How to Apply Enterprise Architecture Frameworks in Today’s Digital Environment? 

I often hear that Enterprise Architecture would be an old-fashioned concept without any relevance to today’s IT architecture of companies. People say that “these concepts” are 20 to 30 years old and that this is the evidence that they are right. Let me first scope what “these concepts” are:

1)    TOGAF

The Open Group Architecture Framework, short TOGAF, is by far the most important and prominent enterprise architecture framework that is out there today. TOGAF has been first published in 1995 and is developed by several member firms in the industry including major players such as IBM or Oracle. TOGAF receives updates every few years with the latest update to TOGAF 9.2 in April 2018. As this is very recent, TOGAF is currently pushing the new version into the market; however, it will take some years for companies, training courses, and certified practitioners to adapt to the new update. Although TOGAF 9.2 now talks much more about the Digital Transformation and concepts such as business capabilities, looking at the framework as a whole, there have not been big changes over the years. Additional evidence for this is also that certified practitioners do only need to update their certification between major versions (e.g. TOGAF 8 and TOGAF 9), but not between smaller version changes (e.g. TOGAF 9.1 and TOGAF 9.2). Therefore, the current major release, TOGAF 9, is on the market for more than 7 years, as it has been published in 2011. This is a very long time in the area of digital and technology. In one of my next posts, I will write more about the new TOGAF 9.2 update.


2)    Zachman

The probably second most important architecture framework is the one from Zachman. It has been first published in 1987 and the most used version, Zachman v3 has been published in 2011. Zachman basically provides a matrix that suggests ways of how to look at your enterprise. As it is easy to apply, it is also often combined with the leading framework TOGAF.


3)    TAFIM

TAFIM is the Technical Architecture Framework for Information Management and is a framework developed by the US Department of Defense in 1994. The first version of TOGAF was also based on this framework. 


There are many more frameworks available, but the most famous ones are for sure TOGAF and Zachman. 

It becomes obvious that a large portion of the concepts, frameworks, and topics addressed in those enterprise architecture frameworks developed in the late 80s and 90s. If someone states that “these concepts” are outdated, it seems reasonable. 


What of TOGAF and Co is Outdated? 

First, let me point out what is not necessarily relevant anymore. Looking at the frameworks, I particularly find many definitions and terms that I do not immediately understand. At second sight, I can figure out what they mean. This is, because the wording of terms and their definitions changes over time. When somebody heard “Information Technology” in the 90s, the first topics somebody thought of were probably semiconductors, servers, personal computers, or LAN cables. Today, people rather think of topics such as cloud storage, data bandwidth, apps, or mobile. It is correct to think of all these topics in that context, however, a clear change of the perception of the term can be seen. This is also the reason why many terms and definitions have to be regularly adapted to not only be easily understood, but also to include the right scope. In any case, terms and definitions should always be tailored to an organization so that all relevant stakeholders can influence it and will accept it. Apart from the definitions and wording, it seems that graphics and illustrations generally neither changed since the first development. Using them as they are is probably a perfect way to make your enterprise architecture being perceived as outdated.


What is Still Relevant? 

So, what is actually still relevant? The beauty of these frameworks is their generic nature. They talk a lot about views, viewpoints, and ways to simplify the reality in order to make it understandable – from different perspectives. They also talk about the generic approach from identifying what you have today, where you want to be, what is the gap, how to get there, and how to achieve and keep that. They also talk about libraries for different documents, about useful templates, and about stakeholders and parties that have relevance for enterprise architecture. 

Because they simplify and abstract, the frameworks do hardly change if there is now a Chief Digital Officer in the organization, or all apps are operating in their own containers, or provided from a server of an outsourcing partner. The size and the speed of a server, the number of features, functionalities, and updates that an application or system receives are not important. 


What Do They Have to Adapt? 

Some other topics are still relevant today, but they need to be adapted or amended. The enterprise architecture layers and their mapping of IT landscape components is one example. Additional evidence for that fact is also that different frameworks talk about different layers. TOGAF, for instance, talks about the business, application, information systems, and the technology layer. In the era of more or less independent container apps and the Omni-present integration principle, these layers should be adapted. In one of my next posts, I will talk more about how this could be achieved. 

What do you think about TOGAF and Co? Are they still relevant today? How could they be improved? I look forward to your comments!