this doesn’t seem to be the case. If an airliner crashes, people die. If there is a bug in the enterprise software, some money is lost and it gets patched.
As much as Zachman may dream of a perfect world where enterprise architects all follow a common framework, changing business needs, licensing costs, skill availability, M&A, corporate politics and many other factors make that world but a distant hope.
That is not to say numerous enterprises aren’t trying to get behind some of these frameworks. The Open Group released some statistics recently saying that more than 2,000 individuals were certified in TOGAF 9 over the past year and more than 83,000 copies of the framework have been downloaded.
At The Open Group, the evolution of TOGAF toward version 9 has focused on bringing EA from an IT-driven endeavor to one that the business shares. A lot of this has to do with communication, said Gary Doherty, TOGAF product manager at The Open Group.
“By improving the ability of enterprise architects to communicate,” said Doherty, “that is improving the ability of enterprise architects to operate across an organization.”
Doherty said TOGAF 9 shows faster adoption than the framework’s previous versions. He added that it has been most popular in the U.S., U.K., The Netherlands and South Africa.
For architects focused more on the defense industry, there is the Department of Defense Architecture Framework (DoDAF) and Ministry of Defense Architecture Framework (MODAF). Both of these are at the center of a new training program offered by No Magic for learning the Unified Profile for DoDAF and MODAF (UPDM). UPDM is a modeling standard for both of these defense-centered architecture frameworks.
Returning to Zachman, there are indeed a number of great industry standards out there and common frameworks for EA seem to be growing in popularity. Yet it seems common practice for enterprises to refer to these frameworks as reference materials rather than a codified methodology. So do enterprise architects need to follow their framework of choice in blind faith, or are none of these frameworks so polished yet that this would even be viable?