Agile or die…

When I posted my previous blog on Aligning ArchiMate to BPMN one of the comments I received read “Agile or die, this is the only fact of today business environment” – and this got me to thinking about Agility in EA.

To be honest, lets start by saying I agree with the comment – and that he gave me no reason to believe the person who posted the comment was misunderstanding anything I said.

But there are those who do…. There’s a stigma sometimes attached to Enterprise Architecture, and architecture as a whole. It’s sometimes seen as slow, synonymous to waterfall, unable to change, and an overhead in general. I will talk about the value of architecture in a separate blog, but suffice to say, architecture doesn’t have to be that way.

Agility in TOGAF

Its fair to say that TOGAF appears to be, or can be fairly document heavy depending on the choices you make in implementing it. A first point to make about TOGAF would be it is a framework that is intended to be tailored to specific needs, and does fit in well with a waterfall development technique; That said it can also provide a good backbone for something more agile.

Everything TOGAF asks for in terms of deliverables within the framework has its purpose. If you take any of those things away you leave a gap or a risk. It’s a comprehensive framework built by many smart people. As a framework it addresses many concerns from different stakeholders.

To be practical you need to think about how to adjust TOGAF. I have sat in a few meetings where we have discussed those different architecture deliverable’s and how we could adapt a Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) model to work along side TOGAF, giving the strength of TOGAF and the agility of SAFe. It is possible to do so but it requires careful planning & implementation of processes. Processes that are well defined, with good key performance indicators can be very agile.

Architecture Discipline

I firmly believe that good architecture is a key to success in agile ways of working. Agile doesn’t mean we do not do architecture, but it may mean that we do it differently.

If you look at my blog Planning Work With ArchiMate you will see that its possible to use the ArchiMate language to define small building blocks, and then fit them together – each block expressing its own value and interfaces to the world. Although when we use methodologies like SAFe we need to consider the value of each individual work package, we also need to take a longer term strategic perspective. The approach I took in that blog facilitates agile projects as well as waterfall ones.

Change is a constant and enterprise architecture needs to facilitate it; which is another reason why languages such as ArchiMate and BPMN working together in an architecture repository support this.

I will speak at some point about ISO 42010 (I have a video blog planned), the standard for architecture design; how it fits in nicely with ArchiMate as a standard, and how it enables us to design architecture that supports our goals in a focused fashion. Such standards are essential if you are practicing architecture on a large scale. Each piece on a chess board has its purpose, and rules it must follow – each move must be part of a strategy.

It’s a matter of balance. We only want to do enough architecture to provide value; ISO 42010 provides the groundwork for this – when it describes views and view points – and the ArchiMate Language implements those concepts nicely. It takes skilled leadership with skilled architects in order to get this balance right in practice.

It’s essential we have an architecture strategy, and a good set of architecture practices to facilitate an agile way of working. You can’t be agile unless everyone knows what they are doing, how they are doing it and when they are doing it. Knowing why they are doing it can also be helpful. If you don’t have an architecture discipline then in fact architecture can become significantly less agile. To be agile we need competency and discipline; and we need to have an architecture practice, practice practice…. This doesn’t mean the solution is to do more architecture – more it means that we need to do the right architecture.

Summing it up…

Implementing without architecture design exposes all kinds of risks; it may seem that you implement projects faster, but then what you save in project development time, hits you when you get to an operational phase.

If architecture is not facilitating an agile way of working, then that architecture practice probably has a need to change, not to be abandoned. It’s important to have talented architects to lead us and define process that adapts to change. We need to consider process development and architecture with an agile mindset and should be considering how we can deliver continuous value over time as well as how we can do that efficiently. We need to build a layer of motivation architecture that hooks into our Implementation architecture.

To the guy that said “Agile or die, this is the only fact of today business environment”… I couldn’t agree with you more; but I would like to add trying to adapt to change without clear architecture, leaves you at the mercy of the skills and communication of the individuals, and the bigger an organisation you are, the more risky that becomes. So think of it this way:

Agile Architecture or die.

Architecture Languages, Standards And Frameworks

A discussion on the different architecture Languages, Standards and Frameworks I like to use in conjunction with each other when providing large scale IT & managed services..

My goal in these first posts is to introduce some of the basic ideas and concepts that we will build upon in later posts. I would love to present forward some things such as TOGAF ADM, and the ArchiMate full model, but those things are copyrighted so I can’t present them forward for now.

Modelling Languages

There are 3 industry standard mechanisms I normally use when modelling architecture; and although you may choose to use any other, the mechanisms below give a very good coverage of the different aspects of architecture, so when I talk about the role of architect within our company, I am normally having expectations on the languages I expect an architect to be able to communicate in.

An Example Implementation & Migration View in Archimate
  • ArchiMate – Is a modelling language that allows us to easily bring together different aspects of architecture (Strategic, Business, Application, Technology, Physical, Implementation & Migration, and Motivational). Its important we understand how the business is motivated, how it is realized, how our services are constructed and how these things connect together with both applications and the physical world below it. If we provide consistent architectures and have discipline most ArchiMate tools can provide invaluable business intelligence – I will blog on this further at a later date. Archimate perfectly complements TOGAF. Read more here.
  • BPMN – Archimate is good, but when it comes to understanding how a complex set of tasks are performed with multiple stakeholders BPMN shines – what would be done over several views in Archimate can be done as a single page with BPMN – its designed to model processes that look much more like traditional flow diagrams within swim lanes. I normally align these more in-depth BPMN processes with Archimate – For example in ArchiMate I model the process, with the different business events that align to the BPMN model. and normally assign the different roles and actors – but then the actual steps, happen within the BPMN model. Read more here.
  • UML – Is very good for low level data modelling & class modelling & has been around since the beginning of time. In EA I am tending not to use it too much, because at a high level I can represent data objects & their interactions with Archimate – But UML still has its uses with those who focus more on breaking information down into detail & those with a more application based focus. Read more here.
An Example of BPMN

Project & Architecture Governance

  • Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) – I like this framework because its relatively simple to use and implement, and provides us a agile development methodology which supports us in a movement towards Dev-Ops, and the continuous delivery of value. Read more here.
  • The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF). A lot of people have said to me that they feel this is a heavy framework that is monolithic and too documentation focused. It doesn’t have to be this way; we can adapt things to be fit for purpose. I think the framework nicely captures the things we need to consider in architecture. Read more here.

For me, a good working practice is actually a hybrid of these two mechanisms – because we need to flexible methodology that covers all the key areas but delivers continuous value.

ISO 42010

This is the international standard for architecture description – and its one of my favorites. When I first read it I was very excited, because it formally said a lot of things I had been standing on my soapbox about for years. It talks about how to describe architecture and covers core needs such as concerns management, and how these need to map onto an architecture solution that considers its stakeholders. Its under a 100 pages long and a recommended read for anyone who is serious about doing architecture.

The heart of ISO 42010

Adding Additional Value

This wouldn’t be complete without mentioning IT4IT and ITIL.

  • IT4IT – Provides a reference architecture for managing the business of IT; at its core is the IT Value Chain, and is very much focused on providing value to the business.. Read more here.
  • IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is a set of practices of IT service management – very well know, and very well supported. It can be used in conjunction with IT4IT. I do not know a good resource for free information on ITIL – there’s a lot of material out there though.

Summing It Up…

There are of course many standards we can apply at are equally as good as what I show above, but these are the ones that i found work well together and I like to have implemented together when i have a choice

ArchiMate is designed with ISO 42010 in mind, it’s by The Open Group, who also do TOGAF and IT4IT, so there’s a fair amount of alignment between these. SAFe and TOGAF require a bit of effort to establish good working practices. and IT4IT quite nicely facilitates ITIL which is very much an industry standard.

As always, feel free to comment my post.