Principles of evidence based enterprise architecture

These are a set of principles specifically for evidence based enterprise architecture and would follow on from those I have described in the earlier post on evidence based design.

  1. An organised enterprise architecture framework and repository must be used to provide a model of how the organisation defines enterprise architecture and a store for enterprise architecture artefacts.
  2. The enterprise architecture framework must define the development method used in practice and all of the artefacts used in the process should include evidence where appropriate.
  3. The production of all enterprise architecture artefacts must follow a controlled authoring and management process. All artefacts must have appropriate metadata and be stored in a document management system. There must also be a review process to ensure consultation and validation of content and evidence.
  4. The production of enterprise architecture documents should adopt a formal content authoring framework such as DITA – Darwin Information Typing Architecture (OASIS standard) to help structure the content and allow for reuse.
  5. A controlled vocabulary should be used to minimise ambiguity and support information relationships within the repository. The Universal Data Element Framework (UDEF) should be considered as a way to classify and categorise terms used in documentation.
  6. There must be a controlled evidence model to define how to classify evidence and evidence value. The evidence model must at least be able to define the following evidence attributes:
    – Value 
    – Sources
    – Credibility
    – Expertise
    – Impartiality
  7. All architects should be trained on how to perform evidence research, evidence analysis and how to incorporate evidence where appropriate into artefacts to support any hypotheses, propositions and recommendations.
  8. Any evidence used in an artefact must be clearly marked and identifiable to help traceability, tracking and analysis in the future.

These are just a few I have identified and I will probably add to this list and define each one in more detail in future posts.

Enterprise Architecture value assurance

Why is value assurance important to Enterprise Architecture? Value assurance is a means to review plans, proposals, architectural designs and strategies to determine that value to the business will be delivered.

Like any assurance process it cannot guarantee value will be delivered but it can investigate and decide that the information is aligned to a framework or standard and that the evidence is sound and backs up the decisions, risk mitigation and actions. Value assurance should be independent in its approach and incorporate consultation and critical reviews of all proposals. The objectives of a value assurance review should be:

a) To provide external challenge to the architecture project team at each key decision stage; to help assess the validity and robustness of the work done and the key areas requiring focused attention; and to assist in achieving the value of the deliverable.

b) To assess the suitability of the plans and strategies to ensure a go ahead to operate within the context of the overall Enterprise Architecture.

c) To appraise the readiness and justification of the project to proceed into the next phase, including the project’s soundness for capital allocation.

d) To capture lessons learned for dissemination across EA teams and, where appropriate, facilitate best practice transfer into the maturation or project team.

Two important areas of value assurance are the compliance to the enterprise architecture framework and the validity of the evidence supplied. Checking compliance is relatively straight forward by ensuring the proposals are all based on the agreed template and process, checking evidence is a lot harder.

If an organisation has had a disciplined approach to information management (supported by an enterprise information management strategy ensuring all formal information is well classified, categorised and accessible) then an evidence relationship map should be straightforward. By evidence relationship map i mean the pedigree of references to past documentation pertaining to the current proposal.

For example, references to three similar projects implementing the same technologies or business decisions that have all proved value through their successes – delivered to schedule or cost, shown effective transformation and or growth through sales or customer satisfaction.

If an organisation has poorly managed their information assets then building up evidence to support decisions will be a lot harder. I suspect most organisations are a mix of these two scenarios and as Enterprise Architecture is relatively new, historic information assets aligned to the EA framework is unlikely. Value assurance and evidence management are two critical activities to support Enterprise Architecture maturity. If an organisation is not using evidence to support architectural decisions then it is running the risk of undermining the importance of its EA and its ability to deliver value in the future.