Architecture principles define the fundamental assumptions and rules of conduct for organisations to create and maintain IT capability. Without architecture principles, organisations have no compass to guide the journey from the current state to the desired future state, or standards to measure the progress. There is no framework for decision making as each initiative is left to weigh decisions which the enterprise will live with for years to come based upon its own measures of success.
Defining the Principles
Organisations need to effectively define relevant and practical principles. Try to define a set of first principles essential to achieving your organisation’s mission with practical implications for how they will become embedded in the organisation. It is also important to define a core set of principles and recognise that less is more. Only define principles which are absolutely necessary.
Explicitly Adopting the Principles
Organisations that want to successfully put architecture principles into practice is to have an explicit adoption of principles. Key stakeholders must understand how the motivation behind a set of principles aligns with the organisational mission. They also must understand the implications to adopting these principles and commit to abiding by them. Half-heartedly adopting a principle and not changing behavior will result in the continuation of past errors.
Clear Organisational Accountability and Responsibility
Another factor for organisations to consider is to have clear organisational accountability and responsibility for adhering to principles. The Chief Information Officer and Chief Technology Officer of an organisation have ultimate accountability and must adopt architecture principles as a moral code by which their organisations are run. They must walk the walk as well as talk the talk.
The last success factor to putting architecture principles into practice is to have consistent processes in the planning, budgeting and development lifecycles which ensure the 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 the applied principles.
Architecture principles establish a framework for decision making and a moral code of conduct in an IT organisation. They guide the organisation from the current to the future state. A core set of principles should be explicitly defined in every organisation so that the principle (what), motivation (why) and implications (how) are understood by business and IT stakeholders.