Friday, March 14, 2008

Architecture Reviews: It's all about preparation

Last year, my team performed a little under 40 formal Architecture Reviews for both application and infrastructure projects in our corporation. If there was one element that determined whether the review went well, or not, it was the preparation the project team put into the review upfront.

We typically council team that it will only take a couple of hours to prepare for the ARB meeting, but that you should start two weeks before. We then provide a PowerPoint template file that contains all of the discussion topics to be covered, with little text inserts so that the preparer knows exactly what we're looking for. We also require a set of Blueprints, specifically formated architecture diagrams - there is a set of four we need which closely matches the content depicted in four cells of the Zachman Model for Enterprise Architecture.

With this level of preparation, the actual meetings go very smoothly, and we have been able to review three different projects in a single two-hour session.

Conversely, when project teams either don't prepare, or bring their own agenda and diagrams, we spend an inordinate amount of time jumping between topics, trying to decipher the pictures, and usually end up missing something important. In a few cases, when the project timeline allowed, we canceled the ARB meeting because the project team failed to provide the meeting materials in the proper format two days in advance. This is unfortunate when it happens, because the ultimate beneficiary of the ARB is the project team.

No one gets more value, confidence, or satisfaction with a successful project than the team that implements it...and a sound architecture is the backbone of a successful system (according to Software Engineering Institute). So take the time to prepare for your next ARB in the manner prescribed by the Architecture team. The meeting will go better, and your project will benefit.

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