Designing technology architectures
The architectural design activities within an IT organization are concerned with providing the overall strategic ‘blueprints’ for the development and deployment of an IT infrastructure – a set of applications and data that satisfy the current and future needs of the business. Although these aspects underpin the delivery of quality IT services, they alone cannot deliver quality IT services, and it is essential that the people, process and partner/supplier aspects surrounding these technological components (products) are also considered.
‘Architecture’ is a term used in many different contexts. In this context it is defined as:
The fundamental organization of a system, embodied in its components, their relationships to each other and to the environment, and the principles guiding its design and evolution.
‘System’ in this definition is used in the most general, not necessarily IT, sense:
‘a collection of components organized to accomplish a specific function or set of functions’.
So the system could be, for example, a whole organization, a business function, a product line or an information system. Each of these systems will have an ‘architecture’ as defined earlier, made up of the components of the system, the relationships between them (such as control interfaces and data exchanges), the relationships between the system and its environment (political, organizational, technological, etc.) and the design principles that inform, guide and constrain its structure and operation, as well as its future development.
In essence, architectural design can be defined as:
‘The development and maintenance of IT policies, strategies, architectures, designs, documents, plans and processes for the deployment and subsequent operation and improvement of appropriate IT services and solutions throughout an organization.’
The work of architectural design needs to assess and reconcile many types of needs, some of which may be in conflict with one another. The work should ensure that:
The architectural design activities should use input from the business, Service Strategy, its plans, designers and planners to develop appropriate designs, plans, architectures and policies for all areas of IT. These designs, plans, architectures and policies should cover all aspects of IT, including roles and responsibilities, services, technology, architecture and frameworks, processes and procedures, partners and suppliers and management methods. The architectural design process must also cover all areas of technology, including the infrastructure, environment, applications and data and be closely linked to the overall business planning and design processes.
Any enterprise is a complex system, with many types of components including its staff, business functions and processes, organizational structure and physical distribution, information resources and information systems, financial and other resources including technology, and the strategies, plans, management, policies and governance structures that drive the enterprise. An Enterprise Architecture should show how all these components (and others) are integrated in order to achieve the business objectives, both now and in the future.
The complete Enterprise Architecture can be large and complex. Here we are interested in those architectures concerned with the business of the organization and the information systems that support it. Each of these architectures calls on distinct architectural disciplines and areas of expertise, as illustrated in Figure 3.8.
Figure 3.8 Enterprise Architecture
Enterprise Architecture is defined by Gartner as:
‘the process of translating business vision and strategy into effective enterprise change, by creating, communicating and improving key principles and models that describe the enterprise’s future states and enable its evolution’.
There are many proprietary and non-proprietary frameworks for the development of an Enterprise Architecture, as illustrated in Table 3.1.
Table 3.1 Enterprise Architecture frameworks
These frameworks include descriptions of the organizational structure, business processes, planning and control systems, management and governance mechanisms, policies and procedures of the enterprise. They show how these components interoperate and contribute to the achievement of business goals and objectives, and provide the basis for identifying the requirements for information systems that support these business processes.
The Enterprise Architecture should be an integrated element of the Business Architecture and should include the following major areas:
The relationships between these architectural perspectives can be seen in Figure 3.9. The development, documentation and maintenance of business and IT architectures will typically form part of the processes of strategic thinking and strategy development in the organization.
Figure 3.9 Architectural relationships
Within the framework described earlier, it is possible to identify (at least) three architectural roles. These could all report to a senior ‘Enterprise Architect’ in the organization:
In some organizations, the roles of Business/Organizational Architect, Information Systems Architect (or possibly separate roles of Applications Architect and Data Architect) and IT Infrastructure Architect will be separate functions. In others, some or all of the roles may be combined. The roles may reside in separate parts of the organization or even outside it. For example:
If the necessary architectures are in place, then the role of Service Design is affected in the following ways:
If architecture design is to be accomplished effectively and economically, the documents, processes and activities of the business and architectural design should be closely coordinated and synchronized. A list of these design documents and their content is contained in Appendices C and D. The individual details of technology included within architectural design are considered in the following sections.
The real benefit and RoI of the Enterprise Architecture comes not from the architecture itself, but from the ability of an organization to design and implement projects and solutions in a rapid and consistent manner.
220.127.116.11 Technology Management
A strategic approach should be adopted with regard to the planning of an information technology and its management. This implies creating ‘architectures’ or ‘blueprints’ for the long-term framework of the technology used and planned. IT planners, designers and architects need to understand the business, the requirements and the current technology in order to develop appropriate IT architectures for the short, medium and long term. Technology design also needs to take account of the likely IT services that it will underpin, or at least the types of service from an understanding of the business and its future direction, because the business will demand IT services, and they will need an appropriate technology to provide and deliver those services. If it is possible to provide a longer-term technology, which can underpin a number of IT services, then taking a strategic approach will provide benefit in the longer term.
Architectures need to be developed within the major areas of technology.