Using a project to evolve an architecture practice

So, how do you squeeze time in to develop an EA-practice in a busy office where you are primarily expected to deliver on customer values?

Practice development as a by-product

For sure, if you are a motivated team with sponsorship and backing from management you will be able to produce small practice increments over time as an intentional by-product of your normal tasks, i.e. without dedicated funding.

architects-officeIt requires you to go that extra mile in order to make your deliverables reusable and aligned with other work from your team. You will need to have an allowance to work on the increments (say 10%-20% of your time, which is a lot without funding)* and be very structured.

And it will take time..

We have worked this approach with variable success for a couple of years and eventually reached a point where the need for a mature EA-practice became imminent. This was acknowledged by top level management while planning an enterprise-wide program to consolidate decentralized IT and a mature EA-practice was deemed essential to identify the business impacts of the changes.

On the up-side this was an important milestone, on the down-side we weren’t ready to deliver on the expectations.

Enter the dedicated Architecture Practice project!

Luckily though we had managed to gain faith enough that a dedicated project was set up to evolve the practice; The Architecture Practice project! (Kudos to everyone involved in boot strapping this). The timing was right and we had enough of report to not be side-stepped by procured skill.

This project is now our vehicle for practice development and we have in total 1,5 years and 5-6 architects to do dedicated practice development.

We are 6 months into the project and see some outcomes already;

  • needs-based deliverable catalog (draft)
  • modeling tools and guidelines (draft)
  • technology target architecture

It is driven in high speed passing through areas of process management, repository details, governance, information security and more -while integrating with other projects to align the deliverables with real business needs.

This post has described the backdrop for the blog, the as-is of our practice development and a travel itinerary for the journey from which I will post (accidental?) moments of structure.

So stay patient!

Lesson learned:

  1. Don’t underestimate the effort involved in establishing an architecture practice, and try to get dedicated funding. Be patient.
  2. Strike the right balance between building expectations and having the capability to meet them.

* Note that I believe an important part of the strategy for developing an architecture practice is  continuous improvement by involvement in solution activities. This is to ensure alignment with real business needs and to gain recognition on all levels of the organization.

This means a significant amount of time should be spent on solution activities (projects in our world) and I think 50% which we apply at the moment is a good ratio. (Another reason for this is to keep architecture skills up to date as proposed in “Chess and the art of Enterprise Architecture” by Gerben Wierda, which I highly recommend;

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