First Look: The Open Business Architecture Standard, Part 1

First impressions

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The Open Group is best known for TOGAF – The Open Group Architecture Framework, but it has produced a wide range of other frameworks and standards to address a variety of needs. Some, like ArchiMate, are well known and have achieved considerable traction with their target audience. Others, such as UDEF and FAIR, have achieved less traction for the time being, but both provide value. Now on the horizon is the Open Group’s newest framework, Open Business Architecture, currently in the works. In this article, I’ll be taking you through a quick overview of what’s in store for this newest framework, including a deeper dive into the published Part 1.

Open Business Architecture, or ‘O-BA’, offers a framework for establishing a business architecture. TOGAF mentions business architecture, but only in the sense of 'figure out your current business architecture and your desired business architecture, and here are techniques to move from the first to the second'. O-BA attempts to complement this with a methodology and techniques for establishing these business architectures.

The Open Group are planning for O-BA to contain three distinct parts, with Part 2 under final review at time of writing. Part 1 establishes the context for the standard, with Part 2 containing the capabilities and processes for business architecture and Part 3 establishing the modeling techniques.

The substance of Part 1 falls into four main sections. The first section discusses the challenges facing business architecture, its value, and the success factors for business architecture, as a way of setting the scene. Perhaps paradoxically, I find this to be the most useful section of Part 1, as it will greatly assist business architects in their initial discussions with sponsors and stakeholders. So while the section talks exclusively about the goals of business architecture instead of 'doing' business architecture, it addresses the area that has the greatest chance to affect the success or failure of the initiative – making it of high value.

The second section introduces the 'five ways' framework, which is the O-BA's iconic diagram. These are what the authors consider to be the five key aspects of performing business architecture: the way of thinking, the way of modeling, the way of organizing, the way of supporting and the way of working. It does appear that these will play a greater role in Part 2, when the processes and capabilities will be discussed.

The third section discusses the viewpoints that are needed, but in keeping with the goal of Part 1 of setting the scene, there are not precise definitions for each viewpoint. There are some possible examples provided, but it's clear the real meat in this area will come in Part 3 of the specification.

Finally, there is an appendix section and for me this is the second most useful section of Part 1, in that they discuss a couple of case studies and provide a discussion of horizontal and vertical traceability. These discussions are useful in that they help clarify the reader's thinking on the issues presented elsewhere in the document.

There are still some questions which will probably not be addressed until the draft of Part 3 is released. One diagram in Part 1 refers to the TOGAF meta-model, while another uses an ArchiMate diagram – and it's unclear at this stage what level of integration O-BA will have with the TOGAF and ArchiMate meta-models (especially since there is a separate effort to explore the level of alignment between those two).

It's also unclear how much the suggested 'five ways' concept will inform the overall standard, and again, we'll have to wait until Parts 2 and 3 for more detail.

For my part, the lack of suggested techniques to evolve the architectures at the different layers has always struck me as the biggest 'missing piece' in TOGAF, and initial impressions are that the O-BA has the potential to be a highly useful resource in this area. Watch this space for coverage on Part 2!

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