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  • Mapping the Enterprise Architecture Principles in TOGAF to the Cybernetic Concepts An Exploratory Study

    Mohammad EsmaeilZadeh

    Unversity of New South Wales at Australian Defence Force

    Academy m.esmaeilzadeh@student.adfa.

    Gary Millar Unversity of New South Wales

    at Australian Defence Force Academy

    Edward Lewis Unversity of New South Wales

    at Australian Defence Force Academy


    Although principles are a key concept in the definition of Enterprise Architecture (EA), they have not received the same degree of attention as other EA concepts. The notion of EA principles (EAP) is suffering from the lack of a theoretical foundation that provides a logical framework for defining them.

    Stafford Beers Viable System Model (VSM) and its application to IT governance, the Viable Governance Model (VGM), have shown to be comprehensive blueprints for designing viable organizations and IT governance arrangements, respectively. The purpose of this paper is to explore whether the principles of cybernetics can provide a theoretical basis for interpreting EA principles derived through practice. This paper maps the principles defined in the Open Groups TOGAF to theoretical concepts drawn from the VSM/VGM and cybernetics. The paper concludes by identifying possible shortfalls in the existing set of principles and the need to develop a theoretical framework to overcome them. 1. Introduction

    Among the many different definitions of Enterprise Architecture (EA), the most widely used is that of TOGAF which is based on the ISO/IEC 42010 definition of architecture [1]: The fundamental organization of a system, embodied in its components, their relationships to each other and the environment, and the principles governing its design and evolution.

    This definition indicates that principles represent an essential element of an EA. The literature also supports this view (see e.g., [2-4]). Some researchers, such as Hoogervorst, even believe that principles are the main element in the definition of EA [5]: architecture is a coherent and consistent set of principles and standards. However, despite their perceived importance, EAPs have received less attention than other EA concepts such as models and views (e.g. [2, 6-7]).

    In recent years, several researchers have begun to investigate the domain of EA principles [2, 6-8]. Their studies are primarily concerned with finding a common definition, classifying EAPs, or collecting different types of EAPs. Stelzer [6] reviewed the different studies related to EAPs and identified the following limitations: the lack of an appropriate definition for EAP, the lack of a theoretical basis for developing them, and the lack of a set of generic EA design principles. Aier et al. [7] studied different approaches to defining EA principles and proposed a meta-model defining EA principles. Proper et al. [2] believed that EA is an integral part of the governance of an enterprise and its transformation. They regarded EAPs as the normative instruments in restricting design freedom in enterprise transformation. They provided a framework to position the different types of principles, and highlighted their role in EA. Lindstrom [8] proposed a reference model for IS/ICT responsibilities and related this model to architecture principles and exemplified them by some architecture principles, i.e. interoperability and data quality. She also proposed a set of guidelines to define and manage architecture principles.

    However, despite these advances in defining EAP, there is no theoretical basis for proposing a coherent set of EAPs or guidelines to define them. The main goal of our research is to establish whether cybernetic principles, especially those embodied in the VSM/VGM, can provide a sound theoretical basis for deriving a robust set of EAPs. As the first step in reaching this goal, this paper explores whether EAPs established through practice can be explained using fundamental cybernetic concepts. 2. Principles in TOGAF

    The main source for EAPs is TOGAF [21], which is available on The Open Group website [4]. These principles are usually adapted and customized by organizations as their EAPs. However, there are other

    2012 45th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences

    978-0-7695-4525-7/12 $26.00 2012 IEEEDOI 10.1109/HICSS.2012.422


    2012 45th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences

    978-0-7695-4525-7/12 $26.00 2012 IEEEDOI 10.1109/HICSS.2012.422


  • collections such as that in the US Government's Federal Enterprise Architecture Framework (FEAF) [9]. Greefhorst and Proper have recently proposed a set of principles based on an extensive study of real-world architectures [10]. As the main goal of this research is to propose a theoretical framework for explaining the existing EAPs, we focus on TOGAFs principles in this paper, leaving other sets of principles for future work.

    TOGAF defines EAP as [4]: general rules and guidelines, intended to be enduring and seldom amended, that inform and support the way in which an organization sets about fulfilling its mission. TOGAF notes that principles may be established at three levels: enterprise principles, IT principles and architecture principles. These sets of principles form a hierarchy, in that IT principles will be informed by, and elaborate on, the principles at the enterprise level; and architecture principles will likewise be informed by the principles at the two higher levels. TOGAF defines each EAP in a standard representation that includes: name, statement, rationale, and implications.

    The alignment between business objectives and IT capabilities is an important key in defining principles in TOGAF. Specifically the following sources for developing the architecture principles are highlighted: enterprise mission and plans, enterprise strategic initiatives, external constraints, current systems and technology, and computer industry trends. TOGAF emphasized that principles should be few in number, future-oriented, and endorsed and championed by senior management. A good set contains principles that are understandable, robust, complete, consistent, and stable. 3. The VSM

    Originally, cybernetics was defined as the science of communication and control in animals and machines [11]. In contemporary usage, cybernetics refers more broadly to the study of control and communication in systems, including socio-technical systems such as organizations. When applied to organizational systems, it has been referred to as the science of effective organizations [12]. For a comprehensive list of the most common principles of cybernetics and system thinking refer to [13].

    Among these principles, one of the most influential concepts in organization theory is Ashbys law of requisite variety: Control can be obtained only if the variety of the controller is at least as great as the variety of the situation to be controlled [14]. Variety is the measure of the number of different states within a system [12]. The variety of a system depends on the

    context in which it is embedded, and also who is observing that system. Contemporary organizations are embedded in complex, dynamic environments. Therefore in order to cope with substantial variety, organizations need variety attenuator to reduce or filter the variety arising from the environment [12]. On the other hand, the organization needs to deploy variety amplifiers to amplify its own variety to increase its influence over the environment.

    Applying the laws and principles of cybernetics, especially requisite variety, to the design of effective organizations, Stafford Beer formulated the Viable System Model (VSM) as a blueprint for designing organizations that are able to survive and thrive in a changing environment [12, 15-18]. VSM integrates into a coherent framework an array of cybernetic concepts, including: feedback, communications, variety, recursion, viability, autonomy, autopoiesis, self-regulation, self-organization, and learning [19].

    The model comprises five main functions or systems: Policy, Intelligence, Control, Co-ordination, and Operations. Beer labeled these management functions Systems 5 to 1 respectively. A sixth function, Audit, is labeled 3* to indicate that it is a sub-system of System 3. These six functions are linked through a series of communication channels or information flows. The VSM is schematically represented in Figure 1.

    Figure 1. The Viable System Model (VSM)

    (Adapted from [17]) The five systems of the VSM represent the five

    invariant functions of a viable organization; they do not necessarily represent discrete organizational


  • groupings or units. Two or more functions may be carried out by the same individual or unit. However, they MUST be carried out if the organization is to remain viable [12]. Another defining feature of VSM is its recursive nature. Stafford Beers Recursive System Theorem states that: in a recursive organizational structure, any viable system contains, and is contained within, a viable system [15].

    The Viable Governance Model (VGM) adapts the VSM to one aspect of organizational control, namely IT governance [19]. The VGM is used to formulate a series of design propositions or principles that may be used to guide the design and implementation of specific IT governance arrangements. The VGM specifies the invariant sub-systems of an effective system of IT governance, together with the design principles to be followed when implementing a particular system. In defining the VGM, value creation and value preservation (or risk management) are the ultimate sources of organization viability, and therefore, their realization is the primary purpose in the VGM.

    A key benefit of the VGM is the alignment between IT and business that it encourages. The VGM emphasizes that the IT function should be modeled as a service unit, not an operational unit (i.e., an embedded viable unit), unless IT is part of the organizations value chain. A list of the most important design propositions for IT governance in VGM is given in [20]. There is a move to regard Enterprise Architecture as the planning of all resources, including people, not just information technology [21]. This fact must be considered when using the IT governance concepts, and specially the VGM, in the context of EA. 4. Developing EAPs based on the concepts of VSM and VGM

    Two recent studies have used the VSM as a suitable theory for investigating facets of enterprise architecture (e.g. [22-23]). Looking for a holistic and integrated management of the different concepts in EA, Buckl et al. [22] approach the topic of EA management from a cybernetic point of view. Their research is primarily concerned with the management of EA and how EA forms and is embedded in a viable system. Graves [23] uses VSM to investigate Service Oriented Architecture (SOA). Aiming to extend EA frameworks beyond IT-systems, Graves used systems-theory, and especially the VSM, to improve the design and delivery of business services. He regarded services as viable systems and showed that using VSM concepts can be of direct benefit in providing simplicity and consistency in service design. Neither of these two

    studies used the VSM as a conceptual framework for developing principles for EA.

    In earlier definitions, EA is regarded as the blueprint for the architecture of an organization [5]. Similarly, the VSM is also a blueprint of an organization, one that is viable [16]. Given the potential overlap between these two concepts, the VSM/VGM may prove to be a useful theoretical foundation for developing EAPs.

    In the first step, which is part of a broader research program, this paper will show how the existing heuristic principles defined by TOGAF can be mapped to the cybernetic principles embodies in the VSM/VGM. 5. Results

    TOGAF Version 9 specifies a set of 21 principles categorized according to four domains: business, data, application and technology. The scope of this analysis is limited to the EAPs drawn from the business domain because of the embryonic stage of this research and the space limits of this paper. The complete list of EAPs is available in the Open Group web site [4].

    The nine TOGAF business-domain principles are each examined in turn. First, the name, statement and rationale of each principle, as defined by TOGAF, are presented. This presentation is followed by an analysis of how the principles can be mapped to the concepts of cybernetics, as exemplified in the VSM or VGM. The mapping may not be one-to-one, i.e., one fundamental cybernetics concept may have explanatory power for one or more EAP.

    In this approach, the implications sections of the EAP definitions are not examined. Although the implications statements are important, they are primarily concerned with issues related to the following the principles, rather than justifying the principles [4]. Implications statements address organization-specific aspects of the principles [10].

    Table 1 shows a summary of the comparison between the EAPs of TOGAF and the related cybernetics concepts. The following paragraphs give the analyses of these TOGAF business principles through the concepts of cybernetics or VSM/ VGM.

    5.1. Principle 1: Primacy of Principles

    Statement: These principles of information management apply to all organizations within the enterprise.

    Rationale: The only way we can provide a consistent and measurable level of quality information


  • Table1. Comparison of TOGAFs EAPs with cybernetics, VSM and VGM concepts

    EA principle in TOGAF Cybernetic principle, VSM and VGM concept 1. Primacy of Principles Viability, Recursion. 2. Maximize Benefit to the Enterprise Viability, Cohesion. 3. Information Management is Everybodys Business Recursion, Cohesion, Coordination. 4. Business Continuity Homeostasis, Viability, Value Preservation 5. Common Use Applications Cohesion, Coordination 6. Service Orientation IT as a service unit 7. Compliance with Law Recursion, Audit 8: IT Responsibility IT as a service unit 9: Protection of Intellectual Property Viability, Value preservation

    to decision-makers is if all organizations abide by the principles. Analysis: The VSM is based on the concept of viability. That is, to remain viable (i.e., to survive) the laws and principles embodied in the VSM must be complied with. Furthermore, because the VSM is a recursive model, all subsystems of the VSM must be viable too; that is, they too must comply with the same invariant principles as the containing system. Therefore, if the principles of cybernetics are used to derive a set of principles for EA, these principles must apply to all organizations within the enterprise. 5.2. Principle 2: Maximize Benefit to the Enterprise

    Statement: Information management decisions are

    made to provide maximum benefit to th...


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