PODCAST

Time to Step It Up, EAs

The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF) is maturing, and enterprise architects and business leaders are advancing and exploiting the latest Version 9.

The full embrace of TOGAF, its principles and methodologies are benefiting companies in their pursuit of improved innovation, responsiveness to markets and operational governance.

Is enterprise architecture (EA) joining other business transformation agents as a part of a larger and extended strategic value? How? And what exactly are the best practitioners of TOGAF getting for their efforts in terms of business achievements?

Here to answer such questions, and delve into advanced use and expanded benefits of EA frameworks, is Chris Forde, vice president of enterprise architecture and membership capabilities for The Open Group, who is based in Shanghai; and Jason Uppal, chief architect at QR Systems, based in Toronto. The panel is moderated by Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions.


Listen to the podcast (38:08 minutes).


Here are some excerpts:

Jason Uppal: This is a time for the enterprise architects to really step up to the plate and be accountable for real performance influence on the organization’s bottom line.

If we can improve things like exploiting assets better today than what we have, improve our planning program, and have very measurable and unambiguous performance indicator that we’re committing to, this is a huge step forward for enterprise architects and moving away from technology and frameworks to real-time problems that resonate with executives and align to business and in IT.

An example where EA has a huge impact in many of the organizations is … we’re able to capture the innovation that exists in the organization — and make that innovation real, as opposed to just suggestions that are thrown in a box, and nobody ever sees.

Say you define an end-to-end process using architecture development method (ADM) methods in TOGAF. This gives me a way to capture that innovation at the lowest level and then evolve it over time.

Those people who are part of the innovation at the beginning see their innovation or idea progressing through the organization, as the innovation gets aligned to value statements, and value statements get aligned to their capabilities, and to the strategies and the projects.

Therefore, if I make a suggestion of some sort, that innovation or idea is seen throughout the organization through the methods like ADM, and the linkage is explicit and very visible to the people. Therefore, they feel comfortable that their ideas are going somewhere, they are just not getting stuck.

So one of the things with a framework like a TOGAF is that, on the outside, it’s a framework. But at the same time, when you apply this along with the other disciplines, it’s making a big difference in the organization, because it’s allowing the IT organizations to .. actually exploit the current assets that they already have.

And [TOGAF helps] make sure the new assets that they do bring into the organization are aligned to the business needs.

Chris Forde: In the end, what you want to be seeing out of your architectural program is moving the key performance indicators (KPIs) for the business, the business levers. If that is related to cost reduction or is related to top-line numbers or whatever, that explicit linkage through to the business levers in an architecture program is critical.

Going back to the framework reference, what we have with TOGAF 9 is a number of assets, but primarily it’s a tool that’s available to be customized, and it’s expected to be customized.

You can start at the top and work your way down through the framework, from this kind of uber value proposition, right down through delivery to the departmental level or whatever. Or, you can come into the bottom, in the infrastructure layer, in IT for example, and work your way up. Or, you can come in at the middle. The question is what is impeding your company’s growth or your department’s growth, if those are the issues that are facing you.

If you come to the toolset with a problem, you need to focus the framework on the area that’s going to help you get rapid value to solving your particular problem set. So once you get into that particular space, then you can look at migrating out from that entry point, if that’s the approach, to expanding your use of the framework, the methods, the capabilities, that are implicit and explicit in the framework to address other areas.

One of the reasons that this framework is so useful in so many different dimensions is that it is a framework. It’s designed to be customized, and is applicable to many different problems.

Uppal: When we think about an advanced TOGAF use … it allows us to focus on the current assets that are under deployment in the organization. How do you get the most out of them? An advanced user can figure out how to standardize and scale those assets into a scalable way so therefore they become reusable in the organization.

As we move up the food chain from very technology-centric view of a more optimized and transformed scale, advanced users at that point look and say — a framework like TOGAF — they have all these tools in their back pocket.

Now, depending on the stakeholder that they’re working with, be that a CEO, a CFO, or a junior manager in the line of business, they can actually focus them on defining a specific capability that they are working toward and create transitional roadmaps. Once those transitional roadmaps are established, then they can drive that through.

An advanced user in the organization is somebody who has all these tools available to them, frameworks available to them, but at the same time, are very focused on a specific value delivery point in their scope.

One beauty of TOGAF is that, because we get to define what enterprise is and we are not told that we have to interview the CEO on day one, I can define an enterprise from a manager’s point of view or a CFO’s point of view and work within that framework. That to me is an advanced user. …

I use methods like TOGAF to define the capabilities in a business strategy that [leaders] are trying to optimize, where they are, and what they want to transition to.

This is where a framework allows me to be very creative, defining the capabilities and the transition points, and giving a roadmap to get to those transitions. That is the cleverness and cuteness of architecture work, and the real skills of an architect comes into, not in defining the framework, but defining the application of the framework to a specific business strategy. …

Because, what we do in the business space, and we have done it many times with the framework, is to look at the value chain of the organization. And looking at the value chain, then to map that out to the capabilities required.

Once we know those capabilities, then I can squarely put that question to the executives and say, “Tell me which capability you want to be the best at. Tell me what capability you want to lead the market in. And, tell me which capability you want to be mediocre and just be at below the benchmark in industry.”

Once I get an understanding of which capability I want to be the best at, that’s where I want to focus my energy. Those ones that I am prepared to live with being mediocre, then I can put another strategy into place and ask how I outsource these things, and focus my outsourcing deal on the cost and service.

This is opposed to having very confused contract with the outsourcer, where one day I’m outsourcing for the cost reasons. The other day, I’m outsourcing for growth reasons. It becomes very difficult for an organization to manage the contracts and bend it to provide the support.

That conversation, at the beginning, is getting executives to commit to which capability they want to be best at. That is a good conversation for an enterprise architect.

My personal experience has been that if I get a call back from the executive, and they say they want to be best at every one of them, then I say, “Well, you really don’t have a clue what you are talking about. You can’t be super fast and super good at every single thing that you do.”

Dana Gardner is president and principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, which tracks trends, delivers forecasts and interprets the competitive landscape of enterprise applications and software infrastructure markets for clients. He also produces BriefingsDirect sponsored podcasts. Follow Dana Gardner on Twitter. Disclosure: The Open Group sponsored this podcast.

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