In my last post I talked about the definition of an Architecture Review Board (ARB), let’s talk now about what it means to create one. As we talked about in the last post, establishing an Architecture Review Board (ARB) is the best way to facilitate how IT decisions are made across the enterprise. Eliminating the behavior of making architectural discussions in a vacuum and providing visibility to how and why IT decisions are made. If done right, this should result in proactive decision making and raising the education across the enterprise on architecture trade-off analysis.

Keep in mind that establishing an ARB is often times a challenging feat. Introducing this function will effect the core of your Software Development Life Cycle’s (SDLC). This has the potential of touching everyone in the organization, so it is important to get it right.

If an ARB is new to you and makes sense to your organization there are some preliminary activities you are going to want to do in the beginning. Just like with most things in the architecture world you will have to sell, sell, sell…

It is very important that one of the first things you do is to ensure that your approach is bought into by the executive leadership team such as VP’s, CTO’s and CIO’s. Do this early and continue to engage all through the process. Their buy-in will ensure that your ARB get’s top down support.

Establishing support from the top isn’t the only support you will need. Gaining the support of the architecture community within your organization is vital. However, to get things rolling in the right direction you will need to establish the accountabilities and the process frameworks that is fully endorsed by your CIO.

Below are the general steps that can be used to create an ARB:

Architecture Review Board Establishment

While there are many activities listed in the steps above, there is further decomposition needed. Ideally, this would be the project plan that is created and the numbered chevrons (Initiate, Plan, Design, Create) would be high level milestones.

Along with these steps there are key items to consider when establishing an Architecture Review Board:

  1. Build the Case – This is your business case proposal to present to senior management. This is usually in the form of a PowerPoint deck that delivers the key points at a level that senior management wants to see. It should contain the value of such a board. Understanding what Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) should be derived will aid in your proposal. You should specifically get ahead of some common questions regarding overhead and bureaucracy.
  2. Do Just Enough ARB – Determine your Enterprise Architecture Capability and IT Organizational maturity to derive how your ARB will function. Remember, you should have a multi-program approach to the ARB. You will not achieve the desired state overnight.
  3. Gap Analysis – Align ARB with the current governance structure and determine gaps that should be filled. Keep your eye on the high value, low friction items to tackle first in the beginning.
  4. Communicate – Build the ARB Communication Plan and keep to it. It is critical, especially in the creation of the ARB framework to keep stakeholders and customers of the progress and decisions for the board. After the creation of the ARB it will be important to send out communications of decisions, value demonstrated and key developments of the board framework.