The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF) is a methodology, and a set of supporting tools (framework) used to develop an enterprise architecture (EA).
TOGAF was founded by the members of The Open Group who based the framework on TAFIM, (Technical Architecture Framework for Information Management) developed by the U.S. Department of Defense. The first version of TOGAF was released in 1995. TOGAF has gained much popularity since then, and professionals now consider TOGAF certification as a valuable skill to master.
So that we can have a common understanding of how TOGAF is crucial to an organization, and specifically to an IT organization, it is important to unpack some of the key terms in the above definition of TOGAF.
First, what is a framework? In TOGAF’s context, a framework is a detailed methodology and set of supporting tools.
Secondly, what is an enterprise? The TOGAF standard considers it to be any collection of organizations that share a single bottom line and/or a common set of goals. The term is used to include both:
- An entire group of units, including its technology, information, capabilities, and activities, that make up its governance and infrastructure, e.g., a whole corporation or a government agency. AND,
- Internal units or specific areas of interest within an organization, e.g., a division of a corporation or a government department.
Third, what is architecture? In TOGAF, depending on the context, an architecture can be defined as either:
- The formal or foundational description of a system or set of systems
- The structure of components, the relationship between the components, the guidelines, and the principles that govern their design and evolution.
The commonly accepted kinds of architecture or subsets of enterprise architecture as a whole include:
- Technology Architecture
- Business Architecture
- Data Architecture and
- Applications Architecture
The last two, Data and Applications architecture are together referred to as Information systems Architecture.
TOGAF is, therefore, a foundational architectural framework used to develop any one or all of the other subsets of enterprise architecture.
More specifically, TOGAF encompasses:
- An Architecture Development Method (ADM) or a step by step approach to developing an enterprise architecture
- Guidelines and Techniques for applying ADM and a TOGAF approach
- Architecture Content Framework or a description of the TOGAF Content Framework
- Enterprise Continuum and Tools
- Architecture Capability Framework including the organization, skills, processes, roles, and responsibilities necessary to establish and operate an architecture function in an enterprise
How TOGAF helps in developing Enterprise Architecture
Today, business leaders are fully aware that to gain a competitive advantage, management must be effective, but also importantly, digital, and information transformations must be leveraged. To address this very need, EA provides a strategic context that considers the ever-changing needs of the enterprise environment.
Why enterprises develop an Enterprise Architecture and how they do it?
The development of an EA or the revision of one is usually necessitated by a change. This change is often either a radical infrastructural change or a business transformational need. Stakeholders identify these areas of change that will best serve a newly emerged enterprise goal(s). Architects, on the other hand, address the concerns of the stakeholders in seeking to achieve the change. The architect does this by:
- Recognizing and refining stakeholder requirements
- Contextualizing the architecture to paint how stakeholder requirements and concerns will be addressed
- Revealing the trade-offs made in reconciling potentially conflicting stakeholder concerns
Without the EA, it is highly improbable that all stakeholder requirements and concerns will be met.
How is an EA useful to an organization?
A good EA allows organizations to achieve an optimal balance between continuous operational efficiency and business transformation. Essentially, EA allows individual units (e.g., business units) to innovate safely as they pursue evolving goals and a competitive advantage, while also enabling the entire group of units to have its needs met with an integrated strategy that allows synergies across the board.
How TOGAF is useful to EA
Ultimately, the primary purpose of an EA is to improve, enhance and augment fragmented legacy processes (both automated and manual) across the enterprise and integrate them into an environment that is responsive to change and supportive of the overall business strategy.
TOGAF serves EA by organizing the development process through a systematic approach that is designed to stay on budget, maintain timelines, reduce error, and align IT with internal business units to improve the quality of output.
Reasons why IT Organizations need TOGAF
An IT organization has the responsibility to develop, maintain and operate IT components within an enterprise architecture. Some of these IT components include data, applications, services, security, and infrastructure technology. An EA is useful in delivering these IT components in a systematic way that will address stakeholder goals and concerns.
An IT organization would, therefore, require an EA for the following reasons:
- To better understand and manage the IT landscape
- To gain a set of qualities, characteristics, or criteria to manage IT components
- To gain a holistic view of IT components including their environmental, organizational, and business context
- An enhanced capacity to deliver standard, available, or reusable IT components in any environment
- To manage and/or reduce IT complexity
An organization should choose TOGAF as the chosen EA methodology for the following specific reasons:
- Gain insight on how architecture development through ADM, is used to integrate and implement business strategy, IT strategy planning, IT development, solution design, and program/project management.
- Gain an Architectural Content Framework (ACF) that provides a context of other architectural frameworks and work products within the context of use. TOGAF does this by providing a broad definition for the different categories of deliverables with a particular focus on the method for developing these deliverables.
- Gain a reference model on how to populate and structure enterprise specific models
- Gain insight on how architecture governance is integrated with IT governance
- Reduced IT development, maintenance, and support costs
- Efficient IT operation
- Enhanced portability of applications
- Enhanced interoperability
- Manageable exchange and upgrade of IT components
- Improved ability to address sensitive enterprise issues, e.g., security
There are several other reasons to consider TOGAF including access to a library of resources that include foundational, generic, industry-specific, and, organization-specific guidance and techniques.
It is highly recommended that if you want to gain an in-depth understanding of all the essential components of TOGAF and how they can benefit your IT organization, or any enterprise for that matter, that you consider taking a TOGAF certification course.