TOGAF: How the EA Standard Improves IT/Business Alignment

    When I first started working, Total Quality Management was all the rage, and when my workplace embraced it, I thought it was brilliant. I loved the idea of pulling together to improve work quality and efficiency – especially since, as I saw it, the place needed to shake off some dust.

    Many of my colleagues had started working at the company right after high school and were now middle-aged. They felt a bit differently about it and were much less excited.

    Since then, I’ve seen TQM efforts  — and similar programs —collapse under the weight of their own metrics and processes. A few hopeful souls kept at it, while other employees tried to avoid the meetings because they wanted to focus on finishing “real work.”

    As a result, I’m a bit skeptical about any large-scale, long-term initiative.

    But at the same time, if anything needs that sort of deep thinking and disciplined approach, it’s IT and business processes. Technology is complicated and expensive, as are the processes many of us contend with on a day-to-day business. Frankly, I’m surprised some companies haven’t collapsed under the weight of their own complications.

    That makes me think that, for many organizations and IT divisions, the time is right for a discipline like enterprise architecture.

    Recently, I interviewed Sven van Dijk (@Vandijk_S), a consultant with BiZZdesign, about the values of TOGAF. It’s an open standard, which the Open Group provides for free to organizations using it internally for noncommercial purposes.

    Van Dijk is doing a presentation on his experience implementing enterprise architecture using the proprietary standard at The Open Group’s upcoming conference in Newport Beach, California.

    First of all, TOGAF can incorporate “lower-level” standards like Six Sigma, he explained. In fact, it can be used to bring those other kinds of initiatives into focus and alignment throughout the company.

    The key to success is to view TOGAF as a toolkit that you can apply to whatever situation you’re tackling at the enterprise level.

    “Sometimes you already see that organizations do a lot of stuff to improve parts of the organization, maybe the technology landscape or they’re creating a roadmap for applications,” he said.  “I’d use the TOGAF standard more to align all these separate initiatives and really place them into a context where the organization can derive more value from integrating these separate initiatives with each other.”

    Enterprise architecture began as an IT discipline, and while TOGAF has strong roots in technology architecture, in recent releases, it’s evolved out of IT and into a more strategic position between IT and the business. This makes TOGAF a tool not just for architecture, but also a tool for aligning IT and business goals.

    “The TOGAF really encourages organizations to engage the various stakeholders or enterprise architecture that are not only like technology disciplines such as application consultants or data specialists, but also business stakeholders, financial people, risk people and really try to involve them into the process model and that benefits the business and IT alignment much more,” van Dijk said.

    Van Dijk will speak on Monday at the Newport Beach conference, which runs from Monday through Friday. It’s the first conference of the year, but there are others if you’re interested in learning more about TOGAF.

    Loraine Lawson
    Loraine Lawson
    Loraine Lawson is a freelance writer specializing in technology and business issues, including integration, health care IT, cloud and Big Data.

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