Rationalizing Architecture Practice; The TOGAF Approach

December 2015

Traditionally, IT portfolios are managed by proprietary practices, evolved through past experience and shaped by rapid business needs and opportunities. Decision makers develop IT vision from experience, business culture, technology advancements, etc. and make investment decisions accordingly. Learn from experience iteration feeds this process continually. This approach has been workable on many occasions as long is it can be kept under control with help of talented professionals and matured governance practices.

Architecture functions bring well defined structures to this routine and the TOGAF Architecture Development Method (ADM) provides a repeatable process to develop and maintain architectures. Activities are carried out within an iterative cycle of continuous architecture definition and realization. Nevertheless, executing a comprehensive ADM cycle requires extensive resources with participation of various organizational units and stakeholders. This is considerable amount of investment that needs to be justified properly and may not be feasible due to organization specific factors.

TOGAF is well aware of this fact and allows tailoring of the framework to the circumstances of the individual organization or project. Scope of architecture activity may be limited and formality may be reduced without impairing the spirit of architecture. TOGAF also groups ADM phases within iteration cycles to direct focus to particular activities to achieve a specific purpose. These iteration cycles are named in line with the concentration of the activities involved and the desired outcomes to be achieved.

Architecture Capability Iteration establishes and evolves the capabilities of the architecture function for the enterprise. Typically, architecture capability is formed as an operation entity of the enterprise and relevant principles, organization structures, processes, roles, responsibilities and skills are developed.

Architecture Development Iteration produces architecture content through the Business, Information Systems, and Technology Architecture phases. Architects may primarily focus to model the existing architecture landscape (baseline) to identify problem areas and improvement opportunities, or primarily focus to design the desired architecture (target) reflecting the desired capabilities in scope.

Transition Planning Iteration drives the change process as per target architecture. Opportunities and constraints are assessed, work products are identified, grouped and prioritized, formal change roadmaps are created and managed.

Architecture Governance Iteration supports the change activity progress with governance practices to ensure business value is realized, resources are properly assigned and risks are managed within the architecture discipline.

Depending on the purpose of the architecture function engagement, particular focus may be on any or combination of the iteration cycles defined above while other ADM phases are covered lightly or informally. TOGAF defines three areas of architecture engagement and suggests specific iteration cycles to be focused on accordingly;

Identification of Required Change is the area where architecture function usually focuses on assessing IT capabilities, pursuing change opportunities and/or analyzing the potential impact of strategic technology choices. Architects may be engaged to work on a specific strategic question to test feasibility and to support realization of business strategy. In another case, architecture function may enhance service operation reporting (costs, functionality, availability,etc) by evaluating the IT portfolio and its alignment with business needs. Architecture Capability and Architecture Development iterations are the core activity areas for these cases as per TOGAF guidelines. Moreover, architects may support program / project management functions to support strategic decision making process on priorities and funding based on architectural factors. The motivation is mostly on the Transition Planning and Architecture Governance iteration cycles for these cases.

Definition of Change is the area when the need for change has already been identified and architecture function focuses on the design of building blocks composing the architecture and solution deliverables. When there is no shared vision of requirements and/or known objective for the change, the focus will be on the Architecture Capability and baseline Architecture Development iteration cycles. The priority here is to understand the problem and bring a structure to the definition of problem. When the desired outcome is already well understood and agreed -either from a prior architectural work or from another practice-, the focus will be on target Architecture Development and Transition Planning iteration cycles as per TOGAF guidelines.

Implementation of Change is the area when architectural solution model has been defined and architecture function is engaged for governance of implementation to ensure projects deliver the intended benefit and aligned with the overall business context. Architecture Governance is the iteration cycle to be focused for these cases.

In conclusion, TOGAF does not mandate strict rules or procedures to be followed for each architecture project. Architecture functions may be engaged to assist in various contexts and focus on a particular business problem. Architectures can be developed from summary to detail, broad to narrow coverage, and current state to future state. TOGAF suggests to use the concept of above iterations in developing the architecture.