Challenges of Adopting TOGAF®

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When you get down to it, an enterprise architect’s job is to provide organizations with perspective. They create ‘architectures’ of how teams, departments, and processes are connected within a business as well as how they contribute towards strategic goals. This is not a new idea, by any means, but it is certainly one that has become more popular with time. After all, the Digital Age has transformed the way businesses operate, with greater interconnectivity making alignment and collaboration more important than ever. This, in turn, has also led to an upsurge in popularity for EA frameworks like TOGAF.

However, the potential and popularity of enterprise architecture have led many organizations to treat it as somewhat of a simple fix. Companies may misinterpret TOGAF as a project management methodology, or they may set up EA practices in a way that inevitably torpedos initiatives and stops them from achieving optimized ROIs. Even certified TOGAF practitioners can struggle to overcome common EA challenges if they fail to prepare.

So, what are some of the most important points to keep in mind when implementing TOGAF for the first time? Here are some of the crucial TOGAF challenges to watch out for!

A Lack of Long-Term Thinking

Using TOGAF to create architectures of an organization can have many benefits. For one, these maps can reveal inefficiencies or flaws in internal processes and relationships, helping companies optimize them.

However, it is important not to get bogged down with this kind of thinking. Ultimately, enterprise architecture is a tool for enterprise transformation. TOGAF practitioners create architectures of both where a company is and where it needs to be in order to achieve strategic goals. Individual projects undoubtedly play a significant role in facilitating such change initiatives, but they must always have a higher purpose and remain strategically aligned.

In short, do not make the mistake of having EA initiatives focus solely on immediate problems and gains. Some practitioners even skip the stage of building architectural awareness, potentially missing out on the high-level benefits on offer when the framework is used against real challenges and priorities.

A Narrow Perspective

Enterprise architects endeavor to understand the context, strategy, and challenges of a business in relation to its strategic goals. As they need to view businesses as a whole, this can sometimes leave them restricted to a high-level strategic perspective.

While this is hardly a problem from a strategic point of view, disconnection from ground-level activities may lead to a skewed awareness of how beneficial proposed changes might be. Architects may even fail to account for resistance to transformational initiatives, causing potential roadblocks or even limiting ROIs.

To avoid this, TOGAF practitioners are advised to maintain communication with multiple departments and levels of authority. Architects should work to discuss upcoming initiatives with staff to collect their feedback and advise them on how day-to-day operations will be affected. By keeping staff up to date and taking their ideas into consideration, TOGAF practitioners can greatly ease the process of implementing architectural changes.

Focusing Too Much on IT Over Business

The issue of having the correct perspective also applies to TOGAF’s relationship with IT. Many enterprise architects focus on the technical architecture of a business, and while this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it does overlook the interconnected nature of business and IT.

Long gone are the days when IT was merely a tool used to support business functions. It is now so irreversibly embedded throughout modern business operations that any change to IT is almost certain to have a business impact elsewhere. Even worse, as part of an architect’s job is to outline the results of different choices to stakeholders, failing to consider the effects on business functions could be disastrous.

Remember, IT is, ultimately, a tool for helping organizations achieve their strategic aims. No decision on IT or business architecture should be made in a silo, or a TOGAF practitioner can end up causing new problems for every gain they make.

Not Thinking Flexibly

TOGAF is undoubtedly a huge name in the world of enterprise architecture, but that doesn’t mean the framework is infallible. Nor is it a ‘methodology’ that must be followed to the letter, but rather a ‘framework’ that should be considered and implemented with a flexible mindset. Indeed, TOGAF practitioners will often vary how they implement the framework, including the order for different stages in the ADM!

By making TOGAF flexible, the Open Group greatly expanded the number of organizations that can use the framework, as well as the EA initiatives it can be applied to. This has helped make TOGAF exceedingly popular, even considering the limitations of having just one approach. Practitioners even collaborate to inform others about what’s wrong with TOGAF and how to make up for it.

It is also worth pointing out that EA is constantly evolving. Practitioners must remain aware of new developments and tools which could improve their own practices, especially considering it takes several years for each new TOGAF update to be released. One of the best ways to do this is by joining EA forums, such as those operated by the Open Group.

In short, it is important not to treat the TOGAF framework as a strict to-do list. It can be safely adapted to suit various EA initiatives across almost any organization. Rather than treating TOGAF as a tool, think of it as a partner for your own EA journey.

No Clear Communication

A common challenge faced by TOGAF users is that the benefits of the framework, as well as EA in general, are not self-explanatory. Having an ‘architecture’ sounds nice, but what does it do in terms of brass tacks? If employees and managers do not understand how following architectural initiatives can improve things, they are unlikely to lend their support.

As frustrating as this can be, it is usually down to nothing more than poor communication. A TOGAF practitioner must take the time to describe their work in ways that focus on business and strategic value. They must also be capable of simplifying their language if necessary, and many will even utilize EA communication tools like the ArchiMate graphical language to get their points across. Other times, businesses will invest in TOGAF Essentials training to upskill non-architects in how to understand and support enterprise architects.

Remember, helping members of an organization to understand the benefits of TOGAF is essential to its implementation. With greater understanding and support, you will experience much greater success with EA initiatives.

Have a Targeted Approach

In a large enterprise, developing holistic architectural awareness takes time. It may not be feasible to map out an entire organization, or, at least, it may not be pertinent to wait until doing so before attempting architectural change.

This may appear to contradict what we said earlier about not focusing too much on immediate problems. However, having a targeted approach is not the same as siloed thinking. Indeed, even when focusing on individual areas of a business, TOGAF practitioners will still build awareness of its connections elsewhere. Because of this, architects can focus on improving individual capability areas while keeping a clear picture of how other areas will be affected by proposed changes.

It is also worth noting that businesses are always changing. Architects do not need to go into an obsessive amount of detail if the information contained in resulting architectures will quickly become outdated. That being said, TOGAF practitioners can also reuse architectural artifacts for different initiatives, speeding up their work as they continue along at the same organization.

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