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The Open Group president, Steve Nunn, on the inaugural TOGAF User Group and new role of EA in business transformation

The next BriefingsDirect thought leadership interview explores a new user group being formed around TOGAF, The Open Group standard, and how this group will further foster the practical use of TOGAF for effective and practical business transformation.

The discussion, which comes in conjunction with The Open Group San Francisco 2016 event on January 25, sets the stage for the next chapter in enterprise architecture (EA) for digital business success.

To learn more about the grassroots ecosystem building around transformational EA, we're joined by the President and CEO of The Open Group, Steve Nunn. The discussion is moderated by me, Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: Before we get to the TOGAF User Group news, let’s relate what’s changed in the business world and why EA and frameworks and standards like TOGAF are more practical and more powerful than ever.

Nunn

Nunn: One of the keys, Dana, is that we're seeing EA increasingly used as a tool in business transformation. Whereas in the past, maybe in the early adoptions of TOGAF and implementations of TOGAF, it was more about redesigning EA, redesigning systems inside an organization more generally. Nowadays, with the need to transform businesses for the digital world, EA has another more immediate and more obvious appeal.

It’s really around an enablement tool for companies and organizations to transform their businesses for the digital world, specifically the worlds of the Internet of Things (IoT), big data, social, mobile, all of those things which we at The Open Group lump into something we call Open Platform 3.0, but it really is affecting the business place at large and the markets that our member organizations are part of.

Gardner: TOGAF has been around for quite a while. How old is TOGAF now?

Nunn: The first version of TOGAF was published in 1993, so it's been quite some time. For a little while, we published a version every year. Once we got to Version 7.0, the refreshes and the new versions came a bit slower after that.

We're now at Version 9.1, and there is a new version being worked on. The key for TOGAF is that we introduced a certification program around it for both tools that help people implement TOGAF, but also for the practitioners, the individuals who are actually using it. We did that with version 8.0 and then we moved to what we consider, and the marketplace certainly considers, to be an improved version with TOGAF 9.0, making it an exam-based certification. It has proved to be very popular indeed, with more than 50,000 certified individuals under that program to date.

Gardner: Now the IT world, the business world, many things about these worlds have changed since 1993. Something that comes to mind, of course, is the need to not just think about architecture within your organization, but how that relates across boundaries of many organizations.

I sometimes tease friends who are Star Trek fans that we have gone from regular chess to 3-D chess, and that’s a leap in complexity. How does this need to better manage Boundaryless Information Flow make EA and standards like TOGAF so important now?

Common vocabulary

Nunn: With the type of change that you talked about and the level of complexity, what standards like TOGAF and others bring is commonality and ability to make architecting organizations a little bit easier; to give it all a bit more structure. One of the things that we hear is most valuable about TOGAF, in particular, is the common vocabulary that it gives to those involved in a business transformation, which obviously involves multiple parts of an organization and multiple partners in a group of organizations, for example.

So, it’s not just for enterprise architects. We're hearing increasingly about a level of training and introductory use of TOGAF at all levels of an organization as a means of communicating and having a common set of terminology. So everyone has the same expectation about what particular terms mean. With added complexity, we need things to help us work through that and divide up the complexity into different layers that we can tackle. EA and TOGAF, in particular, are proving very popular for tackling those levels of complexity.

Gardner: So in the next chapter, these things continue to evolve, react to the market, and adjust. We're hearing that there is news at the event, the January 25 event in San Francisco, around this new user group. Tell me why we're instituting a user group associated with TOGAF at this point?

Nunn: It’s going to be the first meeting of a TOGAF User Group, and it’s something we have been thinking about for some time, but the time seems to be now. I've alluded to the level of popularity of TOGAF, but it really is becoming very widely used. What users of TOGAF are looking for is how to better use it in their day jobs. How can they make it effective? How can they learn from what others have done, both good and bad, the things to try and the things not to try or more the things that worked and things that didn’t work? That isn’t something that we've necessarily offered, apart from a few conference sessions at previous events.

So this really ends up getting a broader community around TOGAF, and not just those members of the Architecture Forum which is our particular forum that advances the TOGAF standard. It’s really to engage the wider community, both those who are certified and those who aren’t certified, as a way of learning how to make better and more effective use of TOGAF. There are a lot of possibilities for what we might do at the meeting, and a lot of it will depend on what those who attend would like to cover.

Gardner: Now, to be clear, any standard has a fairly rigorous process by which the standard is amended, changed, or evolves over time. But we're talking about something separate from that. We're talking about perhaps more organic information flow, sharing, bringing points into that standard’s process. Maybe you could clarify the separation, the difference, the relationship between a standard’s adoption and a user group's input.

This is the first time we've offered nonmembers a real opportunity, not necessarily to decide what goes into the standard, but certainly a greater degree of influence.

Nunn: That’s the key point, Dana. The standard will get evolved by the members of The Open Group, specifically the members of The Open Group Architecture Forum. They are the ones who have evolved it this far and are very actively working on a future version. So they will be the ones who will ultimately get to propose what goes in and ultimately vote on what goes in.

Where the role of the user community, both members and non-members -- but specifically the opportunity for non-members -- comes in is being able to give their input, put forward ideas that areas where maybe TOGAF might be strengthened or improved in some way. Nobody pretends it’s prefect as you use it. It has evolved over time and it will evolve in the future. But hearing from those who actually use TOGAF day to day, we might get, certainly from The Open Group point of view, some new perspectives, and those perspectives will then get passed on through us to the members of the Architecture Forum.

Many of those we expect to attend the event anyway. They might hear it for the first time, but certainly we would spend part of the meeting looking at what that input might be, so that we have something to pass on to them for consideration in the standard.

This is the first time we've offered nonmembers a real opportunity, not necessarily to decide what goes into the standard, but certainly a greater degree of influence.

It's somewhat of a throwback to the days where user groups were very powerful in what came out of vendor organizations. I do hope that this will be something that will enable everyone to get the benefit of a better overall standard.

Past user groups

Gardner: I certainly remember, Steve, the days when vendors would quake in their boots when user meetings and groups came up, because they had such influence and impact. They both benefited each other. The vendors really benefited by hearing from the user groups and the user groups benefited by the standards that could come forth and vendor cooperation that they basically demanded.

I recall, at the last Open Group event, the synergy discussions around Zachman, and other EA frameworks. Do you expect that some of these user group activities that you're putting forth will allow some of that cross pollination, if you will, people who might be using other EA tools and want to bring more cooperation and collaboration across them?

Nunn: I would certainly expect that to happen. Our position at The Open Group, and we've said it consistently over the years, is that it’s not "TOGAF or," it’s "TOGAF and." The reality is that  most organizations, the vast majority, are not just going to take TOGAF and let it be everything they use in implementing their EAs.

So the other frameworks are certainly relevant. I expect there to be some interest in tools, as well as frameworks. We hear that quite a lot, suggestions of what good tools are for people at different stages of maturity and their implementation of the EA. So, I expect a lot of discussion about the other thoughts or the other tools in the toolbox of an EA to come up here.

Gardner: So user groups serve to bring more of an echo system approach, voices from disparate parties coming together sounds very powerful. Now this is happening on January 25. This is a free first meeting. Is that correct? And being in San Francisco, of course, it's within a couple hours drive of a lot of influential users, start-ups, the VC community, vendors, or service providers. Tell us a little bit about why people who are within a quick access to the Bay Area might consider coming to this on January 25?

What people would get out of it is the chance to hear a bit more about how TOGAF is used by others, case studies, what’s worked, what hasn’t worked, the opportunity to talk directly with people.

Nunn: That’s another reason, the location of our next event. We were first thinking this is the right time to do a first TOGAF User Group, because you see there are a lot of users of TOGAF in the area or within a few hours of it. What people would get out of it is the chance to hear a bit more about how TOGAF is used by others, case studies, what’s worked, what hasn’t worked, the opportunity to talk directly with people, whether it’s through networking or actually in the sessions in the user group meeting.

We're trying to not put too much rigid structure around those particular sessions, because we won’t be able to get the most benefit out of them. So it’s really what they want to get out of it that will probably be achievable.The point of view of The Open Group is that it's about getting that broader perspective for the attendees, learning useful tips and tricks, learning from the experience of others, and learning a bit more about The Open Group and how TOGAF has evolved.

This is a key point. TOGAF is so widely used now and globally, and even though we have quite a few members in The Open Group, we have more than 350 organization participating in some way in the Architecture Forum, and more in The Open Group as a whole.

But there's obviously a much wider community of those who are using it. Hearing more about how it has developed, what the processes are inside The Open Group, might make them feel good about the future of something that they clearly have some investment in. Hopefully, it might even persuade a few of those organizations to join and influence from the inside.

Gardner: Now, there's more information about the user group at www.opengroup.org. You're meeting on January 25 at 9:30 a.m. Pacific Time at the Marriott Union Square right in the heart of San Francisco. But this is happening in association with a larger event. So tell us about the total event that's happening between January 25 and 28.

Quarterly events

Nunn: This is part of one of our quarterly events that we've been running for lot of years now. They take the form generally of a plenary sessions that are open to anyone and also member meetings, where the members of the various Open Group forums get together to progress the work that they do virtually. But it’s to really knuckle down and progress some of it face-to-face, which as, we all know, is generally a very productive way of working.

Apart from the TOGAF User Group, we have on the agenda sessions on the Digital Business Strategy and Customer Experience, which is an activity that's being driven inside our Open Platform 3.0 Forum, as a membership activity, but this is really to open that up to a wide audience at the conference. So, we'll have people talking about that.

Open Platform 3.0 is where the convergence of technologies like cloud, social computing, mobile computing, big data, and IoT all come together. As we see it, our goal is for our members to create an Open Platform 3.0 Standard, which is basically a standard for digital platform, so that the enterprises can more easily use the technologies and get the benefit of these technologies that are now out there. There will be quite a bit of focus on Open Platform 3.0.

The other big thing that is proving very popular for us, which will be featured at the conference is the Open Group IT4IT Reference Architecture, and there is a membership activity, the IT4IT Forum. They're working on standards. We published the first version of that reference architecture at our last quarterly conference, which was in Edinburgh in October last year.

There has been a lot of interest in it so far, and we are working on a certification program for IT4IT that we will be launching later this year, hopefully at our next quarterly event in London in April.

There has been a lot of interest in it, and it's really a standard for running the business of IT. Oftentimes, IT is just seen as doing its own thing and not really part of the business. But the reality nowadays is that whoever is running the IT, be it the CIO or whatever other individual, to be successful they have to not just run IT as a business, with the usual business principles of return on investment, etc., but they have to be seen to be doing so. This is a reference architecture that's not specific to any industry and that provides a guide for how to go about doing that.

We're quite excited about it. There has been a lot of interest in it so far, and we are working on a certification program for IT4IT that we will be launching later this year, hopefully at our next quarterly event in London in April.

Gardner: I'll just remind our listeners and readers that we're going to be doing some separate discussions and sharing with them on the IT4IT Reference Architecture. So please look for that coming up.

Getting back to the event, Steve, I've attended many of these over the years and I find a lot of the discussions around security, around specific markets like healthcare and government really powerful and interesting. Is there anything in particular about this conference that you're particularly interested in or looking forward to?

Nunn: The ones I've already spoken to are the ones that I'm personally most looking forward to. We'll be having sessions on health care and security, as you say

In the security area it’s worth calling out that one of the suggestions that we've had about TOGAF -- I won’t call it criticism, but one of the suggestions for future versions -- is that TOGAF is a bit light on security. It could do with beefing up that particular area.

The approach that we've taken this time, which people attending the conference will hear about, is that we have actually got the security experts to say what we need to cover in TOGAF, in the next version of TOGAF from a security point of view. Rather than having the architects include what they know about security, we have some heavyweight security folks in there, working with the Architecture Forum, to really beef up the security aspect. We'll hear a bit more about that.

Customer experience

Gardner: I also see that customer experience, which is closely aligned with user experience, is a big part of the event this year. That’s such a key topic these days for me, because it sort of forms a culmination of Platform 3.0. When you can pull together big data, hybrid cloud architectures, mobile enablement and reach, you can start to really do some fantastic new things that just really couldn’t have been done before when it comes to that user experience, real-time adaptation to user behaviors, bringing that inference back into a cloud or a back-end architecture, and then bringing back some sort of predictive or actionable result.

Please flesh out a bit more for us about how this user experience and customer experience is such a key part of the output, the benefit, the value, and the business transformation that we get from all these technical issues that we've discussed; this is sort of a business issue.

Nunn: You're absolutely right. It’s when we start providing a better experience for the customers overall and they can get more out of what the organizations are offering that everybody wins.

What we're trying to do from the organizational side is focus on what is it that you can do to look at it from the customers’ point of view, meet their expectations, and start to evolve from there.

From the group that we have working on this inside The Open Group, they are coming at it from a point of view that some of these new technologies are actually very scary for organizations, because they are forced to transform. The expectations of customers now are completely different. They expect to be able to get things on their cellphones or their tablets, or whatever device they might be using. That's  quite a big shift for a lot of organizations, and that’s not even getting into some of the areas of IoT, which promises to be huge.

What we're trying to do from the organizational side is focus on what is it that you can do to look at it from the customers’ point of view, meet their expectations, and start to evolve from there.

To me, it’s interesting from the point of view that it’s pretty business-driven. The technologies are there to be taken advantage of or to actually be very disruptive. So the business needs to know at a fairly early stage what those customer expectations are and take advantage of the new technologies that are there. That’s the angle that we are coming from inside The Open Group on that.

Some of the main participants in that group are actually coming from the telco world, where things have obviously changed enormously over the last few years. So that one is going to move quite quickly.

Gardner: It certainly seems that the ability to have boundaryless architecture is essential on that customer experience benefit. You certainly seem to be in the right place at the right time for that.

But the event in San Francisco also forms a milestone for you, Steve. You're now in your first full event as President and CEO of The Open Group, having taken over from Allen Brown last Fall. Tell us a little bit about your earlier roles within the standards organization and a bit more about yourself perhaps for those folks who are not yet familiar with you?

Quite different

Nunn: Yes, it will be quite different this time around. I've been with The Open Group for 22 years now. I was originally hired as General Counsel, and then fairly quickly moving on to Vice President of Corporate, Legal and Chief Operating Officer under Allen Brown as CEO. Allen was CEO for 17 years, and I was with him all of that time. It’s going to be quite different to have somebody else running the events, but I'm very much looking forward to it.

From my point of view, it’s a great honor to be leading The Open Group and its members into our next phase of evolution. The events that we hold are one small part of it, but they're a very important part, particularly these quarterly ones. It’s where a lot of our customers and members come together in one place, and as we have heard, there will be some folks who may not have been involved with one of our events before through the user group, so it’s pretty exciting.

I'm looking forward to building on the very solid foundation that we have and some of the great work activities that we mainly have ongoing inside The Open Group.

I'm looking forward to building on the very solid foundation that we have and some of the great work activities that we mainly have ongoing inside The Open Group.

Don’t expect great change from The Open Group, but just really more of the same good stuff that we've been working on before, having regard to the fact that obviously things are changing very rapidly around us and we need to be able to provide value in that fast changing world, which we are very confident we can.

Gardner: As an observer of the market, but also of The Open Group, I'm glad to hear that you're continuing on your course, because the world owes you in many ways. Things you were talking about 5 or 10 years ago have become very essential. You were spot on on how you saw the vision of the world changing on IT and its influence on business and vice versa.

More than ever, it seems that IT and EA is destiny for businesses. So I'm glad to hear that we're having a long vision, and the future seems very bright for your organization as the tools and approaches and the mentality and philosophy that you have been espousing becomes essential to do some of these things we have been discussing, like Platform 3.0, like customer experience, and IoT.

In closing, let’s remind our audience that you can register for the event at The Open Group website, www.opengroup.org. The first day, January 25, includes that free user group, the inaugural user group for TOGAF, and it all happens at the Marriott Union Square, San Francisco, along with the General Conference, which also runs from January 25 to 28.

Any last thoughts Steve, as we close out, in terms of where people should expect The Open Group to go, or how they can become perhaps involved in ways that they hadn’t considered before?

Good introduction

Nunn: Attending one of our events is a really good introduction to what goes on in The Open Group. For those who haven’t attended one previously, you might be pleasantly surprised.

If I had to pick one thing, I would say it's the breadth of activities there are at these events. It’s very easy for an organization like The Open Group to be known for one thing or a very small number of things, whether it’s UNIX originally and EA more recently, but there really is a lot going on beyond there.

Getting exposure to that at an event such as this, particularly in a location as important to the industry and as beautiful as San Francisco is, is a great chance. So anyone who is on the fence about going, then jump over the fence and try us out.

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More Stories By Dana Gardner

At Interarbor Solutions, we create the analysis and in-depth podcasts on enterprise software and cloud trends that help fuel the social media revolution. As a veteran IT analyst, Dana Gardner moderates discussions and interviews get to the meat of the hottest technology topics. We define and forecast the business productivity effects of enterprise infrastructure, SOA and cloud advances. Our social media vehicles become conversational platforms, powerfully distributed via the BriefingsDirect Network of online media partners like ZDNet and IT-Director.com. As founder and principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, Dana Gardner created BriefingsDirect to give online readers and listeners in-depth and direct access to the brightest thought leaders on IT. Our twice-monthly BriefingsDirect Analyst Insights Edition podcasts examine the latest IT news with a panel of analysts and guests. Our sponsored discussions provide a unique, deep-dive focus on specific industry problems and the latest solutions. This podcast equivalent of an analyst briefing session -- made available as a podcast/transcript/blog to any interested viewer and search engine seeker -- breaks the mold on closed knowledge. These informational podcasts jump-start conversational evangelism, drive traffic to lead generation campaigns, and produce strong SEO returns. Interarbor Solutions provides fresh and creative thinking on IT, SOA, cloud and social media strategies based on the power of thoughtful content, made freely and easily available to proactive seekers of insights and information. As a result, marketers and branding professionals can communicate inexpensively with self-qualifiying readers/listeners in discreet market segments. BriefingsDirect podcasts hosted by Dana Gardner: Full turnkey planning, moderatiing, producing, hosting, and distribution via blogs and IT media partners of essential IT knowledge and understanding.

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