How to Choose an Enterprise Architecture Framework

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In modern enterprise architecture, frameworks serve a variety of purposes:

  • They provide a set of assets and templates which allow architects to get started quickly
  • They can be used to set best-practice and standards for governance
  • They can be helpful for collaboration and communication between architects

The popularity of frameworks is partly down to the huge increase in data, technology and business processes needed to run a modern enterprise.

Used well, they provide a sensible set of standards and a way for architects to quickly “get their head around” very complex IT and business systems and models and crack on with strategy and planning.

Guided by the organization’s business requirements, frameworks provide a structure which helps architects to align the business with IT strategy, growth and digital transformation. They help architects’ present data into domains, layers, or views, and offer models (typically matrices and diagrams) for documenting views for stakeholders.

It’s worth keeping in mind that frameworks should be a guide and an accelerator. If the theoretical side of frameworks is slowing your team down, take a step back. The focus should be on identifying business priorities, modeling, setting up useful analysis, visualizations and reports and steering strategy.

Future proof your framework

As the enterprise evolves it’s likely you’ll want to adjust your framework on-the-fly or even swap it out or adopt a hybrid framework so that it continues to be a good fit for your business and its goals.

Architecture should always be business-led and being able to tailor a framework will future-proof your practice.

“More than 66% of organizations had developed a customized framework, with one-third of these making use of two or more frameworks.”

Selecting a framework that works

Enterprise architecture frameworks can vary widely. Some emphasize high level strategic viewpoints, others may focus on a capability planning phase and many provide ways of structuring business data, technology and infrastructure designs.

Ultimately, is the framework fit for purpose? This question can be broken down into a few key areas:

  1. Who are the stakeholders we need to address?
  2. Is there scope for modeling both business and technology views?
  3. Does the framework support different decision-making levels across different maturity levels?
Popular frameworks and notations

EA frameworks typically fall into the following categories/ types:

  • Developed by consortiums and industry standards bodies (TOGAF, ArchiMate, Zachman)
  • Those intended for defense use (DoDAF)
  • Those intended for wider government use (FEAF, AGA, NIST, FDIC)
  • Developed by private companies or universities (IBM, Gartner, Avolution)

There are also a range of modeling techniques and notations which are often used by architects, including ArchiMate, SysML, UML and BPMN.

Comparing strengths and limitations can also be helpful when finding a framework and evaluating which communicates best across the enterprise and adapts to your organization where needed.

Can a hybrid provide the best of both worlds?

As well as the traditional EAF on the market, practitioners should also consider combining frameworks. A “pick-and-mix” of various frameworks can allow you to leverage the features which work best for your team and stakeholders.

Studies suggest that more than 66% of organizations had developed a customized framework, with one-third of these making use of two or more frameworks.

Beware the Franken-model

When combining different approaches, however, it is important to remember that on some occasions less is more and ensure that the chosen frameworks work together harmoniously.

Similarly, if you are building a hybrid framework, it may not be possible to please every stakeholder. Using too many different parts which don’t work well together, can result in a “Franken-model”.

It all comes down to your enterprise

When choosing an enterprise architecture framework, first, identify issues that need to be solved, and then decide which framework could be best served as the starting point to reach this solution.

Consider whether your chosen framework can be tailored to your organization’s needs. Ensure that the original challenges are addressed the framework itself can adapt to change. In some cases, tailoring may include merging with other existing frameworks to reach the desired end goal.

Ultimately it is situational, and dependent on ‘what do you want them to do.’ Nevertheless, it is the you, the architects who at the end of the day are the master of any tools which includes the enterprise architecture framework.

Frameworks available in ABACUS

ABACUS ships with over 100 industry leading frameworks, metamodels and notations, all included out-of-the-box.

We also provide the Avolution metamodel which is assembled from what we consider the best features of leading EA frameworks on the market including, TOGAF, ArchiMate, BPMN, based on over 18 years of EA experience. The Avolution Metamodel also consists of multiple pre-made templates, algorithms and supporting collateral to help users make decisions quickly and effectively.

Practitioners can also choose to configure, adapt or combine frameworks and metamodels in ABACUS, using simple “right-click” and “drag-and-drop” commands. Unlike other tools, no advanced database administrator skills are required.

 

“[A] framework successfully combines people, data and technology to show a comprehensive view of the inter-relationships within an information technology organization,”Enterprise Architecture Body Of Knowledge.  

 

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