The Architectural System
By Gabriel Morgan
Realizing an enterprise architecture plan has a lot to do with establishing the right kind of “Architecture System” in your organization. Every company is different, so I don’t want to make the following sound as if it’s a law of nature. Rather, I thought I would share how we’re approaching this issue at REI in the hope that it might stimulate your thinking for your own specific organizational context.
The Architecture System brings together the people, process and tools that define the architecture discipline and enable you to fill architecture positions to ensure enterprise coverage. We also invest in our Architects via an Architect Care Campaign to deliberately build the architect skills and prepare them for their accountabilities. We also established a portfolio planning process where Architects have a critical role to perform: They can decide on the technologies and shape projects to deliver business value while simultaneously improving system quality.
We are focused on growth and laying down the foundational systems and infrastructure architecture in particular to essentially raise the quality of reuse of information. It’s critical that we connect information across business lines and improve the experience for our customers and members.
Our approach is to be conscious about balancing both Operational Efficiency and Business Effectiveness. Having the opportunity to design our IT Portfolio Planning function and Architecture function, gives us the ability to deliberately achieve both themes. To make this happen, we've adapted a design principle where we organize resources around business process areas. We call them domains. For REI, Domains include things like supply chain, retail stores, merchandising, and so forth. Each domain has a scorecard describing their business performance targets derived from strategic planning. This is how project portfolios are prioritized.
Architects are accountable to define solution architectures for every project in each of the domain’s project portfolio. The solution architectures implicitly include future state architecture assertions traceable to improving system quality. Therefore, all projects that are approved to be delivered are scoped to deliver business value while simultaneously improving system qualities such as Availability, Security, Flexibility, etc.
In REI, we have three Architect titles: Enterprise Architect, Domain Architect, and Solution Architect. Enterprise Architects are the most senior and are accountable to design the architecture system and be the highest point of technology-decision escalation. They define what an Architect is and does. Domain Architects are accountable for a specific portfolio of applications and information encapsulated to a process area. Domain Architects are the primary technology decision makers and provide direction and guidance to project-level Solution Architects to execute against.
The Domain Architect is a very interesting role in REI. We’ve designed the role for success by empowering the role to have decision-making ability for the technology decisions, which technology to use, how it should be used, the investment disposition of them, the future state, and the API definition, message schemas. Essentially, Domain Architects are a multi-disciplinary architect role responsible for all the process information, application and infrastructure within that domain.
An important characteristic we’ve put in place is positioning Domain Architects to be directly managed by senior IT Leaders accountable for IT groups oriented toward business process areas/domains. In REI, IT Directors are people managers and assigned to business process areas/domains. Their measure of success is their scorecard and they are equipped with Architects and project delivery resources to achieve scorecard KPI targets while improving system quality.
IT is often asked simple questions like “what's the value of that project?” or “What's the value of that team?” For many IT organizations, that’s a frightening conversation. For us, answering them is natural to the design of our IT organization and processes we perform. We are set-up for success to measurably deliver business performance improvement.
REI has this Architectural System defined and have begun using it. More to share on REI’s progress in a later post.
Gabriel is responsible for managing a team of Enterprise Architects at Recreation Equipment, Inc. (REI) As an Executive-level Architect and Planner with 18+ years of experience, Mr Morgan has developed a vibrant Architectural community within REI focused on raising the bar on architectural quality across the organization.