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There are many different methods for doing an architecture assessment. I suggest using the following method to systematically assess your IT architecture:
STEP 1: The current business framework
To create a useful view of the business, you need to identify what is currently happening with your architecture. In other words, you can't get somewhere without identifying where you're coming from. In general, data collection follows this path:
STEP 2: Identify the current architecture framework
Collect and analyze IT documents: Collect formal/published, easily available, commonly shared and understood views of executives about the organization (e.g., mission/goal statements, key initiatives). Informal interviews: You need to onduct informal interviews of executives and key players in the organization to identify current business process problems. Have them describe to you their current business plans and direction and clarify how the current IT infrastructure relates to their area of the business.
Your goal in this step is to put together architecture models that illustrate the existing relationships between data, functions and platform components. You should also collect or develop inventory for existing data, functions/applications and platform components. I strongly recommend capturing the cost data associated with inventory. When these documents do not exist or are outdated, you should go back to Step 1 and develop or update them by conducting architecture interviews, reviewing existing documents and preparing drafts for review and update.
STEP 3: Analyze your information
In this step, you need to apply analysis techniques to the business framework to identify business problems, gaps and opportunities. You should also conduct analysis on the current architecture to evaluate where the architecture contributes to business problems and gaps.
STEP 4: Consult the framework for implementation
In this step, armed with your lists and analyses, consider the never-to-be-overlooked "political" factors. You need to test the information you collected and compare it to current processes, measurements and organization "readiness." For example, is your organization extremely change-averse? Do you have buy-in from key players?
I know first hand that what I have described here requires significant knowledge, work and tenacity, but the results are well worth the effort; it is an effective, systematic approach to clearly understanding how IT supports the business and where it is valuable and cost-effective to pursue change.
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 and the TDAN newsletters and on EACommunity. Her book The IT Architecture Toolkit is available through Prentice-Hall.