Saturday, February 21, 2009

TOGAF 9: The missing link between IT and the business

In a recent and famous blog about the death of SOA, Anne Thomas Manes wrote:

After investing millions, IT systems are no better than before. In many organizations, things are worse: costs are higher, projects take longer, and systems are more fragile than ever. The people holding the purse strings have had enough. With the tight budgets of 2009, most organizations have cut funding for their SOA initiatives.
The small select group of organizations that has seen spectacular gains from SOA did so by treating it as an agent of transformation. In each of these success stories, SOA was just one aspect of the transformation effort. And here’s the secret to success: SOA needs to be part of something bigger. If it isn’t, then you need to ask yourself why you’ve been doing it.

In my opinion, that "something bigger" that Anne is referring to is Enterprise Architecture (EA), the missing link between IT and the business. There are several reasons why IT projects fail to deliver on their promise. The lack of EA expertise and practice is certainly one of them. If you ask a group of developers how they will go about architecting an SOA solution, the typical answer that you will hear is the use of some kind of agile or UML-based methodology for gathering the requirements and modelling the application. While these steps are required in any software development project, the lack of a methodology and governance framework for aligning IT with the overarching business context, vision, and drivers can lead to chaos and total failure. In the case of SOA, this situation creates a phenomenon known as JBOWS (Just a Bunch of Web Services) Architecture.

For people who are interested or responsible for EA in their organizations, this month has seen the release of two interesting publications:

  • "97 Things Every Software Architect Should Know: Collective Wisdom from the Experts" by O'Reilly Media
  • TOGAF 9 by the Open Group

In the first publication, several software architects share their experiences and lessons learned from the trenches. One of those "97 things" is entitled "Architecting is about balancing". I couldn't agree more. The wisdom of these experts will be a great asset to any software architect.

TOGAF 9 is an ambitious project by the Open Group to create a set of standardized semantics, methodology, and processes in the field of EA. IT professionals have been told repeatedly that they need to become business savvy in order to be more effective to their organizations. TOGAF 9 help them bridge the gap. The diagram below from the TOGAF 9 documentation provides an overview (click on the image to enlarge).

TOGAF 9 has a modular structure which permits an incremental approach to implementation and allows different stakeholders to focus on their respective concerns. The Architecture Development Method (ADM) describes a method for developing an enterprise architecture and is the core of TOGAF. The diagram below from the TOGAF 9 documentation shows the different phases of the ADM (click on the image to enlarge)..

The Content Framework specifies deliverables and artifacts for each architectural building block. These artifacts represent the output of the ADM. The specification provides guidance on how the ADM can be applied to SOA and enterprise security. TOGAF 9 also addresses the important issues of architecture partitioning and architecture repository.

Finally, the Open Group has been working on the adoption of an open EA modeling standard called ArchiMate. ArchiMate provides a higher level view of EA when compared to modeling standards such as BPMN and UML. It can be used to depict different layers of EA including business processes, applications, and technology in a way that can be consumed by non-technical business stakeholders. A sample of an ArchiMate enterprise view of a hospital can be found here.

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