How to Apply Enterprise Architecture Frameworks in Today’s Digital Environment? 

I often hear that Enterprise Architecture would be an old-fashioned concept without any relevance to today’s IT architecture of companies. People say that “these concepts” are 20 to 30 years old and that this is the evidence that they are right. Let me first scope what “these concepts” are:


The Open Group Architecture Framework, short TOGAF, is by far the most important and prominent enterprise architecture framework for today´s professionals. TOGAF has been first published in 1995 and was developed by several member firms of The Open Group, including major players such as IBM and Oracle. TOGAF is updated every few years with the latest release version TOGAF 9.2 in April 2018. Currently, TOGAF is pushing the new version into the market. Given the size of the enterprise architecture industry, it will take some years for companies, training courses, and certified practitioners to adapt to the new update.

Although TOGAF 9.2 includes more content relevant to the Digital Transformation and covers concepts such as business capabilities, the overall content has not changed much. Additional evidence is that certified practitioners do only need to update their certification between major versions (e.g. TOGAF 8 and TOGAF 9), but not between smaller version changes (e.g. TOGAF 9.1 and TOGAF 9.2). Therefore, the current major release, TOGAF 9, is on the market for more than 9 years, as it has been published in 2011. This is a very long time in the area of digital and technology. In this post, I analyze in detail the new TOGAF 9.2 update. If you want to learn more about the content of TOGAF, consider this article that provides an overview and further links to more detailed content.


2) Zachman

In terms of importance second to TOGAF, there is the Zachman framework. It has been first published in 1987 and the most used version, Zachman v3 has been published in 2011. Zachman provides a matrix that suggests ways how to view your enterprise. As it is easy to apply, it is also often combined with the leading framework TOGAF. The six classification names of the Zachman framework are What, How, Where, Who, When, and Why. The six audience perspectives are the Executive perspective, business management perspective, architect perspective, engineer perspective, technician perspective, and enterprise perspective. The framework looks like the following:



TAFIM is the Technical Architecture Framework for Information Management and is a framework developed by the US Department of Defense in 1994. The first version of TOGAF was also based on this framework. 


4) ArchiMate 

ArchiMate is a framework and a modelling language which is increasingly becoming more popular. The version 1.0 was released in 2004, the current version, 3.1 was released beginning of 2020. Since 2008, ArchiMate is part of The Open Group, which is also the author of TOGAF. The ArchiMate framework and notation is increasingly becoming popular and the framework has received substantial amendments since its first release. The latest version looks like the following:  

Many more frameworks exist. However, in the context of this brief overview, TOGAF, Zachman, and increasingly ArchiMate should be remembered as the most relevant ones.

The above overview shows that, except for ArchiMate, most frameworks were developed in the late 80s and 90s. It therefore sounds reasonable of someone states that “these concepts” seem outdated.


What of TOGAF and Co is Outdated? 

Looking at the frameworks, I encounter several definitions and terms that I do not immediately understand. Although they often describe rather simple topics, I need some time to understand what they actually mean. This happens, because definitions should be adapted from time to time to reflect new circumstances.

For instance, when somebody heard “Information Technology” in the 90s, the first topics somebody thought of were probably semiconductors, servers, personal computers, or LAN cables. Those associations are all true. However, someone today would rather first think of topics such as cloud storage, data bandwidth, apps, or mobile. While such associations were not true in the past, they are very important today. Therefore, definitions need to be revised and adapted to a new scope, constraints, and also related terms that are new in order to stay valuable definitions. However, do not forget that, in any case, terms and definitions should always be tailored to an organization so that all relevant stakeholders can influence it and will accept it.

Another aspect that is of little use nowadays is content that focuses on developing technologies, such as the TOGAF reference models regarding a Boundaryless Information Flow and the Technical Reference Model. Given the pace that the underlying technologies develops, the release cycle of TOGAF is just too long. Publications that are not bound to release cycles and that can publish more frequently and independently generally offer a better fit to today´s situations.

Lastly, there is one aspect that is not as serious as the aspects above, but that I often see as an argument for stakeholders not to use the above mentioned frameworks. Many of them just do not update their graphics and illustrations, so they still use the originals that were generated with the tools an in the design that was used many years ago! While this is not a content-argument, it is probably a perfect way to make content look outdated.


What is Still Relevant? 

So, what is actually still relevant? The beauty of these frameworks is their generic nature. They talk a lot about views, viewpoints, and ways to simplify the reality in order to make it understandable – from different perspectives. They also talk about the generic approach from identifying what you have today, where you want to be, what is the gap, how to get there, and how to achieve and keep that. They also talk about libraries for different documents, about useful templates, and about stakeholders and parties that have relevance for enterprise architecture. 

Because they simplify and abstract, the frameworks are not impacted by new roles, such as a “Chief Digital Officer”, by new technologies and trends such as containerizing your application landscape, or by outsourcing parts of your landscape to another supplier. The simplification and abstraction makes the size, speed of a server, the number of features, functionalities, and updates that an application or system receives irrelevant to the heart of the frameworks. 


What Should the Models Adapt? 

The last category of content is the one that is still relevant today, but needs to be adapted or amended. The enterprise architecture layers of TOGAF are one example and this becomes even more obvious as newer frameworks use different architecture layers, such as the BAIT or the BAIT+S model. In this post about the TOGAF Architecture Development Method (ADM), I go into detail about how the TOGAF architecture layers should be changed.

What do you think about TOGAF and Co? Are they still relevant today? How could they be improved? I look forward to your comments!


(This post is an updated version of the original post from May 2018)


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