Monday, February 09, 2009

Interview: The Open Group's CEO Allen Brown on Advancing the Value of Enterprise IT Through Architecture

Transcript of a podcast with Allen Brown, president and CEO of The Open Group on TOGAF 9 and its effect on enterprise architecture and IT productivity.

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

Dana Gardner: Hi, this is Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions and you're listening to BriefingsDirect. Today, we welcome our listeners to a sponsored podcast discussion coming to you from The Open Group's 21st Enterprise Architecture Practitioners Conference in San Diego, the week of February 2, 2009.

Our topic for this podcast, part of a series on events and major topics at this conference, centers on The Open Group itself. We're going to be talking with Allen Brown, president and CEO of The Open Group, about the organization and the arrival of TOGAF 9, a major release of its enterprise architecture framework. (Download the TOGAF 9 whitepaper.)

We're going to be discussing how The Open Group operates, some of its goals, and what it does for its members. It's an open and neutral vendor and technology-neutral consortium. It's been around for over 20 years in several different forms. We're going to learn more about the history, but I'm particularly interested in the future.

So, allow me to welcome Allen Brown. Thanks, Allen.

Allen Brown: Thanks, Dana.

Gardner: The Open Group this week has delivered TOGAF 9, a major undertaking for you. I think you referred to it as like having a baby -- a long gestation period and then a tumultuous endpoint. Tell us why TOGAF 9 is such an important milestone for The Open Group?

Brown: TOGAF 9 really feeds into the vision of The Open Group. We've been working on TOGAF for about 15 years. Bear in mind, Dana, that everything that The Open Group does is driven by the members. The vision was driven by the members. All of the work that's gone into TOGAF 9 and all of the other standards are driven by the members, supported by the staff, of course.

Back in 2002 the members were looking for a solution to the problem of stovepipe applications. They all dealt with cross-functional teams, breaking down the boundaries within and between organizations. They found that the applications didn't work in that way, and they needed some way of getting what they called an "integrated information infrastructure."

We worked through that and came up with the guiding light, if you will, for the vision statement of boundaryless information flow. As we worked through, we found that TOGAF was taking off.

TOGAF 8 really took off, when we focused on that subject and we included the enterprise edition of TOGAF 8, coinciding with everyone's need to take a much broader view of their organization. No application lives in a silo anymore. Anything that's done has to integrate with everything else. You have to take a city-planner view to what you do.

So, at the same time as all organizations had this need to have a boundaryless organization with information flowing in a boundaryless way, TOGAF was an ideal method for how you would help that to happen. Whatever other framework you might use, none of them gave the actual guidance to get you there. TOGAF 8 really pushed us in that direction.

A need to move forward

Since then, over the last three or four years, the members have been working on what the next edition would be. TOGAF 8 was so good that it needed a move forward. I think someone described TOGAF 8 as 500 pages of common sense that you don't have to think of yourself. It's a common guide. It's also treated by those organizations that use TOGAF as a common language.

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. (More information on TOGAF certification.)

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."

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

Gardner: Over the past several years, and perhaps over a decade, the role of enterprise architecture itself has been elevated. This, I think, is largely a function of the maturity of how IT is done, but also because of the complexity in a number of different variables and the importance of IT to some of these large global enterprises.

As we've seen an elevation in the importance in the role of enterprise architecture, how has The Open Group changed over that same period to align itself with that growing importance of architecture?

Raising the level of professionalism

Brown: The architecture forum itself has grown. The membership numbers have grown, and 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.

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.

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.

Gardner: This would be someone at that city-planner level, rather than the actual application or even a subset of building architect, to continue the metaphor.

Brown: There are a lot of different areas where we can get confused with enterprise architects. They're not developing applications and they're not architecting applications. They're actually looking at how you can introduce solutions across an enterprise.

The other thing we've done to raise the level of professionalism is to introduce in San Diego two years ago The Association of Open Group Enterprise Architects. That was focused on individuals who could come along and raise the level of professionalism throughout. We launched it the end of January 2007 here.

We now have more than 9,000 members, which shows that the degree of urgency and importance of trying to raise this level of professionalism.

Gardner: Why do you think the very rapid uptake in certification has taken place? I suppose there's both a supply and demand element to it. The folks who are practitioners themselves want to hang their shingle out as best they can. I'm told that the income and career trajectory for those with certification is quite significant and improved over those without.

Also, for the organizations that are in the hiring mode it helps them find qualified people. But, is there something larger at work here, perhaps in regards to our economy right now where we have so much risk. We're dealing with so many dynamic variables. What is it about certification in a recession that makes it all the more important?

Hiring the right people

Brown: Well, in a recession -- and we're early into this period -- a couple of things happen. One is that jobs are scarcer. So, people are looking for qualifications in the people that they're hiring or retaining. Certification is a way of making sure that you're hiring or retaining the right people.

The other thing with certification in TOGAF is that you're making sure that everyone is consistent in their approach. With ITAC, you're making sure that people have got the skills and they're not just claiming to be enterprise architects or IT architects without having demonstrable skills.

So there is a demand pull for those qualifications. There is also more need on the side of individuals to be certified or credentialed in the market.

Gardner: You're also involved with commercial licensing. Can you tell us how that works and whether there is a counter-cyclical effect for that in a downturn as well?

Brown: The way that TOGAF works is that it's free to use for anyone to implement an enterprise architecture within their enterprise. But, if you're going to use TOGAF for commercial gain -- as trainers, consultants, integrators or whatever -- then it's important that you give back to the community. It's the basic open-source model.

We expect people to give back via participation in membership and we use the commercial license to make sure that we know who's doing this. We know that they're certified, but we also know that they get involved in the membership and actually do give back to the community.

Some of them could be dormant. They may just want the commercial license, which comes with the membership. They may want the commercial license to go off and sell TOGAF. Alternatively, they may want the commercial license and participate and contribute. Those that contribute are the ones that get the most back.

Gardner: Is there something about trying times? I suppose we're not just in a trying time, but also a very dynamic time. We have change management, modernization, productivity, and efficiency. Many organizations are looking to reduce their operating costs significantly. Are these accelerators to the role of The Open Group and TOGAF?

Brown: With regards to TOGAF, or enterprise architecture in general -- it doesn't have to be just TOGAF -- there's an underlying theme of using the right kind of processes. With architecture -- and we've had a lot of evidence back from organizations -- they've been able to retire applications leading to savings across their organization. If you can make those savings across the organization using enterprise architecture, then there's a positive ROI and that's good in any time.

Gardner: It also appears, given the complexity, the rapid change, modernization, and maturity, that the role of architecture and the architectural perspective over IT is more important than ever. Do you agree with that, and if so, why?

A need for integration

Brown: 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.

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.

Gardner: These issues about boundarylessness and security are reflected in some expansion here at the conference. You've introduced the Enterprise Cloud Computing Conference as well as the first Security Practitioners Conference. Why these new conferences? I suppose that we answered that in the first question, but let's hear a little bit more about why cloud and security are enterprise architecture issues. Some may have perhaps not seen it that way?

Brown: 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.

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. There are a number of areas that look as though there is some relevance to what The Open Group does.

One of those, of course, is security. As you said, we've got our first Security Practitioner Conference here at San Diego, and the reason is that 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.

Now that they've got that sorted out, the big issue for them is security: Who is in my infrastructure and what are they taking? So, we're raising the level of security practitioners, and that's coming to the fore. That's why we've got the first conference here.

Coincidentally, a lot of the interest from the members in looking at security is also converging with looking at cloud. Some of the sessions here are on secure cloud and the issues of security with cloud, but also we're looking at Web 2.0 security, and some of the other standards. There's a security assertion markup language (SAML) standard that we're looking at.

We've got a lot of movement forward in those areas. With the enterprise architecture practitioner conferences here, the agenda is led by members. What it has done is to expose enterprise architecture to a lot of people. It's brought people into The Open Group to share their experiences.

A lot of the value, of course, is in the networking and sharing experiences with people that are at the same level and in the same situation as you are. We want to do the same with security, and that's where our security forum members want to take it.

Gardner: I suppose it is bit premature, seeing as you've just introduced TOGAF 9 to the market, but these things never stop. They're always in motion. There's a next generation TOGAF in the works. Do you have any sense of what emphasis, or least trajectory, we could extrapolate from where TOGAF 8 and 9 have taken us to what we might expect in several years in the next revision.

Brown: That's something that the architecture forum will be working on. It's not something that I am up on right now. 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.

Gardner: Very good. We've learned a bit more about The Open Group upon the arrival of its milestone TOGAF 9 release and have clearly seen that there are many moving variables within organizations that they need to embrace and understand and put in the context of their operation. We want to thank Allen Brown, president and CEO of The Open Group for joining us.

Brown: Thank you very much, Dana.

Gardner: Our conversation today comes to you through the support of The Open Group from their 21st Enterprise Architecture Practitioner Conference in San Diego.

I'm Dana Gardner principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, thanks for listening and come back next time.

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

Transcript of a podcast with Allen Brown, president and CEO of The Open Group on TOGAF 9 and its effect on enterprise architecture and IT productivity. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2009. All rights reserved.

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