Paul van der Merwe

COO, Real IRM / Chair, The Open Group Architecture Forum

This Open Group member spotlight focuses on Paul van der Merwe, COO of Real IRM and chair of the Architecture Forum, who has been involved with The Open Group since 2007.

Q: How long have you been involved with The Open Group?
My company, Real IRM, started representing The Open Group in South Africa in 2006. I followed the standards published by The Open Group for some time, but have been actively involved with The Open Group since I attended the January 2007 conference in San Diego.

Q: Why did you become a member and what does your involvement look like?
Real IRM’s consulting practice was initially based on the Zachman framework, but as time went by we started looking for an industry model that would better address the architecture process (or method). When The Open Group released TOGAF™ 8, we were pleased to see it addressing more demands of architecture. It was TOGAF 8 that we felt was something we could really incorporate into our consulting and training practices. It was a complementary framework to the Zachman framework, which was a good fit to grow our practice. We took a keen interest in it.

From a franchise perspective, Real IRM is representing The Open Group in South Africa, and therefore we apply a lot of Open Group-produced material in our consulting and training. We are running a project in the South African region to produce eight whitepapers on topics related to TOGAF. We are encouraging members from the entire region to participate.

While Real IRM has a strong focus on South Africa, in my new role as chair of the Architecture Forum I’m trying to encourage more participation amongst all Open Group members. I encourage not only Platinum members but also the newer members and the membership in general to participate in the different activities. Collaboration is one of the key focuses that I want to promote. The Open Group is a member-based organization, and if members don’t contribute and participate then The Open Group can’t move forward.

Q: How has membership in The Open Group benefited you, your organization and the industry at large?
Due to our close relationship with The Open Group, Real IRM is using a global standard that is accepted by customers and vendors globally – and truly globally, not just the U.S. and Europe – and that follows best practices developed by practitioners. We have grown the South African region by promoting The Open Group.

One of the key benefits of TOGAF is that it’s a standard that’s applicable across industries and geographies. We have found with members and TOGAF adopters in general that it is starting to become the common language and reference point across the architecture community.

Sharing some of our experiences within the global community is one way to make South African EA practices sustainable. The two key attributes that we like to see in EA practices are sustainability and business appropriateness. Most of the members in South Africa have that focus, and because we have evolved those best practices within a variety of South African member companies, we could contribute material around the TOGAF 9 capability framework.

Q: What contributions to The Open Group are you most proud of?
I’m proud of the key role we played in developing TOGAF 9, and we as a South African group are very proud of it. We were also the first franchise operation of The Open Group, and we are very successful at running a region where there is a lot of member participation and collaboration. We’ve established an EA community that meets on a frequent basis and shares ideas that become the basis for programs that are becoming more formalized. I’m proud that we are setting an example to the rest of the global EA community in that people can collaborate and actually come to conclusions and then establish material around it

Q: Why is it important for other organizations to join The Open Group?
What we see as being so valuable about The Open Group is that you can influence the development of a global standard around EA while making sure that it addresses your specific requirement. TOGAF is also standardizing the language around architecture so that the EA community can come to agreements around certain topics. The Open Group provides a tremendous benefit by functioning as a professional organization that is growing the body of knowledge around EA.

Q: What are your hobbies?
I enjoy traveling, which I do a lot of at the moment. I also love reading but I don’t get to it much anymore! I enjoy all of The Open Group’s meetings because it’s a great community.

Q: What book are you currently reading?
I am currently preparing for an exam around IT governance, so I’m reading for that.

Q: Any last thoughts?
As the newly elected Architecture Forum Chair, the three areas that I want to focus the Architecture Forum on for the rest of the year are:

  • Putting more management practices around TOGAF as a standard, in terms of product, architecture and program management.
  • Encouraging more participation and collaboration between members.
  • Taking the initial steps from moving from enterprise IT architecture to EA, which is the vision of the Architecture Forum.

About Paul van der Merwe

COO at Real IRM and chair of The Open Group’s Architecture Forum, Paul is one of South Africa's most dynamic and insightful enterprise architecture practitioners. A conceptual thinker, he has driven a number of advances in the fields in which he has specialized, among them software development, business intelligence, and now enterprise architecture. Under Paul's direction, Real IRM has taken enterprise architecture consulting and training into global markets, and as a consequence South Africa is a world leader in this domain.

A certified TOGAF practitioner, he presented the first TOGAF certification course in South Africa. He frequently presents on enterprise architecture, the Zachman Framework and governance, and has trained in these disciplines on three continents. Paul is also a respected academic who presents a post-graduate course in the Department of Informatics at the University of Pretoria. He is a member of the Association of Open Group Enterprise Architects, Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA), Computer Society of South Africa and the Information System Audit and Control Association (ISACA).

The Open Group Platinum Members