Method Overview

This document describes the Iasa Skills and Practice Assessment method to help enterprises to adopt a successful strategy to the practice of Enterprise Architecture (EA). It is based on a simple but effective phased approach that is typically run by two Iasa certified consultants with phase 1-4 run over a contiguous four week period. An initial phase 0, planning is also recommended that takes place 3-4 weeks before the assessment proper to ensure there is an agreed approach in place. A further option fifth phase allows for an on-going support and mentoring role as the organization’s EA practice starts to evolve. The approach offers a lightweight flexible approach to allow Iasa certified consultants to engage effectively with the client and their organizations recognizing that the detailed approach will vary depending on the state, location and maturity of architectural practices already in place.

The 6 phases of an Iasa EA assessment are listed here and described in more detail in this document. Each section contains information relating to the key audience, different options to engage and facilitate the generation of key outputs.

Phase 0: Planning

Phase 1: Discovery

Phase 2: Analysis

Phase 3: Synthesis

Phase 4: Playback

Phase 5: Mentoring

Although not a phase as such, the assessment will realize a number of gaps in where the organization is today and where it wishes to get to. It will identify potential ways to resolve these gaps and prioritize them in line with a simple but affective plan and model of execution. However, a key element will be the need for skills development and training and therefore an additional phase is included for completeness and the opportunity or requirement should be covered by the Iasa consultant as part of their engagement.

Phase 6: Skills development

Phase 0: Planning

Timeline: ½ – 1day (onsite planning), 3-4 weeks in advance of phase 1.

Once a client has agreed to engage Iasa to develop an EA practice it is essential to plan the assessment approach in detail, well in advance of running the assessment itself. In order to get the best out of the approach, there are a number of parties from the executive sponsor through to the potential practitioners and supporting roles and stakeholders that exist across the EA lifecycle who need to be included in the execution of an assessment. Gaining access to diaries especially for more senior staff can be a challenge and needs careful planning. Furthermore, the method of assessment needs to be discussed and planned as this may vary depending on the type of organization, its culture, location of participants and so forth.

When engaging with large organizations it is often the case the architects are spread across different business units and may have entirely different reporting lines up to a senior level. This creates fragmentation of methods and processes along with ownership and reporting lines which is a challenge to resolve with just one assessment. When planning an assessment of this type it is critical to focus on one or two business units, and to select those that are pro-change and not too immature or different to the rest of the enterprise profile. In so doing, it is still essential to gain as senior as possible support for the initiative and to use this as a pilot to extend out across other business units as second and third phases. In some cases it might be that these are performed by the client’s own internal teams such as architects of the CTO office/community for example so consideration for training in assessment approaches should be made.

Engagement Options

The options to engage in planning can vary but where possible an initial in-person planning day should be agreed with the main architect contact (eg. project owner). During this time it is invaluable to gain an opportunity to meet with the key stakeholder(s), such as the CIO or some similar executive level role to which the EA practice will report. If this report is not direct then a meeting with the direct report line should also be arranged. The key output from these discussions is to get an executive view of the problems and to definite “what success looks like”.

Although, not perfect, if in-person cannot be arranged then the planning can be achieved through regular phone calls, however, in this case it is better to get the Executive view from the project owner and perform these executive interviews when on-site as a priority day one exercise.

A key focus of the planning day and phase as a whole is to develop a detailed execution plan for phases 1 – 4 along with an initial stakeholder map that encompasses key touch points for architects within the organization (or business unit). The detail of the assessment at each phase should be made clear, including the people who need to be involved and the method by which the various interviews and assessments will be performed.

Following on from the planning day it is useful to keep in regular contact with the project owner in order to monitor the progress in lining up people to take part in the following phases.

Interview Executive Stakeholders

Executive stakeholder interviews should be held in-person whenever possible and should be constrained to 30 minutes only. Ideally, they will take place in Phase 0, but where this is not possible, they should be planned to be undertaken as early in phase 1 as possible. The following approach provides a simple framework for executive stakeholder interviews.

  1. Position Iasa based around the following simple definition:

Iasa is the premier association focused on the architecture profession through the advancement of best practices and education while delivering programs and services to IT architects of all levels around the world.

  1. Provide the Iasa definition of Architecture

IT Architecture is the art and practice of delivering business value from IT. It is founded on a common taxonomy for architecture, defined by architects and for architects.

Potentially, you could discuss the taxonomy but only if the audience is particularly interested

  1. Describe the 6-phased Iasa EA Assessment Approach (as outlined in this document)
  2. Ask simple and quantifiable questions (avoid open ended questions). For example

What is your view of IT architecture and its value to the business?

What are your key concerns with the role of architecture in your business?

What would you like to see as a result of this assessment?

Key Deliverables

An executive view of what success looks like.

A detailed execution plan for phases 1 to 4 outlining the people who will be involved (these may be role types rather than individual names at this stage), the type of interview techniques that will be used and where and when the various interviews will be performed. It is then incumbent on the project owner to facilitate the preparation of these interviews and for the Iasa consultant to impress on them the value of getting this all lined up in advance.

A top-level organizational model is key to get as early a perspective of the organization hierarchy as possible. In some cases this will be simple, but in large corporations it can quickly become very complex and depends much on the consultant’s experiences in that domain.

A top-level stakeholder map provides another view of the organization that needs to be gained earlier and should be biased to the view of the EA practice itself describing who it touches, influences, effects and has authority over. At this stage, the map will be incomplete but provide a starting point for further development in the subsequent phases.

Phase 1: Discovery

Timeline: 5 days, onsite

Discovery is the first major phase of the assessment and where possible, should be performed on-site alongside of the project owner. Discovery should aim to take 5 days to complete and this should be done over the period of a single week if possible.

As mentioned, phase 0 is essential in ensuring that the best use of time can be made during Phase 1. Any omissions in Phase 0 need to be resolved as a day 1 action for phase 1, such as the executive stakeholder interviews for example.

The main aim of discovery is to understand the current status of architectural skills and practice within the organization, to understand the political and cultural context in which architecture is performed and to understand the full enterprise architecture lifecycle. As such there are four areas of concerns that need to be focused on:

  1. Architectural Skills – what is the level of individual architect skills within the organization
  2. Architectural Practice – what is the level of practice maturity within the organization
  3. Architectural Lifecycle – where does architecture exist across the IT lifecycle

To address these concerns, the following key assessments need to be performed. How these are conducted is described in more detail in subsequent sections of this document.

  • Architect skills Assessment
  • Architect Practice Maturity Assessment
  • Architect lifecycle Alignment Mapping

In addition to these assessments, a number of other workshops can be deployed in discovery, they can be run as collective exercises or by targeting the project owner (often the probable current or future architect lead) to aid them in understanding the landscape of their architect practice, the output from these exercises will most probably be provided to the individual outside of any formal document delivery.

  • Iasa skills taxonomy
  • Stakeholder and Authority Mapping
  • Root cause analysis

Engagement Options

Each assessment can be performed in a variety of ways often depending on the preferred styles of the consultant, but a key driver in choosing the assessment approach will depend on the nature and culture of the organization and the availability of the interviewees. These are described in more detail in the assessment documents.

Key deliverables

The key deliverables from the discovery phase are:

  • Full assessment results for:
    • Architect Skills Assessment

Architect Practice Maturity Assessment

  • Set of process models that describe the IT lifecycle and the role of architecture as a current state assessment. These models will be based on existing artifacts already in use by the organization and presented in a language and format currently used by the organization.

Optional output will include:

  • Detailed stakeholder and authority map of the organization
  • A root cause analysis map highlighting key issues for architectural adoption

Phase 2: Analysis

Timeline: 5 days (on or offsite)

The main aim of analysis is to perform a thorough review of the materials collected through discovery including interviews and assessments from phase 1 in order to build a set of initial straw man definitions encompassing:

  • Architecture Lifecycle definition
  • Architect Roles and Responsibilities
  • Initial practice boot strap plan

Other activities from discovery may occur during this phase to deal with scheduling problems and availability and other awareness activities may be scheduled such as Iasa foundation workshops for example.

It is essential during the phase to gain feedback and review from the project owner to set expectations and avoid late rework. As such early document creation and large sections of written text should be avoided at this stage.

Engagement Options

The Analysis phase is typically performed by the consultants and can be performed off site if necessary but benefits from quick and easy access to the client for further feedback and information.

Key deliverables

Key deliverables include an initial analysis from the assessments to provide a view of architect skill and practice maturity.

Initial straw man for:

  • Architecture Lifecycle Mapping
  • Architect Roles and Responsibilities
  • Initial practice boot strap plan

Phase 3: Synthesis

Timeline: 5 days, on or offsite

Synthesis is the major output creation phase in preparation for playback and handover at the end of the assessment. In order to start this phase it is necessary to get full agreement from the project owner on what materials are being developed and will be presented back to the executive team on conclusion of the exercise.

Engagement Options

This can be conducted off site between the two consultants but they should maintain a close connection with the project owner throughout.

Key deliverables

Deliverables may vary depending on what is agreed with the project owner at the outset of the project. In most cases it will include the following, typically written reports and PowerPoint slide decks.

  • Architect Review Summary
  • Architect Skills and Practice Assessment
  • Architect Engagement Model
  • Architect Role Definitions
  • Architect bootstrap plan
  • Iasa Architect Skills Training plan
  • Iasa Architect Standards and Definitions

Phase 4: Playback

Timeline 3-4 days, on site

The Playback phase is the final part of the project with the aim to embed and gain agreement on the main recommendations highlighted in the reports. Meetings need to be scheduled and arranged early on with the project owner to ensure availability of the key stakeholders and decision makers.

Throughout the previous phases it is essential that the objectives and approaches to running these meetings are worked through with the project owner to best ensure success.

The other main purpose of this phase is to ensure that the project owner (or person responsible for driving adoption) is fully cognizant and in full agreement with the proposed approach and able to articulate, lead and own the plan as it moves forwards post assessment.

Engagement Options

The flow may vary depending on previous contact with the project owner, but as a guide and minimum, day 1 should be spent with the project owner to walk through the materials and to develop the best approach to play back the information to the different audiences. Key here is in defining what the objectives are and how best to achieve them, in doing so special attention should be paid to the executive definition of “what success looks like”

Day 2 should focus on delivery of the playback sessions to the key audiences identified at the outset and day 3-4 is the final handover to the project owner to ensure they are able to take the plan forwards and execute against it.

Key deliverables

Formal hand over of all documentation output and training and embedding of the bootstrap plan with the project owner

Phase 5: Mentoring

Timeline: 1 day per month for 6 months, on or offsite.

Although optional, the on-going mentoring and support of the person responsible for developing the architecture practice is a strongly recommended. Although the assessment will have done much to cement the approach to be used by the organization to build a world class architect practice there will no doubt be questions raised during the early phase that an independent but involved view can help with resolving. Encouragement, support and getting them to stick to or change their plan is the key objective of providing this on-going support and mentoring role.

Engagement Options

The approach to support and mentoring should be flexible and although 1 day a month is suggested, one should not constrained this to just one physical day a month and use methods like web or phone conferencing to maintain contact throughout the month and make a physical appearance as an when needed.

Key deliverables

The key objective is to ensure successful adoption of Iasa EA practices within the organization over the first key 6 month period.

Phase 6: Skills Development

Timeline: N/A

Although not strictly part of the assessment it is important to note that much of the output will highlight a gap between current and future state architectural maturity and as such advice on the available Iasa training, mentoring and education programs should be discussed and that this should be something that Iasa Global is then able to follow up on with the client post assessment.

Engagement Options

Iasa training programs are beyond the scope of this document but the consultant should use every opportunity to engage on the topic with the client such that they are aware of how to apply these to help educate and mature their architect workforce.


[1] Iasa is the premier association focused on the IT architecture profession through the advancement of best practices and education while delivering programs and services to IT architects of all levels around the world.