A recent discussion about how to establish an Architecture Review Board (ARB) was started in one of the many discussion groups I follow. The discussion was geared around the idea of establishing a charter and getting an ARB setup. With all the emphasis around compliance and the over abundance of compliance hitting companies externally, the last thing organization want to establish is more “governance”. So, I propose a different way to enable governance without the overhead.
The notion of an ARB suggests the need to impart oversight and/or provide control using some type of formal structure (the word “governance” comes to mind). That term has many meanings. EA is both a variable and expansive term, so be careful (what) and (where) you attempt to govern. The concerns I’ve seen with these formal structures is that they are add-ons to existing controls and governance and can be perceived negatively (for many fo the reasons mentioned above).
I have attempted to re-frame the problem of governance and the role that EA’s “play” in the organization by using an organic approach. The goal is to place EAs in more of an advisory role to promote “systems thinking” where decisions are being made that can affect the enterprise’s architecture. The EA can introduce a “six sigma like” model for measuring enterprise debt (along a number of dimensions, where technical and technology are but a few). Using a measurement driven model helps the organization visualize the problems related to underperforming architecture and their impacts on operations and LOB performance. That way they don’t have to “understand” architecture, but they better appreciate why it’s important to change the way the think (systems) and this may provide the EA with a more natural entry point to participate and educate as an internal advisor to organization.