Exclusive Interview of The Open Group’s Mark Dickson and Andrew Josey Concerning the Open Agile Architecture™

andrew josey
Andrew Josey, VP Standards and Certification, The Open Group 

Earlier this fall, The Open Group, the vendor-neutral technology consortium, announced the publication of Open Agile Architecture™ (O-AA), a standard of The Open Group. Developed by The Open Group Governing Board Agile Architecture Work Group, the new standard is designed to support enterprises through dual Agile and Digital Transformation initiatives. 

We sought out a little more detail and The Open Group obliged, providing insights from Mark Dickson, Forum Director, Agile Architecture, The Open Group and Andrew Josey, VP Standards and Certification, The Open Group to the following questions. 

Question: Why publish the Open Agile Architecture standard now? 

Answer: The Open Group has a wide portfolio of complementary tools available to Enterprise Architects, including the TOGAF® standard and the ArchiMate® Enterprise Architecture Modeling LanguageThese are collectively known as the Architect’s Toolkit (“Tools by Architects for Architects”). The addition of the Open Agile Architecture™ (O-AA) standard  to the toolkit – developed by The Open Group Governing Board Agile Architecture Work Group – broadens that offeringenabling more flexibility and choice for Enterprise Architects to use the most appropriate approach in any given circumstance 

Our goal for the O-AA approach is to bring the architecture discipline to the forefront of the digital enterprise. The O-AA standard specifically supports Agile at scale, reinforcing the role of Enterprise Architecture (EA) as a key discipline to succeed the dual digital and Agile transformation. It also acknowledges that EA is the concern of a wide set of roles, meaning O-AA materials can be used by Enterprise Architects, Product Managers, Operations Managers, and Software Engineers. 

Q: What are the biggest advantages of an Open Agile Architecture? 

A: In today’s business environment where everything is digital, the need for organizations to demonstrate agility has never been more pertinent and relevant. The O-AA approach is designed to help organizations architect in an Agile at scale environment. This includes techniques and practices for understanding the key elements of a successful Digital Transformation project, and the role EA plays throughout. Taking into account key organizational factors, the standard also provides direction on experience-driven product architecture and development, as well as an efficient platform-driven operating model for guiding axioms and tenets in architecture design. 

Enterprises utilizing the O-AA practices and techniques will benefit from the provision of a proven change management approach, helping key stakeholders to navigate the shift towards business agility and accelerate Digital Transformation. By delivering guidance on Agile strategy and governance, it also enables organizations to build business resilience and safeguard against future disruption. In addition, by leveraging Design Thinking and Artificial Intelligence, the standard allows enterprises to transform both the customer and employee experience. 

Q: Digital transformation seems more like a concept, while agile is a methodology. How do the two relate to one another? 

A: Business and technology leaders are facing a transition from Digitization to Digital, which is the fundamental change towards becoming a digital enterprise. Traditional approaches and industry frameworks are being challenged by both new technologies, which enable dramatically lower barriers to digital value delivery, and by new practices likAgile. As a result, executives, managers, and practitioners are looking for practices that help them make sense of the landscape and deliver digital products and services.  

Digital Transformation is about achieving a shift in the business model, value proposition, operating system, or distribution systems in order to improve customer relationships, profitability, internal processes, performance, accessibility, and market reach. To successfully make the transition to a Digital Enterprise, organizations must be prepared for change so they can act upon it decisively and rapidlyAs such, there is a need for organizational agility – so the business is not only transitioning to a Digital Enterprise but also an Agile Enterprise. These two aspects “go hand in hand”, which is illustrated in Chapter 3 of the O-AA standard. 

Q: It was mentioned in a recent press release from The Open Group that “Enterprise Architecture is crucial to the transition to an Agile, digital-first culture.” Can you elaborate? 

A: All systems, both human and technical, have an architecture that ranges from simple to complex. Understanding and actively managing that architecture make the process of enabling change more successful. In smaller organizations, a few Agile/DevOps teams can coordinate change amongst themselves, as the lines to management are short enough that strategic direction can be conveyed to teams directly. In large organizations, however, there may be hundreds of Agile teams working on a specific part of the big “enterprise machine”.  

For large organizations in particular, Agile without EA can lead to disconnectedsiloed teams, which are unable to quickly and efficiently respond to industry changes and trendsEnsuring collaboration between these teams requires an integrative, overarching architectural approach. If we build upon the strengths of both Agile and EA approaches, we can create enterprises that move forward as a united whole without having a central, command-and-control management that stifles local development and innovation. 

Q: At what point will you know that publishing Open Agile Architecture was a success? 

A: We already consider the O-AA standard to be successful, as it is relevant for today’s Enterprise Architects, Product Managers, Operations Managers, and Software EngineersAs a result of industry collaboration, the O-AA standard has been developed by member organizations of The Open Group for the benefit and success of the wider community. Through sharing their own experiences and collaborating on best practices, member organizations of The Open Group have successfully addressed how to deploy Agile at scale 

Looking ahead, we expect to see an increasing number of organizations adopt best practices such as the O-AA standard to support continuous change – enabling them to become more resilient in the continuously evolving business, technology and digital landscape.