TOGAF® User Group Meeting Preview: A Conversation with Terry Blevins

By The Open Group

The Open Group will be hosting its first TOGAF® User Group Meeting on January 25 in San Francisco. We recently spoke with long-time member, Terry Blevins, The Open Group Board Member, Fellow and former Chair of The Open Group Architecture Forum about his involvement over the years with TOGAF®, an Open Group standard.  We also discussed what users can look forward to at the User Group Meeting.

What’s your history with TOGAF? How long have you been a TOGAF user?

I’ve been involved with The Open Group since before it was The Open Group, when it was X/Open. I first engaged with The Open Group in the architecture area when they were working on the first or second release of TOGAF—that was around 1996. For a number of releases of TOGAF, I was a direct contributor. I was also a Co-chair of the Architecture Forum and chaired the Work Group covering certification of TOGAF architects for a couple years.

One of the main contributions I made to TOGAF was the Business Scenario Method, which is what I’ll be talking about in one of the breakout sessions at the User Group Meeting. For the past number of years, I’ve been on The Open Group Governing Board, so I haven’t participated directly in the Architecture Forum or its Work Groups, but I do keep my eye on things. Most recently I’ve been involved in the Healthcare Forum, with an eye on applying the disciple of architecture to improve healthcare information flow.

When you were a TOGAF contributor, what types of things were you contributing to the standard?

When I first contributed content ,I was working for NCR Corporation where we were keen on seeing standard approaches to architecture. The whole thing is that you bring contributions to the standard from your company or from your personal experience that are practical and that work. The Business Scenario Method was something that I created to help companies understand real, live business needs, and this is essential for any architecting project. Other contributions were spread throughout the early versions of the TOGAF specification.

Why a User Group Meeting now?

The growth of the number of people who are certified in TOGAF is huge. It’s truly become an accepted method worldwide and has resulted in pull from the business side of organizations. That pull and worldwide interest generates a need for people to come together and share. In addition, I think there is a greater occurrence of procurements for architects that are certified in TOGAF today. So that puts the importance in the user community on truly understanding how to apply TOGAF, which drives a need for a place where users can go. Another dimension is, of course, in reaching out to the user community to drive TOGAF with requirements that represent the users!

Those certified and/or using TOGAF have always had the Architecture Forum as a venue where they could share, but the Architecture Forum has become so big and so concentrated on the aspects of developing the method. Many in the TOGAF user community are not interested in developing methods; their interest is in the application of the method. They really want to have a forum to go to where they can talk to other users of TOGAF and talk about what works, what doesn’t work, share their stories and accomplishments and get some hints on how to avoid failures. It’s more about the application of TOGAF.

We’d always thought that there would be a point in time where it would be very difficult for the Architecture Forum to serve both the purpose of users and of people that were methodologists. We may have hit that point. Having a forum that is less formal, like a user group, is attractive to users. Then they can also gather requirements and send them off to the Architecture Forum and say ‘this is our collective voice on constructive improvement points for TOGAF. Do with them what you may.’

What can users expect from the User Group Meeting?

I tell people that we want the users to ‘SEE’ TOGAF differently, differently in comparison to reading the book, getting the training or taking tests. What I mean by ‘SEE’ is that we want users to be able to ‘share’ experiences, so that’s the ‘s’ part of ‘see.’ We want the users to get ‘enlightened’ on new things down the road and the current thinking on what might be next. And we also want users to feel that they’re ‘engaged’ in making improvements to TOGAF. We want to provide the users the ability to share their experiences, successes and failures, get information that they might not get in the books or the training and have the opportunity to say ‘Hey, this should change.’ So that’s SEE—Share, Enlightenment and Engagement.

You’re hosting the Using the Business Scenarios track – what can users look forward to in that track?

In the Business Scenario session, I wanted to make sure that we have some structure and an agenda. But if the structure breaks down because the users want to take the conversation someplace, we’ll let that happen. The structure was created to cover sharing, engagement and enlightenment—the users can change that if they want. If the structure holds, I’ll provide some background on what the Business Scenario method is, and we’ll ask for some stories about how the users get customer requirements, what challenges they have, special techniques they use and key successes and barriers. Then we’ll look at what needs to be done to make the Business Scenario Method better or what we can do to make capturing requirements easier and open up that conversation. Finally, we’ll talk about the latest thinking regarding Business Scenarios. There’s some changes I’ve recently made to the method, and I’ve also added some tips, tricks and techniques that I’ll share with the users. The focus will be on how people really get the business requirements they need to drive their architecting work.

What do you consider to be the primary benefits having a user meeting for TOGAF?

I hope the benefit is that they’re really learning from other users and learn what pitfalls to avoid. Their benefit is they’re getting the experience of other users, and that’s going to make them better architects. Secondly, they have a real opportunity to provide their voice on what needs to be done to make the tools better so they can have something in the future that will be better positioned to make them better architects. With active participation, the attendees are going to learn some things that will help them be better architects, which is going to make them more desirable and hopefully they’ll have better career opportunities.

What else do you hope users will get out of the User Group Meeting?

The pride in being able to say they are part of the larger community and an active participant in putting together a voice capable of moving the discipline of architecture forward.

How will the User Group Meeting help inform the evolution of the standard?

By gathering requirements. We’ve designed some TOGAF improvement suggestion index cards that we’ll pass out to users and ask them to fill out the cards whenever they come up with an idea for an improvement. We’ll ask them to turn those in, and, by the way, for each card they’ll get a raffle ticket, which will be fed into a downstream process to improve TOGAF. That engagement part of the event is being facilitated through these cards. We’ll collect the cards, do an analysis and then make recommendations to the Architecture Forum.

It’s the first go, so we hope it will inspire more events, more mechanisms to collect TOGAF requirements and greater sharing experiences. We also hope the user community will take an active role in shaping how these user group sessions may evolve.

For more information on The Open Group San Francisco 2016, please visit http://www.opengroup.org/sanfrancisco2016.

@theopengroup #ogSFO