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Enterprise architecture frameworks – TOGAF and MODAF

I’ve been looking at Enterprise Architecture frameworks such as TOGAF and MODAF as people have suggested that some of the work we have done on responsibility modeling relates to these. I can see a tenuous link but that’s not what this post is about.

EA frameworks strike me as the brontosauri of the methods world. They have a view that the world can be architected starting with the business and then (somehow) defining and enterprise architecture that tries to tie together all of the systems in that business. It’s all about top-down reductionism and nowhere is the inherent messiness and unpredictability of the world taken into account. They assume that you can set up stable business goals and use these as a driver for defining your enterprise and hence defining the set of systems that you need.

Well I have worked in several enterprises and have, like almost everyone else in these enterprises, have considered the stated business goals as a joke. Business goals are statements that may make senior managers feel good when presenting the business but they are so far removed from organizational reality that they don’t strike me as a good basis for defining a long term vision for systems in an enterprise. Problems with business goals are:

The personal goals of the people in the organization are not necessarily aligned with the business goals. People are driven by personal motivations (goals is too strong a word) and mostly couldn’t care less about the business goals. Why should they – in many large organizations, senior management are concerned with the shareholders rather than the people in the organization. The difference in rewards between the highest and lowest salaries in many enterprises is obscene and people are treated as disposable commodities.  At best, the people in an organization will ignore the business goals; at worst, they will actively oppose changes driven by these goals as they see them as undermining their ability to do their job.

Changes in the world are so significant that they overwhelm business intentions. Business goals can only be established on the assumption that there is some degree of stability in the world so that a plan derived from the goals can be executed. However, all of the evidence that we have suggests that no such stability exists. Things happen – collapsing banks, lack of credit, changes of government policy, new disruptive technologies, natural disasters, etc. that  mean plans have to be torn up and rethought.  A top-down, goal-driven view of the world is simply untenable.

This means, IMHO, that the basic premise of these EA frameworks is fundamentally flawed.

And, then we come to the complexity;  TOGAF is described in an 800-page book  and suggests literally tens of different views of the enterprise architecture that should be produced. No mention of the costs and difficulties of keeping these up to date or attempting to demonstrate/maintain consistency. Clearly the costs of introducing these EA frameworks are huge – and how can the benefits be assessed?

I used the term ‘brontosauri’ deliberately to describe these methods. Huge and the last of a line that is doomed. I have some doubts about agile methods in general but, when it comes to modeling, I’m in complete agreement. Just Barely Good Enough is definitely the right approach – agile modeling is immature but definitely the first of the mammals that will take over from the dinosaurs.

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