February 1, 2012

Using “back of the napkin” with TOGAF and ArchiMate

Having recently read all of Dan Roam’s books (Back of the napkin, Unfolding the napkin, and Blah Blah Blah) I started drawing stuff whenever I could. I’m not naturally gifted at drawing (my kids tend to do a better job), but it was a whole lot of fun getting used to it again. I even got myself a nice “Wörther profil mechanical pencil” with very soft leads (6B) and carry that around all the time.

Having used my sketches in meetings, for helping my own thinking process, and helping clients solve problems I started wondering: how does this tie in with my enterprise architecture work? That is, how does it tie in with my two favorite open frameworks: TOGAF and ArchiMate? In this post, I’m exploring some ideas. I’ve included some drawings I made in the process (and following Dan’s rule nr 4 I didn’t clean ‘m up using PowerPoint). If you have any feedback at all: drop me a note and lets push this idea forward.


I realize that not all readers are familiar with TOGAF/ArchiMate or the Napkin-books. Here’s a crash-course with some links to further material.
First of all, TOGAF is an architecture framework, developed by the Open Group. Its main component is the Architecture Development Method (ADM). The ADM is a phased approach, that roughly works like this: after preparing the organization for doing architecture work (phase P), a vision is developed (phase A). In phases B, C, and D, a baseline architecture (how are we organized today) and target architecture (how should we be organized, relative to the vision we developed) are developed. Phase E is concerned with gap analysis, and finding ways to close that gap. In phase F a migration plan is developed. Phase G is concerned with helping and governing the implementation team implementing the vision by following the migration plan. Finally, phase H (not really a phase) is concerned with change management. The whole process leans heavily on a solid requirements management practice.

A second key component of TOGAF is the content metamodel. Many organizations opt to use ArchiMate, though, which is a more practical and graphical modeling language for enterprise architecture. ArchiMate is also an open standard that is maintained by the open group. Its core maps nicely to phases B, C, and D (baseline/ target architectures). The new motivation extension supports TOGAF’s preliminary and vision phase. Finally, the implementation and migration extension supports phases E, F, and G.

The formal specification of TOGAF can be found here, the formal specification of ArchiMate can be found here. More information on ArchiMate tooling, whitepapers etc. can also be found here.

The napkin-books start by explaining that the visual thinking toolkit consists of (a) the three built-in tools ‘hands, ‘eye, ‘minds eye’; (b) a simple 4-step process: look – see – imagine – show; (c) 6 ways of seeing, and (d) 5 aspects of showing, a.k.a. the SQVID.

For purposes of this post, (c) and (d) are most relevant. The former helps us ‘slow down’ and look at problems from different angles. The latter helps us generate more ideas with respect to an issue, by looking at it from different angles / aspects. These two are orthogonal, and jointly form a codex (A nicely formatted PDF version is available online for your reference).

The SQVID works like an equalizer: in some cases (i.e. for some people) we’ll want to draw simple – qualitative- visionary pictures focusing on the status quo, whereas for others we’ll want to dive in to elaborate, quantitative pictures that focus on the execution aspect in a future situation. By mapping these onto the 6 ways of seeing, we’ll get a pretty good idea of what kind of picture may work best in any given situation.


So far so good. Now how do these two tie in together? To answer that, I’ll run through a typical example of TOGAF’s ADM. Bear in mind that TOGAF incorporates many good/best practices, and has predefined steps, inputs, and outputs for each phase, relying on its content metamodel (or ArchiMate) for their content.

Phase A

In phase A of the ADM, the focus is entirely on vision. In this phase, key stakeholders (at least a sponsor) and architects sit down to figure out what it is exactly that we want to achieve. One of the things that result from this phase is an Architecture Vision document which contains a “Solution Concept Diagram”. The official TOGAF 9.1 spec even says that “…the solution concept represents a "pencil sketch" of the expected solution…”. Not a bad start for linking to the napkin-approach.

I think the codex actually helps a lot in figuring out the vision, and getting a clear, shared understanding. Since we’re mostly talking to business folk and sponsors, the equalizers of the SQVID should probably be on “simple – qualitative – vision”. Even more, the diagram should probably cover “what” and “where” at a minimum (we’ll figure out the “how” and “when” later). However, the “how much” shouldn’t be forgotten as we probably also have a business case to write…

What about ArchiMate? First of all, I do think that it is possible to draw simple – qualitative – visionary ArchiMate diagrams. However, I’m getting more and more convinced that this should be done after we obtain agreement of what the vision is that we’re trying to implement. In other words, we should translate the simple napkin-style diagram to a simple ArchiMate diagram. The former we can keep as a means of communication, whereas the latter is the basis for starting more elaborate analysis in subsequent phases

Phase B-C-D

In phases B, C, and D the focus shifts to modeling baseline and target architecture for the 3 domains of TOGAF: business, application, and technology (Note: some claim that this layering is fundamentally flawed because everything that is non-technology is stuck in business. This may or may not be true. Fact is that many organizations successfully use TOGAF’s ADM to drive their architecture practice and add value to the business. I strongly believe that the idea of using baseline/target architectures is solid).

The audience in this phases changes somewhat: architects are still involved, and usually work closely with process managers, information managers, and IT-staff to figure out where we are now, and where we want to be relative to the vision that was articulated. This changes the setting of our  SQVID equalizer, probably to “elaborate, qualitative, execution, individual”. I’ve deliberately used ‘individual’ here; in practice, gap analysis often pushed to phase E. As for the diagram type, “who/what”, as well as “where” and “how” are probably most useful.  We may also need some “how many” charts, for example to map out expected change in throughput of processes, volume of data storage, number of business transactions and so on.

This is where the strength of ArchiMate really comes in: it provides a strong and elaborate vocabulary to map out the baseline/ target architecture of the enterprise. It is not a hard language to learn, but still: for we need all our thinking and processing capacity to get this right. It may therefore be a good idea to brainstorm using napkin-style drawings, and translate them to formal ArchiMate diagrams. The ArchiMate models of this phase should be linked to the one resulting from phase A for tracking/tracing purposes, giving us the confidence to push forward.

Phase E-F

In phases E and F the focus shifts again: this time we’re figuring out how much work we actually have to do (i.e., the delta between baseline and target architectures à D), and how we’re going to solve this with a solid migration plan. Various stakeholders are involved here, so we’ll need lots of (different, but linked) diagram types.

For example, we’re talking to project management here (definitely a ‘when’ type of diagram of the “elaborate – execution – change” type. We’re also communicating this with business stakeholders and sponsors on timing (“when”, but probably of the “simple – change” type), cost/benefit (how many) and so on. Our technical staff is also still involved, as their expertise is needed to formulate a valid and viable plan!

Again, napkin-style diagrams and sketches should be a useful for brainstorming and developing ideas: we want to ‘see’ the ideas develop and grow as we work with various stakeholders. Integrating these results in formal ArchiMate diagrams will validate the ideas: modern tools such as BiZZdesign Architect have many capabilities for roadmapping, impact analysis, consistency checks, and visualizations.  Saving these models will also build a solid architectural knowledge base that may be re-used down the road in subsequent ADM cycles.

Summary & Conclusions

In this post I brainstormed and presented some initial ideas with respect to combining the visual codex from the back of the napkin work with enterprise architecture work using TOGAF and ArchiMate. I think / hope the following picture says it all: I believe that combining both will help architects (be victorious by) deliver(ing) value in their organizations.

If you’d like to know more, please contact me directly at b.vangils@bizzdesign.com or leave a comment!
Post a Comment