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System/Solution Architect’s “Playbook”

Each project is unique; however, there are predefined steps that are common for every project and role including for System/Solution Architect (the Architect).

During Project Initiation

Usually, when the project is started there are only Product Owner, Scrum Master and the Architect are assigned. It is also great when Business Analyst and UX/UI Designer join the project as soon as possible.

The Architect shall do the following with the project team’s help during project initiation phase:

  1. Analyze the initial project information:
    – Project scope (goal)
    – Project Value and Problem Solving
    – Impact and Risks
    – Criticality, Alignment to Strategy, Budget
    The latter also helps to evaluate how many project resources can be anticipated.
  2. Identify stakeholders and End Users.
  3. Understand the requirements. Usually done via several Brainstorming Sessions.
  4. Analyze the business process with the main inputs and outputs drawing “AS-IS diagram”. Usually, from an IT standpoint, every project is just an improvement of the existing business process.
    • Divide the business process into manageable chunks.
    • Define business functionalities.
    • Identify the priority by functionalities.
    • Contribute to roadmap.
    • Define MVP.
    • Finalize business values, user values and “one sentence” product vision.
    • Contribute to design/mockups if UX/UI is involved and/or click dummy prototype.
    • Plan for Spring 1/2/PI creating user stories and organizing them into epics and features. For instance, integration related user stories usually cannot be done before the integration is established or user stories cannot be done before resources are on-boarded.
  5. Define non-functional requirements such as performance, scalability, reliability, security, and maintainability.
  6. Identify baseline architecture if it already exists.
  7. Define future architecture roadmap based on:
    • Baseline architecture.
    • Functional and non-functional requirements.
    • Integration requirements.
    • Enterprise architecture guidelines and standards.
      Architecture shall be reiterated after any architecture change (see – Continuous Activities).
  8. Establish basis for the continuous activities (see – Continuous Activities):
    • Development Team.
    • Risk Register and perform initial Information Protection and risk assessment.
    • project tools such as repository, backlog/sprints tracker, daily communication tool.
    • Development Standards and Guidelines.
    • Kick-off information risk management and security certificationprocess.
    • CI/CD.
    • Communication and collaboration channels.

Continuous Activities         

    1. Review the Architecture upon every major architecture change.
      • Perform prototyping – proof of concepts.
      • Update conceptual overview i.e. high-level architecture.
      • Update architectures:
        • Information with TO-BE diagram.
        • Integration
        • Technology
        • Security
        • Perform alternative analysis using the organization’s experience, best practices, possibility for re-use etc.
        • Develop/Update Architecture documentation.
    2. Lead Development Team.
    3. Review Risk Register and contribute to it from technical, operational, and organizational viewpoints and control them.
    4. Work with information risk management and Information Protection (security) requirements and controls including CMDB update.
    5. Ensure CI/CD process is functioning with automated unit testing, DB changes deployment, pipeline, DAST/SAST scans and UX testing. Ensure DEV, TEST and PROD environments are separated, and they are as similar as possible or introduce additional STAGE environment.
    6. Contribute to Development Standards and Guidelines.
    7. Contribute to Backlog and Roadmap, review User Stories and UX/UI ensuring that they are aligned with the architecture participating into Planning sessions.
    8. Review Communication and collaboration channels.
    9. Update CMDB.
    10. Contribute to Contract Management and Compliance process.
    11. Prepare for Production:
      • Introduce Operationalization user stories.
      • Define Support Model.
      • Create Support Procedures.
      • Create Admin and User Manuals.

    These are basic high-level steps for project implementation from the Architect point of view. In my next articles, I will try to elaborate more on each step.

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