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TOGAF – A Lingua Franca For Enterprise Architecture?

TOGAF – A Lingua Franca For Enterprise Architecture?

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One of the main sales points for TOGAF is that it provides a common general foundation for the company’s architectural discipline.

In other words, everything in TOGAF – ideas and concepts, methods and processes, techniques and guidelines, metamodels and reference models – define Lingua Franca for EA.

Speak right language

A lingua franca is a language, adopted as a general, between speakers whose original language is different. (Historically Lingua Franca is a mixture of Italy, France, Greece, Arabic and Spanish used in eastern Mediterranean.) So my question on this blog is: How useful to Togaf is the language of Esperanto for a company architect from a different background?

This subject appeared recently when I advised clients about recruiting experienced architects. How vary of EA Professional Background? And the extent to which architects speak different languages?

Even the phrase “company architecture” is open to interpretation. As a personal anecdote, this year is my 30th year as a company architect, and for three decades this phrase “company architecture” continues to have different meanings! When I started as an architect, the discipline is known as an information architecture – but not with the same meaning as today!

What is your company?

This phrase was created by Richard Saul Wurman in 1976 in response to the growing volume of contemporary information. He argues that we need a systemic way to manage fourth sources of information, and see analogies with the use of architecture in the building. It was far then the information architecture obtained a narrower focus, related to the internet.

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Then EA is known as an information system architecture – phrases popularized by the publication of Joji John Zachman’s journal article about this issue, which is then known as the framework of Zachman. Gradually EA evolved to cover more than just its origin – expand to enter business and organization. And the EA scope has developed now beyond the company’s limits to enter environmental and social contexts.

So it’s really not too surprising that EA professionals have a very varied background. This is where TOGAF stepped, by trying to provide a shared foundation for discipline.

The initial version of TOGAF is focused on information technology, but gradually comes to enter a stronger business orientation. This is proven in four domains of TOGAF – starting with business, followed by data and applications, and ends with technology – and in the ADM sequence which starts from business requirements, architectural architecture and business architecture.

Overcoming a linguistic barrier

Even in TOGAF, the nature of each domain means differences in material and techniques, which can create linguistic obstacles. I have to overcome this problem recently with clients where the word “application” has several meanings; For business people, “applications” are often a series of complete software that supports their needs; In the operating application and the system is an exchanged term; And even in the development of applications can mean self-software or module.

But this is the peak of the iceberg … on one project we found that the same architectural components are called reasoned as transactions, processes, procedures, activities, services or functions. Executives, business analysts, product managers, business managers, policy makers, application architects, and processing processes have their own labels or different meanings. Further complications are that there are often overlap between labels and meanings!

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Luckily TOGAF has several resources that can help overcome this stir, even though there are limitations. Language in all Togaf course documentation is quite consistent – one reason for temporary release like 9.1 actually to repair any small deviation in language. The four domains go further by providing a consistent way to group architecture; This segmentation is partly based on the subject, concepts, and components of different architecture (and therefore language) in every domain.

Metamodel tried standard taxonomy, but this is where providing Lingua Franca becomes complicated – providing a single metamodel construct to cover every stakeholder perspective only works for a very simple concept.

In conclusion …

So this is the rubbing. TOGAF is as good as a general Esperanto for EA. Everything described in TOGAF uses consistent language – and it’s very helpful. But as an architect we need to realize that we cannot impose the same language about stakeholders.

There will always be a difference in meaning. And this point is sometimes ignored when practicing EA: In the end we need to talk to stakeholders in their own language, while simultaneously translating into TOGAF-EA.

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