TOGAF – What is it? Should you get certified?

I promised an Accenture colleague I would write this blog after I attended a TOGAF 9 training earlier in the year. So here goes…

What is TOGAF?

TOGAF is an acronym for The Open Group Architecture Framework. It’s a widely used enterprise architecture framework and associated vendor-agnostic architecture development methodology (another meaning for the #ADM TLA!). Arguably it’s the most prominent and reliable one in existence, although many others exist today  most have common elements with TOGAF e.g. Federal Enterprise Architecture Framework (FEAF), ISO/IEC 14252 and The Zachmann Framework etc.

The Framework

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TOGAF is an open source architecture framework, with associated guidelines, techniques and methodology.

It tells you “what” you need to do to design an architecture capability.

The Certification

TOGAF is a universally recognised architecture certification. A successful candidate needs to pass two exams (see below)

Why get certified?

At my client – Shell, all architects need to be TOGAF certified. This is because their architecture function follows TOGAF, it’s principles, guidelines and Architecture Development Methodology rigorously. Although my current role is not as an Architect (long story), learning and passing TOGAF certification has been very useful to understand all terminology, roles, process and deliverables. It also enables me to “a seat at the table” during architecture discussions.

What is the process?

The approach I took to get certified was to attend the five day virtual training course, which was run by Global Knowledge for Accenture (mylearning course code: Z99425-0002). Being truly virtual, this in itself was an interesting experience. There were fifteen attendees located around the globe – Europe, Asia, US – and one external instructor based in Canada. For most people this meant the course was at an awkward time of day: 5am start for me, midnight start for the instructor, but those in India lucked out with 9:30am!

We received a voucher during the course allowing us to schedule the TOGAF 9.1 Level 1 and Level 2 certification exams. We were expected to schedule and sit the exams through our nearest Prometric Test Center within 90 days of completing the course.

What were the exams like?

Both exams were taken at a third party testing facility in the same sitting. For me, this was only a 15 minute drive to a dilapidated office building on a small industrial estate. They took it very seriously though – I was ordered to hand over any possessions, searched and then marched to a testing booth with a PC, a wipe-clean notepad and with CCTV monitoring me whilst I sat the exam.

There are two parts to the certification process:

Level1

  • 60 minute closed book exam
  • 40 multiple choice questions
  • Tests your knowledge of the core concepts of TOGAF.
  • The scoring is binary: only one answer is correct, but some are partially correct to try and catch you out. 
  • The pass mark is 55%

For someone like me who hasn’t sat an exam since leaving University back in 2001 – this was a bit of a shock to the system. I’ve always preferred, and performed better in exams that test your understanding of content rather than straight knowledge quizzes. I get bored quickly learning “parrot fashion”. However, I found that with the knowledge I’d gained from the training course and some light revision the night before the exam, this was enough to pass with confidence and well within the time limit. The key success factor for me was the training course. It really was a worthwhile use of my time given the way I like to learn.

Level2

  • 90 minute open book exam
  • 8 complex scenario based questions
  • Tests your understanding of the core concepts of TOGAF.
  • The scoring is graded: only one answer is completely accurate and gets you a perfect score, but others are partially correct to try and catch you out and therefore score lower (or nothing if you select the red-herring).
  • The pass mark is 60%

I haven’t been involved in many pure EA projects before, I’m more experienced in Technology Architecture (lower level of detail) type work. So as expected, answering the scenario based questions proved much easier for me and again I finished within the alloted time. I would state the key success factor here was my background and experience, rather than the training course.

Have I found it useful?

In other words, did I learn anything? Yes, is the simple answer. As mentioned previously, it complements the Accenture’s internal architecture frameworks and methodologies nicely. As you would expect most of the content is common sense, I didn’t come across anything I would consider complicated or that was contrary to my base knowledge. I have learned that from The Open Group’s perspective knowing their exact terminology is as essential as understanding their key concepts, models and methods. It’ll need a bit of short-term cramming to pass the two exams.

Maybe I’ll look into ITIL next?!

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