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There are many great reasons to conduct an architecture assessment. Some reasons are strategic in nature or address short-term goals or they're a combination of both.
The CSI television series has been incredibly popular, and if you've ever watched even one episode, you know that crime scene investigators always try and figure out motive and opportunity. We're not talking about a murder or a drug deal gone bad in our situation, but determining your motive and opportunity in conducting an architecture assessment is critical to making good decisions.
When you are thinking about conducting an IT architecture assessment, focus on motives. Ask yourself questions like these: Why should our organization want to do an assessment? What is coming up in the next year or two years that will make an assessment necessary? The most common "good" motives are:
If you think you have your organization's commitment to revamp your IT architecture, it is smart to formally gain their support for doing an architecture assessment. If you are not sure you have their backing, do what is necessary to get it.
A desire to improve a specific business process or support a major business. For example, upgrading to Vista, Exchange 2007 or SQL Server 2005. An organizational change, such as job eliminations or consolidation or a management restructure. An existing commitment to revise part of the current architecture for a major project.
One of the drawbacks of doing an assessment is that it will uncover issues within your architecture. That is not a reason to avoid an assessment, but you will have to be upfront about the issues. Your goal is to get executive support for an assessment to ensure the bearer of bad tidings is welcomed (not shot!). Even if your organization decides not to go forward with changing its architecture, assessments still provide substantial benefits.
Here are some selling points you might use to gain support for doing an architecture assessment:
The assessment results provide a clear benchmark for evaluating proposed IT changes. For example, if you're considering CRM, a new database or upgrading to Microsoft Vista, an assessment identifies how the change will fit into the existing infrastructure. The assessment may highlight or identify major problems in the architecture itself or in projects and show you how that impacts your architecture and work on a daily basis. The benefit is that your organization could still decide to fix a piece of the infrastructure (e.g., consolidate a couple of databases) even though they don't want to do a wholesale re-architecture.
Read part three, Methods for conducting an enterprise architecture assessment.
Jane Carbone is a partner in infomajic, llc. She has 25+ years experience in information technology. Jane developed and has used the infomajic enterprise architecture methodology to conduct architecture assessments, develop enterprise and data architectures, organization designs and implementation plans and programs with clients in banking and financial services, telecomm, and government and IT HR firms. Her articles have been published in DM Direct, the TDAN newsletters and on EACommunity. Her bookThe IT Architecture Toolkit is available through Prentice-Hall.