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July 25th, 2006: Enterprise Architecture and The Open Group


Last week I attended a practitioners conference of The Open Group in Miami (Florida, USA) as an invited speaker. The Open Group is a consortium of, mainly, IT-vendors (Fujitsu, HP, Hitachi, IBM, NEC and Capgemini). They present themselves as "a vendor- and technology-neutral consortium, whose vision of Boundaryless Information Flow will enable access to integrated information within and between enterprises based on open standards and global interoperability".

Most issues presented at the conference were about and around Enterprise Architecture, The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF) and certification of IT architects. As short as possible:

  • Enterprise Architecture is seen by the Open Group as the way an IT infrastructure is put together and the way it supports its organisation.
  • TOGAF is a set of architectures that fit together. TOGAF has a process called Architecture Development Method (ADM). ADM is meant to create and maintain the TOGAF architectures.
  • A certification program for IT-architects called ITAC was presented. This program is is a collaborative effort to which several companies (including IBM and HP) contributed on peer basis.

A number of observations during and after this conference include:

  1. This conference offered excellent opportunity to talk to everybody and to learn a lot. The Open Group proved with this conference it is really a group open for discussion and alternative opinions. The organisation of the conference was first-rate.
  1. There was a kind of split in the people attending this practitioners conference. My feeling was it was a split like between push and pull. You may also call it people from the supplyside and people from the demandside:
    • Push / supplyside people where mostly related to the IT-industry. They were telling about their approach of Enterprise Architecture, and telling people about their successes and problems.
    • Pull / demandside was a quite different group of people. Most of them were looking for solutions for problems in their organisation. Most of them were somewhat hesitant on the concept of Enterprise Architecture as presented and discussed.

In my many discussions with people there was quite a difference of opinion between the two groups. The mainstream was that "supplyside" tried to convince "demandside" the Enterprise Architecture was the way to go.

  1. I had a number of discussions with people on the Architecture Development Method (ADM). It proved to be difficult to understand what this method is all about because it contains a process that is not creating IT-solutions. It's value for an organisation was hard to grasp.

ADM is designed to create the architectures of TOGAF, and to maintain them. People are talking about it as goal to be reached in itself; a number of architectures are to be developed and maintained so IT-professionals are able to create fitting and effective solutions. This is not a trivial task, but an enormous amount of work that may diminish in time, but may not end.

    My opinion? TOGAF is including business architecture, information systems architecture (incl. application architecture and data architecture) and technology architecture, current as well as future. The way these architecture are "filled" is, in my opinion, very technology oriented and therefore not very stable. I would be very hesitant to start such an amount of work because it's result may be very volatile due to its technical nature. And the most important can be done in much less time and with much less things to do and maintain.

  1. The question was put on the table by Capgemini to let the Open Group enter the field of business modeling and business architecture. In my opinion this work should not be done by IT-professionals. They are not educated to do this kind of work and their culture and communities do not fit the work t be done. Most surveys in practice in the past have shown this as a fact.

The Open Group, as a community of IT-vendors, would do better to look at other communities that do this kind of work instead of trying to get into this field themselves. It would really benefit their customers if they would strive to become the best contractors in the world.

  1. There were a number of presentations on certification of architects (see also the weblog on certification):
    • ITAC. This seems to be a very commendable activity for IT-architects to get accredited for the work they do, worldwide. Based on extensive work the contributing vendors the label independent for ITAC cannot be used in spite of the fact ITAC is a Open Group activity. The Open Group calls itself "vendor- and technology-neutral", so neutral is probably the best term, here, instead of independent.
    • ERIA. This presentation was not as the others. Capgemini proposed to base certification on intellectual and psychological testing and development. To my surprise there were hardly any professional criteria in the presentation, while the result should be that people can call themselves information architect. Strange, and I think out of the order for the information and IT sector. I would be very careful to propose to organisations, as employers, to expose their employees to psychological testing and personality development. I don't think, for instance, this kind of certification will be acceptable for unions for instance, because it basically introduces the possibility of manipulation of employees as a person by their employers (and others).
    • TOGAF. There was talk about TOGAF certification in several presentations. This certification was awarded when a professional has completed a TOGAF course and has proven to be able to work with TOGAF and ADM. This did not look like a professional certification. It was about courses where people learn to use a framework and method called TOGAF.
  1. It was also clear there were also a large number of political discussions in the Open Group itself on TOGAF, ADM and certification. These are usual when standards are discussed. These discussions were mainly kept out of the practitioner conference.

As a whole this practitioners conference was a useful event, full of information and discussion.

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