Architecture Self Assessments

In my post on a CIO and CTO for the USA, at the very end I called out Jim Kobielus’ idea for an online presidential scorecard. As it turns out, I think this has merits in the world of EA and SOA, as well.

First, in the spirit of full disclosure, this idea came from some very smart co-workers of mine. It’s great having colleagues that make you go, “Why didn’t I think of that?” Consistent with my governance views that stress empowerment over enforcement, the use of self-assessments via scorecards can be a powerful tool. We need to be able to determine whether solutions the architectural goals of the enterprise, but we also need to ensure that a bunch of time isn’t wasted preparing documents whose usefulness begins and ends in the timespan of the formal review. To meet these goals, a self-assessment may be just the right thing, if done properly.

The first criteria is that the assessment shouldn’t take a long time. It shouldn’t require submission of PowerPoint or VIsio, but rather be a series of questions where the answers are yes, no, not applicable, and then one or two “partially compliant” answers. The second criteria is the questions themselves. These should be derived from the policies associated with your architectural governance. This is another reason why I emphasize policies over decision rights. If the policies are known, anyone can make the right decision because we have given them the tools to do so.

With these self-assessments, the group responsible for EA governance can now track compliance without creating a heavy burden on the project teams. The assessment can’t be the only means of communication, because the governance team must be able to determine when someone is falsely claiming compliance, but that’s a challenge for any audit-focused group. The governance group should be reporting the results so that teams will want to be compliant in the future, rather than having to explain to their manager why they showed up lower on the report than their peers.

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