The Top Enterprise Architecture Frameworks & Tools for 2021

On the list of Glassdoor’s 50 Best Jobs in America for 2021, enterprise architect landed the No. 4 spot – with the job board saying that there are more than 10,000 openings currently for the role.

It’s not hard to understand why. In a very short amount of time, the role of the enterprise architect has changed. Once IT-centric and integration-focused, and aimed at architecting systems to deliver business efficiencies and optimization, enterprise architects are now key partners in developing and delivering new digital business models.

Two years ago, Gartner said that by 2021 some 40 percent of organizations would use enterprise architects to help ideate and create new revenue streams, services, and customer experiences with emerging technologies. It recently released new numbers showing that by 2023, 60 percent of organizations will depend on enterprise architects to lead the business approach to digital transformation.

That’s a tall order. How does an enterprise architect best deliver on these digital business imperatives at the speed and level of security the enterprise demands? Using the right set of enterprise architecture frameworks and having the right enterprise architecture tools to achieve the desired business outcome is crucial in this regard.

Because the landscape of established platforms and best-of-breed toolsets is vast and continues to grow, let’s consider some of the basics and leading enterprise architecture tool functionality to look for.

Enterprise Architecture: The nuts and bolts

First, let’s define enterprise architecture. ISO 42010 defines an architecture as a structure of a system in terms of components, their externally visible properties, their relations, and their underlying principles. An enterprise architecture creates an abstracted, holistic view of how each part of an enterprise interacts, to support planning and decision-making and provide the governance to best define and evolve the functionality needed to drive the business objectives.

Why do organizations need this digital blueprint? New digital business models demand data, applications, and technology to drive them. A solid enterprise architecture and the tools to work within it give teams the visibility to easily collaborate and use technology that supports the overall vision – such that if technology is updated or swapped out, the building itself doesn’t stop functioning or outright fall down.

Today’s enterprise architecture also needs to consider the growing and incredibly important use of open source software because of the efficiency and speed it enables. Gaining visibility and control over its use, coupled with ways to ease the path to its use, is crucial.

The Top Enterprise Architecture Frameworks

Enterprise Architecture frameworks provide guidance on designing, planning, implementing, defining, and enforcing governance around the architecture. The two oldest, most well-known and widely used enterprise architecture frameworks are The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF) and the Zachman Framework.

The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF)

TOGAF is an open framework introduced in 1995 and continually updated by the standards development consortium The Open Group. Now in Version 9.2, the core of this framework is the Architecture Development Method (ADM). This describes a method for developing an enterprise architecture that was borne of and driven by actual use from companies in The Open Group community. The framework is continually enhanced by the architecture practitioners that use it. The method for development is designed to deal with most system and organizational requirements, but can be modified or extended.


The Zachman Framework

Unlike TOGAF, the Zachman Framework, the brainchild of John Zachman, is not a methodology for defining the implementation of enterprise architecture. It’s a 6 x 6 matrix that has been in use for decades to define an enterprise and support building an enterprise architecture, by using “what, how, where, who, when, why” parameters to focus and answer questions about the enterprise. Categories help companies describe complex things in increasing detail as the user moves down the rows of the matrix, and helps organize information based on different stakeholder views. It has rules that control how data is entered.

Other Enterprise Architecture Frameworks

There are other open and proprietary frameworks, and organizations may also develop their own framework. Some examples include the Common Approach to Federal Enterprise Architecture, which does exactly as its namesake implies. Released in May 2012 by the first federal CIO, the framework provides a shared approach to federal IT service delivery with an overall approach to standardize the development and approach to enterprise architecture across and within federal agencies, including a common language to describe and analyze investments.

The DODAF (Department of Defense Architecture Framework) does the same for the Department of Defense. There are also proprietary frameworks like that from Gartner, the enterprise consultancy, which released its own framework based on best practices and learnings from its clients in 2005.

The Top Enterprise Architecture Tools

While enterprise architects once used Excel and other basic tools in their role, there are now several tools and platforms on the market to support building and maintaining enterprise architectures.

At the minimum, enterprise architecture tools should provide a repository, metamodeling capabilities, functionality to create or import models and artifacts, and a way to show the information to meet the needs of different stakeholders and easily allow them to collaborate. They should provide a user interface that makes it easy to visualize and publish parts of the enterprise architecture for people to share and analyze it, as well as document changes and automatically alert stakeholders to the change.

There are different categories of tools that support IT management, software development and design, business process design and business process management – and there is no one tool to rule them all, so to speak. Many companies use a combination of tools and platforms – with a key functionality being the ease with which the tool can integrate with them. To that end, the market is made up of established players and best-of-breed vendors.

A sampling of some of the emerging players and market leaders in enterprise architecture tools includes:

  • Abacus by Avolution has strong modeling and roadmapping capabilities and supports collaboration with cloud-based access to data and dashboards. It touts its pre-built integrations and REST API.
  • ADOIT by BOC Group offers role-specific views and reports, and most enterprise architecture scenarios can be accomplished out of the box. It supports the ArchiMate metamodel.
  • Alfabet by Software AG is a market-leading platform providing end-to-end enterprise architecture capabilities, including the ability to visualize the IT portfolio from different perspectives, catalog services and architecture dependencies, and strong integration capabilities for third-party products.
  • Ardoq provides several different capabilities, but has strong collaboration enablement through dashboards and interactive visualizations and diagrams to understand dependencies.
  • BIZZDesign Enterprise Studio is a modeling tool that provides ArchiMate support, an open and independent modeling language. Its modeling interface provides drag and drop capabilities and automatically generates diagrams, and supports a broad array of frameworks and security standards.
  • HOPEX by MEGA International offers an enterprise architecture platform with a wide array of functionality, touting its open API and out-of-box integrations that allow quicker time to value with pre-built workflows, reports and dashboards, but also the ability to customize each platform component.
  • Mermaid is a software architecture diagramming tool, which provides visual models of code and design patterns from text.
  • Planview Enterprise One by Planview provides strong application portfolio management capabilities, and aids risk management by identifying interdependencies between applications, capabilities and infrastructure.
  • Private StackShare for Teams provides real-time visibility, collaboration, and integration capabilities to collaborate on technology decisions across your engineering teams.
  • Sparx Systems Enterprise Architect provides full lifecycle modeling capabilities, and is a multi-user, graphical tool using built-in reporting and documentation to ease and enable collaboration.

Enterprise architects will become even more important in driving digital transformation and enabling sustainable business models that thrive for good. Thoughtfully considering the enterprise architecture tools and the collaboration structure that enables this is a key first step to building a solid and flexible architecture to guide it all.

Enterprise Collaboration for Enterprise Architects

We recently made our debut into the enterprise architecture space stemming from our success in building a tool that creates visibility into the software stacks used across thousands of companies.

Private StackShare for Teams does something similar for companies internally – allowing businesses to get a full picture of their software stacks, track and see changes, and facilitate collaboration. It integrates directly with Git repositories to provide an up-to-date view of a company’s tech stacks and allows enterprise architects and developers to discuss and document decisions on top of that data.

Private StackShare pulls a complete picture of open source use across the enterprise and allows everyone to see it all in a real-time dashboard. Any time a developer merges a pull request that contains stack changes in a connected repository, that change is automatically documented, and teams are alerted any time a tool is added, removed or a version is changed.

Private StackShare for Teams eases and encourages collaboration across engineering teams because colleagues can easily identify and ask those who have used specific technologies for advice, while also proactively alerting developers when a specific technology is tagged in their post.

Ready to add Private StackShare for Teams to your enterprise architecture toolkit? Sign up for free today. You can also find Private StackShare on the GitHub Marketplace.