The Essential EA Toolkit Part 3 - An Architecture Governance Process

This post continues the Essential Tools discussion focusing on it Architecture Governance as a tactical and strategic activity.

The Essential EA Toolkit is a four-part blog on some recommended tools for Enterprise Architecture Teams. By "tools" I mean a few well-executed deliverables or processes that contribute enormous value to the organization (read Enterprise). These are not technologies; they require only standard office productivity software and perhaps a collaboration application such as SharePoint.

The Essential EA Toolkit (Part 1) identified the following four items:

  • A Business Capability Model (see Part 1)
  • A Standards Repository based on a Reference Architecture (see Part 2)
  • An Architecture Governance Process
  • A Strategic Blue Print and an Enterprise Roadmap (see Part 4)

This post examines the third - an Architecture Governance Process. In last week's posting I presented a definition of IT Governance:

"Specifying the decision rights and accountability framework to encourage desirable behavior in the use of IT."

- Weill, P. & Ross, J. W., 2004, IT Governance: How Top Performers Manage IT Decision Rights for Superior Results", Harvard Business School Press, Boston.

Governance is an essential function of Enterprise Architecture. An Architecture Governance Process is the set of activities an organization executes to ensure that decisions are made and accountability is enforced during the execution of it's architecture strategy.  An effective EA Governance process institutionalizes decision making and ensures accountability for decisions related to this. The Enterprise Roadmap, lays out the strategy, while the standards establish the building blocks used in execution.

The extent to which this definition differs from IT Governance depends on the role of EA in the organization. For most, the term "Enterprise Architecture" still implies "Enterprise Technology Architecture", therefore EA Governance is tactical and narrowly applied to conformance checking against technology standards. In a growing number of companies, EA is gaining ground as a strategic activity and therefore EA Governance is broad and approaches or exceeds the scope of IT Governance.

Here are two examples -

Example 1 - Tactical EA:  An organization has established an Architecture Standards Repository and filled it with content specifying technology product configuration, application development and data management standards. The governance process specifies how projects and infrastructure services are checked for conformance, how they are approved, who gets to make exceptions decisions and under what conditions.

Example 2 - Strategic EA: An organization has just completed delivery of an Enterprise Roadmap in partnership with the business. The roadmap lays out the technology investment strategy for the next 18 months, identifying the programs and projects the business intends to invest in and how those investments build out the enterprise's architecture.

Governance process establish the checks, accountability and decision points to ensure that investment dollars execute against this roadmap and the future architecture is achieved.  How will the organization identify deviations? How will they be handled? Who approves these? How will changes be communicated? Who is accountable if changes lead the organization astray?

Both examples are valid approaches and depend on how an organization defines Enterprise Architecture; it is therefore critically important to effective governance that an organization have a definition.

Here three components of an effective EA Governance. The first two are commonly recognized as being part of "EA", while the third is an EA function in a strategic sense but is not solely owned and executed by traditional EA teams.

  • An Architecture Review Process
  • A Standards Management Process
  • A Roadmap Management Process

An Architecture Review Process -

This process establishes periodic reviews of solutions at various points in the technology delivery lifecycle and proposes changes to the body of architecture standards. It is tactically focused; with the objective of ensuring conformance to strategy and standards, identifying exceptions, and documenting issues with enterprise impacts.

Most mature architecture organizations have some form of architecture review, however some overlook a fundamental benefit - review provides a chance to educate and seek consensus.

1 2 3 4 Page 1
Page 1 of 4
The CIO Fall digital issue is here! Learn how CIO100 award-winning organizations are reimagining products and services for a new era of customer and employee engagement.