Part 4: The Architecture Journey — Choose an Architecture Framework

Digital Transformation Perth held a panel discussion to tackle the topic of managing enterprise evolution in an architectural context. The panellists were Cristian Southall (CTO of JourneyOne), Darryl Carr (JourneyOne Solutioniser/EA Consultant), and Jackie O’Dowd (CEO of Realising-Potential). 

Below follows the transcript of Part 4 of the evening’s opening discussion. 

Interviewer: Let’s talk frameworks. Which ones are now relevant? Or more relevant than they were before? 

Enterprise Architect Jackie O'Dowd

Jackie: Every framework is relevant if it does what you want it to do. There are a lot of frameworks that are a waste of time. There are some that just don’t deliver.  

When I look at a framework, I look purely and simply for ones that have got a commercial focus. I’m not into who can do the best drawings. I’m not into how many steps I can complete. I’m not into how many checklists I can get in one SharePoint instance. It’s about how this thing gets us on the journey to realise the commercial benefits that the organisation must achieve.  

If it does that, it’s part of the way, but it shouldn’t be prescriptive. They shouldn’t be saying, ‘you need to take step one, step two, step three,’ because these things are not linear. Everybody here knows that architecture is not linear. You’re in and out; you’re backwards, forwards; you’re up, down; you’re inside one minute, you’re outside the next. Most frameworks don’t cater for that. They say to go do some stakeholder management, or stakeholder engagement, but they don’t break that down.  

You’ve got to decide for yourself what works best for you with the resources and capabilities that you’ve got, and how much administration you want to put into it.

Enterprise architect Darryl Carr

Darryl: Cristian, it might have been you a few months ago who said that if you took the 10 best frameworks in the world and smooshed them together, you’d end up with 11 frameworks.  

That’s the problem: everybody thinks they can come up with a better way of doing things. You run into what I call a ‘mass customisation problem’. Frameworks are intentionally generic so that they can fit lots of different circumstances and organisations. You need a talented, skilled, experienced professional to figure out how to use it in your organisation.  

The problem is that you can’t get enough people with the experience to figure out how to use the frameworks that are designed for you to use. So you run around in a circle a lot.  

When I do have teams of architects reporting to me, I still ask them to go get certified in TOGAF. I never expect them to use it, but it gives them the same frame of reference that I had when I started, so we’ve got a common vocabulary and perspective. 

Enterprise Architect Cristian Southall

Cristian: Frameworks are great. I love them. I can focus my attention on the head of a pin and read 900 pages of TOGAF end to end. Yes, I have done it, and I can recite a whole bunch of it back to you and then almost never use it as it’s written. The art is always in how you take your problem or goal and which tool bag you pull which tools from, in order to get that thing done. Minimal amount, maximum effect.  

Even if you can do that, there’s a certain amount of imagination required. Say you’re working with a group of people on planning for some change. You’ve identified it’s not scoped correctly. We don’t know what work we’re here to do. You know there’s a technique for that from TOGAF called the Statement of Architecture Work. It’s a useful tool if you need something to help you scope. But are you going to sit down at Word, draft a template called the Statement of Architecture Work, and then start working through it? There are not many circumstances in which that amount of time is valuably spent. But there is a logical artefact that you could produce to help, and the way in which you elicit it and the way in which you communicate it is just as important.  

I’ve seen it in the past, even in big architecture – I’ll sometimes make that distinction between little architecture and big architecture – even in enterprises that are all in on EA and have 50 EAs, etc. When I’ve seen it work best, it’s quite often when you’ve had a change and/or program manager linked with you, so you’ve got this other voice challenging you: ‘I know you need that outcome, but how are we going to get to that group of people?’ ‘How are we going to get the information out of them?’ ‘And once we have, how are we going to make this thing work?’ So, the framework – brilliant – but it’s only taking you 10–20% of the way there, and then you’ve got to figure out how to deploy it.

Enterprise Architect Jackie O'Dowd

Jackie: One last thing to note: most frameworks are great on buildouts. So, we’re starting from here, we’re going out, we need this, and this is what we need to do.  

What they’re absolutely rubbish with is remediation. Show me an organisation that doesn’t do remediation and try fitting that into a framework. It’s pretty difficult. So, because we couldn’t find a framework that had commercial focus and also dealt with remediation, Realising-Potential developed its own. How do we keep the organisation moving forward, while fixing this thing over here and making sure the whole organisation doesn’t break when we do it? If you’re looking for that sort of thing in a framework, it’s bloody hard to find.