Monday, February 9, 2009

Interview: The Open Group's Allen Brown on advancing value of enterprise IT via architecture

Listen to the podcast. Download the podcast. Find it on iTunes and Podcast.com. Learn more. Sponsor: The Open Group.

Read a full transcript of the discussion.

The Open Group, a vendor- and technology-neutral consortium, last week delivered TOGAF 9 at the organization's 21st Enterprise Architecture Practitioners Conference in San Diego.

At the juncture of this new major release of the venerable enterprise IT architecture framework, it makes sense to examine the present and future of The Open Group itself, some of its goals, and what else it does for its members.

The global organization is actively certifying thousands of IT architecture practitioners, while using the commercial license to increase the contributor flow of best architecture practices back into TOGAF. Think of it as open source for best architecture principles and methods.

To better understand how The Open Group operates and drives value to its members, I recently interviewed Allen Brown, president and CEO of The Open Group.

Here are some excerpts:
The role of architecture is more important right now because of the complexity, because of the need to integrate across organizations and with business partners. You've got a situation where some of the member companies are integrated with more than a thousand other business partners. So, it's difficult to know where the parameters and boundaries of the organization are.

If you've trained everyone within your organization to use TOGAF, they're all speaking a common language and they're using a common approach. It's a common way of doing things. If you're bringing in systems integrators and contractors, and they are TOGAF certified also, they've got that same approach. If you're training people, you can train them more easily, because everyone speaks the same language.

One member I was talking to said that they've got something like 500,000 individuals inside their infrastructure that are not their own staff. So this is a concern that's becoming top of mind for CIOs: Who's in my infrastructure and what are they doing.

We've got, on one hand, the need for enterprise architecture to actually understand what's going on, to be able to map it, to be able to improve the processes, to retire the applications, and to drive forward on different processes. We've also got the rising need for security and security standards. Because you're integrated with other organizations, they need to be common standards.

... Security is now becoming top of mind for many CIOs. Many of them have the integration stuff sorted out. They've got processes in place for that, and they know how they're going to move forward with enterprise architecture. They're looking for more guidance and better standards -- and that's why TOGAF 9 is there.

We're now looking at other areas. We always look at new areas and see whether there is something unique that The Open Group could contribute where we can collaborate with other organizations and where we can actually help move things forward.

We're looking at cloud. We don't know if it's something that we can contribute to at this point, but we're examining it and we will continue to examine it.

The Open Group is broader than just enterprise architecture. The architecture forum is one of a number of forums including Security/Identity Management, the Platform, the UNIX standards, Real-Time and Embedded Systems, Enterprise Management Standards, and so forth. A lot of attention has been focused on enterprise architecture, because of the way that TOGAF has contributed, and some of the professional standards have raised.

TOGAF 9 really needed to add some more to TOGAF 8. In March 2007, I did a survey by talking to our members -- really just asking them open-ended questions. What are the key priorities you want from the next version of TOGAF? They said, "We need better guidance on how to align with our business and be able to cascade from that business down to what the IT guys need to deliver. We need more guidance, we need it simpler to use."

TOGAF 8 was very much focused on giving guidance on how to do enterprise architecture, and the key thing was the architecture development method. What they've done now is provide more guidance on how to do it, made it more modular, and made it easier to consume in bite-sized chunks.

Those were the two key driving forces behind where we were going, a more modular structure, and things like that. Trying to do those things, the members focused on how to bring that forward, and it's taken a lot of work.

Then they've added other things like a content framework. The content framework provides a meta model for how you can map from the architecture development method, but it also provides the foundation for tools vendors to construct tools that would be helpful for architects to work with TOGAF.

There are a couple of other things that we've done. First, we've introduced the IT Architect Certification (ITAC) program. That provides a certification to say not only that this person knows how to do architecture, but can demonstrate it to their peers.

... We've had to deal with much larger numbers of members and contributors, but it's not just TOGAF. It's not just a case of having a framework, a method, or a way of helping organizations do enterprise architecture. We're also concerned with raising the level of professionalism.

The ITAC certification is agnostic on method and framework. You don't have to know TOGAF to do that, but you have to be able to convince a board-level review that you do have experience and that you're worthy of being called an IT architect.

It requires a very substantial resume, and a very substantial review by peers to say that this person actually does know, and can demonstrate they've got the skills to do IT architecture.

If you can imagine a large consortium where you've got 300 member organizations -- which is a lot of people at the end of the day -- and everyone is contributing something and a smaller number is doing a real heavy lifting, you've got to get consensus around it. They have done a huge amount of work.

There is a capability framework, not a maturity model, but it's way of helping folks to set up their capability. There are a lot of things that now in TOGAF 9 that have built on the success of TOGAF 8, it has taken a huge amount of work by our members.

The great thing about TOGAF 9 is that we've had such a great reception from the analysts, bloggers, and so on. Many of them are giving us recommendations, and they say, "This is great, and here are my recommendations for where you go."

We've got to gather a lot of that together, and the architecture forum, the members, will take a look at that and then figure out where the plan goes. I know that they're going to be working on things more general, as well as TOGAF in the architecture space.
Read a full transcript of the discussion.

Listen to the podcast. Download the podcast. Find it on iTunes and Podcast.com. Learn more. Sponsor: The Open Group.

View more podcasts and resources from The Open Group's recent conferences and TOGAF 9 launch:

Live panel discussion on enterprise architecture trends

Deep dive into TOGAF 9 use benefits

Reporting on the TOGAF 9 launch

Panel discussion on security trends and needs

Panel discussion on cloud computing and enterprise architecture


Access the conference proceedings

General TOGAF 9 information

Introduction to TOGAF 9 whitepaper

Whitepaper on migrating from TOGAF 8.1.1 to version 9

TOGAF 9 certification information


TOGAF 9 Commercial Licensing program information