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Maturity Through Standards

  • By Jeff Ryan
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Architecture Standards Classification

It is helpful to classify standards according to their maturity characteristics. The Standards Maturity Pyramid, depicted in Figure 1, places the least mature standards at the bottom, and the most mature at the very top.

Figure 1: Standards Maturity Pyramid

A submission represents a product, pattern, or practice being considered for a standard. A candidate has passed the scrutiny of subject matter experts. A recommendation has a reference model and implementation in place. A practice has a defined support model and at least one production implementation. A best practice has multiple production implementations and a refined support model.

The architecture standards classification scheme provides an objective way to recognize and mature standards. It prevents standards being set by politics, favoritism, or the influence of vendors on business partners and executives.

This classification loosely follows the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) standards classification, with the addition of practice and best practice for those organizational architecture standards which are the most mature. Note that, over time, some best practices may be supplanted by newer candidate standards being matured.

An Organizational Standards Process

A process for recognizing, developing, cataloguing, and communicating architecture standards within an organization is needed to realize the benefits of standards. This process ensures that standards are relevant, that they are defined with integrity, and that they are communicated well to all stakeholders.

Figure 2, "How a Bill Becomes a Law," illustrates a process for defining architecture standards that borrows from the W3C process.

Figure 2: How a Bill Becomes a Law

The architecture standards process begins with a submission representing a product, pattern, or practice to be considered for a standard. This submission is first reviewed by a subject matter expert, and then by a Standards Committee that will determine whether this submission warrants further work. The main criterion in evaluating a submission is relevance across multiple projects, and intersection with previously defined standards.

The Standards Committee may decide to charter a Working Group to mature the submission. The Working Group Charter might include vendor or open source product evaluations; creating reference guides, models, and implementations; determining the support model; reviewing production implementations; engaging outside help; and so forth.

The Working Group presents its deliverables to the Standards Committee. When approved, the standard maturity is assessed (Candidate, Recommendation, Practice, Best Practice) and added to the catalog of standards to be leveraged throughout the organization. It is the responsibility of the Standards Committee to communicate standards to all stakeholders. It is then the responsibility of solution architects and developers to utilize these standards, and of the architecture governance board to ensure their use.

This process for organizational architecture standards ensures that standards are thoughtfully considered, and that the benefits promised are ultimately achieved.


In this article, you saw how architecture standards define the products, patterns, and practices to be used in developing or acquiring software in an organization. You also learned about the many benefits standards provide, mainly accelerating delivery and lowering the total cost of ownership.

All standards are not alike. Characteristics of maturity include subject matter expert approval, reference models and implementations, a support model, production implementations and the time the product, pattern, or practice has been used. These characteristics can be used to classify a standard as a candidate, recommendation, practice, and best practice.

Finally, you reviewed a process, similar to the W3C standards process, that you might use in an organizational setting, to recognize, define, catalog, and mature standards to realize the benefits of accelerated delivery and lower total cost of ownership.

Does your organization have defined architecture standards? Are they classified by their maturity? Is there a process for recognizing, defining, communicating, and maturing standards? Do you have examples of how defined standards have accelerated delivery and lowered total cost of ownership? If not, consider putting into practice some of the concepts discussed in this article. The rest is up to you!


1. W3C, World Wide Web Consortium Process Document, July 19, 2001

About the Author

Jeff Ryan is an enterprise architect with over twenty years experience architecting and implementing thoughtful solutions to business problems. Jeff led a team that defined and implemented an architecture standards practice in a large organization using the concepts described in this article. He has published over twenty articles on enterprise architecture, SOA, XML, XSLT, Java, and other subjects.

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This article was originally published on October 11, 2007

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