Architecture decision making procedure

The third part of the series about architecure management directive. It shows the teams you have to organise and the mechanisms to operate to reach ideal point of transparent and clear decisions and rationales. The roles you see can be found in TOGAF while the processes are following the main disciplines of democratic voting.

The following sections refer to architect roles defined in the Architect roles and responsibilities article you must read before going forward!

Architecture Board

The Architecture Board (AB) is the authoritative body for governing Enterprise Architecture of the company and supervising the applicable technology investments. The AB approves changes to the enterprise architecture and associated artefacts as well as approving new artefacts and retirement of obsolete artefacts. The AB is also the decision making and approval authority for adding, changing, or removing Solution Building Blocks (SBB) from the Solution Catalogue and may also grant waivers as necessary for investments and projects using non-conforming SBBs, therefore provide bias for the management level decision-making with regards to the architecture evolution.

The AB assesses compliance if necessary with the investments, architectures, cross-domain functions and transition strategies during the selection, control, evaluation and implementation phases and milestones of the development lifecycle in case of escalation raised by the delegated architect. By nature, it serves as a visible escalation capability for fast, out-of-bounds decisions supporting the project executions. The AB may delegate their approval authority at their discretion (see Project Architecture Board below).

The AB is initiated and chaired by the Chief Enterprise Architect in case of request as soon as possible but not later than 3 working days (You can argue the number of days but visible processes MUST have deadlines! This is the reason that all stages I defined duration, which you can comply to your situtation.). Preparation for the AB decision making should not exceed the 2 weeks’ time-frame assuming that topic requires more analysis is not considered as candidate for decision making. Members of the AB are the Enterprise Architects and Domain Architects having business interest of the particular decision making topic(s). Occasionally anyone invited directly by the Chief Enterprise Architect, or invited by other board member and approved by the Chief Enterprise Architect can gain temporary board membership to help the AB decision making activity. In special cases, when additional expertise and/or knowledge is identified as a prerequisite for the decision makers, the Chief Enterprise Architect may limit the AB members' voting stake to avoid unprofessional decision, however in such case the imposed restriction must be communicated during the AB initiation and the Chief Enterprise Architect must clearly describe the reason of the restriction.

Agreement can be achieved on AB level with simple majority of the participants. Any member, who cannot attend on the AB meeting should appoint someone else having his/her decision making right delegated to the appointed person. Failure to appoint someone is always evaluated as "abstain from beans" during the agreement making process, meaning that absent votes are not counted on for the majority calculation. In the event of a tie, the AB chair's vote shall be decisive. To support fast decision making AB voting would preferably being held using electronic channels and off-line decision making processes. Although the decisions are made by the majority of votes, it is the sole responsibility of the Chief Enterprise Architect to care about the non-positive votes of participants, being out to reach consensus in each decisions.

The decisions are binding to all members either they vote againts a topic.

Architecture Forum

Formal forum of architects to discuss ongoing project architectural topics, general architecture knowledge-sharing and ensure/implement the consistency among all the domains of the company. The forum has no authority to make any decision related to the architecture governance, however may propose decision making process initiation for selected topics, and/or ask the AB's chair to call for an AB meeting.

The Architecture Forum is initiated and chaired by the Chief Enterprise Architect on monthly basis. Permanent members are the Enterprise Architects, Domain Architect, anyone else invited directly by the Chief Enterprise Architect, or nominated by other forum members with the approval of the Chief Enterprise Architect. The forum should take place on a regular basis as an open forum, but can be called on ad-hoc in case of necessity.

Architecture Forum invitees are always informed about new AB decision initiatives to ensure their right as forum members to indicate they are potentially concerned in the given topic.

Decision making process of Architecture Board

The AB decision making procedure comprises the following steps:

  • Chief Enterprise Architect records new Architecture Topic and informs the Architecture Forum members about the new task.
  • Chief Enterprise Architect nominates the lead, who will lead the decision material preparation and domain architects who are unequivocally affected.
  • Architecture Forum members can voluntarily indicate their interest and intention to participate in the preparation work.
  • Board members involved in the preparation work have to vote about the topic. Non-involved AB members still retain their voting right, while it the main priciple is that "contributors vote".
  • Non-Board members contributing to the preparation work gains the right to formally express their objections if the final proposition cannot meet their domain specific local rules. All of their concerns should be recorded in the decision document and the AB members should evaluate these notes during the voting process.
  • The leader of the topic co-ordinates the decision material preparation, focusing on the two weeks of preparation time-window. In case of noticing any risks, or resource shortages, the issues must be escalated to the Chief Enterprise Architect.
  • The lead should send the finalized decision document to the Chief Enterprise Architect for submission to AB members.
  • Chief Enterprise Architect initiate the AB voting process. In case of using electronic voting solution, the voting period is maximum 3 working days.

Project Architecture Board

Ad-hoc forum initiated by the assigned Lead Architect in case of large and/or complex projects/programs to agree on, and coordinate the architectural activities among the domains. Conducts technical reviews and initiates decisions of the project deliverables and artefacts at key project milestones. The reviews ensure that technical quality and architectural compliance to architecture standards and principles.

The review board is composed of the delegated Domain and Enterprise Architects working on the same project/program, the Lead Architect and invited technical subject matter experts if necessary.  Participation of subject matter experts in the Project Architecture Board may vary, based upon the life cycle review being conducted, the technology being implemented, and/or the architectural components being impacted by the project.

The Project Architecture Board (PAB) must document the results of its review and/or the project related decisions; captures appropriate metric; and, formally reports to the Architecture Board as the results of its review and the status of the PAB's actions taken to address the technical issues/architectural discrepancies. 

Agreement can be made with mutual agreement of the PAB members. Failure to make an agreement on project/program level, the Lead Architect in the name of the PAB must elevate to the AB for consideration of the unresolved technical issues, requests to create new or change existing principles, SBBs, etc., and request for exception(s) to existing standards. AB may delegate the decision making authority to PAB with prior set, well defined scope and boundaries to accelerate the decision making process. 

Management level architecutre board

AB has no funding and investment approval authority. Any architecture changes falling outside of the AB scope, should be raised the Management Architecture Board (MAB). Members of the ad-hoc forum are the management members of the company or the technology unit only (depends of the operation practices of the company) and the domain or enterprise architect having the responsibility of the investment project.

The body also serves as the escalation point of the AB. Meeting of the MAB is initiated by the Chief Enterprise Architect upon request. 

Summary

Finally, the roles and the boards together are defining the democratic baseline of checks and balances with the extension of defined time frame to ensure time-to-market targets of profit oriented companies. Never forget that democracy is in the decision making process but not in the execution of decisions, rules and principles!

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