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Architecture Reviews

WithYouWithMe - February 22, 2022
Synopsis:

Architecture Reviews analyses frameworks of enterprise and solution architecture, which is vital for technology and operational design.  

Architecture reviews are conducted to understand the designed or eventuated structure of a particular ‘thing’ so that a further design or alternation of a design may be conceived. Architecture is vital, it is the rational understanding of the designed structure. While commonly associated with a building in the construction industry, architecture can apply to anything. In the business and technology world, architecture is important to providing direction and guidance to the various nodes of activity. Enterprise architecture is the description of such elements as business strategy, plan and key operations. Solution architecture refers to the operational and technology symbiosis to solve a particular problem, and technology architecture refers to how that technology is structured and designed. On their face, these definitions are simple, however, conducting a review of an organisation’s architecture can be complex and ambiguous.  

Enterprises, like military organisations, deal with complex and ambiguous problems which tend to have high consequences. The complexity eventuates from many competing priorities and numerous nodes of activities. The ambiguity is caused by an evolving environment of threat actors, economic and social effects, and information uncertainty. While this complexity and ambiguity make an architecture review difficult, it is also the reason why understanding the organisation's architecture is so vital; for, in the face of chaos, we must be orderly. The point of a review is to understand the enterprise's strategy and goals, assess the operations, technology and solutions aimed at realising that strategy and goal and make a judgement upon points of friction, neglect, and redundancy. This assessment is to then be used in the designing of further architecture for maximising the achievement of long-term efficiency and excellence.  

The International Standards Organisation (‘ISO’), asserts that an architecture review should encompass five ‘views’ (ISO 42010:2011); views are synonymous with perspectives or categories. These views are enterprise, information, computation, engineering and technology. Enterprise is the viewpoint of operations, processes, principles, and guidelines on how the enterprise achieves its goals. Information is the viewpoint of where data is stored, how it is gained, and how it is used. Computation is the viewpoint of where computer power is used in the organisation such as artificial intelligence (‘AI’) and robotic process automation. Engineering regards the view of how the entire information technology (‘IT’) system is networked, where data flows and how the administration of the system is managed. The technology viewpoint is very technical, focusing on how the code is structured, what APIs are used and so forth.  

Similar to the ISO standard, Lean-Weng (et al, 2014), who conceived of an Enterprise Architecture Framework (‘EAF’) for the Singaporean Military, uses four components (instead of the ISO views); business, information, solution, and technical. Ceteris paribus while the enterprise view equals the business component, the ‘solution’ component considers the applications used by business operations, processes and administration. Lean-Weng also proposes that architecture ought to be viewed by two levels of concepts. The first level is the enterprise architecture, which draws the components together by common principles, values and strategy. The second layer is a systematic assessment, which interoperates the components by breaking them down into small components titled ‘view’. Lean-Weng’s conception of a view can be understood by the following table.  

Lean-Weng’s concept of dual layers provides a logical differentiation between the intent of ‘enterprise architecture’ and ‘solution architecture’, where enterprise architecture is the assessment of components alignment to business strategies and goals organisation-wide, and solution architecture is the assessment and application of the components and their views towards solving a problem of the business strategy. A solution architecture review would focus upon one node of the business’s activity, applying all components and views to assess its efficiency and excellence achievement.  

Although the ISO is a globally recognised authority on standardisation, pragmatically, there is no one framework to fit every enterprise. The architect should apply the views/components necessary to achieve the enterprise's goals, although some mixture of Lean-Weng and ISO would serve as a good starting point. 

References  

Yeoh , Lean-Weng and Syn, Hon-Beng 'An Enterprise Architecture Framework for Developing Command and Control Systems' (4 Nov 2014) Choon-Vu Lam Defence Science and Technology Agency - URL https://onlinelibrary-wiley-com.simsrad.net.ocs.mq.edu.au/doi/abs/10.1002/j.2334-5837.2007.tb02887.x 

International Standards Organisation 'Systems and Software Engineering - Architecture Description' (1 Dec 2011) ISO/IEC/IEEE42010:2011(E) - URL https://nanopdf.com/download/iso-iec-ieee-420102011e-systems-and-software-engineering_pdf 

Samir Roshan 'IT Architecture Review: The Basics, the Approach, the Outcome' (9 Nov 2012) Thinking Loud on Cloud - URL https://thinkingloudoncloud.com/2012/11/architecture-review-basics-approach-outcome/  

'Enterprise Architect vs. Solution Architect vs. Technical Architect' (2021) LeonIX - URL https://www.leanix.net/en/wiki/ea/enterprise-architect-vs-solution-architect-vs-technical-architect-whats-the-difference 

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