October 31, 2014

In the Architecture Office #7: It doesn’t make sense if it just makes sense…

BY :     October 31, 2014

Per1Previously in the Architecture Practice: Chief architect Herbert Birchbranch (called Herb in the text) got a new friend, the business architect James Berry. Together they started to build a reference architecture with the business process framework as the foundation. Herb felt that the future looked a lot brighter. He had finally managed to bring the business perspective into the architecture.

Herb’s got a new mantra

In the beginning, Herb was challenging his architects and stakeholders with questions about quality. What quality shall architecture contribute to? What architecture is needed to support achievement of quality goals? The term quality got a little worn out and sometimes seemed to make it more complicated in people’s minds.

In the daily business a half year later, Herb had skipped the term quality. Instead he started to use a new mantra: Create architecture that makes sense? Does this architecture deliverable make sense to anyone? Create architecture that makes sense? To whom does it make sense?

It seemed to help. For some of the architects, the question of useful and pragmatic architecture got easier to understand.

Herb’s new mantra got a turn

Per2One day, Herb had a meeting with the new integration architect, Andrew Wiggins. He told Herb that he had a problem with attitude among some people in the technology maintenance teams. He had received comments like “We haven’t heard about that architecture decision, so we don’t care,”  “What architects say are just recommendations. We still do as we want.” This made Herb frustrated. What they say is “Architects, back off from our sandbox!” He realized that it is not enough to create architecture that makes sense. He also realized that there is a cultural issue. Something more is needed to get the architecture into real practice, to make sense.

Participation may be the key

Per3Herb spent some time thinking about the issue. How the decisions are communicated is of course important. Though, he decided to try a new way, to invite some of the technicians to participate in the architecture work. It was just in time, as his infrastructure architect Bart Carlson had been pushing the need for infrastructure architecture. Herb made a call to Bart and asked him to set up a meeting with the technology guys he thinks are both interested and are seen as technology leaders. Three weeks later the first meeting for defining the infrastructure architecture structure was held. The discussions were on different levels. Some of the guys presented the work they had done. Herb took the opportunity to teach architectural basics. After the initial introduction part of the meeting, Herb took over and started to facilitate towards the goal to create an infrastructure structure. The discussions were really good and created an understanding of the different levels of architecture. The final discussion ended up splitting the infrastructure into technology infrastructure and physical infrastructure, as there were also operations facilities involved.

After the meeting Herb was really satisfied. They all had agreed about the first draft of structure, and the guys seemed to be clever and interested. He thought that after this participation these guys and their friends won’t obstruct architecture in the future. Participation and early involvement may be the key to finally let the architecture make sense.

OK, you are probably curious about the result. Here’s the basic structure they agreed upon.

Per4

It may look simple, but it is their own result, and the discussions about the relations and demarcations towards other architecture areas were very valuable.

Conclusions

It is important to build a supporting mantra around architecture that helps the architects to create the right architecture. This has to be adapted to the culture and terminology in the specific organization.

Decisions about architecture don’t matter if they don’t get communicated, or reach the organization that it shall guide and steer. They also don’t make sense if the culture just sees the architecture decision as a recommendation for you to care about only if you want to.

It is important to set up good communication procedures for architecture decisions, but be aware that  today it has to be done through many channels to reach all receivers.

To involve the right technology people to participate in architectural work can be a smart approach. It can change the culture. It will anchor the architectural structure and thinking. It probably also leads to a better architecture.

Architecture, however good it may be, doesn’t make sense if it doesn’t reach the practise. It also doesn’t make sense if it is denied by the practise it reaches.

Per Björkegren

About

Per Björkegren is an Enterprise Architect and IT strategist in Sweden. He has worked within Capgemini Group since 1991 and is the practice leader for Enterprise Architecture and IT Governance within Sogeti Sweden, developing the service offerings and speaking at open seminars. He is also the founder and president of SWEAN (Swedish Enterprise Architecture Network), which currently has close to 1000 members.

More on Per Björkegren.

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    *Opinions expressed on this blog reflect the writer’s views and not the position of the Sogeti Group