When we first embarked on the "EA Adventure" we'd received a goodly deal of in-house training and consultation - and we followed up on that with lots of reading and conference attendance. All of these sources stressed the importance of architecture governance - and we agreed - an architecture that isn't followed or implemented is less than worthless. However, few of our sources offered any suggestions on how to actually execute that portion of the process.
We were particularly concerned that our organization is a rather small one - and our architecture group is proportionately diminutive - we wanted to reduce the amount of time spent on governance to a minimum. Moreover - there was concern that the architecture group itself does not really have any direct decision making authority with regard to projects.
We established what we'd considered a pragmatic process for governing architecture alignment (then called compliance) in projects. It essentially involved reviewing a project at 1) the planning stage, and during the 2) software design and 3) development stages. Performing the review would be a committee - the Architecture Review Team - consisting of the architects and various heads within the technology department. The project manager or technical lead would demonstrate the relevant parts of the project to the committee, and we would evaluate the project's alignment based on our standards, models and principles. Good right?
Of dozens of small projects - we successfully completed 2 partial reviews in 3 years - and neither of those reviews were actually successful in creating any sort of positive change in the projects. So, what were some of the problems?
Firstly - we'd not really established the fact that our efforts should be guided from the very beginning of an initiative -- at the project proposal stage -- by architecture.
Secondly, the section heads that we'd invited to participate in the committee were not particularly well versed in the architecture, or architecture process. They felt that they could contribute very little to the governance process. Only the architects - involved in the depth and breadth of the architecture could really have an up-to-date understanding of the architecture to make informed decisions.
Finally - getting that large group together to perform a review was an exercise in logistics.
Hence, not a terribly successful first attempt. We couldn't review the projects early - when we could have the most positive impact before a project had already established a scope and plan - and we couldn't perform reviews in a timely fashion - it taking so much time to arrange meetings, review the material and keep up to date on architecture. Most importantly - we felt we were wasting a lot of time for little impact.
How did we make it work better? We abolished the malfunctioning Architecture Review Team - and replaced it by having an architect assigned to each project that was responsible from beginning to end in tracking the alignment - from proposal to close. The architect ideally helps to write or consult on the project proposal and plan - and establishes which architecture components would be implemented by the project (if any), and keep track that the project was meeting established technology standards and architecture principles.
If there is an alignment issue - it's brought first to the technology lead or project manager - either directly or in a team meeting. Failing a resolution at that level the issue can be reported to the project review committee (a committee that's assigned to oversee individual projects -- to help remove roadblocks and provide guidance). Failing a resolution of the issue at that level - the problem is presented to the project sponsor and/or the corporate management team.
It's a reasonably nimble process - relying mainly on the resource availability of the architect (easily managed), and taps into the authority already existing in the project management and project portfolio processes already in place.
At this point in our second attempt at architecture governance - things seem to be going well. We're currently tracking the alignment of at least 50% of the ongoing projects - and likely 100% of the architecturally significant ones. Recommendations are more easily accepted - and in the few cases where there have been serious issues - they have been resolved reasonably quickly.
I'm crossing my fingers for continued success.