TOGAF Demystification Series: The Truth behind the TOGAF Standard Creation

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I've only heard this one a few times but since this myth was recently referenced in one of the comments of the post,  "TOGAF Demystification Series: TOGAF Sucks, Incomplete and Overly Complex" I thought it would be good to elevate it up to a post in case there was similar misconceptions out there.

To set the stage, the basis for this myth is that the creation of the TOGAF standard is done so by an elite and exclusive group of individuals in the EA community the jet set around the world to sunny tropical vacation destinations all the while eating all the free bagels and coffee one can consume.

That sounds like a lot of fun. Sign me up!

It's too bad this isn't real. 

So let's break this apart the myth into three digestible parts:

  1. Set of Elite Individuals Driving the Standard
  2. TOGAF Excludes Industry Developments and Research
  3. The Standard is Developed in Leisurely Tropical Destinations
 

#1 – Set of Elite of Individuals Driving the Standard

This is by far the easiest one to dispel.  What you will find from the Open Group charter is that this concept goes against the grain of the core principles of the Open Group. This not only applies to  TOGAF but all of the standards that the Open Group creates.  You can find that this  dates all the way back to the UNIX days.  The process is open to any person employed by a member company can participate with no zero discrimination on any sort of politics, company status or individual status.

You can find this  statement on the Open Group's public facing website describing the process:

All member organizations of the Open Group are entitled to participate in one or more of The Open Group Forums — vendor-neutral environments where members share knowledge and resources, and collaborate on developing open IT standards and certifications. Covering a range of technical, business, legal and regulatory issues, each Open Group Forum addresses a specific functional area, and is fully supported by The Open Group’s resources.

Source: http://www.opengroup.org/getinvolved?tab=2 

The Open Group Forums and Work Groups are governed by the Open Group Standards Process which is governed by the following principles:

  • Openness - Standards are developed in an open process.
  • Consensus - Standards are based upon the consensus of the parties involved.
  • Timely and Deterministic Process - Standards are developed using a deterministic process that delivers standards in a predictable and timely manner.
  • Public Availability of Published Standards - Standards once published are made publicly available.
  • No Legal Impediment to Implementation or Adoption - There must be no legal impediment to implementation or adoption of an Open Group Standard.
  • Confidentiality - Material is kept confidential until published by The Open Group.

You can see evidence from my story referenced in the post  "TOGAF Demystification Series: TOGAF Sucks, Incomplete and Overly Complex" where I was able to come into the forum as a newcomer to the Architecture Forum and was able to effect change. I didn't have to be part of a ficticuiuos "good old club".

#2 - TOGAF Excludes Industry Developments and Research

The Open Group works just like most standards bodies do (that I know of). The standard is driven by it's members. The Open Group is an administrative funtion that helps enables its members rather than creating the standard. From my own experiences, I contrast this to my time in the financial services industry. I have participated in the following below and had indirect interaction with more:

  • IFX
  • SWIFT
  • ACORD
  • FSTC
  • MBA 
  • and many others

Each one of these standards bodies operate in a similar way as the Open Group. It is incumbent upon the members to bring the latest developments back to the forum to be vetted by the industry before getting published. There isn't a R&D arm that goes out and discovers what the standard should be and go and publish. The role of the standards body to to create to forum in which these experts in the industry can distill proven practices and not fads and emerging trends.

Why is this important to do it this way? It think it all boils down to the following attributes:

  • Trustworthy – A standard you know has been vetted by your peers in the industry
  • Credible – Give it was developed by your peers, there is a very high degree of it is based on real world deployments and lessons learned. 
  • Foundational – This isn't the latest and greatest but rather the foundational proven practices in the industry.
  • Low Risk – Given all the above factors this results in a lower risk of just going out to the market and pulling the trend of the year off the shelf and running with it. Given that these are proven practices, actually implemented with success it lowers your risk.  

Personally, this is what I want form a standards body. I want the standards body (in this case TOGAF)   to tell me what is the most vetted method and framework that I can use as a base for my arhiecture efforts, then I can apply the other emerging trends or other not so mainstream ideals to my company. This manages my risk exposure to my company.

If the standards body did the reverse and adopted all the latest ideas and trends I would imagine that there would be a great deal of redundancy, conflicts and lack of guidance on how to apply as a result. I'm personally not interested in that scenario. 

#3 - The Standard is Developed in Leisurely Tropical Destinations

This one isn't a very well informed aspect of this myth. I can tell you that I haven't been a fan of the some of the destinations picked and very few of these have actually been at a beach. 

This comes from a very specific comment below:

One does not need to join the forum and participate at meetings in sunny places in order to contribute to the EA field. In fact it should be the other way around. 

NOTE: I don't have full insight to the specific policies, procedures and overall plans that the conference planners have with regards to this specific myth. I will share with you what I do know of the process. I would imagine it's pretty close but if the Open Group has any further clarifications I welcome them as a revision to this post. 

I don't think there is a simple one answer for selection of destination or why the why are the member meetings are the way they are. There are a two core drivers you I think you have to understand about the member meetings (TOGAF development in the Architecture Forum) to really answer the question. Those are:

  • Multi-Purpose Events – The events where the Architecture forum meets are multi-purposed in nature. They hold the practitioner conference, certification, forum and workgroup activities.
  • Maximize Value for Customers – By linking the development of TOGAF to the practitioner conference it serves as a way to consolidate travel, foster networking, collaboration and increase the overall in take knowledge through the conference materials and presenters. 

Given these two drivers and let's say the myth is true (it's not) then this would be no different than any other mainstream conference. Looking at both pure technology, analyst and industry wide all of which go to resorts, beaches or tourist destinations. But I haven't seen one Open Group conference in Vegas yet. I can't count the number of times I've been to a standards meeting in Vegas.

So to be factual I pulled the conference locations and bolded the tourist detonations (that I would consider) . It's interesting that there isn't too many beaches listed:

List of 2013 Open Group conferences: Newport Beach, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Mumbai, India, New Delhi, India, Sydney, Philadelphia, London

List of 2012 Open Group conferencesBarcelona, Washington DC, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Dubai, UAECannes, France, San Francisco

Now you could contrast that with other conferences and standards setting meetings as well for example the insurance industry standard ACORD events where they too combine conference with standards meetings. 

Conclusion

Again with this post I want to have a fact based conversation about this topic. Like many others I think this is a perception issue. At first glance, this may seem true (or at some parts of this myth) but if we take a closer look I think you will see it as I do that these are just myths. 

I do think there is an opportunity for the Open Group to do as I am doing, proactively dispel these myths by publishing and sharing these views (if they agree w/ my views as I'm not sponsored by the Open Group to write any of this content) with the architecture community. It could be a learning series, a set of FAQs or even going out to online forums like Twitter and LinkedIn to address some of these concerns.  

Again, I hope this helps and if you want to contribute to the conversation I welcome you to join in on the comments on this post. 

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