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Architecture Assurance – The Road to Success

Ensuring successful project implementation

The aim of the Architecture Assurance is to provide collaborative architecture processes for assuring complete implementation of the technical solutions that are aligned with the business drivers of an enterprise in a timely environment. The effective sharing of the information across different Business Units (BU) / departments within an enterprise and interoperability across IT systems would ensure the alignment of IT with business. The Architecture Assurance Group (AAG) is involved in reviewing the Project Architecture during the design and development phases of an application/system to help ensure successful project implementation. This review also ensures that the proposed system fits into the existing enterprise environment as well as the future architecture vision.

The goals of Architecture Assurance include some or all of the following:

  • Identify inconsistencies in the architecture early, which reduces the cost and risk of changes required later in the life cycle
  • Provide an overview of the compliance of architecture to mandated enterprise standards
  • Identify where the standards may require modification
  • Identify services that are currently application-specific but might be provided as part of the enterprise infrastructure
  • Take advantage of advances in technology
  • Communicate to management the status of the technical readiness of the project
  • Identify and communicate significant architectural gaps to product and service providers
  • Establish, own and manage Enterprise Architecture Content
  • Provide architecture governance: guidelines and recommendations on business and IT architecture
  • Ensure and enforce architecture compliance: review changes and deviations in business and IT architecture
  • Resolve architectural ambiguities, issues and conflicts at the enterprise level
  • Identify projects that have high architectural risk, and provide assistance to them early and often throughout the project
  • Provide guidance to project managers and designers to direct architecture compliance
  • Formally review projects to ensure compliance
  • Leverage third-party assessments
  • Leverage COT's products

The main benefits of these reviews are:

Project Success

  • Architecture is reviewed by a group of experienced architects across the enterprise
  • Assistance in leveraging the existing architecture promoting the reusability
  • Architecture for plug and play
  • Promote simplification and standardization
  • Proactively identify risks to the project
  • Provide enterprise-wide context to project team

Maintain the integrity of the enterprise IT environment and expand the user community's access to Enter resources

  • Does the project presents risk to the IT environment (e.g., infrastructure, other applications, users, enterprise policy)
  • Allows Architecture Review Team to proactively recognize when modifications to the architecture are required
  • Allows the project team to provide input to the extension of the proposed architecture
  • Does the project leverage the existing common services where applicable
  • Provides cost effectiveness across the enterprise

Architecture Assurance Methodology
The Architecture Assurance Group is a multi-disciplinary body that is responsible for the maintenance and enforcement of Architecture, Design standards and best practices across the programs/projects. The primary responsibility is to provide governance and ensure compliance of the defined enterprise / solution architecture.

Architecture Assurance is the key success factor in ensuring high quality deliverables for the architecture and design phases. The intent of the Architecture Assurance Process is to ensure that ongoing projects have the right architectural assumptions and that in-flight projects receive architectural guidance throughout the life cycle. This should be a collaborative effort to ensure that project designs and implementations are compliant with the defined architecture

A detailed Architecture Assurance process that achieves these goals is shown in Figure 1.

Review Preparation
Architecture/Design Review(s) should be conducted at a stage when there is still time to correct any major inconsistencies or shortcomings in the program/project.

The Architecture/Design Review is typically targeted for the Analysis SDLC phase and at a point in time when:

  • Business goals, business requirements, policies are defined
  • Ball park clarity of hardware and software requirements & decisions are not finalized
  • Project schedules / timelines are defined
  • Project risk assessment is done

Architecture Review Criteria is:

  • Start Early
  • Drive and Participate in architecture workshop
  • Establish relation with architecture & design teams
  • Involve through architecture & design
  • Involve and review the architecture and design decisions on an ongoing basis
  • Review the intermittent and final architecture deliverables
  • Share architecture best practices
  • Mentor architecture and design teams as appropriate
  • Architectural Risk Analysis and Mitigation
  • Quality attribute analysis of architecture
  • Failure and risk analysis of architecture
  • Mentor on engineering best practices
  • Mentor on Development method, tools & build practices
  • Performance and other NFR related best practices

During the review, the architecture review team needs to extract the information like impacted groups, impacted systems, data feeds, software components required such as build, buy and reuse, security requirement, availability, scalability, error handling, capacity sizing, integration with third parties, data center/hosting facility, etc.

Key activities of the Architecture Assurance Group are:

  • Conduct planned and random formal architecture review workshops for projects and programs
  • Analyze architecture quality attributes against requirements
  • Conduct architecture failure and risk analysis and mitigation plan
  • Identify areas of non-compliance and options to redress shortcomings
  • Conduct formal/informal reviews of intermediate and final architecture deliverables to ensure ongoing compliance and quality
  • Review and track architecture and design decisions

Solution Fitment
In this phase, Architecture Assurance look for a high-level functional fit and nonfunctional fitment of the solution. Also verifies the solution mapping with the design and various options provided for the solution, reasons for the choices, TCO analysis of each option, etc.

Standards Adherence
In this phase, the verification of the alignment of the solution with the architecture requirements is done. Proper realization of the Architecture Principles, Architecture Patterns, IT Strategy alignment are performed in this phase. Any deviation of the standards needs to be approved by the Architecture Assurance Group.

Report Preparation
In this phase, the report will be reviewed in terms of Business, Data, application & Technology. Also, identification of the open items, action items and next steps will be addressed & communicated to the project team

Tracking
The prepared report will be presented to the Program management & track the observations to the closure. In this Phase, we oversee the updated architecture artifacts

Architecture Review Process
To ensure smooth, timely, and low impact reviews, the involved parties should prepare within the guidelines below. The process flow is shown in Figure 2.

The project architecture team is responsible for:

  • Developing a project description that provides sufficient detail for the review team to evaluate architectural risks, including the project size, business impact, NFRs, Architecture Principles
  • Sharing project estimates

The Architecture Assurance Team is responsible for:

  • Assessing projects for architectural impact during the Proposal/Project Initiation phase of the SDLC processes
  • Providing guidance to projects through the design phase to ensure that the final design is architecturally compliant
  • Prepare/Customize Architecture Templates, Architecture Checklist
  • Participate in the Architecture Review meetings to provide support to project teams and to assist the Architecture Assurance Group in decision making.
  • Analyze the filled up Checklist, Summarize the review findings
  • Customize Architecture Metrics

As part of the Architecture Review Process the following standards of the system need to be reviewed and agreed

Business:

  • Business Strategy, Goals & Vision
  • IT Strategy
  • Existing Budgets, Resource Plans, Project Plans
  • Business Scope Description
  • Use Case Specification
  • Business Requirements Document (BRD)
  • Service Level Agreements
  • TCO Model (CAPEX/OPEX etc.) - Funding Status
  • Build/Buy/Reuse(Retrofit) Considerations
  • Business process modeling and workflow system
  • Business Process Optimization
  • Business Process Analysis
  • Business Process Monitoring & SLA's

Application:

  • Application platform
  • Programming/scripting language
  • Testing/monitoring tools
  • User interface platform
  • Enterprise application integration platform
  • Conceptual Architecture
  • Logical Architecture
  • Physical Architecture
  • Security Architecture
  • Portal platform
  • Architecture Frameworks
  • Performance Tuning Plan
  • Migration Plan
  • Tool/Vendor Selection Results

Data:

  • Data Strategy
  • Logical Data Model (LDM)
  • Physical Data Model (PDM)
  • Data integration platform
  • Reporting and data analysis platform

Infrastructure:

  • Server platform and operating system
  • Desktop platform and operating system
  • Bill of Materials
  • H/W & S/W Acquisition/Lease Plan
  • Security Implementation/Management Plan
  • Deployment Plan
  • Operational Readiness Plan
  • Release Plan
  • Network infrastructure
  • System Performance Report
  • Disaster Recovery Plan

Architecture Assurance Lead will perform the following activities:

  • Assign Review Team
  • Disagreement/Issue Resolution
  • Review Findings discussion and agreement & communication with the project/program team

Review members will:

  • Commit to review all materials in advance
  • Prepare detailed questions using this practice standard and Checklist as appropriate
  • Conduct any preliminary research as necessary to be an informed team member
  • Attend all review meetings
  • Provide a final assessment and recommendation based on their interpretation of the impact of the proposed solution architecture and design on the Enterprise Architecture.

Acknowledgments
Authors like to thank Hari Kishan Burle, General Manager, Wipro Technologies for giving us the required time and support in many ways in bringing this article as part of Architecture Assurance Practice efforts.

More Stories By Gopala Krishna Behara

Dr. Gopala Krishna Behara is a Senior Enterprise Architect in the Enterprise Architecture & Solutions division of Wipro. He has a total of 16 years of IT experience. He can be reached at gopalkrishna.behra@wipro.com

More Stories By Prasad Palli

Prasad Palli is a Practice Partner in the Enterprise Architecture & Solutions division of Wipro. He has a total of 15 years of IT experience. He can be reached at prasad.palli@wipro.com

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