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Putting Architecture Principles into Practice

  • By Jeff Ryan
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Success Factor #3: Clear Organizational Accountability

The third success factor in putting principles into practice is to have clear organizational accountability and responsibility for adhering to principles.

The Chief Information Officer and Chief Technology Officer of an organization have ultimate accountability and must adopt architecture principles as a moral code by which their organizations are run. They must walk the walk as well as talk the talk.

The enterprise architecture organization has responsibility to utilize the principles in making and evaluating decisions. Enterprise architecture must call fouls loudly and clearly when they see them. The CTO and CIO must have their back when they recommend alternatives in alignment with agreed upon first principles and attempt to change course. This means being willing to stop a project or to make available additional funding to re-architect a solution in a way which adheres to a first principle.

Development and maintenance organizations must follow the example of their leaders and leverage principles in day to day design, development and maintenance activities. Audit checkpoints are essential to ensure that projects are implemented according to their agreed upon architectural design.

Success Factor #4: Consistent Processes

The fourth success factor to putting principles into practice is to have consistent processes in the planning, budgeting and software development lifecycles which ensure principles are used to evaluate alternatives and guide decision making.

Enterprise architects have a key role to play in the overall planning and budgeting process for IT initiatives. Architects are responsible for articulating an architecture blueprint and roadmap of initiatives framed according to first principles. Through these incremental initiatives, the evolution of the portfolio is incrementally guided toward the desired future state.

Architecture governance is a core process through which proposed solutions are evaluated for alignment with principles, standards and blueprints. The governance process will have review gates as an initiative goes through the inception, elaboration, construction and transition phases of the software development lifecycle. Initiatives must produce standard artifacts to be reviewed at these gates. Initiatives found to be in alignment with principles will follow the path of least resistance through the review gates and proceed. Initiatives which are not in alignment will be stopped or redirected.


Architecture principles establish a framework for decision making and a moral code of conduct in an IT organization. They guide the organization from the current to the future state. A core set of principles should be explicitly defined in every organization so that the principle (what), motivation (why) and implications (how) are understood by business and IT stakeholders.

There is a danger that defined principles will not be put into practice at all, or that they will fall into disuse. Four success factors to put principles into practice were examined. First of all, principles must be relevant and practical. Second, leaders must explicitly commit to them. Third, there must be clear organizational accountability and responsibility for enforcing them. Fourth, certain key processes must be in place such as architecture governance to evaluate whether principles are being followed and so corrective action can be taken when necessary.

Has your organization defined the core principles by which it makes key architecture decisions which will impact its future? Have they been adopted by business and IT stakeholders? Are they thoughtfully considered in developing solutions? Is there push back to change the course of projects which have deviated from agreed upon principles?

If your answer is no to any of these questions, consider using the information in this article to define, adopt, and leverage architecture principles in your organization. The rest is up to you!

Recommended Resources

Those interested in learning more about architecture principles would do well to begin with the following resources:

  1. TOGAF, Part III ADM Guidelines and Techniques, Architecture Principles
  2. Pragmatic EA Framework, Governance, Architecture Principles

About the Author

Jeff Ryan - Author Jeff Ryan is an enterprise architect with over twenty five years experience architecting and implementing thoughtful solutions to business problems. This article reflects Jeff's experience in putting architecture principles into practice for a large financial service organization. Click here to browse Jeff's catalog of articles on enterprise architecture, front end architecture, portal, SOA, Java, XML and XSLT.

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This article was originally published on December 4, 2009

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