How to avoid failure when building your architecture repository

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An article on how to create an architecture repository that will live longer than its initial implementation
project. How you should start from open standards, such as TOGAF and ArchiMate,
and how these need to be tailored to be made practical.

Do you have control of your architectural landscape?

• Do you know which applications support your business units?
• Can you predict how critical business processes are affected by your proposed technology replacement?
• Is it clear how your IT landscape needs to change to support the new business strategy?
• Do you have a clear picture of how individual projects work together to build and support the future of business?

Most organizations units involved in strategic planning, whether on the IT side or the so-called business side, struggle to control how the various components of their business look today and how they will look tomorrow. The most common challenge is that the descriptions available are uncoordinated, incomplete and not up to date. 

It is possible to make the comparison to a house that has to be maintained where the various drawings are scattered in the different drawers of the architects, engineers, maintenance personnel and users. The same parts of the house are described in different ways in different drawings, some parts are not described at all, and in many instances the drawings of the house’s construction are plainly wrong.

Fortunately, most of the components of a house have a physical representation. It is almost always possible to inspect the architecture and design related to any uncontrolled change, such as a tenant tearing down a partition on his own accord, even though this change has been hitherto unknown.
This is much more complex and complicated in terms of the architecture of a business. The components are often more abstract and it’s often more difficult to understand the dependencies, for example, it is not trivial to observe how a case management system supports a sales order process.

Many companies are trying to create a central library where they store uniform descriptions of how its business is structured and operates. It typically refers to organizational structures, business processes, IT applications and IT infrastructure. Sometimes these are called enterprise architecture repositories and are owned and maintained by the company’s enterprise architecture function, but equally often these libraries are created by other departments. A common challenge is that many organizations already have several independent libraries with overlapping content.

What is unfortunately often the hallmark of library initiatives is that they very rarely live up to their ambitions. According to Biners experience the majority of library projects fail. Often they barely survive their launch and if they last for a longer time then the information in them is not used as it is no longer maintained.

How do you stop failing when you build and maintain your architecture library? This article describes the key challenges, presents the main priorities and provide hands-on advice for how a focused and successful libraries can be created and developed.

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