When is an architecture change required?

Ensuring IT keeps pace with business change is a growing challenge

Ensuring IT keeps pace with business change is a growing challenge

Today's businesses face an ever increasing rate of change, and IT architecture change management works hard to meet the challenge.

There are many drivers for IT architecture change, such as new technology, obsolescence, asset management, cost reductions and standards initiatives. This type of change is manageable through an enterprise's architecture maintenance and governance processes.

There are also business drivers, such as business developments, exceptions, innovations, strategic change and new legislation. This type of change often results in total redevelopment of the architecture, or at least in an iteration of part of the development cycle.

It is important to differentiate between IT architecture change management itself and IT architecture requirements management, which is another aspect of managing change in the development of IT architectures.

The goal of an architecture change management process is to ensure that changes to architecture are managed in a cohesive and planned way. It also aims to establish and support the implemented enterprise architecture as a dynamic model - one with the flexibility to evolve rapidly in response to changes in technology and business environment.

On the other hand, IT architecture requirements management defines a process whereby needs for enterprise architecture are identified, stored, and fed into and out of the relevant architecture development phases.

The requirements management process itself does not dispose of, address or prioritise any needs - this is done within the relevant phase of the development cycle (see diagram); it is just the process for managing requirements throughout the architecture development. Both proc- esses are critical.

The IT process of architecture change management monitors changes in technology and the business environment and determines whether to initiate a new IT architecture cycle. It should also provide for changes to the framework used to guide development, and the architecture principles that are recognised and applied across the enterprise.

It also determines the circumstances under which the IT architecture, or parts of it, will be permitted to change after implementation, how the change will happen, and the circumstances under which the development cycle will be initiated again to develop a new architecture.

The change management process determines how to manage changes, what techniques to apply, and what methodology to use.

A simplification change is often driven by a requirement to reduce investment. It can usually be handled via normal architecture maintenance techniques.

An incremental change is often driven by a requirement to derive additional value from existing investment. It may be handled via architecture maintenance techniques or require partial architecture redesign.

A re-architecting change is often driven by increased investment to create new value. Such a change would necessitate going through the architecture development cycle again.

John Spencer is director at the Open Group Architecture Forum

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