The Open Group Virtual Event Highlights – EA for Sustainability and TOGAF® User Group – January 30-February 1, 2023

By Loren K. Baynes, Director, Global Marketing Communications, The Open Group

The Open Group hosted a virtual event on Enterprise Architecture (EA) for Sustainability January 30 – February 1, 2023. Bringing together a global field of experts, the event took the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 9 as its guiding focus.

The goal calls on organizations to “build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization, and foster innovation”. It promotes a holistic technological approach to global challenges which raises standards for human well-being and social resilience while improving the productivity of the value chain to generate equitable long-term wealth.

The breadth of that goal – and of the UN SDGs collectively – makes Enterprise Architecture a vitally important perspective which can supply large-scale systems thinking in an open and communicable manner, enabling deep collaboration. We were therefore gratified to welcome, over the course of three days, leading experts from IBM, Capgemini, PwC, and others to introduce us to their latest thinking and projects around enterprise sustainability.

Here are our key highlights and takeaways from across the three days.

Day One

Following a welcome and introduction from The Open Group President and CEO, Steve Nunn, we jumped straight in with a talk from Paul Homan connecting the dots between the big picture of sustainability and the role that Enterprise Architects can play. As Distinguished Engineer at IBM, Paul’s experience across the full breadth of engineering sectors was on full display as he spoke to how consumers are prioritizing sustainability personally and company boards are placing significant pressure on CEOs to do something about it.

If those pressures are leading businesses to seek to “do the right things”, Paul sees the role of EAs as making sure that businesses “do the right things right”. For him, sustainability and green IT depend on interoperability both within and between enterprises, and that requires effective well-designed Business Architecture. Expanding on the theme, that makes the ultimate goal one of “doing the right things right together”, this led to a usefully condensed single slide which many attendees will have had in mind over the following days’ conversations.

To put that vision into context, Paul was followed by his colleague Phil Tetlow, CTO Data Ecosystems at IBM, to talk through real-life examples of how complex ecosystems can be modeled and analyzed to better understand how sustainably they behave. His talk was a useful primer on some of the pragmatic challenges which EAs must work through. In particular, there was a fascinating exploration of how to strike a balance between measurement and modeling, as well as thoughts on how technology ecosystems can be seen as emergent systems in which many disparate contributions produce singular effects.

We then welcomed John Lewsey, Principal Architect, Capgemini, to discuss the subject expertise and engineering frameworks which Enterprise Architects will need to master in order to effectively deliver sustainable solutions. Framing his approach to thinking about the problem in terms of balancing necessary tradeoffs between business goals, financial constraints, and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) responsibilities, John echoed Phil Tetlow’s emphasis on emergent behavior to show how Architects need to take a broad view of the overall system, rather than attempting to isolate and manage just one of those areas.

For John, any sustainability decisions need to be made in a data-driven way to mitigate the risk of negative emergent consequences, and he points out that, while 71% of businesses now measure direct Scope 1 emissions, for Scope 3 emissions relating to the supply chain and product lifecycle that number falls to just 22%. Nonetheless, there are key areas of promise for engineering more sustainable solutions which he helpfully laid out for the event.

The discussion of becoming data-led in the context of Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions proved a useful segue into Sammy Lakshmanan’s talk on aligning on a common GHG data model. As a Principal focusing on Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) at PwC, Sammy has a wealth of insight into the roadblocks that businesses in many different sectors must overcome in order to achieve a robust model for emissions data. Drawing on his role as Co-Chair of The Open Group Open Footprint™ Forum, Sammy explained the information flow needed for seamless and verifiable emissions measurement, while underscoring the need for a universal definition, standards, and frameworks in order to make collective progress on enterprise sustainability.

The important work being undertaken by the Open Footprint Forum (OFP) was discussed in greater detail during the following talk from Sumouli Bhattacharjee, Partner for Environmental Resources Management at PwC. Showing the progress being made towards a Data Model which is both holistic and flexible enough to adapt to future data needs, Sumouli argued that sustainability can and should become an integrated objective for Enterprise Architecture more generally in the future.

Following a stimulating panel discussion with the morning’s speakers, we then gave the stage to Jim Hietala, VP, Business Development & Security, The Open Group. He shared key findings from workshops in Edinburgh and São Paulo, which The Open Group held to better understand how businesses are allocating resources to the measurement and sharing of carbon emissions data.

To close the first day, we were joined by Niklas Sundberg, Senior VP & CIO, ASSA ABLOY. With an executive perspective, Niklas shared important insights into the role that CIOs have to play in creating a more sustainable IT context. His talk identified some fascinating ways in which granular IT decision-making can have significant consequences for an organization’s overall sustainability profile, such as choosing where to place workloads on the basis of the regional carbon intensity of electricity generation. The talk concluded with advice on how practitioners can increase the chances of winning executive buy-in on sustainable IT initiatives.

Day Two

After an extensive first day of the event’s EA for Sustainability stream, the tone for the second day was set by a talk from Abhijit Sunil, Senior Analyst, Forrester, which gave actionable advice to Enterprise Architects seeking to contribute to their organizations’ sustainability agendas.

Pitching EAs as the key to sustainability, Abhijit’s talk empowered practitioners to steer organizations towards technology initiatives which have been demonstrated to deliver the highest impact, with the top three being implementing measurement and monitoring platforms, digitizing operations, and optimizing existing data centers. However, he warned that any technology needs to be understood in terms of its negative potential, as well as its stated benefits, in what he calls the “Jekyll and Hyde” of sustainability innovation.

Interestingly, Abhijit also showed how key challenges vary significantly according to the size of the business, with larger employers struggling most of all with the lack of standardization in IT environmental footprint measurement, while smaller employers see a lack of executive ownership as the major hurdle.

This idea provided interesting context for the next session of the day with Dr. Pallab Saha, who is General Manager for The Open Group India and President of the Association of Enterprise Architects (AEA) India. In a talk on how the public sector might achieve sustainable outcomes through digital governance innovation, Pallab gave special attention to the fact that the pandemic was a catalyst for tech-enabled government, which significantly raised the profile of Enterprise Architecture in the public sector.

This, in turn, is making platforms with whole-of-government architecture a viable goal for digital government transformation efforts. Importantly, the across-the-board communications and transparency such platforms bring to service delivery are also leverageable for sustainability targets, both by directly reducing resource consumption through digital adoption and by enabling more informed procurement decisions. With a new Government EA Workgroup having been established to further the body of knowledge in this area, we should expect further advances soon.

For the final talk of the EA for Sustainability stream, we welcomed Leslie Robinet, Services Director, MEGA International, to discuss how the work of modernizing Information Systems can facilitate sustainable outcomes when practiced with an Enterprise Architecture mindset. In particular, she introduced us to ideas around eco-conception and eco-design – that is, bringing ecological considerations into the core of the systems design process to create outcomes that are as frugal and sustainable as they are useful and scalable. Leslie’s clear, incisive angle on the complexity of sustainable EA will have been a key point for many attendees.

With that, we returned to Steve Nunn to conclude the two days of fascinating insight with the trenchant observation that “Enterprise Architecture is common sense, and so is sustainability”.

TOGAF® User Group, Open Professions Program, and Data Science Workshop

While EA for Sustainability sat at the heart of this most recent virtual event, we were also delighted to be able to facilitate additional streams of conversation which really spoke to the breadth and significance of what The Open Group does.

First, on the day preceding EA for Sustainability, was an installment of the TOGAF® User Group, which brought together a variety of practitioners to discuss the latest developments in and future direction of the TOGAF® Series Guides. This engaging day of ideas included Dave Hornford and Nathan Hornford, Enterprise Architects at Conexiam, discussing best practice for developing high-functioning EA teams, as well Bryan Lail, Fellow at Raytheon Technologies, exploring how Business Architecture has influenced EA over the last half-decade. Alec Blair, Enterprise Architect at Alberta Health Services, also shared his vital perspectives on business capability planning.

Following the sustainability stream, we also held two special sessions as part of the event. First was a roundtable on the Open Professions Certification Program, in which certified practitioners from IBM, CGI Federal, Raytheon, and Kyndryl met with Andras Szakal, Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, The Open Group, to discuss their unique journeys through certification and how that experience has impacted their careers. With personal and relevant insight on what a successful EA career can look like, it was a valuable session for new and experienced practitioners alike.

Finally, it was a pleasure to be able to host another Data Science Workshop for the benefit of attendees. In this edition, three contributors joined us from IBM – Data Scientist Neeraj Madan, Distinguished Market Intelligence Professional in the Chief Analytics Office Maureen Norton, and Data Scientist Mwai Kalengamaliro – to lead an experiential journey into using a range of tools to improve customer experiences with real-time insights.

Sincere thank you to all who contributed to making this virtual event such a rousing success: our speakers, Members, sponsors, attendees., and staff. All brought an incredible range of expertise and a deep well of enthusiasm to the discussions, making for lively insights which we can be carried forward as we continue to put open standards at the heart of progress.

Proceedings for the event are only available to Members, and those that attended here

Save the date for The Open Group Summit in London April 17-20, 2023.  We hope to see as many of you as possible there!

Loren K. Baynes, Director, Global Marketing Communications, joined The Open Group in 2013 and spearheads corporate marketing initiatives, primarily the website, blog, media relations, and social media.

Loren has over 25 years experience in brand marketing and public relations and, prior to The Open Group, was with The Walt Disney Company for over 10 years. Loren holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Texas A&M University. She is based in the US.