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Architecture Portfolio and Assignment

The portfolio of work at an organization is the amount of people, process, or technology change undertaken by an organiztion during a time limit set based on budgetary and or resource utilization guidelines. It includes product and program changes. Portfolio changes are managed at the highest level and include program and project level investments in organization outcomes. The architecture practice participates in this change based on their current engagement maturity.

Architecture assignment is the process, methods and goals which describe the way a team of architects engages in work with a customer or organization. It requires more than just assigning an architect on a project or product. It also specifies:

  1. How architects choose work within the portfolio (or continuous delivery cycle).
  2. How architects work together to grow in experience, mentor, and ensure success.
  3. How the team prioritizes work with a client or project management office or agile releases.
  4. How the team delivers the roadmap.

Assignment Methodology

Depending on organizational maturity and architecture maturity as well as work delivery methodology in use the architecture team must customize their process. Generally there are three methods in practice at organizations for work assignment with plenty of overlap and situations where multiple methods are in use.

Stakeholder-Driven Methods

Immature organizations and small companies often use stakeholder managed project investment and delivery methods. Powerful stakeholders are in charge of budgets or decision rights and decide on investment direction from personal views of the business. This method allows these stakeholders to decide the direction, teams and delivery outcomes based on their experience and preferences and is therefore as varied as the stakeholders themselves. In this scenario architects should use a stakeholder drivent approach and begin using valuation tools to begin characterizing value on objective measures in addition to stakeholder methods. This will gradually change the investment and outcome language of the organization from political and subjective measures to outcome driven measures driving the adoption of PMO methods. This follows the principle of Value Driven Investment.

PMO Methods

Project management methods are the standard for work prioritization in medium to large organizations and include the use of a project management office (PMO) to coordinate and discuss all investment options through a portfolio-program-project-maintenance hierarchy which is controlled by one or more investment committees of powerful stakeholders and/or budgetary comparisons using value tools such as ROI and TCO. These companies have organized around doing large expensive things relatively safely and well but tend to stifle innovation and disruption. The architecture team should first achieve excellence in participating fully in the the a) origination of architectural priorities and new business initiatives using stakeholder management techniques and business case orgination and measurement, and b) drive towards more quick release innovation management techniques for business initiatives paving the way for a agile business methods. This follows the principle of Innovation over Governance.

Agile Methods

Agile methods are the use of change techniques which need to be fast and innovation and disruption aware. Agile businesses are those that adapt quickly, embrace change and welcome disruption. Scaled agile businesses drive not only technology change in this way but full organization, product and service change in these ways while respecting and allowing for appropriate hiarchical and slower more traditional production and operational methods to control where necessary. Architects should focus on coverage between innovation and structural safety and engineering and will need a high level of maturity and business penetration to succeed.

Understanding Work Priority

Within any method of change priorities must be established to allow the architecture team to assign the most appropriate architect(s).

Architectural Priorities

The most motivating work for an architecture team is the change the business or grow the business type. To understand and assign architects it is necessary to understand the complexity and desirability of the work. The following characteristics provide a simple work prioritization scheme.

Characteristic Explanation
Cost to Change Projects or changes which are extremely expensive.
Cost to Undo Changes which will be very difficult or expensive to come back from or create a large amount of technical debt.
Newness Unfamiliar business models or technologies.
Resources High resource consumption or work that requires very specialized or rare skills.
Capability Milestone Work which will achieve significant milestones in business or technical capabilities.
Financial Return Work which has very high returns on the investment using value measurements.
Customer (real customer) Impact Work with direct impact on Customer Journey, Experience, etc.
Risk High risk with large impact and high probability of occurrence or where risk must be managed actively throughout the program.
Domain Complexity Areas where the knowledge domain is sufficiently complex as in scientific processes or specialized architectures.
Political/Stakeholder Desirability Impact from high power, high interest stakeholders who must be managed carefully.

Working together as a team fill out the work priority cards for the planned work prior to selection from business investment.

Architects may use a simple ranking system to define change complexity and value independent from how the organization sees project/product priority. Using the following worksheet which provides a ranking mechanism based on project/product, program and capabilities, the team works together to ensure they assign the right resources to the right projects.

Download the Complexity and Assignment Worksheet (Excel)

Architect Assignment

Once architectural priority is determined architects may be assigned to the work. It is likely there will be more work than there are architects. This is where architects must make decisions about what to say No to and what must be done. Much of the difficulty in architect teams is taking on more work than the team can do proactively (they are assigned during the whole lifecycle).

Principle(s): We Only Do What is Important, Stay Proactive

T-shirt Sizing Assignment

Work is broken up into different ‘sizes’ or ‘priority groups’ and work is assigned to the most important items until you run out of architects or you run out of work.

Specialization and Skills Assignment

Focus on the right fit for the work. Assign architects based on their desire for the job, their ability to deliver value and their skills for the assignment. This will necessitate rotation in most cases.

Capability Ownership Assignment

Assign architects based on capability ownership whether it is technical or business capabilities. This leaves the architect in charge of the capabilities to which they are assigned and they coordinate and work together on multi-capability assignments.